Playing in a group with two of the more glamorous dark-horse picks this week (Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald), the decided unglamorous Masters champion Zach Johnson posted the best round -- two-under -- of the three and said his win last year shouldn't be considered a surprise.
"With maybe one or two exceptions, there's not a surprise guy on the leaderboard--there's not a surprise guy in the field," Johnson said. What's most important to him is that he has the hype of this first round as defending champion behind him. Now he can take on a course that he's proven fits his eye and his game. "I just feel comfortable here," Johnson said. "This course, I just see it, especially the greens. I love it."
Johnson said his strategy won't be much different than last year, when he laid up on all the par 5s and made 11 birdies on them.
"I can't say I'll lay up on all the par 5s," Johnson said, "but I only have so many options here. I can't overpower this course, but Augusta National is about putting the golf ball.
"My game plan is to make putts," he added with a smile.
He got off to a great start with a birdie on the 455-yard par-4 first, which played as Augusta National's second-toughest hole in 2007. He followed with a long birdie putt on No. 5 and a bogey on No. 9. He played Amen Corner (Nos. 11, 12 and 13) par-birdie-birdie, almost holing his tee shot on No. 12.
"It was 152 yards, downhill and slightly into the wind, playing about 150," Johnson said of his tee shot on 12. "I hit my 8-iron 155 yards so I hit a lower 8 and it almost flew in the hole."
He bogeyed 17 to end up 2-under, and then met an unexpected guest at 18: Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. Well, Johnson said he wasn't really surprised because that's the kind of thing he expects from his home state and his governor.
New Yorkers probably can't understand. (Photo: Robert Beck/SI)