Unless you’re Tony Korologos, you probably didn’t predict a Zach Johnson victory at the Tournament of Champions. That’s because Zach Johnson is one of the most under-appreciated champions in golf. With his one Major (the 20087 Masters), I’ve even seen him called a “flash in the pan.”
But Johnson is anything but. As of this point, Johnson has 11 career wins (including this year’s Tournament of Champions). That’s more than all but a few active players. Ahead of Johnson are here’s Tiger Woods (79), Phil Mickelson (42), Vijay Sigh (34), Davis Love III (20), Ernie Els (19), Jim Furyk (16), David Duval (13) and David Toms (13).
Johnson shares the 11 victory mark with the likes of Payne Stewart, John Cook, Al “Mr. 59” Greiberger, Dow Finsterwald and Bob Goalby.
I think that what throws people off about Johnson is that he’s never been the longest ball striker, and so doesn’t attract a lot of attention. What he does have is consistency and a great short game.
Johnson is 37 and may be edging toward the end of his career, but I think it likely that he passes both David Duval and Toms. Duval is not going to win any more Tour events (although I pull for him every time out), and Love at 49 is likely biding his time for the Champion Tour (where he is likely to be very successful).
Johnson, on the other hand, has won three times in his last six starts.
Also of note in this year’s Tournament of Champions is the near miss by Jordan Spieth. Spieth, who last year became the youngest modern PGA Tour winner, now has Top 10 finishes in 40% of his starts. At this point in his career (25 starts), he is behind only Tiger Woods (12 Top Tens, 6 Wins and 1 Major). But … he’s a year behind Tiger chronologically.
Look for much more from Spieth this year.
Finally, a thought on the possibility of a field change at the Tournament of Champions: I’m against it. It is, after all, the Tournment of CHAMPIONS. It is not the Tournament of Past and Present Champions. It is not the Tournament of Nearly Champions (addressing the possibility that they invite runners up when the winner is either not in the field or declines to participate (Tiger, for example). Having anything other than last year’s winners, I think, dilutes the brand. As it is, the TOC has a bit of a cozy feel.