KAPALUA, Hawaii(AP) Thanks to an early start on his 2009 goals, Zach Johnson begins his season earlier than expected.
The former Masters champion had no reason to believe he would be part of the field at the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship. He was having his worst season in his five years on the PGA Tour, not even making it to the second stage of the playoffs and in danger of finishing out of the top 125 on the money list.
But with extra time off, he decided to meet with his team to set goals for the new season.
“I had six weeks off to retool and revamp and re-polish, and that’s when I sat down and said, ‘What are we going to do next year?’ The fundamental changes, mental changes, let’s do that now and play four out of the last five, which is exactly what I did.”
One of those events was the Valero Texas Open, where Johnson went 62-64 on the weekend for a two-shot victory, which allowed him to book a flight to Hawaii.
“I’m encouraged,” Johnson said. “I thought the end of last year, my game was really, really good.”
He couldn’t suppress a smile as he though about meeting with his support group, and it became apparent that this wasn’t a time for everyone to share hugs and pat each other on the back. Johnson said his team is opinionated and passionate, which can lead to some heated discussions and frank opinions.
“It’s two or three days where we just go out and putt and chip and butt heads and eat a lot,” he said.
The meeting of minds took place at Sea Island, and there was a reason for that. During the offseason, Johnson decided to move from Orlando, Fla., to St. Simons Island, Ga., joining a tour group that includes Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker and Jonathan Byrd. Plus, swing coach Morris Pickens lives there.
I wanted to get better practice facilities, that was one thing,” Johnson said. “We had the friends established and we wanted the small-town feel. The key factor was moving closer to my in-laws, and hopefully, my family gets bigger.”
Johnson’s wife is from Jacksonville.
SINGH OUT: Vijay Singh’s most recent victory at the Chevron World Challenge wasn’t all good news. Turns out the big Fijian injured his right knee at Sherwood, which will require surgery after the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Singh said he sustained a slight tear of the meniscus in his right knee, which keeps him from squatting. He has withdrawn from the Sony Open next week in Honolulu to have surgery and take care of it while the season is still young.
He hopes to return in time for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Feb. 12.
SCOTT’S KNEE: Adam Scott won’t be starting the year at full strength.
Scott dislocated his right knee cap – for the sixth time dating to high school – while running out of the water at an Australian beach last month. It kept him from playing the Australian Open, and Scott still isn’t sure how it will respond late in the round when he starts to tire.
“Obviously, good enough to be here,” Scott said of his knee. “Unfortunately, this course is quite a tough walk, so that’s going to be the test for me here.”
Scott said he has “hyper-mobile” knee caps, and he has dislocated the right one so many times that it is loose. Asked about surgery, Scott said six doctors have recommended six procedures, none the same. He said it doesn’t affect his golf swing, and he would rather not risk changing something in his right leg that could mess with his swing.
He said he would reduce his travel this year, and cut back on some activities such as tennis and snow skiing, and any other sport that involves running. But not surfing.
“I’m not strapped to the board at all,” he said. “I’m free, and I can fall in the water – if I fall, you know.”
ON THE GO: Kenny Perry goes into this year eligible for seven events that were not part of his plans at the start of last season – the four majors and three World Golf Championships. He plans to play them all this year, so what will he drop?
“If I get in the four FedEx (playoff events), that will be 30 events for me,” Perry said. “That’s a huge year for me.”
The only change is that Perry is having to skip the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, instead opting for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. But there’s a good reason for that. His wife, Sandy, has been elected president of the PGA Tour Wives Association, and its biggest meeting is at Pebble Beach.
“She says, ‘You’re coming to Pebble,”’ said Perry, who has not played the event since 2003.
SHARK OR ICE MAIDEN: Adam Scott was thrilled to see his idol, Greg Norman, qualify for the Masters with his third at the British Open last summer, and he hopes to play another practice round with him at Augusta National.
“I played with him in a practice round there the last time he played, and I thought that might have been the last time I ever get to play with him at Augusta,” Scott said. “So I’m going to try and pin him down for a practice round again, which would be great.”
As much as Scott enjoys tennis, he was asked if he would rather play golf with Norman or tennis with Norman’s wife, Chris Evert.
He thought about this for a moment.
“I would potentially beat Greg at golf, so play golf with Greg,” he said. “Because I know Chrissy would probably kick my (behind) at tennis.”