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RSM Classic: Zach Johnson looks to win one for the ‘Sea Island Mafia’

RSM Classic: Zach Johnson looks to win one for the ‘Sea Island Mafia’

SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Zach Johnson is a gamer. He’s the guy who wasn’t even the No. 1 player on his Drake University golf team and yet he’s won 12 times on the PGA Tour. In fact, until DJ won the Masters last week, Zach was low-Johnson with two major championships. Few golfers have run every ounce of talent out of his game the way Johnson has.

“I’ve always been the guy that’s had his back against the wall,” Johnson said after shooting 65 on Saturday. “That was my mentality and I’m going to stick with it.”

All his effort has been for naught the past few years. Johnson hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since hoisting the Claret Jug in 2015 at St. Andrews, but he birdied three of his first four holes and three of his final five en route to tying for the low round of the day and climbing to 14-under 198, tied for second and three strokes behind RSM Classic leader Robert Streb.

Johnson, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and rushed off from his press dealings to watch his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes play football, already has claimed the John Deere Classic, his true home game, and now he’s gunning for his adopted hometown tourney. Johnson is a proud member of the Sea Island Mafia, the affectionate nickname given to the Tour pros who call this picturesque corner of Southern Georgia home. Somehow, none of the local boys have ever had bragging rights as champion of the RSM Classic, which is in its 11th year.

“If you look at the history of the event, it’s not like locals have just dominated here,” Johnson said. “Based on the amount of talent that lives here, based on the resumes that live here and having that course knowledge, it is a little bit surprising. I find it a little bit odd. But it’s hard.”

Here’s the thing about Johnson: he embraces the challenge and it might be why he could be the perfect homebody to track down Streb on Sunday and break the streak. It should be noted that technically a resident already has won the RSM. Kevin Kisner, a longtime Sea Island member, won the 2015 title and was living on the island while his home in Aiken, South Carolina was being renovated. But Kisner’s home course is Palmetto Golf Club and he’s only an unofficial member of the Sea Island Mafia. Johnson is a full-blooded member, seen about town and active in his local church community and practices his craft at nearby Frederica Golf Club.

“This would be amazing. I mean, obviously this is home. I love playing in front of family and friends here. Clearly it’s different this year, 2020’s never been very convenient or it’s just been crazy. There’s not a whole lot of fanfare out there,” he said. “But it is home, it is my RSM family (for whom Johnson is an ambassador). It is Davis Love, who’s one of my buddies and obviously models in life, let alone golf. So, when you couple all that together and combine it all, it would be ultra-special. But I mean it’s not going to be given to me just because I check things off the list. I’ve got to go out and earn it and I love that.”


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