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February 8, 2005

Zach Johnson

David Toms

DAVE KAPLAN: Welcome, and the golf tournament is about 47 days away; that's kind of the way I judge where we are. Before Zach talks, I'd just like to mention one thing. As many of you know, the PGA TOUR and its tournaments will exceed $1 billion in charitable contributions later this year. At the end of the 2004 season, the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour had generated cumulative 109 million since the first charitable contribution was made in 1938 at the Palm Beach Invitational, and last year, on the three tours, more than $87 million was donated to over 2000 charities around the country. The BellSouth Classic has contributed more than 11 million to Children's Healthcare since the BellSouth became the title sponsor in 1988 and approximately $12 million overall that would be charities in addition to Children's Healthcare in that time. The PGA TOUR has a program called A Drive to a Billion that kicks off this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Zach doesn't know it yet, and I'm telling him right now, on Pro-Am day, which is Wednesday and his tee time is at 11:40, he will hit a ceremonial tee shot with a 1938 driver, and the drive is kind of symbolic of golf's history and the BellSouth Classic's history of giving back to the community. I just wanted to mention that because that's going to be kind of a landmark -- a landmark time later this year when the Tour and its tournaments hit the $1 billion mark. So with that, Zach, practice your swing with a 1938 driver, and I'll provide it. John, it's all yours.

JOHN MARSHALL: I noticed today in the media guide that today is your wedding anniversary. I can't think of a more romantic way to celebrate your anniversary than by participating in a BellSouth Classic conference call.

ZACH JOHNSON: Having the opportunity to win the BellSouth has brought me to Steamboat Springs, as I speak, on my anniversary.

JOHN MARSHALL: As most of you know that are on the call, Zach was not exactly a one-hit-wonder last year. He had four other Top-10s and earned over $2.4 million and made THE TOUR Championship field as a rookie, which I'm sure was a very special experience. Zach, here last year, you probably didn't make it terribly easy on yourself having to sit through a couple of semi-sleepless nights with 36- and 54-hole leads. Why don't you talk to us a little bit about how the event went for you and how challenging it was to go through leading for so long, and then we shall open it up to questions and answers.

ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. Well, first, I'd like to say thank you to all of the BellSouth people and to Dave and all of his staff for just being so thoughtful, and I just appreciate everything they have done. Last year, you know, winning early or somewhat early, for sure, was a blessing in disguise because I was able to get into a lot more events. Winning the BellSouth gave me a lot more opportunities in my career and it continues to do so. Playing the Mercedes last year of course -- or this year, rather, was an awesome experience, so thank you first and foremost. The week of the BellSouth was obviously the highlight of my year last year. I played pretty well the previous weeks that I did play; namely, Bay Hill, I had a Top-10 there and I had a lot of confidence going into the week. And then the week came around and still playing pretty good. And I like the golf course. There is a little history there at Sugarloaf for me. In 2002, I Monday-qualified and I was able to have a pretty good finish; with a little hiccup on 18, it could have been even better. So I enjoy the golf course, I enjoy the area and, I was riding high. You know, like you said, I guess having a 36- and 54-hole lead, I had never been in that situation, but I can honestly tell you now that it was one of those weeks, I haven't had many, where I felt like I teed it up on Thursday, I played 18 holes and felt like I went right to the first tee on Friday. So every round kind of flowed and felt like I played 72 consecutive holes without any break. I slept great at night and just kind of had good dinners, I had great rest, family and friends around, and it was -- you know, obviously we discussed the tournament, but it was one of those weekends where we just kind of hung loose and just the Final Four was on and relaxed. So given that, it made things a lot easier on me, especially the conditions. There was some pretty good winds, greens are obviously pretty fast. I don't know, I was just very collected, I was very calm, I was very at peace and trusting God and trusting myself, and things worked out my way in the end, even though it did get kind of tense there on the back nine. Needless to say, it was an unbelievable week.

JOHN MARSHALL: Well, we're certainly looking forward to having you come back to defend this year. With that, I will open it up.

DAVE KAPLAN: Before you do, Zach, you probably remember this, I think it was on Tuesday of tournament week, the PGA TOUR every week does an orientation with rookies on the Tour with the tournament director. And I had three or four, five, first-year guys out there to talk about operations and kind of our tournament history and how the tournament works operationally and the volunteers and everything. We were sitting on the function lawn behind the clubhous, and I can remember saying to that group, I said, you know, I've told them about how treating the volunteers well and everything is very -- it's important, because these people give up a lot of their time and effort and make a huge effort to put on one of those events. I said, "One of these days one of you guys is going to be sitting down there on the 18th green and accepting a check and holding up a trophy." And wouldn't you know it but you were in that group, and Kevin Na was another one that was in that group and he almost did it last week.

ZACH JOHNSON: That's true. I remember that vividly.

DAVE KAPLAN: All right, guys. Go ahead and ask questions.

Q. I was curious, when you won that day, there was obviously maybe a little disappointment that it didn't immediately get you into Augusta, but it kind of worked the way they like it would work in their minds; that you finished Top-30, or Top-40 would have done it obviously, and then you are in this year. Did your initial disappointment turned into satisfaction by the end of the year at least?

ZACH JOHNSON: I'll be perfectly on honest with you, in my interview, I don't know if you recall, I really was not too disappointed. Granted, it is Augusta, and if I have the opportunity, that's a no-brainer. But I knew going into the tournament win or lose that I was not going to play in the Masters. You know, coming off such an emotional high on Sunday, I was fairly drained, and I'm a big fan of the game, so I enjoy sitting back and watching the Masters. I had no bitter taste in my mouth whatsoever. But you're also right in the fact that, you know, things did work out and I was able to use the BellSouth and kind of catapult me to the remainder of the season and had some other good finishes. The 2005 Masters is highlighted on my calendar and I know the BellSouth will be a great preparation to do so.

Q. I know you were in, but do you remember when you got it in the mail and how it felt?

ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. It's like the invite, seriously, is like this very elaborate, like wedding, like you're being invited to a wedding. It's pretty awesome, with an RSVP and whatnot. We will not lose that. I'm sure my wife will probably frame it one day.

Q. Talk about how it was for you having the lead, sitting on the lead after 36 and 54 holes, and you pretty much held yourself together the whole time, until it got a little shaky there on the back nine on Sunday?

ZACH JOHNSON: Having the lead, I had never been in that situation before on the PGA TOUR. There was some jitters of course, but really I was pretty calm. I was pretty at peace. Specifically, what kept me in that situation or in that sort of zone was the fact that I was really putting well. I knew that if I could just continue to hit it decent, and I was reading the greens very, very well, and I've only played there twice now, two tournaments, but they are probably some of the truest greens we played on all year. So, if you get it on the line, it's going to go in. My short game could kind of carry me, and if I hit it good, things would turn out all right. After 36 holes, I tried to do the same things the next 18; and after 54 holes, I tried to do the same thing the next 18. On a side note, winning that CRESTOR Challenge was also pretty awesome. That was very rewarding and an honor, as well. It was just an unbelievable weekend.

Q. You had about a four- or five-shot lead on the back nine and then you started making some bogeys. Was it more nerves or you got cautious with the lead, or what happened there towards the wind?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think a mixture of everything. I could say looking back, initially, I didn't know what happened. I was putting so well, the first three, 3 1/2 rounds, I guess it was, and I 3-putted No. 11, and I think I 3-putted 12 -- I think I 3-putted 12, I missed two 3- or 4-footers there. I think it was nerves for sure. I think it was maybe being a little overconfident at times. And now sitting back, I'm not very superstitious, but I'm very routine-oriented and my routine kind of went away. That's one thing I've been able to learn a lot on the Tour is that regardless if you're, you know, ten shots out of the lead or if you're ten shots in the lead, is that you've got to stick to your routine and not try to do anything too overly conservative or too aggressive, and just maintain focus and maintain the routine because that's where your comfort level is. You know, after hole 12, I kind of calmed down and I birdied 13 and by then, like I said, I bogeyed 14, 15, and I still felt really good about things, even after 15. And after that, I hit some really good shots and, you know, played for a 5 on 18, but I think I could have, actually -- I could have got there in two if I had to. That way I played a little conservative when I needed to and I was fortunate to be in that position.

Q. This is a question that I don't know -- I can't recall if it was asked, but in 2002, I guess, you 3-putted the last hole to miss the Top-10 which would have put you in the next week's tournament or the next full-field, event if I'm not mistaken, and you qualified for that events; did you think about that at all?

ZACH JOHNSON: I did a little bit. It crossed my mind after I hit my first putt on 18 from, I don't know, 25, 30 feet on Sunday. Yeah, it did cross my mind. I appreciate you saying 3-putt; I think that was probably a 4-putt, I don't know. I was off the fringe but I used my putter four times. It did cross my mind, but I was hitting my putts so solid, I just said, "Trust your line." My ball marker that my wife made me says "trust your line" and it has a Scripture verse in it, and that's all I was trying to think about. If it's meant to be, it's going to go in; and if not, I can accept it. Just give it your best, keep doing what you're doing. And you know what, I picked it up out of the hole and I felt like I -- I don't know, two million pounds came off my shoulders.

Q. Does your Cedar Rapids group still follow you around some?

ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. I see them every now and then, that's for sure, event to event, but even if they are not there, they are still following me. They e-mail me every now and then or just drop a quick text message or voicemail. It's amazing, I had -- my dad was down there of course, and I think I had six or seven other guys -- no, there was more than that. There was seven or eight guys, close friends and sponsors, who were former investors that turned into close friends, and there's probably 10 to 15 more back up in Iowa that were not down there. There's kind of a business/family that's up in Cedar Rapids right now that evidently according to my dad, they still follow me like they are still with me and that's the way it is. They got me to where I'm at and I'll never forget them. Their whole goal was to get me to a point to where I didn't even really need them. I couldn't be sitting here doing this without them, and so it's pretty special, the meaning they have had in my career.

Q. The investors were probably thinking you were a whole lot better than a 4% CD at the time.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, well, I don't know. It's funny, some of the guys jokingly said, you know, in 2001, 2002 especially, that I was the best investment they had, even though they didn't make a whole lot of money on me. But every year they were like, "oh, I should have bought more shares." Joking aside, they are just unbelievable men and their wives were very supportive, of course. It was just awesome having some of them down there in Atlanta.

Q. For sure you'll probably play in the BellSouth probably indefinitely now that you're a champion there, but would you have always played the week before the Masters? Do you think you like playing the week before?

ZACH JOHNSON: I personally do. It's hard for me to really even answer that question because I've only played three majors, the U.S. Open, the British Open, the PGA of 2004. So, you know, I don't have a whole lot of experience in that. But I can tell you this, I tend to play better in the next week's event if I can play the previous week. When I come off an off-week and I'm not playing, yeah, I can play well, but my trend is that I need one more week out there to get the flow going. You know, me, I'm going to play Atlanta as long as I can the way it looks for sure. And going into Augusta, a lot of the veterans say that Atlanta could not have been a better preparation for Augusta. You know, I'm thinking about Augusta, of course, it's on my calendar, but I'm trying not to dwell on it because I don't want to get too caught up in it. Honestly, I think, you know, if I can treat it as just as any other event, I think good things can come. So I'm going to try to win Atlanta and I'm going to try to win Augusta and that's the way I'm going to go about it. I'm going to take it one day at a time, one week at a time, and one shot at a time. Kind of cliche, like but I'm pretty simple-stupid.

Q. That's going to be a part of a big three-week stretch first time playing in THE PLAYERS Championship, first time defending a tournament, and then first time in the Masters. How will you keep yourself focused on each thing when you have so much going on at the same time?

ZACH JOHNSON: I think that's a great question. I really don't know how to answer that. That stretch is going to be -- I'm actually definitely going to play Bay Hill, too, because it's in Orlando where I live and I like the golf course and I played well there last year. And I'm going to play Hilton Head the following week of the Masters. I'm playing a five-week stretch there. And I look at the tournaments where I've done that and I tend to have a few good weeks in those five weeks. I don't usually like to play five-week stretches, but if I can get one in maybe every year, I think that's a good part. That's something that can really benefit my game in the long run, so I'm going to take two weeks off after that. You know, we have an RV bus that we travel in now. That makes things easier, so I'm sleeping in the same bed every night. It really calms you down, takes some stress away. And that helped me at the end of last year, too, with some good finishes I think, and I'm going to have friends and family there, too. Support is going to be there. Relaxing is going to be there. I'm just going to keep working hard.

Q. Has your putting really been the only thing that's not as good as you want this year; is that the difference pretty much?


Q. Yeah.

ZACH JOHNSON: You know, not really, to be honest. Last week my putting was not there, in Phoenix, but the previous weeks I actually hit it, I would say very average to poor. Then I took -- I took the Bob Hope off and worked with my instructor pretty hard and we got back to the foundation that we had established and kind of went back to that same system and things have -- I saw a lot of positives in Phoenix with my ball-striking. I think when I work on one so long, it's so hard to get it back, the other one kind of falls. So then I have to build that one back up and eventually the two kind of mesh together. There's where I'm trying to find the consistency is being able to maintain my short game, putting, alongside with my ball-striking and it's difficult. That's something that every pro has got different things and different tools and different drills to work on to do so, but you've got to find what's best for yourself and your individual play.

Q. Is it hard for you to believe sometimes that a few years ago you were fighting tooth-and-nail on the Nationwide Tour, and now here in a month you're going to be defending your first PGA TOUR title?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it is, I have to pinch myself. My wife and I talk about it. You kind of get caught up in it, yeah, two years ago at this time -- well, today I got married, and I had conditional status on the PGA TOUR, or rather, conditional status on the Nationwide Tour. I had a pretty high number, but I was still conditional. I didn't get into the first event in the United States, and in Louisiana, I tried Monday and missed it. Went to Arkansas two weeks later, got into Arkansas, finished third and then won the next week. It's just -- I don't know what it was, but it's just kind of like I catapulted through the ranks. It's nice knowing that all of the hard work has paid off, but you're right, it's still very surreal. You have to just sit become and thank God and realize all of the blessings you've been given. It's phenomenal. Now I'm sitting on my bed in a condominium in Steamboat Springs where there's a foot of snow coming down with Stewart Cink and Ben Crane and their wives, which is ironic because Ben and I have won and Stewart lives in Atlanta. Yeah, it's kind of hard to fathom.

Q. Curious, I know you began playing golf at age ten, how were you introduced to golf and how do you realize -- when did you realize this is something you did well and might actually be able to make a profession?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, good question. I started when I was probably nine or ten -- I think probably more so ten. My parents joined a country club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa called Elmcrest. Part of that was my uncle and my dad played a lot of golf. I was playing so many other sports, I preferred running, jumping, basketball, soccer, that type of stuff. And so I was introduced to the game at Elmcrest through a junior golf program there with the head pro who is one of my best friends now, Larry Gladson. It's a very thriving junior program where the kids really active in it, and had a good group of guys some of my really good friends came out of that program with me. And you know, I started playing some tournaments around the area, junior tournaments and whatnot and just really enjoyed the competitive nature of it, just the individual aspect and just accepting that the only -- you know, the only competitor is the golf course. You don't have to worry about anybody else. That's where it kind of started. What I really clicked on in the game, I would say mid through my high school years is I enjoyed all of the other sports for sure, the team sports, but I was not a very big guy in stature, not that I am now. So the physical aspect was not my forte, and golf was kind of a game where I got to level the playing field and I could use my short game to better my chances. Eventually as I got stronger, my long game kind of came with it, and then getting a scholarship to Drake University, and the rest is history.

Q. Has there been any kidding there with Stewart not having won the tournament in his own backyard, and you and Ben have?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, we haven't really kidded about it, I can say that. We were skiing this morning and Ben's like: I'm just going to ski all day." I'm like, "Well, yeah I'm going to, too, but I'm going to go and do that Media Day." He was like, "Well, that stinks." I was like, "No, I don't think so. As far as I know, this is something I want to do." He's like, "You know what, you're right. I'd like to be in your shoes as well right now." Stewart's won a bunch, of course, a bunch of wins on TOUR, and Ben and I have ours we're going to see if we can make some more wins and catch up to him. We are all good friends and very supportive of each other. We are having a great week and just enjoying the snow.

Q. Stewart's been a big influence on both of you guys, too, hasn't he?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I've just gotten to know him over the last, I'd say, eight to nine months. But just seeing how he acts as a professional and as a Tour player and his game overall, there's really not a whole lot going on. It's pretty simple, very consistent. And I've played with Ben a few times as well, our games are similar, our short games are decent. And I just hope that Ben's back can hold up because he's having some back issues at times. He's so talented and strong, I think he'll do -- like I said, the talent will hopefully supersede his issues. Good guys. And where there's a good guy, there's a good wife. I have to plug that.

DAVE KAPLAN: Those three you just mentioned have got good wives.

Q. Could you tell me a little bit about the steps you took to reach the PGA TOUR? I know you were did the Nationwide Tour and I believe you played also college golf at Drake?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I can lead you. Like the progression?

Q. Please.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I graduated from Drake University in May of '98. Elected to turn pro through influence of friends and family and coaches and whatnot, so, I played a lot of mini-tours. In the summer of '98, the Prairie Tour, Dakota Tour events, bunch of Open qualifiers and events, State Opens, that type of stuff in the Midwest and entered Q-School in the fall of '98. I missed First Stage, so I did the same thing again. That winter I moved to Florida for about five months and played some small mini-tours in central Florida called Teardrop events, and then did the same thing in the summer, the Prairie Tour, Dakota Tour, Open events, Monday-qualified for a couple Nike events at the time. And then fall of '99 I entered Q-School once more, made it through to the finals, and I had my Nationwide -- then BUY.COM -- card for the 2000 season where I played quite poorly; but from a learning standpoint it was the best year of my career; financial standpoint it was very poor. I felt it was one of those years where I learned exactly what I needed to do both on the golf course and off the golf course. So with my instructor, Mike Bender, who is down in the Orlando area, Lake Mary, we really laid a foundation. He broke me down and built me back up and my golf swing started to really improve, and my short game improved even more. And 2001, 2002 I played the Hooters Tour and played quite well out there. Trying to not make my head any bigger than what it is, but I was Player of the Year in 2001 and finished second in 2002. That fall I entered Q-School and like I said, got my conditional Nationwide card for the 2003 season and off I went.

MODERATOR: Zach, thanks so much for joining us, and enjoy the rest of your trip out there and your anniversary.

ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you so much. I appreciate, it guys.

DAVID TOMS: We're 47 days away and we start building out there next Monday, February 14th. It's early as far as the field is concerned but a few names: Stewart Cink, Chris DiMarco, Kenny Perry who has not played here in many years; Aaron Baddeley. We have made hotel reservations obviously Zach. We have made hotel reservations for Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Mike Weir and Padraig Harrington. John said he saw an AP story from Australia that Greg Norman was intending to play. There are a lot of Georgians that got their cards back this year, or got first-time cards, Franklin Langham, Justin Bolli, Billy Andrade will in the field, and of course I think Ben Crane has also committed at this point. So, you know, it's way too early, we've got until six o'clock Friday night prior to the tournament, and I would expect pretty much the same cast of characters we've had in the past. As many of you know, we have a new exemption category which was created for our tournament alone. Being the week before the Masters, we have a lot of the international players that request exemptions and with only four unrestricted exemptions, we are very limited in those folks that we can take care of. We requested from the Tour that they create a -- basically a wrote the Tour a letter. We wrote the Tour a letter and said that we have, you know, we really could use a few more exemptions for international players because last year I turned down Miguel Angel Jiménez, Angel Cabrera and Michael Campbell because we just didn't have spots for them. We didn't have any way to get them in the field. And the Tour created a new international category for us and its for players, non-PGA TOUR members ranked in the Top-100 in the World Rankings as of the beginning of the week at Doral. So that's going to give us a little bit of -- a little bit of, you know, wiggle room there as far as exemptions. We have given two of those exemptions at this point to Miguel Angel Jiménez, who last I looked was ranked 12th or 13th in the world, and Angel Cabrera who was ranked around 30th. I'm expecting to hear from Thomas Bjorn in the next few days; he has been playing out of the country or out of his country, and he had some European commitments that were going to apparently to try to be rearranged to see if he could play. We've also extended exemptions, not in this category, but one of our other categories, to Larry Mize and Jose Maria Olazabal. Operationally, I guess two of the biggest things that have happened is in the past, last year we lost all of the parking along No. 10. It's going to be houses. So we've had to -- several years ago we bought a piece of property on Sugarloaf Parkway which will become one of those lots that people parked in along No. 10, and also the arena will take some more of those folks that parked in that blue lot. By losing all of that property along No. 10, we lost our staging area to stage all of the bleachers and tents and scaffolding and all of the other kind of stuff that we have to unload, and the PGA TOUR bought two pieces of property, where the cart tent was adjacent to the area behind the 18th green and those two lots will become our staging area. We're going to move some facilities that were behind 18 over to that area. The entire area behind 18 will be reconfigured, and so it will look different behind 18, including the media center. The media center will look more like the media center at THE TOUR Championship, a central working area, about a 30-by-30 food service area and a 30-by-30 interview area in the back, all in separate tents but attached. The lot across the lake is for sale where the NBC tower was and our video board was, and knowing that we were going to have to do something with the video board which was our leaderboard, we are -- we have hired a company to build a hole-by-hole manual board which will actually be on the front of BellSouth's skybox. We are going to raise the BellSouth skybox about six feet. The board will be right there in front of it. It will be a manual board loaded from the rear and that will become our -- that will become our leaderboard. The video board will move back behind 18. So we've got a lot of things moving around this year. Collier Miller, the PGA TOUR agronomist was at the golf course recently and said it was in excellent condition, and barring unusual weather in the next 60 days said, it should be in as good of shape as it's ever been in. Hopefully we can get through the next month and a half and have a golf course that was as good as last year. Hopefully we won't have the wind last year. I know you had a wind delay at Phoenix, I guess, so you know, we almost had -- had we mowed the greens on Friday after play, they might not have been playable on Saturday and Sunday. The Tour made the decision not to mow the greens on Friday night. They were afraid the wind would blow so hard, the ball would not stay on the greens. Anyway, it's coming soon and we have a lot of things to do, but we'll be ready. And again Children's healthcare will be the primary beneficiary.

JOHN MARSHALL: Thanks, Dave. Any other additional questions? Thanks to all of you.

ZACH JOHNSON: My only question is: Don't mess with the golf course. Like the way it is. No, I'm teasing.

DAVE KAPLAN: I will tell you that I guess the only thing we are going to do, we're not messing with the golf course this year, but at some point it's my hope that we can do a little something with No. 9 green to give us a few more pin positions. We're not going to mess with the golf course.

ZACH JOHNSON: No, it is one of the best. You guys have got a gem.

JOHN MARSHALL: Thank you all very much.

End of FastScripts�.

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