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AUGUSTA, Ga. - The weather here isn't doing the Masters golf tournament or Zach Johnson any favors.
An overnight storm late Tuesday/early Wednesday toppled several trees on the Augusta National course. The top of the grandstand at the 16th-hole was damaged, and a large oak tree near that hole fell on a million-dollar restroom.
Believe that financial estimate, by the way. The restrooms on the course here even have attendants. As you may have heard, this isn't some municipal goat track.
Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne said the plan was to get that bathroom “rebuilt and up and running by the end of the day,” which drew laughter from reporters for some reason.
But it undoubtedly will be fixed in time for Thursday's first-round. When they want something done here, it gets done. And quickly.
The 1.75 inches of rain that fell here can't be removed from the course as easily as storm debris, which isn't great for 2007 Masters champ Johnson. And Wednesday's Par 3 Contest was interrupted by the threat of more rain as thunder rolled, and a late-afternoon shower wasn't far behind.
The course will be soft for Thursday's first round and perhaps more. The world's best shot-makers will be firing at pins with less dread than normal.
When Johnson won here, this region had an unusually dry late winter and spring. That, combined with a lot of wind and cool temperatures, reduced the advantages the long-hitters have here.
Johnson is 12th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this year, which obviously serves him well. But he's 143rd in driving distance. That doesn't hurt him at some venues. Many, in fact. However, at this 7,445-yard layout, it puts him at a disadvantage to bombers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
Johnson has finishes here of 20th, a missed 36-hole cut, 42nd, and another missed cut since his championship.
“This course is so long,” he said. “It's hard for me to contend without being on in nearly every aspect.
“You take one of these guys that hits it a long way and is one of the top, top players in the world. I'm talking Tiger, Phil, Rory. I do feel like if they're playing really well I've got to be absolutely at my best to contend here. At other courses, like Colonial, Hilton Head, that would probably change.”
There's never been any mystery about how to contend at the Masters. It starts with putting. If you can make putts on the famously fast and tricky greens here, you can compete.
“For me, it's not hard to believe I won here,” said Johnson. “I putted so well that week. Putts for birdie, putts for par, putts for bogey. That was crucial.”
That said, he describes his current game as better than it was five years ago.
“Driving accuracy certainly hasn't been an issue. My short game has gotten better. My wedge game is probably as good, if not better. I hit a fade a lot easier.
“I don't know my stats and really don't care, because I know my game is good.
Johnson has made every 36-hole cut in stroke-play the seven stroke-play tourneys he has entered this year, has four finishes of 17th or better, and was 11th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago.
“I know I'm making a lot of cuts, but making cuts is not the goal,” he said. “I've got a number of top-25s, but top-25s are not my goal. I'm trying to get in contention on Sunday going into the last four or five holes. That's why I play.
“My game's good. I don't know my stats and really don't care because I know it's good. I feel good about where I'm going.”
The one thing Johnson said he needs the most improvement in is patience, “trusting the fact I'm doing the right things and have got the right approach.
“I've got a peer who's one of my best friends on the Tour. He pulled me aside one day. I wasn't tinkering, but I was tinkering, kind of looking at things. He said ‘I just want to reassure you to keep doing what you're doing. You're playing fine.' So that's kind of been my approach.”
If Johnson's putter wants to celebrate the fifth-anniversary of its golden touch by imitating its results back then, all the better.