ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) – Zach Johnson turns 40 next February, an age where it can be tempting to look back at how far he has come without taking his eyes off the road that could lead places he never imagined.
He lost track of the miles he put on a car that took him to remote golf outposts in America with dreams of making it to the big leagues.
"I know every interstate, I think, in the United States," Johnson said. "My wife used to quiz me with an atlas. 'Where does this one start and end?' I could tell you. It's pretty pathetic. Just makes you appreciate where you were and where you've come from and what opportunity means. That's really what it all is.
"It's really about making the best of your opportunities," he said. "And somehow, I was able to do that."
He has a green jacket from Augusta National and a claret jug from St. Andrews.
Those two majors are among his 12 victories on the PGA Tour, and while Johnson does not look like an intimidating figure in golf, his resume says otherwise. He is halfway to the career Grand Slam. A few more PGA Tour titles would make it tough to overlook the Iowa native for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
That surely wasn't on his mind when he was behind the wheel of that Dodge Intrepid.
And part of him is trying to block it out now.
"There is still a lot to be done," he said.
At No. 10 in the world, Johnson is the top player at the RSM Classic, which starts Thursday as the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year.
The tournament host is Davis Love III, who at 51 might be the most surprising winner on tour this year at the Wyndham Championship. The big surprise for Love is that his 21-year-old son Dru, who plays at Alabama, won a qualifier to get the final exemption and will be making his PGA Tour debut at Sea Island and playing in the same group as his father and 22-year-old Justin Thomas.
Also playing this week is Graeme McDowell, coming off a win in Mexico that ended more than two years without winning.
Johnson might not be playing this week if he didn't live at Sea Island. After going unbeaten at the Presidents Cup in South Korea, he realized he would have five weeks off, and he needed it.
Johnson's year was defined by that 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at the British Open, which got him into a three-man playoff that he won over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman Johnson joined some elite company with wins at Augusta and St. Andrews – Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.
He was much more equipped to handle winning a major than he was the first time at the Masters in 2007.
"Augusta was shock and awe, both on and off the golf course," Johnson said. "The Open has been a lot of awe. Still in awe. But the shock wasn't there. But I think that's because of what happened from `07 to `15. I'm just more prepared for it and probably more comfortable with whatever comes our way."
That includes appearance money from overseas events – Jordan Spieth is going to Abu Dhabi and Singapore next year, while Bubba Watson has carved out a niche playing throughout parts of Asia – only Johnson so far has avoided the temptation.
He figures there are plenty of good events on the PGA Tour, and he's not willing to sacrifice a week overseas when he could be earning valuable points in 2016 season that includes the Ryder Cup and golf's return to the Olympics.
And there's a feeling that as soon as he sits back and revels in what he has done, he'll start going the wrong direction.
"What I've learned in my 12 years is once I get complacent or content with things, they go astray," he said. "I think I'm pretty good about – and I have learned from others guys – is just staying in the right now."
That means meeting with his team of coaches and caddie to see what worked this year and what needs to improve, and to outline a map that doesn't include a Dodge Intrepid or a vast knowledge of the U.S. interstate system.
"I still feel like my best golf is ahead me," Johnson said. "If I'm going to get specific, I want to keep winning."
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