Zach Johnson doesn’t look very imposing when you stand behind him on the practice range. At 5′ 9″ and with a body that doesn’t quite match the titanic figures of Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott or Tiger Woods, it would be easy to write Zach Johnson off.
The Scottish have an expression that says something along the lines of “Guts and putts – they still get it done.” Zach Johnson’s epic victory at the British Open has provided short-hitters and slenderly built athletes with all the inspiration they need to win the biggest trophies in sport.
It’s not the size of a man, it’s how big his heart is
Zach Johnson is a fighter with arguably the biggest heart in professional golf and perhaps the least imposing frame. At just 5ft 9in and 155 lbs, Johnson hasn’t finished in the top 140 in the season’s driving distance charts. With an average drive of 280 yards, that’s 40 yards behind Dustin Johnson.
At the start of the week, experts were claiming that only a bomber could prevail at St. Andrews. It’s not surprising when you consider the previous winners at the Old Course were John Daly, Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen. Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley foolishly stated at the start of the week:
“St Andrews will be massively advantageous to the big hitter. It is almost impossible to look past those who are long off the tee.”
So how did Zach Johnson defy the odds and prove that being short isn’t necessarily a disadvantage?
Damon Green – Zach Johnson’s longtime caddie who famously did the “birdie dance” when his player birdied the 18th hole – believes it is 100% down Johnson’s character.
“For him to pull that off man, wow it was just like David versus Goliath. He’s just my little bulldog. He gets on your pant leg and won’t give up until he gets some flesh. My man’s got the biggest pair out here. He’s not afraid of being in the lead, he thrives on it. But I’d like to say he has something other than heart,” Green said.
Zach Johnson is jokingly referred to as “the Tiger Woods of Iowa.” While he’s not as physically gifted as his protege Woods, Johnson is arguably golf’s greatest player from 130 yards in. When you combine that accuracy with the competitive fighter that Johnson is, you end up with a 2 time major champion and one of the most successful golfers of the past decade.
In fact, over the last 10 years, only four players have won 10 or more times on the PGA Tour with these titles including multiple majors – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, McIlroy and now Johnson.
Short people, do not let anyone tell you it’s not possible.