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Zach Johnson feels the 'buzz' for 2018 Masters

Cedar Rapids golfer feels "great" heading into the first major

Cedar Rapids' Zach Johnson (center) walks down the No. 6 fairway with Jimmy Walker (left) and Rickie Fowler during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The tournament kicks off Thursday. (Reuters)
Cedar Rapids' Zach Johnson (center) walks down the No. 6 fairway with Jimmy Walker (left) and Rickie Fowler during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. The tournament kicks off Thursday. (Reuters)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Zach Johnson enters this year’s Masters with some strong momentum coming off two top-26 finishes in his last three starts.

Though Johnson has missed the cut in three of his last four Masters, he is quick to note recent play hasn’t always been the best indicator of success at Augusta National.

“I’ve had average form and played good and had bad form and played good and have had great form and played bad,” he said, “so I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason for that, but you want to be in good form.”

The biggest stars in today’s game are all in top form, including multiple Masters champs Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

With young superstars Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas coming off recent wins, there’s a collective feeling all the stars are aligning for an edge-of-your-seat Masters.

“The buzz for this Masters is deep and wide, with Tiger playing so well,” Johnson said. “It’s just awesome. You throw in the young guns, you throw in Phil playing OK ... There is one thing this tournament always has and that’s drama.

“And it will continue to have it.”

Though Johnson can’t quite boast the aforementioned players’ hot stretches of the past three months, he certainly feels confident with his game at the moment.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time as far as my golf swing goes,” Johnson said. “I feel great. I feel really good about the direction of my game. I’ve put a lot of time and work in it as of late and I’m starting to see that come into fruition.”

Certainly the long game is important for a successful week, but Johnson said at Augusta one of the most important keys before the event begins is finding confidence with your putter, especially on its undulating greens.

“You want to be feeling like you’re hitting your lines with your putter,” he said. “If you’re hitting your lines with your putter good things can happen. But ultimately it’s all about execution when the tournament starts.”

This particular tournament figures to start in soggy conditions due to Wednesday’s constant showers, and Saturday also could bring significant rain.

Conventional thinking would say a wet course favors the longer hitters, and three-time Masters champion and CBS analyst Nick Faldo considers that a factor.

“When Zach won (2007) he laid up on the par 5s, which can be a smart move,” Faldo said on a conference call. “He played to his strengths, found the yardages he was looking for, and got up and down. So yes, you can still find a way, but it’s a little more difficult when you have two or three more clubs in your hand than the bombers.”

Though rain might seem to hurt Johnson’s chances, CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz, who’s been covering every Masters since 1986, sees a positive outlook for Johnson.

“The year Zach won the weather was awful,” Nantz said. “It was in the 50s and blustery on Sunday, and it was on the back end of a cold front that had deposited a lot of water the course, (which) was very soggy that year. Zach’s winning total was 289 he was 1-over and he won and played those par 5s at 11-under for the week.

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“So sometimes I think we read into this (distance topic). The conditions were wet that year and Zach prevailed, so I wouldn’t sell him short.”

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