Zach Johnson straightens long ball at Pinehurst
PINEHURST, N.C. – Zach Johnson’s record in the U.S. Open is abysmal.
He acknowledges it, and explains it in simple terms: He misses too many fairways, which at every U.S. Open means trouble.
In 10 previous national championships, Johnson, 38, an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour, has made only five cuts, with a best finish of a tie for 30th, in 2011.
After struggling early with the driver Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2, Johnson got his tee shots and short game into sync on the second nine – the front side after starting on No. 10 – to shoot 1-over 71, just three shots behind the early leaders.
“There's some U.S. Opens that the fairways are firm, yeah; you would think that it can play into my hands,” Johnson said of U.S. Open courses. “I'm not making excuses. I played bad. That's really what it is. I puckered up on those tee boxes and made bad tee shots, much like I did my first nine holes today.”
Johnson struggled with a 3-over 38 on Pinehurst No. 2's back nine, but he rallied on his second nine with a 2-under 33.
He said he told himself to “just try and remain patient” while making the turn. “It's hard to do," he said. "You feel like you've got to push the pedal down, but yet it is the U.S. Open and you know you've got essentially, what, 63 holes left.
Johnson hopes that he carries his play from his second nine holes into Friday's second round but that conditions might be more challenging, given that he plays in the afternoon wave.
In his previous 10 second rounds at the Open, Johnson has a scoring average of 73.8, with only one round in the 60s, a 69 in 2011 at Congressional Country Club.
“I hit a couple really good ones, which was nice to see,” Johnson said of his second nine Thursday. "There was kind of some basic technical stuff that I had to basically figure out. Alignment was probably part of it, too. Yeah, I think I figured it out. I'm going to eat and go back out on the range and hopefully iron it out even more.”