AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s been suggested the reason the Masters’ logo is yellow is because of the pollen that plagues this region during this time of year.
Pollen is plenty visible on sidewalks and cars here. I saw a black cat in my hotel’s parking lot here on Thursday morning and wondered at first if it was wearing Iowa Hawkeyes black-and-gold garb.
OK, that’s an exaggeration. I didn’t see that much black on it.
My right eye feels like it was in a fight with Augusta’s pollen and lost by a TKO. And I still felt a lot better Thursday afternoon than Zach Johnson, whose first-round score of 78 at the Masters was only the second-most miserable thing he experienced at Augusta National.
“My legs aren’t with me and my head’s not with me,” Johnson said after the birdie-less, 6-over-par round all but eliminated him as a contender for this year’s championship.
“I’m not trying to make excuses, but my arms don’t feel like they’re attached to my body and my vision wasn’t great.
“There was no rhythm today. There was just nothing in the tank. There’s nothing in the tank.”
Allergies. A full-blown head cold. Pollen.
“I’m upset with myself that I didn’t take care of it earlier,” Johnson said. “Maybe I should be on an antibiotic, but I haven’t taken antibiotics for years. I just get sick (from) antibiotics, which makes it even worse.
“I’ve had this for the last three, four days. It was worse today than yesterday. I just feel like my head’s 500 pounds. It’s unfortunate. It is pollen and I knew it was here. It’s not like you don’t know it’s coming. I didn’t take care of it early enough.
“Hopefully I’ll be better tonight and I’ll sleep. I’ve been taking an antihistamine. I’ve been taking ... saline in my nose, a nebulizer. I’ve been trying everything.”
As for the golf itself, play-by-play is hardly required. It was a 78. It could have been better.
“I had my chances,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t execute. It’s hard when you don’t have any legs and your arms don’t feel like they’re attached.”
It also could have been worse.
“I made some good putts for bogeys.”
Outside the ropes, you kept hearing Johnson’s family members and friends say things like “If he just makes a birdie, he can turn this thing around.”
But the birdies weren’t flying. The pollen was.
“I was ready, I was prepared,” Johnson said. “I was ready Tuesday. I was, if anything, overprepared.
“I didn’t even press it, that’s the funny thing. I was just trying to play my game.
“I thought I pulled the putt on the last hole (for bogey) and I missed it right. Four feet. No feel, my vision’s shady, and when it’s a game of literally, literally inches on this golf course, it’s very difficult.”
The day wasn’t a total loss. Johnson’s three children — ages 7, 3 and 1 1/2 — were in a photo by Rob Carr of Getty Images that was used on the front page of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. The photograph was shot at Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest here.
How many people ever see a cute picture of their kids on the cover of a national newspaper? But for the rest of this trip to Augusta to produce something good, the father of Will, Wyatt and Abby Jane Johnson may need to shoot an under-par score today to make the 36-hole cut. Last year, 5-over 149 was good enough.
“There’s no other formula right now other than I’ve got to shoot a really low number,” Johnson said.
A lot of sleep wouldn’t hurt, too.
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