Date: April 09, 2007

Johnson sticks to plan

US Masters champion Zach Johnson credits sticking to his game plan for clinching his first career major. Starting the day two shots behind overnight leader Stuart Appleby, the 31-year-old played superb golf under pressure to card a final-round 69 and claim the title by two strokes from Rory Sabbatini, Retief Goosen and Tiger Woods. Johnson, Sabbatini and Goosen were the only players to break 70 in the final round. Johnson, who birdied four of the final six holes, said he felt mentally tough throughout the week. “I don&apost hit it very far, I can&apost overpower a golf course and alongside that, to be specific, I think I&aposm a pretty decent putter and at Augusta National, putting is of the utmost premium,” Johnson said. “I felt comfortable in my game, however you can hit great shots out here and maybe just misjudge things a little bit and end up making a bogey or what have you.” Despite this lack of length, Johnson dominated the par fives and played them in 11-under over the week. He said he was never tempted to try to be more aggressive on those longer holes. “My game plan was very good, obviously, and I was able to execute it to the best of my ability and I played the par fives well, that&aposs where I&aposve got to score because I&aposm hitting short clubs into those,” Johnson said. “I don&apost hit many wedges or nine irons or eight irons into any of the par fours so I had to score on the par fives and I was able to do that.” The chasing pack all paid tribute to Johnson&aposs ability to keep them at bay down the stretch. Goosen said Johnson had been a good player “for a long time now”, while Appleby said the victory was “a great story”. “He obviously, emotionally was just a lot sharper and in tune with his game,” Appleby said. “I mean there&aposs an element of luck involved, but you need that at Augusta. But you only ever get luck when you&aposre really thinking the right way and you have the right frame of mind.” “Zach obviously knew he had something going on and he just got down, knuckled down, just put his blinkers on and went and that&aposs the sort of player he his.” “He obviously knew he was up against the type of players that were up there and fantastic to him.” “It&aposs a great story, it&aposs something different from a guy who wins 15 majors.” Defending champion Phil Mickelson said the hard, fast conditions suited straight, solid hitters such as Johnson. “I think guys like Zach Johnson and David Toms and Jerry Kelly and good solid players that have not necessarily played the best here because the length has been a factor, it sets up perfectly for them because with the fairways being so firm, balls are bounding into the trees and bounding into the pine straw so it puts a premium on accuracy,” Mickelson said.