HONOLULU – Zach Johnson’s love for Waialae Country Club has proven at times unrequited.
Johnson won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Sony Open in 2009 and has finished inside the top 10 in three of his last four starts in Hawaii, but he’s also had his share of forgettable weeks, like his missed cuts in ’04 and ’13.
Thursday, however, was more of what he expects from himself on a course he calls an “old hidden gem,” one that fits his game perfectly.
“I had a stretch there, whatever it was, 10-12 years ago, where I felt really, really good every time I set foot on it, and then I had a lull,” said Johnson following a first-round 63 that left him tied for the lead with Chris Kirk. “It was one of those where I probably took it for granted.”
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It was very much a low-stress round for Johnson, who went bogey-free on Day 1 and began with three consecutive birdies.
While his affinity for the golf course is understandable – at 7,044 yards, Waialae is perfect for a mid-length shot-maker like Johnson – he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence when he arrived in Hawaii this year.
Johnson said he’s been slowed by the flu since just after Christmas and that he didn’t start feeling healthy until Tuesday.
“I am one that likes to prepare,” said Johnson, who carded his lowest round at Waialae. “But I got here Friday, and I touched a golf club Saturday through Wednesday. Saturday was awful. It was about a three-hour session. It was at least two hours too many because I was not right.