Rodgers and Johnson, teammates now, soon will become football foes
By Greg Hardwig
NAPLES, Fla. – At the Franklin Templeton Shootout this week, Patrick Rodgers and Zach Johnson are teammates. In about three weeks, not so much.
It's not that they don't like each other. Rodgers sees Johnson as a mentor, and the two have the same manager.
But the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day happens to have Stanford, where Rodgers went to college, facing Iowa. Johnson went to Drake, which is in Des Moines, but is a huge Hawkeyes fan.
"Go Hawks," Johnson said.
"I brought my (Stanford) hat just in case anyone needs to know where I went to school," Rodgers countered. "I was very happy to see that matchup, not so much because I think Stanford's going to win so much, but I think playing with Zach, it's going to be fun to go back and forth this week and for the rest of the year. I think it will actually be a really great ballgame."
Both admitted that no wager has been made "yet."
"We'll have a really good one," Rodgers said.
Johnson, 39, actually does have one already. He wouldn't say who, but left a couple of hints.
"I might have a hundred-ish with another Stanford graduate that's on Tour that hosted an event last week," Johnson quipped, referring to Tiger Woods.
While the two have something to look forward to in a manner of speaking with the Rose Bowl, both have a lot to look back on when it comes to 2015.
Johnson won his second major, the British Open, in a playoff at St. Andrews over Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen. It was just a part of what Johnson termed a very consistent year – he finished sixth in the FedExCup, seventh in scoring average, eighth on the money list, and had 10 top-10 finishes.
"The Open's certainly going to be the highlight," he said. "It's my highlight – I'm not going to deny that. But if there's one thing I'm going to look back on that I'm going to try to maintain or just keep in my pocket is the consistency. I felt like I was in a position, specifically on the weekend, to win a lot of golf tournaments, and even more so on Sunday."
First, though, Rodgers and Johnson are all – or mostly – business this week. Rodgers will be Johnson's four different playing partner in a Shootout, but the first time he's been the elder statesman. Nick Price, Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank have been Johnson's other partners.
"I had three phenomenal partners," Johnson said. "I had no idea what my best or worst finish was here, but that's also the beauty of this tournament. They were three great weeks that I could hang out and learn a little bit."
Now Rodgers, 23, will be the one doing that.
"Being able to play with Zach, a guy who I've looked up to for a long time, who I've watched play golf growing up, and seeing him win a lot of golf tournaments, it's really cool," said Rodgers, who started out his rookie season playing on sponsor exemptions, then went on to win $1 million in 17 events while balancing playing on the Web.com Tour. "Ever since I turned pro and was thinking about turning pro, he's been a great mentor for me.
"I'm excited to take advantage of his great putting, great wedge play, and straight shots, and hopefully get him into a few spots he's never seen before on the golf course."
Johnson had thought of taking some additional time off to spend with his wife and three children, but at the same time, he's trying to pick his spots to get ready for when the tour's wraparound season starts back up in a few weeks.
"I didn't play a whole lot in the fall and I wanted to stay fresh," he said.
Making a schedule and selecting time off is something Rodgers didn't have the luxury of this season. He played in 17 PGA Tour events, plus seven on the Web.com. He had a tie for second at the Wells Fargo Championship and was third in the Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour, and won the Colombia Championship in a playoff on the Web.com.
"I've been extremely fortunate, but I've been kind of at the mercy of tournaments of where I get a spot, and when I get a chance to play," Rodgers said. "So when I get a chance to play, I have to take it, and I've got to go do my best to play well.
" ... I just know I will have a lot more breaks (next year) and I'll play a lot less three and four and five weeks in a row, than I have been to start my career."
Johnson echoed that game plan.
"If I were to come up to a young kid, that is exactly what I would say," he said. "If you look at a schedule, and especially I'm grasping now – I think most of my peers now that are my age – my off weeks are just as strategic if not even more strategic than my on weeks. It's really knowing how much time I need to have off to prepare and to be fresh to play at a high level. I just don't go play to play."
This article was written by Greg Hardwig from Naples Daily News, Fla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.