By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Zach Johnson has the benefit of twin major boosts going into this week's Masters, the knowledge that he won here in 2007 after holding off Tiger Woods and the added bonus of victory at last year's British Open.
As he prepares to compete in his 12th Masters, the American says he always feels inspired when he steps onto the lush fairways at Augusta National but this week he has an extra lift as he brought along the British Open's prized Claret Jug.
"I saw the Claret Jug last night for the first time in a long time," Johnson, 40, told reporters on Monday while preparing for the first of the year's four major championships. "Staring at that thing and touching, it gives you a lift.
"My team, if you will, of individuals, guys that I certainly trust - coaches, what-not - have had it (the Jug in their possession). I did get it back this past evening. That's what it's about. I want it to be shared.
"You're talking about two of the biggest, iconic symbols in sports. To have that honor to don the (Masters) Green Jacket and drink out of the Claret Jug is pretty special. I'm still in awe and pinching myself knowing I've got one of each."
Johnson, like other former winners of the Masters, is not permitted by tournament organizers to remove his coveted Green Jacket from Augusta National and he therefore plans to pair up his two major trophies this week in a rare photo opportunity.
"I don't know history all that well but my guess is that doesn't happen that often," Johnson said of the chance to photograph the Claret Jug and Green Jacket together.
"I might try to introduce it (the Jug) to Mr. Green Jacket," the 12-times PGA Tour winner said with a smile. "My family and I will try to orchestrate something like that."
Johnson, who clinched the first of his two major titles at Augusta National in 2007 when he held off a late challenge by four-times winner Woods to triumph by two shots, is happy with the state of his game heading into this week's edition.
"My game feels good," said Johnson, who claimed last year's British Open in a three-way playoff. "I've seen some nice trajectory over the last few weeks, specifically with my putter but then also with my ball striking.
"But regardless of how my game is coming into this week, it's the Masters. It's not hard to get pumped up and in that competitive spirit to play here, so I'm excited."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)