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KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Hawaii seems to bring the very best out of Zach Johnson and the straight-shooting American was once again back in contention on the island of Maui at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Saturday.
Winner here last year after closing with a seven-under-par 66, Johnson fired a 67 on the hilly Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort to share the 36-hole lead with fellow Americans Jimmy Walker and Russell Henley, and South Korea's Bae Sang-moon.
Johnson is in illustrious company as one of only four players to have won each of the two PGA Tour events staged in Hawaii and he is in ideal position to push on for his 12th career victory on the U.S. circuit over the next two days.
"It means a lot," Johnson told reporters when asked how he valued being bracketed with fellow former major champions Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk as winners of the Hawaiian 'double'.
All four players have triumphed in the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua and also in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club, which will be played next week on the island of Oahu.
"I guess it means I like Hawaii, first and foremost," smiled Johnson, who won the 2009 Sony Open. "I like what both golf courses present, and they are vastly different, yet almost kind of the same.
"It's hard to explain. Obviously one (Kapalua) is hilly, one (Waialae) is very flat. But when it comes to execution with wind and trajectory control, they are both very similar and I like that kind of golf. That's kind of what I grew up playing."
Johnson, whose only major victory came at the 2007 Masters, displayed superb control of his game on Saturday as he coped well with shifting breezes in dazzling sunshine on a receptive layout.
"It was solid," the 38-year-old said after hitting 15-of-15 fairways and reaching every green in regulation to post an 11-under total of 135.
"I was trying to go the week without a three-putt, but I failed on that one, so we'll go the week with one three-putt
"I gave myself some putts that didn't go and I made some and that's really what you've got to do. I put the ball on some holes where you've got to take advantage of it. I played conservative when I needed to play conservative."
Editing by John O'Brien