GULLANE, Scotland // American Zach Johnson bucked the trend at bone-hard Muirfield on Thursday, snatching the driver out of his bag as often as possible to grab the early first-round lead at 5-under 66 at the British Open.
Many of the players feel that using the longest, and riskiest, club in the bag is unnecessary when they are getting so much run on the ball by the banks of the Firth of Forth - but not the 2007 US Masters champion.
"I'm very comfortable on the tee box this year, specifically with my driver," Johnson said in 80-degree temperatures. "I know a lot of the guys are saying there are not a lot of drivers out here ... but it's one of my best clubs, so I'm going to take advantage of that when I can."
Johnson is one of several Americans atop the leaderboard, with 56-year-old Mark O'Meara having shot a 67 and Dustin Johnson, Tom Lehman and Brandt Snedeker going round in 68. Yanks Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Todd Hamilton and Jordan Spieth are three back.
Mickelson didn't even carry a driver in his bag. The trio of Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Nicolar Colsaerts three of the longest hitters in the game combined to hit two drivers.
""I'm staying with a buddy, my caddie and our physio guy and we're just having a good week," Johnson said. "I love it because we don't have [links golf] in the States. We don't get to play golf courses like Muirfield.
"I appreciate how the game was developed and formed. I just thoroughly enjoy it."
Johnson certainly enjoyed a blistering start as he mixed an eagle at the fifth with birdies at the third, sixth and seventh.
The American is renowned for a velvet touch on the greens and he prompted cheers when he rolled in a 45-footer at the fifth and another 20-foot birdie on the 12th.
Johnson suffered the disappointment of losing a play-off to Spieth, 19, at the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Sunday.
"This game demands resilience, each round, each hole and day to day, and that comes with experience," Johnson said.
"It comes with embracing what's happened and then also throwing it behind you and plodding along to the future.
"I felt great about last week, I'll be honest with you. "I don't want to say I lost the golf tournament, but I certainly had ample opportunities to win it.
"The last nine holes in particular, I hit great shots, I just didn't make many putts. If anything, from last week what I've embraced is the fact I'm playing great.
"I can put that into play and I'm certainly confident in what I'm doing."
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