Conversation: Zach Johnson

October 30, 2010

LG and I have talked about this on several occasions, and we’d like the PF community to weigh in on the subject (comment below).

2010-10-25 at 12:01 AM:
In my opinion, Zach Johnson is one of the absolute best players on the PGA Tour. He makes more with what he has than anyone else. He doesn’t have a long game, ranking 155th on Tour in driving distances. He makes his way around the course differently from everyone else. But he still manages to pace the field on so many occasions. When he donned the Green Jacket at the Masters several years ago, some people thought it was a fluke. But ZJ (my new nickname) has managed to finish in the top 10 of major tournaments 3 times and win on Tour 6 times in the last 4 years. He’s just an Iowa kid with a SeeMore putter, and he’s made over $3 million just this year (2010). In my opinion, ZJ is one of the best.

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2010-10-28:

JK has thrown down the public gauntlet on an argument that he and I have had for some time now.  A little context is helpful (or in this case, funny enough to write about).  I had driven to Atlanta as part of a “tour of the south” golf trip that we decided to take after our time working together in Palo Alto.  We had taken one other trip to the Monterey Peninsula to play Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay (don’t worry, we’ll be posting about this too), and found that we enjoyed each other’s company on golfing adventures.  This trip included a stop at one of the famed Robert Trent Jones trail courses (Silver Lakes just outside of Anniston, AL) as well as JK’s home course in ATL.

During our non-golf time, we took a trip to the PGA Tour Superstore located in Duluth, GA.  If you are unfamiliar with this facility, think of the hacker’s mecca.  This place has EVERYTHING.  Not only do they sell every freaking club imaginable, but they have every single item of clothing any tour player has ever worn, a full-service repair shop, driving range simulators, short game area, and a putting green that’s the size of most school playgrounds.  Needless to say, JK and  I headed straight to the putting green and engaged in a contest of wits (or contest lacking wits, I’ll let you decide).  We setup obstacles and gave each other the crappiest ball and putter that we could find and challenged the other to make the putt for the win.  While browsing for the worst flatstick possible, JK passed by those that were long, short, oblong, mis-shapen, ugly, or otherwise unsavory and landed upon the SeeMore.  This useless implement should only be used for prying open the trunk of a car when you’ve locked the keys inside.  As JK stated above, this is the putter that ZJ putts with, so our argument ensued in due course.

JK sets the stage for me to completely disagree with him and argue that ZJ is a terrible golfer and a fluke.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Were I to attempt to argue otherwise, I would certainly lose all credibility that I may have on this blog.  Any person that can drop a ball into a trashcan from 200+ yards out consistently is clearly a fantastic golfer.  ZJ has proven this not only by winning the Masters (laying up on every par 5, i might add), but also 6 other times on the PGA Tour and twice on the Nationwide Tour.

That being said, there is a difference of opinion that must be expressed.  I am not a fan of ZJ’s putting stroke.  I have to admit that it works for him.  He is a great putter.  I don’t understand how it works for him though.  Having a straight right hand and adding loft to the putter face is a recipe for disaster for the average player.  I remember reading an article ZJ wrote in Golf Digest that discussed his technique as particularly good on the lightning quick greens at Augusta.  I couldn’t imagine anything being further from the truth.  While it is true that you can strike a downhill putt slightly harder if you add more loft to a putter face, doing so (for the average player) will only increase inconsistency because this creates a tendency not to finish the stroke.  Without the proper release of the putter face, the ball will never start on the intended line.  It has been my experience that most amateurs, even highly skilled amateurs, do not hit putts flush unless they focus on keeping the left wrist straight and leading the clubface with the back of their left hand.  This action encourages the proper release of the putter and creates the end-over-end roll that is the hallmark of a great putter.

Also, I dislike ZJ’s Oakleys.  dude, pick one.  the hat or the shades.  you don’t need both.

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2010-10-30 at 9:22 AM:

LG, very nice description. But I’ll have to disagree with you–that “useless implement” has many possible applications besides prying open a locked car trunk. You could use it as a blunt object for mugging people, hit nails, or even “rescue” your passed-out, cheating husband from his black Escalade at 2:00 in the morning after he ran into a fire hydrant by smashing out the back window….or whatever else really happened.

However, you’ve conveniently left out the rest of the story. PGA Tour Superstore happened to have a “putting competition” that day. Store patrons who happened to be in the store at 12:00 were invited to participate in a putting competition. The winner got a store gift card–$20 or so. LG and I, being the fun-loving guys that we are, decided to bet between us. Using the aforementioned “ugly” putter that we had each picked out for the other, if either won the entire putting competition (including about 20 other store patrons who had participated), the winner would get $10 from the other. As I recall, LG finished second out of all the participants while using the “useless implement.”

The SeeMore putter actually is an interesting concept. Its goal is to get its user to properly line up putts. Rather than giving an aiming line, it has a “red dot” that the user must “hide” by putting the shaft over it. In this way, the user knows the face will be lined up. Of course, this process makes a lot of assumptions–for example, that the user’s eyes are properly located above the ball, that the user does not forward press the shaft, etc.

The particular putter used by LG in this competition, however, was quite useless because it had a double-bend shaft. What that meant was, there was really no way to “hide” the red dot. That’s why I chose it. It was pretty frustrating.

While you may not like ZJ’s flat right hand, there’s no reason why it’s a bad stroke. I’ll admit it looks different than the rest of the PGA Tour (which of itself usually indicates that something is wrong), but everything about ZJ’s game is “different” from the rest of the PGA Tour. The flat right hand, however, is not the only important thing in the stroke–in fact, it’s not even one of the important things in the stroke. (see http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/2009-02/obrienputting) ZJ’s arms and shoulders are aligned to the target. He has his eyes inside the line of the ball. He makes a good rotational stroke. What else is needed to sink putts? Apparently, not a straight left hand–ZJ was 6th on Tour this year in putting.

So, really, your gripe is that he looks funny. Your problem is that his hand isn’t the same as yours. well, LG, I refuse to be a hand-ist; I judge a golfer by the score on his player sheet, not by the look of his hands.

But the sunglasses are kind of bad.

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