CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Seasoned American Zach Johnson says maybe he is overly conservative and boring. But he is okay with that. He also gets called Dustin quite often, but that’s okay too.
He doesn’t even mind that he feels like the ‘old guy’ in the British Open accommodation he shares with several other Americans including defending champion Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler and which he says resembles a “frat house”.
The under-stated 42-year-old is just happy hitting it straight and true at Carnoustie and putting himself in contention for a second British Open title after claiming his first at St Andrews three years ago.
While world number one Dustin Johnson looked certain to miss the halfway cut on Friday, Zach was putting together a superb four-under 67 to go with his opening round 69 and move top of the leaderboard with another house mate Kevin Kisner.
Considering Johnson is a twice major champion — he also won the 2007 Masters — he is often overlooked by the galleries who are drawn to more flamboyant players such as his big-hitting namesake.
“I’ve been called “Dustin” many times. I doubt he’s been called “Zach” that many times,” Johnson joked.
“Maybe some people do assume, when they see the name up there, that it’s Dustin. How many tournaments has he won, 20?”
Johnson spoke to media shortly after home favourite Tommy Fleetwood and former world number one Rory McIlroy had held court in a packed interview room after they also pushed themselves firmly into contention for the title.
It had emptied considerably by the time Johnson arrived.
“I’m just so wholeheartedly used to it. Maybe I’m just overly conservative and boring, and that’s perfectly fine,” he said. “I just like to compete. It doesn’t matter where it is, what it is. Just give me an opportunity.”
Despite a huge change in conditions on Friday with rain taking the sting out of the bone-dry fairways, Johnson just carried on regardless, picking up birdies on the second and fifth before his putter went cold.
He got going again with another birdie on the 15th and then took the lead with a 30-footer at the last — allowing himself a fist pump for his efforts.
“It’s just two days. I’ve still got a lot of work to do this week, and I’m not going to take anything for granted,” Johnson, who has two other top 10 British Open finishes, said.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I just love playing in the wind and rain because I don’t, but I can do it. I may not play well, but I’m going to go out and fight.”
It could be quite a weekend back in the house where Johnson also has Justin Thomas, Jason Duffner and Jimmy Walker for company. “I wasn’t in a fraternity in college, but it kind of feels like I’m going back to my alma mater, and I’m the old guy stepping into the current frat house,” he said.
“I’m with guys I can feed off and vice versa. It’s never a bad thing to bond or hang out, whether you’re competing or not.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis