April 21, 2018: Zach Johnson won his first two PGA TOUR starts at the Valero Texas Open. Then in 2010, they changed the course on him, moving the tournament venue from La Cantera — where he owned a share of the course-record 60 — to TPC San Antonio 20 miles east.
Understandably, Johnson had his reservations. His first round at the new AT&T Oaks course was an 8-over 80. He missed the cut the next day. Then the tournament changed its schedule, moving from May to April. It was all too much, so Johnson skipped the next three years.
“I wasn’t particularly fond of the place,” he said.
Then he started hearing about the tweaks being made on the Greg Norman-designed course. “Softening and changes and massaging,” he said. He was intrigued. So he returned in 2014, shot four rounds at par or better, and tied for sixth. He’s been back ever since.
Friday was his 18th career round at TPC San Antonio. It was also his most productive — a 7-under 65 that included six birdies and an eagle from the greenside bunker at the par-4 fifth. At 9-under through two rounds, he owns a share of the lead with Ryan Moore, one shot ahead of Andrew Landry and Grayson Murray. Johnson and Moore will be in the final group Saturday.
Asked if there are any similarities between La Cantera and TPC San Antonio, Johnson smiled.
“The only similarity is that they’re probably within 30 miles,” he said. “Well, that’s not a similarity, that’s just a fact. … It’s certainly not the test this is. This is a much difficult test.”
Anirban Lahiri produces a brave effort
After struggling to a 76 under testing conditions in the first round, Anirban Lahiri came back roaring. The Indian shot a brilliant 68, aided by three birdies on either stretch to edge his way back into the tournament.
Anirban is lying T48 at an even 144 strokes. It is just reward for a man who has spent several weeks working on his game with coach Vijay Divecha. Anirban has been working hard to get his rhythm back after changing his sticks earlier this season. After years of playing with a Srixon bag, he has signed a deal with Callaway.
Shubhankar Sharma followed through with a 73 as he fell short of the cut line. After a rousing performance in the WGC Mexico, the young Indian has struggled to hold his own. Shubhankar has been battling wear and tear, especially on the greens, after a lengthy run of events in North America. The determined golfer from Chandigarh is sure though to work on his game and return to play some exciting golf very soon.
Jonathan Byrd, who not only is Johnson’s good friend but his partner in next week’s team format at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, isn’t surprised that Johnson has come to embrace TPC San Antonio.
“This is a great golf course for him,” Byrd said. “He drives the ball so well. It’s a first-shot golf course. If you drive it well and put it in position, it really sets up the golf course – and he’s been hitting it well. It’s a course you can be really aggressive if you’re on.”
Johnson was certainly aggressive at the drivable fifth, playing at 325 yards Friday. He went straight at the pin, knowing that even if he found the bunker, he’d have an uphill lie into the wind. He figured he could blast out to inside three feet. Instead, the ball ran into the cup for eagle.
That’s his second eagle of the week. In fact, in his last 22 holes played, he’s 12-under. That’s great momentum entering the weekend as he chases his third Valero Texas Open.
Edited from PGA TOUR
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