Zach Attacks; Shares 36-Hole Lead at The Players

Any golfer who has suffered at the hands of a diabolical Pete Dye golf course had to savor the sweet taste of revenge Friday when Zach Johnson pillaged the back nine at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla. for five birdies en route to a 6-under 66 and a share of the 36-hole lead. 

The Cedar Rapids native, John Deere Classic board member, and 2007 Masters champ is tied at 8-under par with fellow Americans Matt Kuchar (68) and Kevin Na (69) at the halfway mark of The Players Championship, one of the marquis events on the PGA Tour.

The "Zach Attack" saw Johnson hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and require only 28 putts  for him to surge to the top of the leaderboard.  Despite his excellent G.I.R. stats, Zach said it was all about the putting.

"When you shoot that kind of score around this golf course any day in the year, or any week, you're putting well," Zach said.  "Clearly, that's what I've been doing the best."  

Zach birdied three of his first four holes, made a bogey on No. 7, then reeled off five more birdies on the first seven holes of the back nine.  He had to save par from seven feet on the treacherous par 3 17th.  His only back-nine bogey came on No. 18, where he missed a 5-foot par putt after hitting a perfect tee shot.

"I think the key here is getting the ball in the fairway," Zach said. "The greens are small, the fairways are narrow, so you've got to get the ball in the fairway to control your spin into these greens because they're so firm."

A few weeks ago, Johnson played well at another Dye-designed golf course - Harbour Town, site of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, SC.  Zach had his best finish of the year so far at that event, where he tied for second.  Johnson has been remarkably consistent this season.  He has made the cut in all of the 12 events he's played in, has two Top 10-finishes, and five top 25s.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods made the cut Friday thanks to a 4-under 68, which has him at T-30.  World No. 1 Rory McIlroy didn't make the cut; nor did three-time John Deere Classic defending champion Steve Stricker, whose Tour-leading consecutive cut streak ended at 49.

Jonathan Byrd, the 2007 John Deere Classic champ, continued his solid play, firing a 2-under 70, pushing his two-day total to 6-under, and leaving him in a five-way tie for fifth.  The impressive rookie out of Georgia, Harris English, shot 67 and is a shot behind the co-leaders at 7-under for the tournament.

"I love seeing Zach's name up there [on the leaderboard]," Byrd said of his friend.  "A little extra competition, and, you know, always like to see friends do well...I don't see why he doesn't play well every week, he's so solid."

But Byrd said he's feeling confident given his position going into the weekend.

"I feel like I play this golf course well," he said. "I think it suits my game and I'm looking forward to the weekend."

Here's a recap of Zach's back nine on Friday:

No. 10 - made an 18-foot putt for birdie
No. 11 (Par 5)  - hit green in 2; 2-putted from 40 ft
No. 12 - lipped out a makable birdie putt nd made par
No. 13 - cut a 6-iron to tap-in range and made birdie
No. 14 - hit 7-iron to 3 feet and made it for birdie
No. 15 - routine par 4
No. 16 (Par 5) - hit the green in 2 shots and 2-putted for birdie
No. 17 - Saved par from 7-feet
No. 18 - Bogey - missed a 5-foot par putt


July 1 - July 7

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