Zach Johnson proved on Saturday that you don’t need to be a big bomber to compete at The Kapalua Plantation Golf Course, Dustin Johnson proved that it helps. Both Johnsons fired matching seven under par 66’s on Saturday but Zach made it to the clubhouse with a one-shot lead at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
If you weren’t convinced that the little guy from Des Moines could play this game after he came back from four strokes down at the Northwestern Mutual to beat Tiger Woods in a playoff last month, you should be. He put on another clinic on Saturday in Maui.
His driver averages only 276 yards for this event, but with an 80% Accuracy average, an 83% GIR rate, and a 1.15 Putts Gained Putting average, one might say he knows how to “Git Er Done” on a golf course where the experts say you need to hit it a mile to compete.
With greens that average 8000 square ft and speeds that can vary 5 points on the Stimpmeter based on putting uphill versus down hill, having a short game comes in really handy. If you were able to see the end of Tiger’s tournament at Sherwood Forest, you know the little guy from Iowa has all of the tools.
“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. “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.”
Zach didn’t birdie one of the par 5’s on Saturday, where the experts say you need at least birdies to win this tournament, but the 37 year-old former Masters Champ didn’t make a bogey on Saturday. He wasn’t making birdies on the par 5”s, but he wasn’t giving strokes away on the monster par 4’s on the difficult par 73 layout.
On the other side of the coin, Dustin Johnson birdied all of the par 5’s, but picked up bogeys at the 11’th and 13th holes to end the day in a three-way tie for second place with Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth.
“This golf course sets up well for me,” Dustin Johnson said. “I can reach all the par 5s, and there’s a few short holes where you can drive it up close to the green. So if I chip and it and putt it well, I’m going to shoot a good score pretty much every time.”
Matt Kuchar had a good day as well. The two-time winner on the 2013 schedule shot a respectful five under par 68 on Saturday to get within one shot of the lead.
Jordan Spieth made his first bogey of the tournament, but couldn’t get his putter working on Saturday. Playing alongside the 2012 US Open Champ, Webb Simpson, the youngster from Dallas looked out of sorts. He hit the ball well, but was unable to convert some nice approach shots into birdies on the huge greens.
The winds on Maui turned back into the normal direction on Saturday, and are expected to remain there for the remainder of this event. As you might remember, last year’s tournament was shortened to 54 holes, and finished up on Tuesday due to very high winds that disrupted play for three days.
NBC will pick up the broadcast on Sunday at 3:00 PM Eastern time, and the Golf Channel will take over at 4:00PM to finish the day.
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