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updated: 7/15/2014 4:28 PM

British Open challenge just what Johnson craves

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  • Zach Johnson, shown here after missing a birdie putt during the final round of the John Deere Classic, believes the short game is the key to winning the British Open.

      Zach Johnson, shown here after missing a birdie putt during the final round of the John Deere Classic, believes the short game is the key to winning the British Open.
    Associated Press

 
 

Twenty-five players who competed in the John Deere Classic were on the tournament's jet to the British Open on Sunday night. Zach Johnson figures to have the best chance of that group when the third major championship of the season tees off on Thursday at Royal Liverpool.

Johnson was the runner-up in the Quad Cities' annual PGA Tour stop on Sunday, losing by one stroke to Brian Harman. Harman also was on the jet thanks to his victory but doesn't have the experience overseas that Johnson has. The 2007 Masters champion has played in the British every year since 2004 and had top-10 finishes the last two years.

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Winner of 11 PGA Tour events, Johnson's game is traditionally good in July, when the JDC and British are held on back-to-back weeks.

Johnson won the JDC in 2012, lost in a playoff in 2013 and was solo second on Sunday. He was ninth in the 2012 British Open and sixth last year.

"My game feels good, but my expectations over there are just to keep processing the way I'm processing, keep hitting solid shots," said Johnson. "I've gone there with minimal confidence and played OK. It's a totally different animal than what we experience here, and something that I truly, truly love."

Given his results the last two years, Johnson has high hopes for this week's British.

"It's a tournament where driving the golf ball is a premium," said Johnson. "Driving it straight, especially if the course is firm and fast, is a huge advantage."

Johnson has never had much trouble doing that, but now he wants to go to the next level -- like Phil Mickelson did when he won his first British Open last year.

"The short game can separate you. That's what we saw with Phil last year," said Johnson. "He made some putts. Obviously he hit it well, but everybody is hitting it well at that point. Short game is what's going to take you further."

Regardless of the results, Johnson cherishes his annual trip across the pond to play in a tournament with a different atmosphere than the usual PGA Tour stops.

"I love the nuances of it," said Johnson. "I love what it demands. I love when I leave there, because that golf tournament magnifies my weaknesses more than any golf tournament I've ever played. You have to hit it high, you have to hit it low, you have to hit it left, you have to hit it right, you have to flop it, you have to bump-and-run it. You have to do everything. It's pure golf."

Sluman marches on:

Playing the U.S. Senior Open at Oklahoma's Oak Tree course last week proved fruitful for Hinsdale's Jeff Sluman. Sluman, who won the 1988 PGA Championship there but hadn't been back in 25 years, finished in a tie for fifth in the Champions Tour's latest major tournament.

The Senior Open was Sluman's 92nd consecutive start. He last missed a tournament in 2010 to attend his sister-in-law's wedding. The ironman streak is going to continue for awhile, too. Sluman had originally planned to skip next month's Senior British Open, but he has changed his mind and will make the trip.

Here and there:

Northbrook's Vince India had his best finish on the Web.com Tour in Sunday's Utah Championship when he tied for 15th, which was his second top-20 finish in the last four tournaments. He climbed to 102nd on the circuit's money list and has six events left to get into the top 75, which would qualify him for the season-ending playoff series.

• The 84th Illinois State Amateur will cut its 136-player field to the low 35 and ties and any player within 10 shots of the lead on Wednesday. The survivors will decide the title in a 36-hole final on Thursday at Cantigny in Wheaton. India won the title in 2010.

• Illinois pros Kevin Streelman and D.A. Points were on the jet to the British Open even though both missed the cut at the JDC. Elmhurst's Mark Wilson didn't go, but he did play the full 72 holes at TPC Deere Run, finishing in a tie for 63rd place. A five-time PGA Tour winner, Wilson made only his third cut in 13 starts at the JDC.

• The 65th Illinois Open tees off on Monday at The Glen Club in Glenview. Antioch's Joe Kinney will defend his title in the three-day 54-hole event. There'll be 156 starters, most survivors of seven statewide qualifying rounds. The field will be cut to the low 50 and ties after Tuesday's second round.

• For more golf news, visit lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at lenziehm@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter@ZiehmLen, and check out his posts at Facebook.com/lenziehmongolf.

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