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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Zach Johnson is set for this week’s springtime tradition, the Masters, at Augusta National Golf Club.
Johnson tees off at 11:36 a.m. (CT) Thursday for his opening round with five-time Tour winner Kevin Na and 2019 U.S. Open champ Gary Woodland.
A former Cedar Rapids Regis prep who won this tournament in 2007, Johnson has some solid form coming into this week — minus the only missed cut in 14 starts in his 2020-21 season at last week’s Valero Texas Open. He tied for eighth in his previous start at the Honda Classic at PGA National.
“My game is coming along nicely,” Johnson said by email last week. “It is always a work in progress and I try to never get complacent. I like the direction of every aspect and my team of coaches have encouraged and challenged me to stay the course.”
That course has included some top-notch putting that’s gotten him ranked ninth in the Tour’s “Shots Gained,” a putting stat that is exactly the kind of stat it sounds like. It measures how many strokes he gains on the field in tournaments with his putting performance.
At Augusta National, where the greens are often treacherously fast and a major factor in how players score, a hot putter would figure to be a nice tool for Johnson to bring to the table.
“Keeping it simple has been the key,” Johnson said of his recent putting prep.
“We always try to keep putting simple. I have a few technique drills I implement every day, quite a few speed drills, reading drills and then games on the practice green that seem to transfer to the course.”
Transferring his practice time and practice rounds to the course for his tournament rounds is understandably a big key for the 45-year-old. After a few practice days at Augusta, one of which included playing the back nine with Michael Thompson on Tuesday, Johnson now tees off in one of the later groups Thursday in this select field of 88 players.
Johnson was asked how he needs to feel about his preparation by the time his head hits the pillow Wednesday night.
“Great question, my hope is that I’m mentally fresh and I am confident in the game plan put into place,” Johnson said. “That confidence comes from solid strikes during my practice rounds prior. I am going to mis-hit shots, it will happen, but my hope is they are fewer and far in between to the solid shots and quality struck putts.
“I hope I can hit the pillow knowing I can trust the work put in.”
Johnson has made the cut in his last three Masters starts with a tie for 36th in 2018, a tie for 58th in 2019 and a tie for 51st in 2020’s Masters only five months ago.
Garrett Johnston has covered 30 majors and hosts the “Beyond the Clubhouse” podcast.