SILVIS — Zach Johnson said all the right things after his final round Sunday at the John Deere Classic. But the frustrating look on his face said far more.
After shooting a 4-under 31 on the front nine that included birdies on Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 8, Johnson never quite got over the hump on the back 9, finishing with an even-par 36 on the final nine holes for a final round 4-under 67.
It left him 15-under for the tourney at TPC Deere Run, good for a tie for fifth place, three shots back of champion Bryson DeChambeau.
Johnson, the 2012 JDC winner from nearby Cedar Rapids, said the putting let him down on the back 9.
“I didn’t make any putts," he said. "I hit some lips. I just didn’t get the ball to drop.”
Johnson would finish with 30 putts for 18 holes, one less than Saturday, when he shot a 70.
Johnson said he wasn’t looking at the leaderboard after nine holes Sunday, even though he was briefly atop it in the final round.
“I felt like 10 and 11 were big misses (the latter for a bogey on the par-4, 432-yard hole)," Johnson said. “I had my chances. That’s really all you can ask for.”
Ironically, he cited a non-putt, his tee shot on the par-4 15th hole, as one of his most costly shots.
“You cannot hit the rough there,” Johnson said of the hole he bogeyed. “No matter what side of that fairway, you have to hit that fairway.”
Johnson believed he still had a chance, even at the point. But his putting betrayed him.
“Leaving putts short. Miss-hitting some putts, pushing some putts. That was the story, certainly my last nine holes,” said Johnson, who had 17 putts on the back nine, including a three-putt on No. 11. “I know I made some putts, but for the most part, I know I gave a lot away.”
Johnson entered Sunday in a 10-way-tie for eighth, five shots off the pace.
“Certainly, my last 36 holes there were plenty of opportunities,” he said. “I just didn’t capitalize.”
Johnson said he thought a 63 was possible at one point Sunday. That four-shot improvement would have won the tournament by two shots.
“It certainly would have put me right in it,” he said.
But now it’s on to the British Open, get some rest, a workout and possibly some practice.
“It’s my system over there to get as much rest as I can,” he said.
However the round of applause Sunday as he approached and left the 18th green was not lost on him.
“Very special,” he said. “I’ve played in this tournament more than any other tournament. I feel like I am an ambassador, not only the tournament but the company, John Deere, and the people. I take pride in that yellow deer on my bag. I love seeing it. I love being here.
“This is as much of a home game as I am going to play, at least on the current schedule.”
Then he added with emphasis, “I love coming back to this area and playing for these fans. I am quite happy they are still pulling for me.”
It’s been almost two years since Johnson has won a golf tournament, but it’s clear he believes good days are coming soon.
“I know how to win," said the 12-time tour winner. "I know my game is trending (up). It’s a matter of when, not if. Certainly the arsenal in my golf bag is as good as it’s ever been.
“It’s just really about scoring and making putts.”