Monday, May 21, 2018

Zach Johnson leads Tournament of Champions

KAPALUA, Hawaii — On the course with the widest fairways on the PGA Tour, Zach Johnson believes that keeping the ball in the short grass is key to success.

On a course that favors power players such as Johnson because the par 5s can be reached in two, he didn't birdie any of them Saturday.

Stranger still is that he matched the best score of the day and had a three-shot lead in the Tournament of Champions.

The only explanation is that Johnson is playing pretty well.

"Am I surprised? No. It's only two days, so it's halfway done for me," Johnson said after his 7-under 66 gave him a three-shot lead at 13-under 133.

"I'm very comfortable as a competitor. One of my goals every year is those par 5s, and I'm a little bitter about that right now. But I'll get over it."

Defending champion Dustin Johnson birdied half of the holes at Kapalua for 66 and was in second with Matt Kuchar (68) and first-round co-leader Jordan Spieth (70).

Webb Simpson and Michael Thompson, part of a four-way tie for the lead after the opening round, each had 71 and were four shots behind. Chris Kirk, the fourth member of the first-round leaders group, shot 75 and was at 5 under.

Clearly, there's more than one way to get around a course built on a side of the mountain on the west end of Maui.

Kuchar had his second straight round of 68 with some good birdies and a few bogeys.

Spieth had said he shouldn't make too many bogeys on the course if he kept the ball in play, though he made one on No. 7 to lose some momentum. Even so, Spieth, 20, had few complaints after his opening two rounds of a new year.

Masters champion Adam Scott had 70 and was seven shots behind.

Zach Johnson is going after his second straight win. The last one was unofficial, yet no less memorable.

Johnson was four shots behind Tiger Woods in the World Challenge on the back nine and rallied to catch him, holed out from the drop zone on the 18th hole to force a playoff and then won on the first extra hole.

Except for his Masters win in 2007, it might be the most famous of his 11 victories worldwide.