Zach Johnson tops new mini-tour rankings
Zach Johnson is living the dream.
No, the 26-year-old graduate of Drake (Iowa) University is not hot on the tail of Tiger Woods for the PGA Tour’s money title. Nor is he fending off sponsorship offers or being touted as a top player to watch at next week’s U.S. Open. In fact, Johnson won’t even be at Bethpage State Park.
Yet for everything he doesn’t have, Johnson couldn’t be happier.
“This is the life I’ve chosen,” says the Heathrow, Fla., resident, the No. 1 player in the newly unveiled Golfweek/Sagarin National Mini-Tour Rankings. “This is the life I live, and I’m very happy with the way things are going.”
Johnson should be. To say he’s doing well would be an understatement. For the last two years, he has been a dominant force on the NGA/Hooters Tour.
During 2001, in his rookie season on the Hooters’ circuit, Johnson won three times, was named Player of the Year and took the money title.
This year, he has picked up where he left off. Johnson already has recorded one victory, two runners-up and four other top-10 finishes on the tour. He is first on the money list and has a scoring average of 68.50.
“I’ve been playing pretty consistently this year, so that’s a good thing,” said Johnson, who began his pro career on smaller mini-tours throughout the country. “The next step is preparing for (PGA Tour) Q-School. That’s really what you work for all year at this stage. It’s all about getting yourself ready to try and qualify.”
Despite his young age, Johnson knows the rigors of PGA Tour qualifying quite well. He has attempted to qualify the last four years. He managed to make it to the finals in 1999, and gained access to the Buy.com Tour for the 2000 season.
In 11 Buy.com Tour events, Johnson missed seven cuts and earned just more than $10,000. As quickly as he had moved up the pro golf ladder, he fell back down.
“I was still proud of myself that year,” Johnson said. “I was going through some swing changes and just starting to get used to life on the road. All in all, it was a learning experience that was probably invaluable.”
With the success he’s found since that year, it would appear Johnson has learned a great deal. On a national stage in April, Johnson made headlines at the PGA Tour’s BellSouth Classic as a Monday qualifier.
After rounds of 68-71-69 at the TPC at Sugarloaf, the relative unknown was entering the final round tied for eighth. A final-round 75 dropped Johnson into a tie for 17th that was good enough for $57,000.
“It was a great experience,” Johnson said. “That’s really the ultimate goal, to play the PGA Tour. I proved to myself I can do it, and until I lose the desire, I won’t think otherwise. Now with this No. 1 ranking, to be quite honest, I’m absolutely flattered.”
Short shots: By shooting 12-under 276 at last week’s Hooters Tour event in Franklin, Wis., Johnson added yet another top-10 finish to his 2002 resume. Bill Lunde won the event with a 19 under par total. Lunde is ranked No. 27 in the mini-tour rankings. . . . Chris O’Connor is the highest-ranked player from the Pepsi Tour. O’Connor, who is fourth on the tour’s money list, sits at No. 13. . . . The Tight Lies Tour’s Jaxon Brigman is third in the new rankings. Brigman is 11th on the tour’s money list with more than $15,000 in just five events. . . . Bubba Watson, meanwhile, ranked No. 2, has earned more than $30,000 and is second in the Stewart & Stewart Tour’s money list.
Next up: Stewart & Stewart Tour, June 11-14, Waycross, Ga.
Next up: Tight Lies Tour, Sprint PCS Open, June 13-16, Lake Charles, La.