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Zach Johnson still hopeful at Masters

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Posted: April 12, 2008 9:23 p.m.
Updated: April 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    AUGUSTA — Zach Johnson is nine shots behind the leader, but don’t count the defending Masters champion out just yet.
    The Iowan bounced back from a shaky Friday by firing a 4-under 68 Saturday, eight shots better than the 76 he carded a day earlier. Saturday’s round brought him back to 2-under for the tournament, and he’s in a nine-way tie for seventh place heading into the final day.
    Mental adjustments — mainly not looking at the scoreboard during a cool and rainy Saturday — helped Johnson regroup.
    “Based on numbers, based on stats and based on names, I’m not supposed to win — so there’s no pressure on me,” he said.
    After bogeying four holes on Friday, Johnson had just one Saturday, his best outing yet. Consecutive birdies on the second and third holes gave him early momentum, and he also birdied the sixth, ninth and 13th holes for a total of five on the day.
    One noticeable difference as he makes his way around Augusta National this year is the increased crowd support, which he can’t help but notice.
    “It’s very encouraging,” Johnson said. “The fans here are very golf knowledgeable, very sincere, certainly very genuine. They appreciate golf, the history of golf and what guys have done. That’s one of the best things about the Masters – the support is second to none.”    

The Green Jacket
    Members of the Augusta National Golf Club began purchasing green jackets in 1937 and were encouraged to wear them to the Masters so patrons could easily identify who to go to for information. Twelve years later, the club began awarding green jackets to Masters winners with Sam Snead taking home the first coat.
    According to tradition, the champ takes his jacket home for a year and returns it to the club during the following Masters. Augusta National stores the jackets, which are available whenever the owner visits the course.
    It’s customary for the previous year’s winner to present the jacket to the new champion. When Jack Nicklaus became the first player to win consecutive titles in 1966, he put the coat on himself. The Masters has only had two other back-to-back winners – Nick Faldo in 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2002 – who were both awarded green jackets by the tournament chairman.
    If Johnson repeats, chairman Billy Payne will put the jacket on him.

He said it
    “Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course on it,” Masters founder and Augusta National co-designer Bobby Jones said in 1930 when he first visited the land that eventually became Augusta National.
    Once an indigo plantation, the 365-acre property was purchased in 1857 by a Belgian man and his son, who operated Fruitland Nurseries where they grew a wide variety of trees and flowering plants until 1918.

This and that
    Leader Trevor Immelman (11-under) and second-place Brant Snedeker (9-under) will be in the final group today. The Masters winner has come out of the final pairing 16 of the last 17 years. Johnson broke the trend in 2007...There’ve been 12 eagles so far this Masters, seven on the par-5 13th…The Masters winner will take home more than $1.3 million, and the total prize money is $7.5 million.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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