(Reuters) - Zach Johnson has finished no better than joint 18th on the 2013 PGA Tour but hopes he can regain top form on his title defense at this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas where he is a twice former champion.
A medium-length hitter who is renowned for his accuracy, tenacity and a superb short game, the 37-year-old American has always loved playing at Colonial Country Club, an iconic venue where high quality shot-making reaps rich reward.
“I‘m going to hopefully take some of those good feelings I’ve had over the last four years, not necessarily dwell on them but embrace them and put them into play in some regard,” Johnson told reporters at Colonial on Wednesday.
”Any given week if you are playing well, you are putting pretty well, so the confidence on the greens ... the speed, and understanding the break is crucial.
“For some reason I have been able to manage to putt well on these greens, specifically the last four years.”
Champion at Colonial in 2010 and again last year when he triumphed by one shot over compatriot Jason Dufner, Johnson liked the look of the classic par-70 layout the very first time he played the course.
“It just suited my eye from the very beginning, partly because for some reason I think I play pretty well in warm weather,” said Johnson, a nine-times winner on the PGA Tour.
”I‘m excited to be here. I love being here. I love everything about this tournament. It’s a shot maker’s course.
“It requires every shot in your bag, every club in your bag. Every aspect of your game has got to be on if you are going to climb the (leader) board. I just appreciate that kind of golf.”
Johnson’s best U.S. result this year was a share of 18th place at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but has been encouraged by a recent uptick in form.
”It’s been frustrating that I truly haven’t been in contention late on Sunday,“ he said. ”That would be my biggest frustration. I don’t really get caught up in top this, top that.
“My attitude has been great. I have hit a lot of balls in February, March, April and even into May just to try to get it back. There are some things that my coach and I went back and looked at ... and now the feeling has come back.”
Johnson delivered tangible proof of that when he tied for 19th in the PGA Tour’s flagship Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass two weeks ago after opening with a 66 in his most recent start.
”I played really well at TPC,“ he said. ”It (victory) didn’t happen two weeks ago but it (his game) is going in the right direction, the putter is coming along.
“I like where my game is going. I‘m just trying to remain patient and let things kind of happen.”
American world number 13 Matt Kuchar and 15th-ranked South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, head this week’s field where 18 players in the top 50 will be teeing off in Thursday’s opening round.
Also competing are former Colonial winners David Toms (2011), Rory Sabbatini (2007), Tim Herron (2006), Steve Flesch (2004) and Corey Pavin (1996).
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry