HAVEN, Wisconsin -- A month ago, Zach Johnson was considered a nice player. Eleven career victories, highlighted by a win at the 2007 Masters. Seven appearances for the United States in the Ryder and Presidents Cups. A career that most on tour would envy.
Conversely, the 39-year-old's name was not synonymous with the game's greats. Even in the sport's lax Hall-of-Fame standards, Johnson was a man on the outside looking in.
How things can change in a month.
Following his conquest at this year's British Open, Johnson vaulted in vaunted company. He joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo as the only players with a green jacket to capture the claret jug at St. Andrews. Only six active golfers have more career tour wins; he's now 11th on the all-time money list.
Life is shining bright for Johnson after the British Open. Imagine how sunny it will be if he walks away with the Wanamaker Trophy this week.
Don't laugh. "Zach Johnson, PGA Champion" is a realistic proposition. Here are five reasons why Johnson will emerge victorious at Whistling Straits:
"I think I kind of proved (power) doesn't matter five years ago," Johnson remarked on the correlation between the long ball and the course.
With an average drive of 282 yards, Johnson is one of the shortest hitters (160th) on tour. What he lacks with the long ball, he makes up in accuracy, as his 72.18 driving accuracy percentage is fourth-best among pros. An attribute that will serve him well this week.
Teamwork makes the dream work
If you played a drinking game during Johnson's presser and "team," "coaches" or "support" were the magic words, you would be wicked bombed.
But to Johnson, this is not your usual athlete-cliche vernacular. He truly believes the group dynamic around him is on the same wavelength. And if you don't think that particular attitude matters in sports, Google "teamwork quotes" and sift through the results.
Despite his British Open victory, Johnson is not among the favorites at Whistling Straits, to the point where Tiger Woods has better Vegas odds.
A month ago, no one would have batted an eye at such a standing. But as Johnson proved, a lot can change in a month.