Zach Johnson, still ‘Champion golfer of the year’ for now at least, returned the Claret Jug to the R&A at Royal Troon this morning

Zach Johnson Returns to The Open

They say all good things must come to an end, but Zach Johnson has arrived at Royal Troon determined to retain The Open title and the Claret Jug that comes with it.

American Johnson, 40, won The Open at St Andrews last year, outlasting South African Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman in a play-off, although he has not added to his 12 career wins since then.

“It was bittersweet,” Johnson said today at Royal Troon, having officially returned the Claret Jug to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers. “More sweet than bitter though.

“You know you’ve got to give it back, you know that moment is coming, but I guess a portion of that sweetness is that you still have an opportunity to get it back.

“I’ve got to get the Claret Jug back,” added Johnson, whose first major success came at the 2007 Masters. “My love for The Open was immense and immediate and it’s my favourite [tournament] to play.

“Last year was last year and now we’re moving on, shifting on mentally and certainly excited for the week.”

Royal Troon is where the Iowa golfer played in his first Open in 2004, and with the week’s weather forecast changeable – as it was at St Andrews a year ago – testing conditions might suit Johnson’s gritty attitude.

“I’m not saying it defines my game, but I can grind it out,” he said. “I enjoy embracing difficult conditions and I consider it part of my talent.

“The beauty of this tournament and this style of links golf is you’ve got to have everything. You’ve got to hit your diver high, but then sometimes you have to hit it low. You’ve got to hit the ball left and right and use every club in the bag, and you’ve got use the wind.”

Johnson will tee off in the first round at 2:15pm on Thursday, playing with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.

Story courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Official Car and Official Patron of The Open