Johnson flourishes at Congressional, but trails by nine

Former Masters champion Zach Johnson broke 70 on Friday for the first time in eight US Open appearances and still found himself a distant nine strokes off the 36-hole lead.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2011, 10:51 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:31 AM

While the American’s two-under-par 69 left him at two-under 140 overall, he was totally overshadowed at Congressional Country Club by Britain’s in-form Rory McIlroy, who posted rounds of 65 and 66.

“I’m just going to play my game. I can’t control the leaderboard. I certainly can’t control what Rory is doing or anybody else,” he said.

Johnson, who climbed up the US Open leaderboard with two birdies, an eagle and two bogeys, felt McIlroy’s staggering advantage over the field after 36 holes was not especially relevant with two more rounds to go.

“I think his score becomes relevant when you’re talking about the last three or four holes of the golf tournament,” said Johnson who won his only major title at the 2007 Masters after recording three birdies in four holes on the back nine.

“If I get myself in contention on Sunday, that’s when it becomes relevant and if it’s a 15-shot lead, then it’s irrelevant. If it’s less than that, if it’s a handful of shots, you could say it’s somewhat relevant.”

Johnson tried to put one positive spin on his nine-stroke deficit behind the pacesetting McIlroy.

NO PRESSURE

“The way I look at it, the pressure is off me,” the 35-year-old American said with a smile. “I’m not the one that’s supposed to win it right now.

“I’m not saying I don’t want to lead, but his lead now is eight. That’s pretty good.”

Johnson has triumphed seven times on the PGA Tour but was unable to explain why he has mainly struggled at the US Open with four missed cuts and a best finish of tied for 45th at Oakmont in 2007.

“I don’t know if I had expectations, I expected to play better,” he said. “I just haven’t played well. It’s just bad weeks. I don’t know why that is. I just haven’t hit solid shots and putted well.

“I think my game is fairly suited to it.”

The highlight of Johnson’s second round came at the par-five sixth where he rammed in a 45-foot eagle putt which hit the back of the cup so hard that playing partner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa joked it had moved the hole.

“I hit it pretty firm,” Johnson smiled. “Fortunately it went in. It would have been a minimum of eight feet by if it didn’t hit the back of the hole.”


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