Monday, April 09, 2007

And the Winner Is......Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson held off Tiger Woods and a half dozen others who made their charge to the top of the leader board, only to fall back at the end.

With a stretch of three birdies in four holes on the back nine at Augusta National, Johnson posted a 69 for a one over par total over four rounds, and waited as the final groups (including Woods) came in to no avail. Rovin remains clairvoyant

Johnson clutch on back nine to earn 2nd career win

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A strange week at the Masters saved the biggest surprises for the end Sunday -- a green jacket for unheralded Zach Johnson, and beating Tiger Woods at that.

Johnson pulled away from Woods and the rest of the pack with three birdies in a crucial four-hole stretch along the back nine of Augusta National, closing with a 69 for a two-shot victory and only the second of his career.

Johnson, 31, is the least accomplished Masters champion since Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff 20 years ago, but this was no fluke. Even as some of the thrills returned in the final round, Johnson kept his calm. And there wasn't anything Woods could do about it.

Johnson finished at 1-over 289, matching a Masters record last set in 1956 for highest winning score. And it ended a streak of the winner coming out of the final group at Augusta National ever year since 1991.

"He played beautifully," Woods said. "Look at the round he shot out there, the score. He did what he needed to do. He went out there, grinded away, made shots he needed to make."

So much for that theory that the Masters is only for the big boys. Johnson didn't try to reach any of the par 5s in two all week, yet he played them better than anyone with 11 birdies and no bogeys.

While there were over a half dozen golfers at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, in the end it was Johnson who kept his cool down the stretch. Johnson now has a lifetime invitation to play in the Masters along with the million-plus paycheck. And he should be remembered, (for this week at Augusta), as the one who tamed the Tiger. Well done Zach. Take a bow.

(photo credit-Getty Images)

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