Sunday, April 08, 2007

Johnson breaks the mold

Someone asked Vaughn Taylor behind Augusta National’s 18th green late Sunday afternoon if Tiger Woods was no longer Superman because he had briefly led the Masters in the final round but failed to win.
"Maybe he’s Superman’s brother," Taylor said.
Zach Johnson won the Masters because, like most tournament winners, he played better than everyone else over the course of 72 holes. He played the par-5s 11 under despite never trying to reach one of them in two, which breaks the mold of how to win the Masters.
He also made three birdies on the back nine, writing his own chapter to the Sunday afternoon stories that live around Augusta National.
Johnson is a better player than people know because he had only won once on the PGA Tour before Sunday. Now everyone knows how good he is.
But while Johnson was being back-slapped and fit for his size-40 regular green jacket, Woods was standing just off the 18th green explaining why he hadn’t won.
He didn’t win because he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is in major championship.
In Tiger’s CSI report, he pointed to two critical mistakes – finishing both the first and third rounds with bogeys at the 17th and 18th holes. Four shots. The difference in winning and losing this week.
Woods never had the spark, the swagger, the look that this was his tournament. His game was shaggy around the edges at times, and he paid for it. It’s a testament to his talent that he had a chance to win with two holes remaining.
When he eagled the par-5 13th, Woods’ body language changed. He walked faster. He looked like a man who knew where he was going. But he never got there.
This Masters may be remembered more for its cold temperatures and brutal scoring conditions than for Johnson’s victory. This is my 27th Masters, and I can’t recall anything similar to the week we just witnessed.
It didn’t crackle until Sunday afternoon but, despite the lack of spectacular scoring, it is a tournament that will be remembered for years. Years from now, people will say, "Remember the year when it was so cold and no one broke par?"
It will be remembered.
And so will Zach Johnson.