STEPHEN HAWKINS,AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Zach Johnson always feels good when he gets to Colonial.
That feeling usually last through the week.
Johnson has won at Hogan’s Alley twice in the last three years. He is the first player in more than three decades with four consecutive top-10 finishes in the event.
Now he’s back as the defending champion, without a top 10 this season. But he has felt good even without eye-catching results.
“I’m going to hopefully take some of those good feelings I’ve had over the last four years, not necessarily dwell on them, but embrace them and put them into play in some regard,” Johnson said Wednesday, a day before beginning his title defense.
Five-time winner Ben Hogan is the only player who has won the Colonial more than twice, and he finished in top 10 seven times in a row during a span when he won four times from 1946-53. Tom Watson had been the last with four top 10s in a row at Colonial (1977-80).
Matt Kuchar, No. 13 in the world ranking, is the highest-ranked player in Colonial’s invitational field. The only other three in the top 25 are Charl Schwartzel, 2012 Colonial runner-up Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan.
When Johnson slipped on the winner’s plaid jacket last May, it was first victory since the 2010 Colonial. He also won the John Deere Classic last summer.
This season, Johnson has made nine of 12 cuts this year. His best finish was a tie for 18th at the Tournament of Champions in January, but he tied for 19th at The Players Championship two weeks ago.
“I’m excited. I like where my game is going, or is,” Johnson said. “I like where it is and I like where it’s going. So I’m just trying to remain patient and let things kind of happen.”
It’s not really the lack of top-10 finishes that bothers Johnson.
“It’s been frustrating that I truly haven’t been in contention late on Sunday. That would be my biggest frustration,” he said. “What is comforting is that the beginning of the year I was probably more off than I would even like to admit fundamentally. But in saying that, what’s comfortable about that is the fact that I would rather be off fundamentally than certainly physically or even mentally. My attitude has been great.”
Johnson then joked that he understood if reporters might not really know about his good attitude because he hasn’t been in many interview sessions based on his play.
“If you ask my caddie, it truly has been good,” Johnson said. “I’ve been very positive and certainly trying to keep working. I have hit a lot of balls, in February, March, April and even into May just to try to get it back.”
Before his closing 72 last year, including a two-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole because he failed to properly remark his ball after moving it out of the line Dufner’s last putt, Johnson had played 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s at Colonial.
The only other two-time Colonial winner in this week’s field is Corey Pavin, the 1985 and 1996 champ making his 30th consecutive start in Fort Worth. And he is again bypassing the Senior PGA Championship to keep that streak intact.
“There was a thought process, yes. It wasn’t a very long process,” Pavin said about the decision to play at Colonial instead of a senior major. “But ultimately when I kind of got down to it, it was a pretty easy choice then. I just love being here. I would rather be here than there. It’s as simple as that.”
In six Champions Tour events this year, Pavin has two top 10s and two other top 25-finishes. His only PGA Tour appearance was the Northern Trust Open, where he missed the cut in his 657th PGA Tour start.
Pavin has eight top-10 finishes at Colonial, including a seventh-place finish just three years ago. He has missed the cut only four times.
“Obviously, I like it here,” Pavin said. “It’s a golf course that I feel very comfortable on.”