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


SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, Georgia – 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 the PGA Tour 12 times. In fact, until DJ won the Masters last week, Zach was low-Johnson with two major championships. Few golfers have harnessed every ounce of talent in his game like Johnson has.

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

All his efforts have been in vain in recent years. Johnson has not won on the PGA Tour since lifting the Claret Jug in 2015 at St. Andrews, but he has managed three of his first four holes and three of his last five en route to tie for the low round of the day and climb to 198 under 14, tied for second and three strokes behind RSM Classic leader Robert Streb.

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Johnson, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and rushed from his media relations to watch his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes play football, has already won the John Deere Classic, his real home game, and now he’s aiming for his adopted city tournament. Johnson is a proud member of the Sea Island Mafia, the affectionate nickname given to Tour pros who inhabit this picturesque corner of South Georgia. Either way, none of the local boys have ever had the right to brag as champions of the RSM Classic, which is in its 11th year.e year.

“If you look at the history of the event, it’s not like the locals have come to dominate here,” Johnson said. “Based on the amount of talent that lives here, based on the CVs that live here and having that knowledge of the course, it’s a little surprising. I find that a little weird. But it is difficult.”

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Here’s the thing about Johnson: He’s up to the challenge and maybe that’s why he could be the perfect homebody to reunite with Streb on Sunday and break the streak. It should be noted that technically, a resident has already won the RSM. Longtime Sea Island member Kevin Kisner won the 2015 title and lived on the island while his home in Aiken, SC was undergoing renovations. But Kisner’s playground is the Palmetto Golf Club, and he’s just an unofficial member of the Sea Island Mafia. Johnson is a full-blooded member, seen all over town and active in his local church community and practices his craft at the nearby Frederica Golf Club.

“It would be amazing. I mean, it’s obviously home. I love to play in front of my family and friends here. Clearly it’s different this year, 2020 has never been very practical or it’s just crazy. There isn’t a lot of fanfare there, ”he says. “But this is my home, this is my RSM family (for whom Johnson is an ambassador). This is Davis Love, who is a friend of mine and obviously role models in life, not to mention golf. So when you put it all together and combine it all, that would be super special. But I mean it won’t be given to me just because I check things off the list. I have to go out and win it and I love it.

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