Zach Johnson not afraid to share the spoils of his triumphs

Zach Johnson let his caddie, Damon Green, borrow the Claret Jug during the Thanksgiving holiday. The looper didn't hesitate to share it with family and friends. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Claret Jug is golf's most famous trophy, taken to places far and near with all manner of liquid mixtures inside for those lucky enough to partake in whatever celebration is offered.

Zach Johnson, in possession of the silver chalice given to the winner of The Open each year, didn't bring it to the Bahamas. Actually, he doesn't exactly know where it is at the moment.

That's because he gave it to his caddie, Damon Green, for the week of Thanksgiving, a nice gesture that Johnson has enjoyed bestowing on friends, family, business associates -- you name it -- since capturing The Open in a playoff at St. Andrews in July against Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.

"I think it's at his house, apparently," Johnson said. "That would be my assumption. I'm playing next week in Naples [at the Shark Shootout] so he'll bring it down there next week."

Green, indeed, does have the trophy and was touched that Johnson told him to take it. Not that there would ever be an issue with that, as he's been on the bag for years, including Johnson's Masters victory in 2007.

"It's pretty cool that he did that," Green said Saturday after Johnson had completed a 5-under-par 67 at Albany Golf Club in the third round of the Hero World Challenge. "People love seeing it. It is part of history."

The Claret Jug has been presented to the winner of the Open since Tom Kidd won at St. Andrews in 1873. The tournament dates to 1860, where the champion originally received a belt.

That tradition continued through 1926. That was when Bobby Jones became the last player to keep the "real'' Claret Jug for a year. At that point, the R&A decided that it had a valuable commodity, and that it didn't want the original lost or damaged. So it was put on display -- where it remains -- in the R&A clubhouse in St. Andrews, Scotland.

A replica was issued in its place, with the names of all the winners on it. That is what Johnson has now. He was also given a smaller replica, which he will get to keep. He will turn in the "traveling'' Claret Jug when he returns for the Open in 2016 at Royal Troon.

And Johnson has made no secret that he's enjoyed the journey.

"My gosh, yes,'' said Johnson, who trails tournament leader Bubba Watson by 6 shots and is tied for eighth. "That's the beauty of it. It is what it is. Not to be cheesy, but the names [of winners] are below that Cup. It's got a pretty significant place in golf.

"It's been in Georgia a lot [where Johnson lives]. I had [it] in Iowa, where I had meetings, my daughter's birthday. It [went] to an Iowa football game, we had it at the 50-yard-line at Kinnick Stadium.''

Along the way, of course, Johnson had one of the best and most satisfying seasons of his career. A full-time member of the PGA Tour since 2004, Johnson now has 12 victories, including at least one in eight of the past nine years.

This year, in addition to his victory at St. Andrews, Johnson had nine other top-10 finishes, including a tie for ninth at the Masters. He won more than $4.8 million and finished eighth in the final FedEx Cup standings.

With his 40th birthday approaching in February, Johnson feels he is far from done. Among his goals is to make the U.S. Olympic team. Ranked 11th, he'll have a shot if he can move among the top four Americans and remain inside the top 15 in the world.

"Not to be cliché, but I still think my best golf is ahead of me,'' Johnson said. "To be specific, I want to keep winning.''

Much in the tradition of hockey's Stanley Cup -- which gets passed among winning team members during the summer for various celebrations -- that Claret Jug has seen its share of mischief and mayhem. It's had dents and dings, been in suitcases, airplanes, boats.

The stories are endless, a big part of its lore.

Green said he put it on the middle of his dinner table for Thanksgiving. He also took it to Pensacola, Florida, from his home in Orlando, where a group of 30-something golfers convened to play golf and tell stories.

"We went redneck," Green said. "No champagne. Just beer. And we drank it out of the jug."

This is a bit different than Johnson's experience with the green jacket, as he is one of the rare players to have won both the Masters and the Open.

"I kind of messed up early,'' Johnson said of his year-long time away from Augusta National with the prize for winning the Masters. "I messed up and wore jeans with it. I didn't know the protocol. So I was really paranoid and conservative with the green jacket. What I used it for was essentially golf-related functions or something that warranted it in a very class, Augusta National way. I can't tell you how many times I took it out. More than 10, less than 30.

"But the Claret Jug? It's traveling. I'm not going to do anything overly stupid with it. If I could give the green jacket to my team, I would have. But they're not 40 regulars. The Claret Jug just fits. They can have it with their families, their clinics, academies. I'm going to try and get it to my alma mater [Drake].

"I'm going to try and get it everywhere, as best I can."