Zach Johnson and Zach J Johnson. One's a two-time major winner, the other an assistant pro.
Zach Johnson and Zach J Johnson. One's a two-time major winner, the other an assistant pro.

Zach Johnson lining up twice at US PGA

BEFORE he hits a single shot at the PGA Championship, Zach Johnson already has made a name for himself.

And the other Zach Johnson, too.

Golf fans are not seeing double - there are two of them roaming the grounds at Bellerive Country Club this week.

One needs no introduction. That would be the two-time major winner, Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour who has racked up more than $44 million in winnings.

The other is not quite a household name. He's Zach Johnson of Farmington, Utah, and works as the assistant pro at Davis Park Golf Course in the suburbs of Salt Lake City.

He's one of 20 club pros who have qualified for a spot in the 156-man field and will be for at least two days on the same turf with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson.

Tournament organisers called the club pro recently and asked him if it was OK for him to go by "Zach J Johnson" for the week to eliminate confusion.

"I don't think they called and asked him first," Zach J said of his namesake. "It was more like: 'Here's what you're going by. Hopefully you'll like it."'

The J, by the way, stands for J. When Johnson was born, his parents wanted to pick out a J name for his middle name. Unable to decide, they put J on the birth certificate and left the choice for later. Turns out, "J" sounded pretty good, so they stuck with that.

Zach J Johnson will be playing on the same fairways and greens as one of his idols, Tiger Woods. Picture: Sam Greenwood/Getty
Zach J Johnson will be playing on the same fairways and greens as one of his idols, Tiger Woods. Picture: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Imagine Zach J Johnson's surprise back in 2009 when a package addressed to Zach Johnson arrived at the golf shop in Utah. Return address: PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

"I thought, 'Why would I be getting something from the PGA Tour?"' he said.

"I tore it open with a box cutter. Nicked the plaque cutting it open."

The plaque was made using four of the other Zach Johnson's scorecards. The package included a letter from then-commissioner Tim Finchem congratulating him on his great play in winning the Sony Open the week before.

Pictures were taken. The guys at the club had a few laughs. Back in the mail it went.

Nearly a decade later, the 35-year-old Johnson will come face-to-face with his better-known namesake.

"I'm not an early riser," said Zach J Johnson, whose tee time on Thursday is set for a sleep-as-late-as-you-like 2.05pm.

Zach J is part of a special tradition: the Masters lets its past champions tee it up; the US and British Opens are open to qualifiers; the PGA Championship reserves spots for the men who sell the shirts and give the lessons as golf club pros.

This week, Zach J will undoubtedly get a chance to meet his favourite PGA Tour pros: Woods and Sergio Garcia.

And, of course, plans are in the works for a photo op with the other Zach Johnson.

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