(Reuters) - Zach Johnson acknowledges that long, difficult Whistling Straits is not his favorite PGA Championship venue, but do not rule him out this week.
He tied for third at the Wisconsin course in 2010 and returns on an emotional high as the current holder of the oldest trophy in golf, the Claret Jug.
St. Andrews is not his preferred British Open venue either, but that did not stop Johnson from winning there last month and becoming a dual major champion eight years after claiming a Masters green jacket.
“This isn’t my favorite golf course that we stop at for the PGA Championship, but St. Andrews is not in the top two or three (British Open venues),” Johnson told reporters, emphasizing that he loves all British Open venues, though some more than others.
He also made clear on Tuesday that St. Andrews and Whistling Straits, though both adjacent to water, have little in common.
“This golf course is the furthest thing from links,” the 39-year-old American said. “Outside of maybe the sand traps and the way they look, it’s not a links golf course.
“Links golf is using the land, using trajectory control, running things on the green, using the bounces and the rolls.“This course is all aerial. It may look like links, standing from the clubhouse looking down, but it does not play like a true links course.”
Johnson is not a long hitter, but that does not rule him out.
“I feel like I‘m a better player than I was five years ago,” he said. “I feel like my technique and fundamentals are probably a bit more polished.”
Johnson said he struck the ball great at Whistling Straits in 2010 but his putter let him down.
“I hit a lot of fairways, which you have to do here, and I hit a lot of greens in regulation,“ he said. ”I missed a lot of makeable, short putts that week and still had a chance to win coming down the stretch.”
The low-profile Johnson may not be a flashy pick, but it would be foolish to write off his chances of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
He said he was in “shock and awe” after winning the 2007 Masters but felt only “awe” when he triumphed at St. Andrews.
Who knows how he would feel should he win a third major.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine