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The Open 2018: Johnson shrugs off not being a fan favourite as he seeks history

By Phil Casey

Zach Johnson will gladly accept not being the popular choice to win a second Open as he seeks to make golfing history.

No player has ever won Majors at all three famed venues of Augusta, St Andrews and Carnoustie, but Johnson can do so this weekend after a second round of 67 gave him a tie of the halfway lead on six-under par.

England's Tommy Fleetwood is just a shot behind Johnson and co-leader Kevin Kisner, with Rory McIlroy another stroke adrift, but while they will command much of the spotlight and spectator support, Johnson will take it all in his stride.

"I don't relish it. I'm just so wholeheartedly used to it," Johnson said of his relatively low popularity among fans. "Maybe I'm just overly conservative and boring and that's perfectly fine. I just like to compete. It doesn't matter where it is, what it is. Just give me an opportunity."

Johnson won The Masters in 2007 and The Open at St Andrews in 2015, beating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off.

And the 42-year-old makes no secret of what it would mean to get his name on the Claret Jug for a second time after embracing the challenge of links golf, despite missing the cut in his first three Open appearances.

"I really haven't given it a whole lot of thought because I'm so about right now," Johnson added. "But the reverence I have for this Championship and specifically that trophy... I'm not suggesting that someone doesn't have a higher reverence for it, but I'd argue with them.

"I just greatly appreciate it. I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this Championship came into fruition in 1860.

"I'm not going to sit here and say, 'I just love playing in the wind and rain' because I don't, but I can do it. I may not play well, but I'm going to fight."

For the third year in succession, Johnson is sharing accommodation for The Open with a number of friends and fellow competitors, with fellow leader Kisner this year joining Johnson, defending champion Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner and Rickie Fowler.

And although he would be happy to foot the bill, this time there will be no repeat of The Open winner paying for a private jet to take the housemates back across the Atlantic.

"We made an agreement that, if you win, you get the jet," Johnson revealed. "I'd be happy to fork that over. This year a bunch of guys are going elsewhere so it's not going to come to fruition. It's not going to happen, but that's fine."

Belfast Telegraph


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