SILVIS, Ill. (AP) — He hasn”t been back to survey the destruction, not that Zach Johnson really needs it.
He saw the videos and pictures.
He heard the horror stories from his relatives and friends back home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and he realizes just how fortunate they are.
The damage they suffered “relative to other people, it”s really minimal,”” he said.
For those not so fortunate, Johnson encouraged the PGA Tour to raise funds for flood victims. The PGA stepped up, and Johnson is relieved that his biggest problem heading into the John Deere Classic is getting his game on track.
Johnson is again one of the top attractions at the John Deere, which he considers his home event even though he can”t seem to settle in here. He has never finished higher than 20th and missed the cut last year, a few months after winning the Masters.
This time, he”s returning from left wrist tendinitis that kept him out for three weeks as he tries to conquer a course that has given him fits over the years. And he”ll be challenged by a relatively deep field for a tournament that the top players generally skip because of the British Open.
To combat that, organizers chartered a jet this year to fly participants from the Quad Cities to Manchester, England, meaning no more dashes to O”Hare for commercial flights. No more connections, either.
Last year, only eight participants went from the Deere to the British Open. This year, there are 22 on the passenger list, including two alternates and the highest finisher not already qualified for Royal Birkdale.
One player who won”t be on that plane is veteran Kenny Perry.
A two-time tour winner this year, he chose to skip the British Open and stick with his plan to play the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee next week.
“You know what, I”m an independent contractor,”” said Perry, ranked 20th in the world and fourth on the money list. “I can do whatever I want, and I like that.””
His focus is on helping the U.S. win the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in his home state, Kentucky. Winning a major?
“That is the ultimate,”” he said. “But at this stage of my career, I fought all that for 22 years. … I want to play golf at the courses I enjoy playing at these last couple years, and I”m going to go out on my terms, not on their terms.””
Johnson was a surprise winner at Augusta in 2007, but he has struggled here for some reason.
He grew up just over an hour away in Cedar Rapids, serves on the tournament”s board and believes the course suits his game.
So why the problems?
“Maybe it”s just the added pressure on myself,”” he said. “I haven”t figured that part out yet. Maybe I”m just not clicking at the right time, either.””
Johnson seemed to be clicking entering last year”s tournament, when he was ranked 15th.
He”s down to 29th after missing three cuts and finishing in the top 10 just once in 15 starts this year, although he thinks he played better than the scores indicate. This will be Johnson”s first tournament since the U.S. Open when he was gone after the second round.
Tendinitis in the wrist surfaced the following Tuesday while preparing for the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. He iced it that night but couldn”t move it the next morning.
“What was frustrating was I get hurt and I thought it was a pretty big deal, but SportsCenter was Tiger and his injury; I got nothing,”” Johnson said in jest.
He started swinging again last week, but regaining his timing takes, well, time.
While he recovers, so does a region.
The Monday after the U.S. Open, Johnson suggested to commissioner Tim Finchem and several other officials that the tour raise money for the flood victims. A few days later, an unknowing Jerry Kelly did the same.
The fund started last week, and the total through the weekend was $12,975.
“To me, this is like a Midwest Katrina,”” said Kelly, a Wisconsin native who got a firsthand look at the damage in his home state when he caddied at the Women”s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Erin Hills last month.
Johnson was in Cedar Rapids the week before the flood. His parents Dave and Julie left for the U.S. Open the day before it hit and were lucky to return to an intact house.
His mom”s downtown office was flooded, but she can work out of home or at a satellite office at a local high school. His dad”s chiropractic clinic escaped damage even though a nearby hospital and surrounding offices were devastated.
“I saw a lot of pictures and some kind of video (of the area) … and I”m telling you it”s the luckiest thing,”” Johnson said. “His office is sitting right there and you can see about two or three yards. His office is two or three feet higher than all the other offices there. No damage whatsoever.””