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Johnson wins Masters, credits The Master

AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP)–Zach Johnson’s two-shot victory at the 2007 Masters Tournament on Easter Sunday surprised those inside and out of the golf world — but as no surprise to those who know him, Johnson boldly used the occasion to proclaim his love and faith in Jesus Christ.

“Being Easter, my goal was the glorify God and hopefully I did that today,” said the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, who attended the same high school as fellow Christian and former NFL MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.

Johnson credited his faith in God and the counsel of longtime PGA Tour chaplain Larry Moody of Search Ministry, whose Bible study Johnson attends on a weekly basis, for allowing him to remain calm in the competitive and often chaotic final round.

The 31-year-old golfer entered the final round at Augusta National Golf Club two shots behind third-round leader Stuart Appleby and one behind four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, the heavy favorite in Sunday’s sunny, but cool final round.

Johnson took the lead with birdies on holes 13, 14 and 16 and never surrendered it despite a bogey on the 17th hole and having to wait for Woods, two groups behind him.

“On the 18th green, seeing my wife and our new baby, my parents and brother, I started to get emotional,” Johnson said. “I tried to stay in the moment and just started praying.”

Less than a half-hour later, Johnson was wearing the Green Jacket given to each year’s Masters champion and was handed the opportunity to share the secrets of his success to the worldwide sports media and to the golf fans on hand for the season’s most prestigious tournament.

He became the second professing Christian to win the Masters Tournament on Easter Sunday — Bernhard Langer did so in the 1980s.

“Because it’s Easter today, I want to say, ‘Thank You, Jesus,'” Johnson said at the public awards ceremony, echoing the words fellow Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native Warner shared after being named Super Bowl MVP.

Later in the Masters media center, Johnson expanded on the role his personal faith played in his Masters victory.

“I don’t even know what I shot, but I know I had a lot of people giving me some good words of wisdom last week including my coach and the PGA Tour chaplain (Moody).

“Being Easter Sunday, I feel very blessed and honored and I feel like there was a power that was walking with me and guiding me. So that’s where things stand. You know, I feel very blessed and honored to be here.”

Johnson lives with his wife and son outside of Orlando, Fla., where they moved a few years ago to escape the harsh Iowa winters. He still avidly follows the University of Iowa in all sports.

He also is avid about his faith and speaks openly about his participation in the Tour Bible Study and about his personal worship. Last year at the annual Masters Prayer Breakfast at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, he shared his testimony of salvation and about his growing faith in God.

In each of his national and regional TV interviews following the traditional champion’s dinner late Sunday, Johnson continued to speak openly about his faith and what it meant for him to share such an experience on one of the most important days of the year for Christians. He also expressed humility.

“I’m very normal. I’m as normal as they come,” he said. “I love to play a game for a living. I love to play this game for just what it is, golf. I appreciate it and I feel honored to play golf for a living.

“Today was a day of perseverance and patience and redemption.”

And now Johnson has a larger stage to share God’s love and power in his life in golf’s biggest and brightest spotlight.

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  • Art Stricklin