5 Things: Z. Johnson leads; DJ bounces back in Hawaii
KAPALUA, Hawaii –– Zach Johnson wasn't overly pleased with his 7-under 66 during Saturday's second round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
He didn't birdie any of the four par 5s at the Plantation Course and he couldn't avoid three-putts, either.
"Couple missed opportunities, Johnson said.
Yet, Johnson, at 13 under, still finds himself up by three shots at the halfway point in Kapalua.
"The more I get my feet here walking these grounds, I think the more comfortable I become," said Johnson, who will play alongside Dustin Johnson in Sunday's third round. Dustin Johnson is tied for second with Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth at 10 under.
Here are 5 Things you need to know:
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1. WHAT NECK STIFFNESS? Dustin Johnson started his defense of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions playing alongside Masters Champion Adam Scott in Friday’s first round. The pairing was voted on by the fans and neither played particularly well.
For Scott, it was admitted rustiness. For Johnson, it may have been the neck stiffness he had from sleeping wrong on Tuesday night. He missed his practice round on Wednesday and the pro-am on Thursday.
In Saturday’s second round, Johnson was paired with Brandt Snedeker, and just four shots back of a pack of leaders that included Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth and Michael Thompson, Johnson needed to put together a solid round.
And that's just what he did as Johnson carded a 7-under 66 to move into a share of second at 10 under, just three back of leader Zach Johnson.
“I hit the ball well today,” Johnson said. “Played a lot better than I did yesterday. Made a couple putts, hit some better pitch shots. Yesterday, I missed three out of the first four greens.“
Johnson’s 66 on Saturday tied his career low round at a Plantation Course where the long-hitting Johnson has never recorded an over-par round in 17 rounds.
It was also the third consecutive time that Johnson has recorded a 66 in the second round. The 66 he recorded last year led to his victory and in 2011 his second round 66 led to a T-9 finish.
“This golf course sets up well for me,” Johnson said. “I can reach all the par 5s and there's a few short holes where you can drive it up close to the green. So if I chip it and putt it well, I'm going to shoot a good score pretty much every time.”
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2. HALF THE JOB DONE: Gary Woodland started the day looking like he had complete control of the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort, making the turn at 5 under and briefly grabbing a share of the second-round lead at 7 under.
But Woodland could not get anything going on the back nine and when he made a double-bogey seven at the par-5 15th, the former Jayhawk would lose any momentum he had from his front-nine 31 and shoot 39 on the back for a 3-under 70.
“I gave myself chances on the back to start, I just couldn't make any putts, then made a bad choice, had an iron in the middle of the fairway (from 250 yards) on 15 and just pulled it into the crap and made double,” Woodland said of his inability to score on the back nine. “Gave myself chances the last couple holes, almost made it on 16 and missed the birdie putt, hit it to about 20 feet on 17 and gave myself a chance on 18. Just didn't make any putts.”
Sitting at 5 under and eight shots off of Zach Johnson's lead, a long-hitting Woodland believes the Plantation Course sets up perfectly for his game going into the final two rounds.
“I'm able to hit driver, which is nice,” Woodland said. “I'm able to hit 3‑wood. There are a couple tight holes that are tough driving holes where I can hit 2‑iron, which is perfect. The golf course suits me perfect. Just got to make putts.”
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3. DEJA VU: Matt Kuchar is playing in his fifth career Hyundai Tournament of Champions. So it's fair to say he has a good feel for the golf course, holes he likes and holes he doesn’t like.
But birdieing the same six holes in Saturday’s second round as he did in Friday’s first round seems a bit much.
Kuchar birdied hole Nos. 4, 5, 9, 12, 14 and 16 on both days and for good measure he added a second-round birdie at the 10th, a hole he bogeyed on Friday.
Shooting 5-under 68 on Saturday, Kuchar moved into contention at 10 under, three shots off of Zach Johnson’s lead.
“Steady, solid, made a couple bogeys I wasn't real happy about, but for the most part, some good golf, and two back‑to‑back days of 5 under par is some steady, solid golf,” Kuchar said. “Feeling pretty happy with the way my game is in form."
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4. PLANTATION NOT 'GETTABLE' . . . YET: At par 73, the Plantation Course is usually what the players call “gettable." But in two rounds the scoring average has not broken 70 either day – 70.033 in Friday’s first round and 71.533 in Saturday’s second round.
If you throw out 2013, the 54-hole wind shortened affair that needed until Tuesday to finish and relinquished a scoring average of 72.114, the Plantation course has yielded some good scoring.
In 2012, the cumulative scoring average was 70.445 with the fourth round breaking 69 with a scoring average of 68.963. In 2011, the scoring average was 70.085, and both the second and fourth rounds yielded rounds under 70 – the second was 69.375 and the final round was 69.563.
With recent history as a barometer, expect one or both of the last two rounds of this year's tournament to be “gettable” and concede low scores.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Zach Johnson had the only bogey-free round with a 7-under 66. . . . Only Johnson and Matt Kuchar have played the first two rounds in the 60s. . . . Tied for the lead after a 66 in the first round, Chris Kirk shot a 2-over 75 in the second round, a nine-shot difference.