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Higher Master

Sports | Zach Johnson sees significance in Easter victory

Issue: "Don't fence me out," April 21, 2007

After Zach Johnson, a professing Christian, won the Masters last week, he mused to reporters about the victory coming on "Easter Sunday-I feel very blessed and honored and I feel like there was a power that was walking with me and guiding me."

God also uses human agents, so credit Johnson's caddie for some sage advice that might have propelled the unknown golfer to his first major championship. On the final day, caddie Damon Green convinced Johnson, 31, to keep his eyes away from the leaderboard and simply focus on making shots.

On the 16th hole, Johnson learned he was 2 ahead of the field, but that Tiger Woods had just eagled on No. 13. "When we got to the No. 18 tee he asked if he could look at the leaderboard," Green said. "I said, 'Yeah, you can look at the leaderboard.'"

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It showed Johnson still in the lead. "I guess ignorance is bliss," Johnson said after winning his first green jacket-and that's true when a golfer is trying to hold off Tiger Woods on the final day at Augusta. "I was an emotional wreck," Johnson admitted to reporters. "I was a slob. I knew there were still chances for guys to make birdies." Not under these conditions.

Weather at Augusta National gave weekend warriors a taste of the familiar. Hearing about the high winds that tossed drives and pitches off course, viewers could sympathize with Woods, who on Sunday broke an iron on the 11th, pitched a shot into the drink on the 15th, and sank another in the sand on the 17th. Frigid conditions made the course's greens lightning-fast and unforgiving.

It all took a toll on the world's best golfers. In 2006, Phil Mickelson won the green jacket by finishing the four-day tournament at minus 7. The year before, Woods won it all with a 12-under-par finish. Not this time. With scores closer to U.S. Open figures, golfers had to aim for par and often settle for bogies. Johnson's 1-over finish was the first above-par winning score since 1956.

Around the Horn

TRACK: The reputation of sprinter Tim Montgomery, once considered the world's fastest man, has sunk even lower. Montgomery pleaded guilty to being part of a fraud and money-laundering scheme that bilked banks out of millions of dollars. Montgomery won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics and set the 100-meter world record in 2002. But his connection to the BALCO steroid scandal meant his records were erased and he was banned for life. Montgomery could face 37 to 46 months in prison.

BASEBALL: How soon until the boo birds return? That's the question for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who walloped his fifth home run in baseball's first week after being booed much of last season by Yankees fans. Never able to capture the hearts of fans like his infield teammate Derek Jeter, Rodriguez nonetheless earned a curtain call during his huge first week for a walk-off grand slam to beat the Orioles on April 7. The cheers are likely to continue until Rodriguez's next error in the Bronx.

NBA: Good news for the defending NBA champion Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade's back, which he says is pain-free. After sitting for more than six weeks with a shoulder injury, Wade showed rust when he returned on April 8 but also glimpses of the level of play that made him the Finals' MVP last year. "I had a lot of turnovers tonight. I missed a lot of free throws," Wade said. "But one thing about me, you don't have to worry about that. I won't do that too often."

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