Family expectations a 'problem' for Zach Johnson on Maui

Returning to the Hawaiian island of Maui for the PGA Tour`s Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a double-edged sword for Zach Johnson, whose young family now expect him to be a perennial qualifier for the event.

Reuters| Updated: Jan 09, 2015, 09:02 AM IST
Family expectations a 'problem' for Zach Johnson on Maui

Kapalua: Returning to the Hawaiian island of Maui for the PGA Tour`s Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a double-edged sword for Zach Johnson, whose young family now expect him to be a perennial qualifier for the event.

Johnson clinched last year`s title by one shot over fellow American Jordan Spieth and will be competing in the winners-only field at Kapalua Resort for the eighth time, having missed out on qualification only once since 2007.

The elite $5.7 million event this week brings together 34 winners from the previous season and Johnson, an 11-times champion on the PGA Tour, has given his children the impression that he punches his ticket to Maui virtually at will.

"My (two) boys, granted they`re young, they kind of expect it," a smiling Johnson told reporters while preparing for Friday`s opening round on the Plantation Course.

"That`s a problem. My eight-year-old has celebrated six birthdays here in Maui. That`s also a problem, but a good problem.

"It`s great to be back in Maui. This is a pretty special place to start, and it`s one that certainly I and my family relish because it`s not easy getting back here."

Johnson triumphed at Kapalua last year after closing with a seven-under-par 66, iron-clad confirmation that he has adjusted well to a hilly layout that measures 7,452 yards.

"I used to think this golf course wasn`t in my favour but the more and more I play it, the better I feel like it is suited to me," said the 38-year-old American. "I`ve grown to at least enjoy it, for sure."

South African Tim Clark, like Johnson one of the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour where power is a prized commodity, has also had to adapt to Kapalua`s special requirements.

"My first reaction was, `Do we get a cart for the week?`" Clark recalled of his Tournament of Champions debut in 2011 when he tied for 17th. "It`s certainly an interesting golf course.

"On a personal level, I`d like to see it a little bit narrower ... but I like the grasses we`ll be playing on and I like playing in the wind, so I look forward to the week."

Long established as the opening event on the PGA Tour, this week`s edition is the eighth in the `wrap-around` season that was first introduced for 2013-14. Masters champion Bubba Watson, the American world number four, heads the field.