PGA Tour

Zach at John Deere with eyes on Open

Zach Johnson (AFP)
Zach Johnson (AFP)

Silvis - Zach Johnson is among 18 Americans using this week's PGA John Deere Classic as a final tune-up for next week's British Open, where he seeks a second win in three tries.

Johnson's 2015 victory at St. Andrews, defeating Australian Marc Leishman and South African Louis Oosthuizen in a four-hole playoff, brought his second major crown after taking the 2007 Masters. 

And while Johnson appreciates those who travel to Europe early, he doesn't want to miss what amounts to a hometown event. The TPC Deere Run at Silvis, Illinois, is only an hour's drive from his birthplace in Iowa City, Iowa. 

"That Scottish Open is a great tournament," Johnson said. "It seems like they have really made it a priority to play a links-style golf course. You really can't fault somebody to prepare for the Open and the Scottish, they've really done a great job. You see more PGA Tour players playing that event before the Open Championship. 

"However, this tournament is making it attractive, too." 

There's a flight that takes players directly from the event to the British Open so there is as little lost time as possible. Adjusting to the time difference and jet lag is a factor, but it does keep the US event viable for those who don't mind missing the Scottish, which has included former US Open and Masters winner Jordan Spieth, whose first pro win came at the John Deere in 2013. 

"Whether it's how Jordan has played here and gone over there or myself, and then the fact that we'll get you there in a pretty timely manner, there are no negatives. It's just a matter of priorities and desires and probably families as to which selection you're going to take. Or just taking the week off and going over early. There are options. I like being here." 

There will be 19 players on the flight to England for next week's third major showdown of the year at Royal Birkdale, assuming the one available spot to a top finisher at the John Deere Classic is taken. 

Johnson, defending John Deere champion Ryan Moore and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson are among the all-US group headed for Europe on Sunday. The line-up includes amateur Maverick McNealy. 

"I've gotten used to it," Johnson said of the Sunday night flight to the Open. "I've got a system when I land there, and that jet does help immensely, as to what I'm going to do and when I'm going to do it. Rest is paramount. Working out is a paramount thing just because it gets me going. Obviously then I can practice." 

It doesn't hurt Johnson, 41, that his style suits the Open. 

"I think my game is suited to it, just the overall basis, the foundation is suited to it. I don't feel like I really have to overly prepare," Johnson said. "Quality shots get rewarded no matter what golf course you play. Over there, the wind, the other elements that are involved, play a huge role in that. Actually probably a little bit more luck in that tournament sometimes based on tee times. 

"For the most part, I go into it just like any other tournament and try to prepare that way. There are certain parts of the game that in my practice rounds over there I emphasize and focus on more so. Putting is obviously number one, but the greens there are just so different, slower. Pin placements are on much more of an angle because the greens are slower, a slope. So that's where I put my focus in more than anything."

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