Former Masters champion Zach Johnson a mentor, friend to Kim

By Kevin Raftery, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 5, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. — After playing a practice round with Michigan golfer Lion Kim on Monday, Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters and a seven-time PGA Tour champion, wasn’t afraid to take a jab at the Masters rookie.

“(Playing with Kim) was great, outside of him being a Wolverine,” Johnson joked on Tuesday after his practice round. “He smells — much like any other Wolverine.”

Johnson, an Iowa City native and die-hard Hawkeye fan, has been friends with Kim for years. Both players have worked with golf instructor Brian Mogg since the early 2000s.

“I’ve known him for so long, and we have that type of relationship,” Kim said. “We can joke around and have fun.”

Added Johnson: “We had a great time. He's matured a lot, and his golf game is really good.”

But on the 16th hole Tuesday, Kim was the one with the last laugh.

When it was Johnson’s turn to hit the traditional skip shot over the pond and onto the green, he barely got the ball over the bank, and it settled about five yards short of the green — cueing a few boos and snickerings from the crowd.

Kim, playing two groups behind Johnson on Tuesday, didn’t disappoint the crowd (his trick shot on both Monday and Tuesday settled about 15 feet from the hole).

“This time I was real confident,” Kim said. “I knew what to expect.”

Kim pulled out a five iron and skipped the ball over the pond and onto the middle of the green, where it looked like it would stop about 30 feet from the hole.

But the ball caught the steep slope on the 16th green and slowly trickled down to the pin, located on the front left portion of the green. The roar from the crowd grew louder each second as the ball crept closer and closer to the hole, and spectators let out a collective “Oh!” as the ball missed the hole by mere inches.

“From my angle, it looked like it was going in,” Kim said.

The ball scooted just past the hole and settled about four feet from the pin — easily one of the best trick shots of the day. A few people in the crowd even gave Kim a standing ovation.

But regardless of Kim’s clear ability to skip a ball over a pond, the veteran Johnson had some relevant advice for the budding star, too.

“I just kind of told him about a couple of pins here and there, where to hit it, just that sort of stuff,” Johnson said. “Just the basic stuff that I’ve kind of gathered over the years. Hopefully it helps him.”

Johnson mentioned that Kim was nervous, as nearly all newcomers are during their first Masters experience.

And when asked what his first Masters experience was like, the 36-year-old paused.

“I don’t remember my first time, sorry,” he said with a smile. “I remember I was nervous, that’s about it.”