Zach Johnson tops strong field to win Tournament of Champions

Zach Johnson started the year off right with a win. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Zach Johnson started the year off right with a win. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Jay Betsill

2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson began 2014 where he left off in 2013 by topping a strong field to take home the winner’s check. After defeating Tiger Woods in a playoff at the Northwestern Mutual Challenge in December, Johnson continued his dominating play at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

“Getting the ball in the fairway and giving my wedges a chance was crucial,” he said. “It’s about plotting my way, putting myself in a yardage spot that I know is going to give me an opportunity.”

The Plantation Course measures 7,411 and while its wide open fairways often bring a smile to the TOUR’s longest hitters, it was Johnson (a two-time winner at the shorter and tighter Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth) who meticulously and surgically picked the course apart. His 7-under 66 that he fired on Monday was good enough to come from two shots behind when the day started to pass defending champion Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Dallas native Jordan Spieth.

“I was very pleased with the finish, being able to birdie the last two holes and at least have somewhat of a chance on 18,” said Spieth, who had a 100-foot eagle putt just off the front of the green to force a playoff. “But ultimately, 14, 15, 16 really kind of hit me hard in the middle of the back nine.”

Johnson won the 11th time in his career and moved to 7th in the FedEx Cup standings. He joins Woods and Phil Mickleson as the only players with 10 wins since 2007.

The next stop on the PGA TOUR is the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Notables in the field include Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Ryan Palmer and Adam Scott. All four days of the event will be broadcast on Golf Channel.

— Tiger Woods announced that he will make his 2013-14 season debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, Jan. 23-26. The world’s No. 1 player is the defending champion in the event he has won seven times. He also won the 2008 U.S Open played at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson is also scheduled to make his debut at Torrey Pines.

— The Golf Writers Association of America voted Masters champion Adam Scott asĀ  Player of the Year. Scott narrowly edged Tiger Woods, who won five times during another year with no major victories.

— Rickie Fowler has hired Butch Harmon to work on his swing. Fowler, who has been without a coach since Barry McDonell passed away in 2011, began working with Harmon in December. He will make his season debut at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Jan. 16-19 in La Quinta, CA.