Legend of Andrew 'Beef' Johnston Continues to Grow at PGA Champ.
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- It's time for a second helping.
When we last checked in with golf's newest cult hero, Andrew "Beef" Johnston, he was bounding off the 18th green at Royal Troon, arms raised and beard glistening in the daylight, fresh off tying for eighth place at the British Open. Thousands of fans stood and cheered. An international television audience became captivated. A star was born.
Since that moment, the legend of Beef Johnston has continued to rise. Let us count the ways:
He gave a tour of his home, which includes a stockpile of beer -- and a Christmas tree.
He responded to tough questions from his new legion of fans.
PlayStation https://t.co/KxSup9Jd5Z— Andrew'BEEF'Johnston (@BeefGolf) July 19, 2016
And met one of them.
A photo posted by Andrew 'Beef' Johnston (@beefgolf) on Jul 22, 2016 at 7:23am PDT
He declared himself eligible for NBA free agency.
A video posted by Andrew 'Beef' Johnston (@beefgolf) on Jul 25, 2016 at 8:29am PDT
He sampled Manhattan's finest burgers.
1) Currently doing a piece for The Wall Street Journal now in nyc eating some of the best burgers in Manhattan. First stop corner bistro— Andrew'BEEF'Johnston (@BeefGolf) July 23, 2016
He signed a sponsorship deal with Arby's and served food at one of its restaurants.
And he arrived at Baltusrol, where he met more fans.
A photo posted by Andrew 'Beef' Johnston (@beefgolf) on Jul 26, 2016 at 3:42pm PDT
This has all happened in the last 10 days.
"Just crazy, man," Johnston said here Wednesday morning, when asked to reflect on his whirlwind rise to fame. "And then yeah, coming here as well, it's just been crazy. But I love it."
Johnston is here to compete in his first career PGA Championship and fourth major. His fan appeal is obvious – start with John Daly's physique and go-for-broke playing style, add Boo Weekley's enthusiasm and everyman aura; mix in Phil Mickelson's "thumbs-up" move; add a dash of Austin Powers (for the accent and a little goofiness); slap on Lincoln's beard, stir it all up and here's what you have:
Fans around Baltusrol are screaming his name (or more specifically, his nickname), just as they did at Troon, and his galleries should be among the most boisterous of the week. Johnston said that his colleagues on Tour also seem to be enjoying golf's newest character.
"They just kind of look at me and just laugh," Johnston said. "A few of the guys would just walk past and I hear them in the locker room and I just hear ‘BEEEF' from them. I get on well with most guys."
It's been a blur and it's been a blast, but Johnston is not merely a sideshow. The 27-year-old won three times on minor-league circuits before a breakout title in May at the Euro Tour's Open de España, which got him into the British Open. At Troon he played his way into the penultimate group on Sunday, where he soaked in the fans' adoration despite not playing his best golf and hung on for a top-10 finish. Don't look now, but a good week at Baltusrol could get him into the Ryder Cup mix. Beef is enjoying the limelight, but this is still a business trip.
"It might come across like that to some people, but as I've said before, it's all about the golf. First thing's first is the golf," he said. "So now I'm here. I want to keep pushing forward."
Johnston played about nine holes in Tuesday afternoon's heat, signed autographs for an hour, then returned early Wednesday to play the front nine. He likes the course, but wouldn't make any bold proclamations. "I don't try and predict too much because it's golf and it can come back and bite you really hard," he said. But on the heels of his run at Troon, his popularity is poised to reach new heights here, less than 30 miles from Broadway. Fans are flocking to him, both on the course and on social media, and Johnston is embracing all of it.
"I've had so many nice messages on Twitter saying, ‘Oh, I haven't picked up a club in five years, and then I've gone out and played this weekend,' which means so much to me," he said. "If I can get people playing golf and enjoying it, wanting to get out there, that means the world to me."
One thing that won't change anytime soon: the beard. He's had it for more than 10 months, and despite the New Jersey heat wave, it's on board for the week.
"The beard's the beard, man," he said. "You've gotta deal with it."
So far, he's dealing with everything just fine. More good times are ahead.