GOLF: Johnson gives Kapalua wedgie in rally for win

The Associated PressJanuary 7, 2014 

Zach Johnson picks up his son Wyatt, 3, as son Will, 7, runs out to greet him after Johnson won the Tournament of Champions.

MARCO GARCIA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Zach Johnson is taking his place among the big boys in golf with two of the shortest clubs in his bag.

On a Plantation Course at Kapalua that should be paradise for the game’s longest hitters, Johnson chipped in for his opening birdie and then hit four exquisite wedge shots on the back nine Monday to rally from two shots behind, close with a 7-under-par 66, and win the Tournament of Champions.

“I just picked it apart,” Johnson said.

That was pivotal on the back nine, where five players had a chance to win. Johnson ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch, all of them with a wedge in his hand, none of the shots particularly easy. He wound up with a one-shot win over Jordan Spieth, the perfect way to start a new year.

Especially after he ended the old one with a win.

Johnson didn’t need any heroics this time, not like last month in California in the World Challenge when he holed a shot from the drop zone — with a wedge — on the final hole and wound up beating Tiger Woods in a playoff. Kapalua was mainly about chipping and putting, and Johnson is among the best.

“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.”

Spieth had a one-shot lead going into the back nine and thought only of making three birdies. He started way too late, losing three good birdie chances in the soft, middle portion of the back nine and then finishing with two birdies for a 70 that gave him a runner-up finish.

He made par on all of them, twice missing putts from about 6 feet.

That’s where Johnson thrived.

He caught Spieth for the lead with a wedge from 83 yards to about 2 feet for birdie on No. 12. Johnson laid back with a 3-wood on the 14th hole and hit wedge to about 8 feet below the hole for birdie and the outright lead. Perhaps the most daunting shot came on the par-5 15th, up a steep slope to a green with a false front. He knocked it to within 3 feet of the cup and made the put for birdie.

He followed that with a wedge to 5 feet on No. 16 and made a tough, downhill putt for his final birdie.

Webb Simpson, tied with Spieth and defending champion Dustin Johnson to start the final round, never caught up and closed with a 70. Simpson tied for third with Kevin Streelman, who had a 67.

Jason Dufner was four strokes back in fifth after a 69.

Dustin Johnson made three bogeys before making his first birdie. He shot 73 and tied for sixth.

tracking ryan moore on the pga tour

This week: Hyundai Tournament of Champions, completed Monday, Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.

Fourth-round score: 4-under-par 69.

Position: Moore (13-under 279) finished in solo 10th, six strokes behind winner Zach Johnson (19-under 273).

Recap: Another top-10 showing – Moore’s third in his past four tournaments, including his playoff win at the CIMB Classic last October. He made a week-high seven birdies Monday, including three in a row at No. 15 (two-putt from 3 feet on par 5), No. 16 (sank 15-footer on short par 4) and No. 17 (sank 25-footer on long par 4) to get to 10th place. It was Moore’s second-best showing at this event – he was tied for sixth in 2010. The Puyallup golfer has cashed in 12 tournaments in a row, dating back to last season.

Next: Moore will be off the next three weeks, then resurface at the Waste Management Phoenix Open starting Jan. 30 at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona. University Place’s Michael Putnam is in this week’s field for the Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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