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Zach Johnson aiming to continue momentum

Energised after making a strong start to the 2009 PGA Tour, former Masters champion Zach Johnson has high hopes for this week’s Northern Trust Open at one of his favourite venues.

The 32-year-old American clinched his fifth Tour title at last month’s Sony Open in Hawaii and has finished no worse than tied for 12th in his first three tournaments.

“I’m very, very pleased with the way the season started,” Johnson told reporters at Riviera Country Club on Tuesday.

“I had some pretty specific goals coming into this year, and one was to get off to a good start.

“I’ve never done that before and this year it has surfaced because of what I did in the off-season, and because of what I did after the FedExCup last year.

“That was just getting hot at the right time,” he added, referring to his Texas Open win in October. “But the work that I put in after the FedExCup is now really starting to settle in.

“My finishes, scores, what have you, are starting to run parallel to why I polished my game fundamentally. So all in all, I feel good.”

Johnson, who held off late challenges by fellow Americans David Toms and Charles Howell III to win last month’s Sony Open by two shots, has always enjoyed playing at Riviera.

“It’s top five for me on the PGA Tour,” he said of the classic 7,279-yard layout that winds its way through the Santa Monica Canyon.

“I love everything about it. This golf course has character beyond character. I think what sets it apart is it’s just old school in the fact it’s just straight-out golf.

“There’s nothing tricky about it,’ added Johnson, who clinched his first major title at the 2007 Masters. “You’ve got to hit every shot. It’s a highlight of my schedule.”

Riviera, which hosted the U.S. Open in 1948 and the PGA Championship in 1983 and 1995, is located just off Sunset Boulevard and has a long association with nearby Hollywood.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, the course hosted the Los Angeles Open which in those days was considered one of the PGA Tour’s premier events.

Actors such as Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Mary Pickford, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn flocked to the club to watch the professionals compete.

The par-four 12th has a large sycamore guarding the left side of the green named Bogey’s Tree in honour of former member Humphrey Bogart.

Riviera will forever be nicknamed “Hogan’s Alley” in honour of the two Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open won here by Ben Hogan.


February 18, 2009

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