Johnson upstages big names at Masters
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US Masters | Wrap | 09 Apr 2007
31-year-old Zach Johnson is the 2007 Masters Champion after his brilliant final round of 69 saw him win by two over Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini and by three over Justin Rose and Jerry Kelly.
Johnson was an unexpected winner of the event but his credentials are more impressive than they might appear at first glance. A Ryder Cup player and winner of the 2004 Bell South Classic not too far from here, Johnson dominated the 2003 Nationwide Tour before arriving on the USPGA Tour in 2004. He won in his first year and has finished inside the top ten on the money list in his three seasons to date. He has recorded several top finishes in some of the bigger events including when runner up at the Memorial in 2006 and when third at the Accenture Match Play the same year.
His previous best in 11 major championship starts however had been just 17th at the 2005 USPGA Championship so this was a surprise win.
On a day when no less than five players had the lead at various stages, Johnson gained the ascendency when he birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th to move to level par and established a three shot lead at that point.
The only danger he faced would be his own capacity to stay calm in the face of his one of his greatest moments and the possibility of last minute heroics from the likes of Tiger Woods and Justin Rose in the groups behind.
After holing his 12 foot putt at the 16th, Johnson hit a great drive at the 17th and appeared to have answered the first of those concerns. His approach was just short but when he hit his first putt 6 feet right of the hole and missed the par save he was just two ahead of Woods and Goosen. Johnson needed to make par at the last and given the circumstances that would be a lot easier said then done. He found the fairway but missed the green right and was left with a delicate pitch and run which he hit to perfection and was left with a tap in to finish at one over.
Soon after Johnson had holed his putt for birdie at the 16th, Woods was back on the 15th attempting to bridge what was then a three shot gap. He needed birdie and took a big risk in trying to produce one. His second to the par five 15th from the right hand rough found the water and although he was able to salvage par it would mean he needed two more birdies over the last three holes if he was to catch Johnson. He gave himself a chance at the 16th from 14 feet but missed and then at the 17th his last chance evaporated when his approach found the front bunker.
Justin Rose had slipped out of contention early in the day with a wobbly start to his round, but forced his way back when he reeled off five birdies in nine holes from the 8th hole and as he walked to the 17th hole he was two behind. That became one however when Johnson bogeyed the 17th. Rose drove wildly there and eventually took double bogey and his chance was gone.
Up behind the 18th green Johnson was hugging his wife and kissing his recently born son. It was one of the nice moments in sport and clearly for Johnson this was a moment that will remain etched in his memory although he had to keep his mind on the possibility of a playoff. A few moments later, when Woods bogeyed the 17th, it became nigh on possible for anyone to destroy his dream.
Given the nature of the golf course this week there was always the possibility of someone who had just made the cut, putting two good rounds together and getting back into winning contention. Retief Goosen did just that. On Saturday he produced the best round of the day when his round of 70 got him to 6 over and today he was at it again when he made the turn in four under 32 and had reached the lead by one over Woods and Sabbatini. He bogeyed the 12th after a three putt from 30 feet and was unable to improve further over the closing six holes. He eventually shared second with Sabbatini and Woods.
Sabbatini also started the final round at 6 over but when he eagled the par five 8th, with one of the most amazing 65 foot curling putts, he had taken the lead. He missed a 5 foot putt for par at the 9th, two putted for birdie at the 13th but then missed the fairway at the 14th and took bogey and when he took another at the 16th his chance was all but gone. His last hole birdie gained him a share of second. In 21 previous majors, Sabbatini’s best finish had been 26th at the PGA at the Open Championship last year so this was a very big week for him.
Stuart Appleby took a one shot lead into the final day but came unstuck almost immediately with a double bogey at the first hole. It was a body blow but he was not yet out of it and when he hit a 6 iron to two feet at the 6th and made birdie he was only one behind the leader, Goosen. Appleby missed a good birdie opportunity from 5 feet at the par five 8th but it would be at the dangerous 12th where his biggest mistake would come.
An 8 iron got caught in the swirling breezes and fell well short and rolled back into the water. He pitched to 12 feet but when that missed he was back to 5 over and the task from there would be too great. For Appleby however it was a great week when compared to his previous best Augusta appearances. He finished in a share of 7th at 5 over but he will rue the two double bogeys on the final day that destroyed his chances of creating Australian golfing history.
Of the other Australians the week was a disappointment given the form they bought into the week and that all had played Augusta on at least two occasions. Appleby’s effort was the highlight but Ogilvy had his moments before his quadruple bogey at the 15th on Saturday when closing in on the lead.
Adam Scott was conspicuous by his absence from contention after his win last week while Pampling and Baddeley made the cut but finished well back.
The USPGA Tour now heads to Hilton Head in South Carolina for the Verizon Heritage event.