Colonial defending champ hires stats guy to sharpen game

02/11/2013 11:14 PM

03/14/2013 4:12 PM

Coming off a season marked by two victories and $4.5 million in PGA Tour earnings, Zach Johnson took steps during the off-season to raise the bar in 2013.

The defending champion at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, who took part in Monday's tournament kickoff luncheon in Fort Worth, hired a statistician to help him dissect his 2012 performances and pinpoint areas he could improve.

Johnson, 36, said he sought to "find the holes in the stats" and close them this season because that is how he sets goals and gauges progress.

"My goals are never outcome oriented. I can't control how many times I win. But I can control the drills that I do to help accomplish these stats," said Johnson, who is Colonial's career leader in earnings ($2,875,490) and set a tournament scoring record (21 under par) during his victory in 2010.

The premise, said Johnson, is that if he can hit targeted statistical goals, "then it'll really show up on the leader board or on the outcome stats."

A nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, Johnson said the statistical goals he seeks to improve this season include putting -- primarily three-putt avoidance -- as well as driving accuracy, scrambling and birdie conversion on par-5 holes. The early returns have been solid in terms of driving accuracy, where Johnson ranks sixth among tour competitors (70.87 percent), and in par-5 birdie ratio (64.7 percent), where he ranks 13th.

But he ranks 173rd in total putting and 111th in scrambling, two areas he seeks to improve as Johnson heads into Thursday's opening round of the Northern Trust Open in Pacific Palisades, Calif. By design, Johnson has played sparingly this season -- he's posted two top 25 finishes in three starts -- following the birth of his third child, Abby Jane, on Nov. 1.

"I don't want to say I'm rusty, but I don't feel like I'm quite as polished as I'd like to be at this point," said Johnson who will compete this week for the first time since Jan. 20. "I've taken a lot of time off and... it's just a matter of getting it back. The system's in place. It's just a matter of sticking with it."

Peterson, Daly on list

In addition to defending champ Zach Johnson, notable players on Colonial's early commitment list include John Peterson, a former LSU and Fort Worth Paschal golfer who finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open, and gallery favorite John Daly.

Both golfers will be competing on sponsors exemptions and Peterson, who does not have a PGA Tour card, will be making his Colonial debut.

His strong showing in last year's U.S. Open earned Peterson, 23, berths in the 2013 Masters and 2013 U.S. Open. It also convinced Colonial officials to extend an invitation to the Fort Worth native.

"I think it's a unique story," Colonial tournament director Michael Tothe said.

"A local, Fort Worth guy. He certainly has proved himself at the major level. We're excited to host him."

Also committed to the tournament is Camilo Villegas, who will be competing at Colonial for the first time since 2006, and five Tarrant County residents who are exempt members of the 2013 PGA Tour: Ben Crane, J.J. Henry, John Rollins, Rory Sabbatini and Y.E. Yang.

Others on the commitment list include Jim Furyk, Corey Pavin, Johnson Wagner, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Cantlay, winner of the 2011 Ben Hogan Award.

Ticket windows open

Public ticket sales have begun for the 2013 Colonial, and a handful of pro-am spots and hospitality packages are remaining.

For information, visit or call 817-927-4280.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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