Johnson starts new year the way he ended the last

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 7, 2014 at 2:29 am •  Published: January 7, 2014

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Zach Johnson still looks at himself as David, even though the results are starting to suggest Goliath.

Growing up in Iowa, his passion for sports was fueled by the player or the team that was not big enough, not strong enough, not good enough to win. He had reason to feel that way at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions, where he started the final round two shots behind on a course that is suited for power players.

It proved to be the perfect recipe for another victory.

Johnson didn't blast his way around the Plantation Course as much as he picked it apart, mostly with his irons, especially with his putter.

He tied for the lead with an approach from 195 yards into 4 feet for birdie on No. 7. He took the outright lead with a wedge into 2 feet on No. 12. And he pulled away from Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Streelman and everyone else with three straight birdies for a 7-under 66.

"Hit some quality shots that certainly helped," he said. "But I think quality putts helped even more."

Johnson started a new year the same way he ended the last one — by winning.

Unlike a month ago in California, when he holed out from the drop zone on the last hole and beat Tiger Woods in a playoff, Johnson didn't doing anything spectacular. He didn't need to. Johnson missed only one fairway. He missed only two greens. He picked his spots and played to his strengths, went bogey-free and matched the best round of the day. That kind of golf wins anywhere. And Johnson seems to be winning a lot lately.

Not only was it his 11th career win on the PGA Tour, it was his third win worldwide in his last six starts. It started with the BMW Championship outside Chicago, which made him eligible for this winners-only tournament on the west end of Maui.

Dating to his rookie season in 2004, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have more PGA Tour victories.

David or Goliath?

"I still have that vision," Johnson said of the underdog role, even though the numbers don't back that up.

Johnson will say his last three wins were against small fields — 70 players in the BMW Championship, 18 players in the World Challenge, 30 players at Kapalua. He also faced strong fields at a playoff event, a holiday event with 18 of the top 30 in the world, and a winners-only gathering Hawaii.

"I've put myself in a place that is a little foreign to me," he said. "Some of the numbers, I'm not exactly comfortable with — top 10 in the world, that kind of thing. But I'm also a realist. I know this game at some point could beat me up again. So I've got to keep doing what I'm doing, try to keep things very simple."