Zach Johnson the man to beat again in Humana Challenge
It was one of the golf shots of 2013. A holed 58-yard pitch to force a play-off with Tiger Woods in the world number one’s own charity event last month. And it was played by Zach Johnson, who typically kept his composure to finish off the job at the first extra hole.
Johnson pegs it up at the Humana Challenge in California on Thursday as the man in form after that dramatic win and then another victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii a fortnight ago.
Coral make him their 14/1 joint favourite with Webb Simpson in a hugely competitive field, featuring several top US names eager to hit this Ryder Cup year running.
Johnson is living proof that power and beauty aren’t everything in golf, not even at the highest level. The 37-year-old from Iowa does not possess the prettiest of swings and is certainly not one of the bigger hitters on tour, but even so has won more PGA tournaments in the past ten years than anyone except Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.
His biggest triumph, of course, came in the 2007 US Masters when he managed to see off Woods despite laying up at the back nine par fives every day.
He was looked upon by many then as a ‘one-hit wonder’, but Johnson has not only won ten other regular tour events, he is also figuring prominently again in majors. His sixth place at Muirfield last July was his best ever finish in the Open and he followed that up by finishing eighth in the USPGA.
The Humana Challenge used to be called the Bob Hope Classic and is different to usual tour events in as much as it is a Pro-Am and is also played over three different courses.
This makes forecasting a winner even more difficult, but Simpson, currently leading the scoring average stats, will surely soon be rewarded for his quality play with a first win since his 2012 US Open triumph.
Charles Howell III (33/ to win outright, 7/1 to finish in the top five), beaten in a play-off here last year and in good form in recent tournaments, is another for the short list, while 2009 winner Pat Perez (66/1 outright, 16/1 top five) has also looked ready to strike again in recent weeks.