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LG SKINS GAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 14, 2007
STEVE BRENER: Thank you for joining us and welcome to the LG SKINS GAME Conference Call. We have two rookies of the LG SKINS GAME with us, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich. The 25th anniversary of the LG SKINS GAME will be held Thanksgiving weekend at the new Celebrity Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort. It will be televised by ABC. Brett, why don't we talk to you first and talk about your thrill of being in your first LG SKINS GAME and the year that you just had.
BRETT WETTERICH: It was quite an honor, you know, when my agent called me and told me that I had an opportunity to play in the LG SKINS GAME. I almost was going to fire him because I thought he was kidding around with me. So it was quite a call for me, and I obviously said yes right away to that.
I'm really looking forward to playing in it. Growing up, always watching it, thinking that, you know, if you could ever play in that, how good it would be, how fun it would be. Now that I have a chance, I'm really looking forward to it and I know we're going to have a lot of fun.
As far as my year went, I had a good year. Other than not having a win, I really can't complain. I had a few second place finishes and a couple other Top 10's, so it was a pretty successful year for me.
STEVE BRENER: Back-to-back years, you've put together two great years here.
BRETT WETTERICH: Yeah, I have. Any time you can play your way and make it into THE TOUR Championship, I think you've accomplished something, you know, pretty special. And for the last two years, I've been able to do that, so I have no complaints.
STEVE BRENER: Have you ever played the Skins Game format before?
BRETT WETTERICH: Just at home with buddies, just kind of going out there and you know, four or five of us will go a few bucks and have at it.
STEVE BRENER: Talk about your competitors, one that's on the phone with you now, and the defending champion, Stephen Ames, and Fred Couples.
BRETT WETTERICH: I think instead of the LG SKINS GAME, I think it should be called Fred's Game, as much money as he's won playing in past years.
You know, it's going to be fun. We're going to go out and have a good time. And as far as Zach, the year he's had this year has been just unbelievable, amazing. Jealous, in a way, you know, any time you get to see one of your friends and a guy that you've played with for the past five years go out and do what he's done. It's pretty amazing and I'm really happy for him.
Then with Stephen, I haven't spent much time with Stephen. He's coming off a win, so he's obviously playing well. And I think our three personalities I think will mix well out there.
STEVE BRENER: And my last question to you is: You go to the PGA TOUR stats, and there's two drives listed at the top and they both have your name on them, 437 yards and 435 yards. Can you tell us about those two drives, and do you ever recall having anything longer than those two?
BRETT WETTERICH: I definitely can't recall anything longer than those two, and I think we were hitting off of mountains and downwind. I'm not sure how I accomplished that to be honest with you. I think one was in Hawaii at the Mercedes, I know. Actually they both may have been there. You get them rolling and downwind, it's going to go a long way.
STEVE BRENER: Zach, I'll toss a couple to you, a great year by you, 18 cuts made out of 23 events, two wins and a second place, five Top-10s and FedExCup ranking of seventh. You have to be very pleased with your year.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you, yeah, certainly was good. You know, worked hard in the off-season about a year ago to prepare myself for a year like this. I didn't anticipate it happening this way, but you know, I'm very happy. I have a very nice team behind me that's supported me and gotten me to where I'm at and I'm very thankful for that.
Thank you, Brett, for your kind words, that was awfully nice. And I would like to know my stats as far as shortest drive.
STEVE BRENER: I didn't go to the shortest drives but I'm sure --
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you, I appreciate that.
STEVE BRENER: But you almost hit the $4 million mark in money earned, certainly getting that Masters win, it had to be a real special feeling.
ZACH JOHNSON: Certainly after having our first child, beginning of 2007 was awfully special, winning at Augusta, clearly is a dream of any professional golfer and perhaps anybody that's around the game of golf. You know joining that fraternity behind the history behind Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, it's beyond words. It's something I will certainly relish, and the opportunities that have come our way have been very flattering. I guess the hardest thing that's happened so far is just having to say no to someone. But the one thing we are not saying no to is the LG SKINS GAME, so we're very excited about it.
STEVE BRENER: Have you played in this format before? I asked Brett this question. Have you played this format in any tournament?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think my answer would have to be along his lines, a bunch with my buddies back at home, and throw some money in the pot, that sort of thing. But I don't recall ever playing anything of this magnitude, no.
You know, coming home and playing with your friends and whatnot, it's a lot of fun just because it's different golf and it's kind of at ease. And been watching it as a kid and throughout the years, it seems like it has that feel of just go out there and have fun. And, you know, a different format which makes it that much more fun for us because we're always used to medal play and stroke play. And also, obviously the fact that the tournament does a significant amount of work for charity is pretty special as well. I'm just very, very excited.
STEVE BRENER: I know Fred is designating 20 percent of his earnings to the fire victims here in Southern California. May I ask you guys, have you decided on your charities for the tournament?
ZACH JOHNSON: I have not, yet. We are trying to crack our list down and my wife and I, it's something that we don't take lightly. We certainly try to find a beneficiary -- they are all worthy but one that really touches our hearts and certainly becomes very obvious. We have cracking it down but we haven't made the decision yet.
STEVE BRENER: Brett, have you decided yet?
BRETT WETTERICH: I have, I'm donating my money to the Big Oak Ranch which is a place in Alabama where underprivileged children go to for long-term care, and taken them and pretty much raise them. That's where I'm putting mine.
Q. Zach, you're a guy known as having a remarkable attitude, and I was just wondering going into Augusta, you had missed seven of 11 cuts in majors going in, what was your attitude going into the Masters, and again on Sunday, what was your attitude when you had Tiger breathing down your neck?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, my record certainly wasn't very good, to say the least. I guess, you know, the positive side of that was I'm about due to make the cut and do something well, so, why not.
But alongside of that, my whole approach with Augusta was one where, you know, the golf course, the way it was set up this year, it was very obvious that's what I had to do. I can't overpower a golf course, and I can't pick apart the -- I can't reach certain areas of the course off the tee to make it easier on myself. I have to get the ball in the fairway and I have to get the ball on the green to give myself a chance at par or birdie.
And the course played to my favor because of the fact it was playing fast and firm. If it was wet and soft, it would have been very difficult for me to perform the way I did.
You know, as far as my attitude went, especially during the tournament, I mean, all along I felt pretty good about my game, especially my putting. At that time I was seeing the lines pretty well and I had the speed down to an extent, so I felt pretty good about that. So, you know, my whole mind-set was really, why not me? The attitude of just, go have fun and see what we can do.
And I'm not supposed to win. You know, when Tiger is in the last group on Sunday in any tournament, especially a major, he's supposed to win, especially according to the media and according to the golfing public, that's just the way it is, and rightly so, that's the way it's been.
As far as him breathing done my neck, I really didn't feel that to be honest with you. I certainly heard his eagle on 13, but you know, I didn't look at the leaderboard once until about 16. And there were still two groups behind me and Justin Rose was one shot back with two to go and had an opportunity, too. There were so many players involved; it's unfair to say it's just Tiger.
Q. And obviously three first-time winners in the majors this year, and that kind of goes back to what you were saying, do you see that being a continuing trend? There doesn't seem to be much distance between someone who wins and someone who is right behind. Seems like a lot of people can win at a major.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know if it's necessarily a trend. It's just golf and it's just our game right now. There's so many parity and so much depth that it just, you know, anything can happen. You know, it may not happen to the extent that it did this year, but you're going to see -- you're going to see more Ben Curtises and Todd Hamiltons and Zach Johnsons win majors because the talent is so good, and if that person has a good week, it's just going to -- it can happen.
Any given week, it doesn't surprise me. I'm sure Brett would say the same thing, the different winners, we know who they are. The golfing public may not know who they are, and the media for the most part might have some indication, but to an extent don't know how good they really are. It's about making the best of your opportunities. And when you're on a big stage like that, if you're a competitor much like Brett and I, you know, your game starts to rise and you want that. That's why you play the game. So it doesn't surprise me.
You're also talking about world-class players that have been around for quite a while in Padraig and Angel so, no surprises as far as I'm concerned.
Q. For both of you, this is the first time either of you have been in one of those big-money type Skins Games. Does it your change your approach; do you become more aggressive or have you gleaned anything from watching these on television about how to approach the actual play?
BRETT WETTERICH: I know how I'm going to play. This is Brett, by the way. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to be very aggressive. I sort of play like that on the regular TOUR week-in and week-out. I'm going to hit a lot of drivers and try to hit them far. It doesn't matter if you make a bad score at the LG SKINS GAME. I'm going to be very aggressive and hit a lot of drivers, and hopefully sneak in a few birdies and maybe an eagle. I think you almost have to be aggressive in something like that, especially on the par 5s.
Q. Are there any par 5s for you?
BRETT WETTERICH: Well, as long as I'm hitting it straight, I'll be good I think.
Q. This is a golf course that nobody has seen, wondering if that would maybe indicate going for everything since you don't really know what's out there?
BRETT WETTERICH: Yeah, you don't really know where the trouble is. As far as along those lines, I think everyone will pretty much play aggressive as much as they can. I think even if I know where there's some trouble, like if I have a par 5 that's kind of an island green par 5, if I have a good chance to hit at it, I'm still going to hit at it. That's what people come and watch the LG SKINS GAME for and they want to see that on TV; I'll give to them.
Q. Zach, how are you going to be playing those holes?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I put 30 yards on this off-season, so pretty much I'm going to give it a rip at any point in time. (Laughter).
I have no idea. My game is so much, you know, getting the ball in the fairway and giving myself an opportunity to fire at pins. So I enjoy going to the desert and I enjoy that type of golf tremendously.
So you know, whatever the golf course gives me, that's usually what I try to take. I'll get a practice round here or there or whatever and I know we'll have a good game plan.
You know, you've got to be a little more aggressive in this format at times, and instead of aiming 30 feet right of the hole or wherever, you might be a little more aggressive and try to get after it. It makes for good TV, too.
Q. Brett, you had talked about watching the Skins Game when you were younger; is there any particular moment or something in general that you remember from watching this tournament?
BRETT WETTERICH: I don't think I'm going to be able to remember something specific as far as that goes, but I just remember seeing the guys having fun and out there giving each other a hard time if they miss a putt, just having a really good time. I just remember thinking, man, that would be pretty cool to be able to go out and play an LG SKINS GAME and have an opportunity to help a charity out or just go out there and have fun. That's what I'm looking forward to.
Q. Zach, anything in particular that you might have seen watching it before?
ZACH JOHNSON: I just remember some of the greats of the game, the legends of the game that played, especially Jack and Lee played a bit and even Gary Player at times. I remember some of those years.
Specific shots, you know, not really. The one thing that I tend to draw back to right away is Fred Funk's skirt, but that's something that certainly will never be forgotten.
But yeah, I don't really remember anything specific like one shot here or there. I remember like Brett said, a little bit of gamesmanship every now and then, and like you said, a lot of fun taking place. I know it's going to be great. The four guys that we have assembled should make it very exciting and all totally different games, too, I think, which is good, a good element. So, should be nice.
Q. Stephen Ames has made some pretty significant swing changes over the past year, and I'm just wondering if you have noticed the changes in his swing, and obviously in the last month or so, they seem to be coming around pretty strongly.
BRETT WETTERICH: You know, like I said, I haven't got to spend a lot of time or even play much with Stephen, but it seems like his swing changes that he's made worked pretty well at Disney a couple weeks ago. So whatever he's doing, I think he's probably on right path it seems like.
ZACH JOHNSON: You know what, I haven't really noticed as far as specific swing changes. I haven't played on TOUR the last month or so. The only thing I can add to is that we work with the same trainer, and I do see Stephen quite a bit during tournament weeks. And the one thing I can add is that I works pretty hard on his fundamentals, and certainly that stuff is starting to pay off, which is nice. He's a world-class player.
Q. Do you work with Sean Foley?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I work with Mike Bender.
STEVE BRENER: Gentlemen, thank you. I appreciate your time.
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