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AUGUSTA, Ga. - For Zach Johnson, Friday was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
OK, those are both wild exaggerations. But the Cedar Rapids native did have a dickens of a time at Augusta National Friday before bouncing back like a Masters champion.
Johnson is like everyone else in this year's Masters in that he's eating the dust left behind so far by leader Jordan Spieth (14-under par, and up by five shots). But he gave himself a chance to not only play through the weekend, but compete for a high finish.
Johnson shot his second-straight even-par 72, which may seem somewhat mundane. However, when you realize he went bogey-bogey-bogey-double bogey on Nos. 4 through No. 7 to soar to 4-over for the tournament, concluding the round at level-par was notable. Going from two shots below the 36-hole cut line to two shots under it was good stuff, too.
'I like having my back against the wall like I did today and having to rise up and do it,” Johnson said. 'I'm a realist in a sense with missed cuts. I won't say they're great things, but they can be a positive because they can highlight specifically what you need to focus on and work on.
'But at the same time, any time you make a cut in a major is a positive, wherever it is and however you do it.”
Johnson was at 1-under before he dropped five shots in a 4-hole stretch. He had 3-putts on Nos. 5 and 6. He double-bogeyed 7 after an errant approach shot and requiring two shots to get out of a greenside bunker.
But the back nine was like a fresh start. Johnson birdied No. 10, the sixth-hardest hole on the course over the first two days. He also birdied the par-5s at 13 and 15, and capped the day with a birdie of just over 15 feet on 18, the tourney's fourth-hardest hole.
Ending the round with a birdie has to be a wonderful feeling to carry over to Saturday's third round, right?
'You want my answer or the answer I'm supposed to give you?” Johnson said. 'Mo (Dr. Morris Pickens, Johnson's sports psychologist) would say if I make a double bogey or an eagle, the next hole is the next hole, the next tee shot is the next tee shot.
'Given that, it is nice making a good save on 18 or a good birdie on 18 for the next day. There's no question about that.”
The back nine featured Johnson making a plethora of pretty shots on a pretty day among the pines and the rest of the renowned flora on Augusta National's premises.
'I hit a really good shot on 12,” said Johnson, 'two great shots on 13, two good shots on 14, three good shots on 15 … two great shots on 17 and two great shots on 18.
'I guess that's what you've got to do.”
So while it would be a little slice of fantasy to suggest Johnson might overcome his 14-shot deficit to his young pal Spieth, he's only three shots out of the top 10 with half the tournament remaining.
Johnson barely made the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando last month, then shot 10-under on the weekend to tie for ninth place.
'Bottom line,” he said, 'you always want to get two more rounds in and see where you can go. You can't take anything for granted, and you just keep plugging away.”
It's a made cut at the Masters. It's playing on the weekend here instead of saying goodbye to the champions' locker room in the Augusta clubhouse for the last time until next April.
'Trunk-slamming on Friday,” said Johnson, 'is never fun.”