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June 3, 2013

Zach Johnson

ZACH JOHNSON:  Thank you.  I'm also playing, too.  Not only on the shuttle to the British but I'm playing this year.  I've committed.
I kind of want to reiterate some things, as well.¬† You know, I don't feel like this is a time to celebrate 2012.¬† So this is kind of like Claire said, this is the lead‑up to the event.¬† We have got 30 days, and being on the board of this tournament, thank you for being here, thank you for supporting this event the many years you have, and I know that 2013 will be better than 2012 because it just seems to be getting better every year, regardless of who holds that John Deere trophy.¬† It just gets better.
Great field as Clara alluded to; it always is, but these young guys, there's many of them.  Some you guys don't know but I'm well aware of who they are, they are starting to play really well and are going to play this year in 2013.
So young guys are coming up.  The old guys, fortunately we are still doing some good things out there, too.  But I think golf is in a really good place right now, and the best thing is that we have got a pretty vast, I guess you would say, personality types on TOUR, but they all seem to carry the torch of golf really well.  The young studs, are good, even the kids that are local like Guthrie, some of these young kids coming out of the ranks from Illinois and Iowa now, it's pretty special.
So I love coming back here.  I've said that many times, it is kind of my fifth major.  I love being a part of this tournament.  I love participating in it.  My family loves being a part of it.  We kind of rally behind the week and have somewhat of a small family reunion, although I am still working, make that very apparent to them.  But it's fun.
We just love the John Deere week.¬† And it's because it started for me back in 2002.¬† I was at that time a full‑participant on the NGA Hooters Tour and I got a sponsor exemption and followed by another one in 2003 from Claire.¬† It meant everything to me, those two years right there, the experience I gained, certainly on this golf course, the experience I gained but more than that, just the experience on the PGA TOUR I think has really helped me down the road.¬† I think it helped me in 2003, 2004, 2005, and I'm sure that some of those experiences are still helping me today.
So I'm very grateful for those opportunities, and you know, once again, the early part of July is a highlight of my schedule and I can't wait to come back.  I've got a couple other things on the calendar before that, some priorities in line, but hopefully he can get some of those things accomplished and we'll get back here in Quad Cities in about 30 days.
Thank you all for being here.  Thank you to everybody at John Deere and the board for supporting the TOUR.  It's one of the best events we have on TOUR and I don't just say that because I'm standing here; it really is.
The family atmosphere that John Deere, Claire, and everybody here at TPC Deer Run putts on for us is second to none; the big dig, and just everything, becomes very easy and very relaxed and as a parent and having my kids here, it makes it that much easier.  So I've got three now and then traveling is not the easiest.  Of course, I can fit all three of my kids in a Gator, but I wouldn't mind another one.

Q.  How affirming was it to be defending champion at a place you love so much?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Oh, it was fantastic.¬† I get that question every now and then still.¬† I got it obviously the day of the tournament and I'm continually getting that question.¬† It's just extremely special.¬† I didn't know if it would ever happen‑‑ I liked the golf course.¬† I thought the golf course was good for me.¬† I've played it a lot.¬† This is the tournament I've played the most on the PGA TOUR.¬† I never knew it would happen.¬† Playing in front of friends and family is not easy, but‑think I've fully embraced that part of it.¬† I've had family and friends on TOUR that I've had talks about it because it's just not the easiest thing to do.¬† I've gotten over it and it's basically get out there and play, and basically the realization that if I play poorly, they are still going to be there to support me and if I play well, they are going to be there to support me.
I played really well that week.  I had a fun time with my coach on the bag.  You know, it was just a great week from top to bottom.  It just kind of highlighted my 2012.

Q.¬† Will you reenact, celebrate that shot?¬† If somebody says, what a miracle‑‑ probably a shot you've practiced 10,000 times, too; is that something, hey, that's what I do kind of thing, too?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, (laughter) yes, it is, that's what you're supposed to do.¬† I mean, hitting it to a foot, there's more than goes into it than just hitting a quality shot. ¬†You're trying to hit a quality shot.¬† You're picking out your target.¬† You're trying to land‑‑ in that instance, you're trying to land it in an area that hopefully it feeds up to the hole.¬† And it obviously did that.¬† I didn't see the ball; I mean, that's part of it.¬† I'm literally standing behind it and picking out a target that's a tree, because it's not really dusk, but it's getting hazy, you know, and I just could not see‑‑ I saw it bounce, and after that, I couldn't see it.
I would like to reenact that more often on the PGA TOUR, yeah.

Q.  Can you talk about the difficult of that, as far as bunker shots go, or Steve's shot the year before, but the challenges of the water and the distance and the carry?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† The shot really wasn't that difficult.¬† I was in between a 6‑iron and a 7‑iron and I hit a punch 6‑iron, so it really wasn't‑‑ I had a clean lie.¬† Relative to the previous one I hit in there, it was a lot easier.¬† Had an awkward stance the first time around, and you know‑‑ and an awkward lie, too.¬† So in that regard, you can't help but not think about the previous one.¬† But now I was in the middle of the bunker rather than on the side, you know, standing on a sidehill lie.
But those kind of shots, like that's on Friday and it's my ninth hole, but it's circumstantial.¬† It's situational golf and under those sort of situations, those sort of circumstances when it's a playoff and coming down the stretch in regulation or whatever it is, they seem to mean a little bit more.¬† And the‑‑ even if it was an 8‑iron from the middle of the fairway, it means more.¬† But out of the bunker with a 6‑iron, it's not easy, but it is just another golfer shot.

Q.  What's your story of 2013?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† You know, that's a good question.¬† I think it's a bit humbling.¬† I felt like my game was in a really good place at the end of the year‑‑ well, it was.¬† But I took some time off, and then I came back into it out in Hawai'i obviously, started the first two weeks out there and played two or three more events on the West Coast.
You know, I felt like everything was getting close.¬† My putting was actually pretty good, frankly.¬† I don't know if the stats showed it but it was pretty good, but when you're not striking it the way you want to, it puts a lot more pressure on your putting and you feel like you've got to hit it to a foot‑‑ or you feel like you've got to get the ball on the green.¬† It's just not easy.
The humbling aspect is, I was more off fundamentally than I cared to admit, and my coach would say the same thing.  Maybe I need to have him caddie for me more often.  We went back and looked at some old footage and some current footage and tried to piece things together and figure out where I was and why I'm here and that sort of thing and what I'm doing on the golf course that's maybe led up to this point.
Really started to see some really good signs, I would say‑‑ well, kind of Augusta, but even after that, I would say, kind of TPC, I really started to feel some things that were the good sensation, if you will.¬† I played good that week, with the exception of maybe two holes.¬† Obviously I played well at Colonial.
So the progression is there.  Muirfield is just one week.  But I really like the state of my game and where it's going.  The beginning of the year was just, I was off, fundamentally.  I still made some cuts.  I missed a couple few cuts maybe, but I was still making cuts but swinging poorly.  So I guess in some regards, that's a positive.

Q.  Players have said this is a fun golf course to play; what it makes it fun in your eyes?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† I think it's the character.¬† I mean, you don't have one hole that's like the next.¬† You can't stand up there‑‑ you'll stand up on a tee, you're like, okay, I remember this hole, and you go to some courses where every hole looks almost the same; you have left, right, up, down, short, long.¬† I just think, you know, for the most part, it kind of rolls with the land.¬† It doesn't seem too contrived.
Obviously it's a great piece of property.¬† It sits on the river and whatnot.¬† I know there was some dirt moved here and there but, granted, it's moved by John Deere, but for the most part, the piece of property, it just looks like it lays well for a golf course.¬† You don't‑‑ when you don't have to move a lot of turf and kind of gimmick it, it's a good golf course, and this is one of them.

Q.  A lot of players have said at this Media Day that returning here after winning makes the course feel more special to them.  This course and this tournament has always been special for you.  Is there any difference in emotion now as a defending champion?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't think so.  I mean, granted, it's my second Media Day here, right.  It's always special and it always will be.  I don't know if it can get any more.  I'd like to have three like Strick, but, you know, we'll let time take its course.  I don't see anymore emotion or less emotion.  I love it.  There's no other way to piece it together.  I'm just comfortable on the greens.  I'm comfortable with tee shots.
       I've just gotten used to it; I've seen it in every element, too.  Obviously it can be rain, thunder, delays, and we can have wind and no wind.  I've played it in the fall when it was fast and firm.  That was a lot of fun.
So I've seen every aspect of this golf course and element this golf course can throw at you, and I think it‑‑ I mean, it's still here, right.¬† It's still withstood all that and I think it gets better every year.

Q.  What was it like leaving on the charter last year with the fellow players?  Were they teasing you, a lot of congratulations?  What was the flight like?  Did you sleep?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes, yes, yes.

Q.  Can you expand?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yes.¬† Yeah, there was some teasing.¬† Rightfully so, because I would be doing it, too.¬† But first, I'd like to preface it all, it was cool to see Damon, my caddie, because he flew in from Michigan, Detroit, or Flint, wherever it was.¬† You know, I came up to him, he came up to me, he said, "Good playing."¬† I'm like, play, good playing, to you, too.¬† What did he finish, 17th?¬† T‑13 and Senior Open and took a pay cut.¬† That was a pretty good perspective right there.¬† He flew in with Tom Watson so I had to go thank Mr.Watson.
Yeah, it was good.  The guys, a lot of the guys obviously came up and congratulated me.  There's some ribbing, too.  I hit one in the water after my opponent hit one in the water, that kind of stuff.  I still get some valid ribbing for that.  But all good, yeah.  I remember sitting on the plane, waiting for Stricker three times.  So now it's my turn, wait on me.

Q.  In terms of this course, we always have great finishes it seems like.  That has to do with the course, because the last four holes play to that; can you talk about that?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I think the great finishes come because there's guys that are close to the lead, right?  You really, rarely see anybody that breaks through. 
       And it's because, yeah, it's what this golf course provides.  Typically pretty low in scoring, especially if we don't have a whole lot of wind.  But I think it's just the back nine itself is exciting, especially when you get to like 14, the drivable par 4, potential drivable par 4.  15 is great one, tough one.  16 obviously has the views and 17 a brutal par 5 and 18 a brutal par 4.  You have a lay of four or five holes that just adds drama.
When you have the best players in the world playing those five holes, it just adds more drama, whether it's Stricker's putt or, you know, my 6‑iron or whatever.¬† This golf course just does that.¬† It's hard to break away from the field on this golf course; one, because the field is so good; and two, everybody is just kind of right there.¬† It's just difficult.

Q.  What do you feel about your game heading into the U.S. Open next week and what will you do over the next ten days?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I feel good about it, contrary to what you may think of the last couple days, I feel very good about it.  I just got golfed out the last two or three days.
But I feel good.  I haven't been there yet, but in the next ten days, I'm going to go up and then come back home.  So mid week I'll head up there and play.  Try to get a little feel for it.  I've heard mixed things, actually, but good things, about Merion.
I'm excited.  It's the U.S. Open.  You know it's going to be hard and brutal and it's going to be a test of everything, mentally, physically.  I don't mind that.  It's just one week.  So I'm excited.  I'm excited for next Thursday.

Q.  Are you the kind of guy that goes back and studies up on these great old courses to know the history of them?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't.  I haven't.  I know some guys that probably do.  And I've had that discussion with others.  The thing is, nowadays, the USGA has changed those historic golf courses so much that it just, you know, there may be some subtle tees you can pick up or take with you and put in your pocket.  But for the most part, it's changed so much and technology has been a big part of, it agronomy, technology and golf equipment technology.
I haven't done much of that.  I know some guys do.  I don't know if they rely on it, but I know they certainly studied up on it a little bit.  I just have not.

Q.¬† Do you feel like you're a better Open player than you were, say‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  Last year?  Yeah, absolutely.  It's really been a process of just understanding how patient you really have to be.  I'm trying to think about my U.S. Opens.  There's been very few where I've played well.
I remember I had one, was it Congressional that I played okay the first couple days and then I got sick; whatever.  That's like any golf tournament, you can get sick.
Yeah, I feel like my game's prepared and ready for it.  I mean, it's a major; it's the U.S. Open; it's one of the hardest tests in golf.  But I've played in every arena in golf and I've for the most part excelled or executed when you had to execute in every arena, too.
So the atmosphere, the magnitude of it, doesn't necessarily get to me anymore.  If anything, I relish in that.

Q.  Will Merion work for you maybe better?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† You know what, I've heard that; guys, oh, this is a great course for you, an old, old one, they can only do so much to it, it sits on so many acres, yada, yada, yada.¬† But frankly I had a discussion with Rickie, I think he played the Walker Cup there‑‑ I don't know if it was Walker Cup or U.S. Amateur, I can't recall; and Tiger played a practice round last week.¬† We were all sitting around talking about it.¬† You know, the scorecard says, what does it say, 6,900 yards, but he says it plays as long as any U.S. Open he's ever played.¬† And it's because you're hitting a lot of these par 4s, the short par 4s, you're not hitting a driver.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† So you're hitting anywhere from, those guys will be hitting 5‑irons and 4‑irons off some of those tees and you're still hitting a mid‑iron in.¬† There's one par 3 that's a hundred yards and after that, Tiger said he hit a 4‑iron, 3‑iron and two 5‑woods into the par 3s.¬† So you have four par 3s where you're hitting lumber in, and then I think coming down the stretch, there's not a par 4 under 500.
So you know, the yardage on the card is very misleading, is what he's trying to say.¬† It's very, very difficult.¬† It's a U.S. Open, and I don't think it's as short as it once was and I don't think it's as short as the scorecard will show.¬† But you know it going into it.¬† The USGA is not going to pick a chip‑and‑putt, put it that way.

Q.  You've had a Bobblehead before, what do you think of this one?
ZACH JOHNSON:  It's just been updated, right?  It's just been updated.  It's pretty good, I will admit.  It's pretty good.  The logo is getting me, that's unbelievable.  Yeah, I hope it does some good work for the local community.  I don't know what else to say.
I think my kids are really going to like it.  Probably draw on it and make whatever.  It's nice.  Claire and whoever took the reigns on this one did a great job.  Hopefully it will make a good impact.  It's going to be used for, what, baseball?  Youth Day here on Tuesday, that's right.

Q.  Is there a difference between patience and Open patience?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, the frustration comes in an Open when you're hitting it well, striking it well, and not making birdies or maybe you feel like you've executed exactly the way you wanted to and you're walking away with a bogey.
On TOUR, that happens, but it doesn't happen as often.¬† I would say, it putts more of an emphasis on eliminating the score from your head and just keep on going through the circle of hitting shots.¬† But that's hard.¬† I mean, you can't‑‑ you can't not but think of, oh, I'm 4‑over par or whatever, and I've missed two shots, you know what I mean.¬† It's hard not to think about that kind of stuff.¬† But you have to; you have to embrace it, and then you've got to putt it behind you and then you've got to keep going, because that's what golf is, and the U.S. Open seems to demand that more than any tournament.

Q.  What does it say that even though, as you said, it's going to play harder than maybe the yardage, but the USGA actually setting it up as Mike Davis said, it will be 6,907 instead of making you play it at 7,600 yards just because it's the open?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't understand your question.

Q.  A lot of the majors, they are playing longer and longer all the time, so because it's the U.S. Open, making you play it at 7, of 00 yards, playing it under 7,000?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Well, they can't play it over 7,000.¬† I think that's part of it.¬† It's a par 70.¬† There are back‑to‑back par 5s on the front‑‑ 2 and 4.¬† And after that, there's no more par 5s.
But coming down the stretch, the last seven or eight holes, are really long.¬† And like I was telling these guys, it doesn't play 6,900 yards.¬† According to the guys I've talked to, it plays well over 7,000 yards, because it takes driver out of people's hands and you have to put it in the fairway to hit it, target‑oriented golf, which is fine, but they said it's hard to hit fairways with a 4‑iron.
So, I don't know what to expect.  I haven't seen it.  But I'm excited about it.  It's a new test.  I think playing old, classic golf courses and making them relevant to today is pretty cool.  I heard the greens are brutal.
Actually they were saying one par 3, it's a hundred yards, and one pin they put the tee up and the pin is like 75 to 80 yards, but you literally have to land it on a downslope before‑‑ it's one of those kind of places where, take your medicine and hit it to 30 feet and try to 2‑putt.
I'm excited about it.  It's going to be difficult, but you know that going into it, and hopefully I just have the patience and the good feelings that week.

Q.  Sean Mac carte qualified for the Deere this year.  Do you know him well?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† I know him‑‑ I don't know him well.¬† I was a freshman‑‑ I think he graduated by the time I got to college, if I'm not mistaken.¬† But I mean, I know him just from playing professional golf here and there.¬† I remember as a high school kid, you know, he was the bomber, right.¬† He looks like a linebacker, at least he did then.¬† I'm sure he probably still does now, and you know, I remember him playing in a tournament a couple times here and once it was on television, and he was making a nice run.¬† I think that was at the old course, if I'm not mistaken.¬† Little things like that.
I knew his brother better, Chad, frankly, because he's more my age.  But he's always been a good player locally, I know that, and one that has played many national events and done well.

Q.  Have you had any conversations with other golfers about the USGA's decision on anchored putting?
ZACH JOHNSON:  There's been some discussion about it.  I mean, I think it's been a pretty hot topic.  Are you asking for my opinion?

Q.  Was going to.  (Laughter).
ZACH JOHNSON:  You know, the guys that have used the anchored putter obviously are not in favor of the decision.  Understandably so; I'm not in favor of it.  I think it's a pretty poor decision.  I'm never probably going to use one; well, I'm not now, but I just think it's a bad decision all around, frankly.  I don't see the need to ban something that you can't prove is an advantage; one.  Two, I think it hurts the game in the long run for individuals that are playing the game because of that putter, and there are individuals that are playing the game, and can only play the game, because of that putter.
Now that may not de tract them from playing down the road because they can still play, but they can't play under USGA rules.¬† There's a number of other factors involved.¬† Just the big thing there is, maybe a 3‑iron is good for you but a hybrid is good for me, and that's kind of the way I view it.¬† I've never understood why they wanted to go down this route.¬† To be more in line with the way the game was invented, you can use that argument, but times change, sports change, sports evolve.¬† There's social, dynamic forces that change sports.¬† All sports have changed.¬† Guys are becoming more athletic, so sports rules have changed.
I just don't see the need all around for it.¬† I had one other argument and I can't think what it was.¬† Well, I just‑‑ it just doesn't make any sense to me to do something that is so embedded in the game‑‑ if they really wanted this ban, then they should have done it 40 years ago when it first came out.¬† I just don't understand it.

Q.  You were talking some really great young guys coming up; talk about how you manage things now, being an older person, three kids, wife, and where your faith fits into that and God's principles; is that something that's a huge factor?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, when it comes to anything that we go through now, you have to have a filtering process.¬† I've got individuals that I counsel with on that.¬† I've got a group of individuals, specifically my agent, my sports psychologist, and I would say some of the guys that I've grown to know, whether it's my pastor or my‑‑ some of these guys that run some of these ministries that I'm a part of.¬† I use them for counseling and wisdom and just direction.
So, yeah, my schedule is put together with their help.  Requests and opportunities that come in, I utilize their resources.  Obviously I utilize my wife as a resource more than anything.  We just sit down and discuss things, because you don't want to take anything for granted, but you also don't want to take anything lightly.  Everything is more the most part pretty worthy but it's hard to say yes to everything.
I've been accustomed now to saying no more often, which is not easy, but you have to do that, especially with three kids.  But that's part of the territory now, and that's fine.  Sometime down the road, maybe I can say yes to more requests and opportunities, whether it's speaking or playing overseas or whatever, whatever the instance may be.  I hope I have those opportunities again.  But yeah, I think that having your priorities in line and I'm not saying I have it always in line, but I get good checks every now and then.  I mess up all the time.
You've just got to have a lot of faith in the fact that it's worked in the past, and, you know, I can't control everything, so hopefully a guy can lead me the right way.

Q.  You've always been a big advocate of this tournament.  Has that role changed at all now that you are defending champ?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't know.  You'll have to tell me.  No, I don't think so.  I mean, like I said, when I first came up to the podium, I wanted to stress the fact that, I mean, 2012 is 2012.
We had a media blitz after I won, and you know, I don't mind answering questions about it or even discussing it, but for the most part, I mean, I think my role now is for 2013 and beyond, I'm a part of the tournament, and yes, I get to play in it, participate in it, but I think what we've learned is that no one player is above a tournament or above golf, for that matter.
So I don't think my role's changed.  I'm still getting on my peers to try to play this tournament, and probably some to a nuisance, which is fine.  If they don't play, they are foolish, right.  No, but I love where I sit in this tournament.  Like I said, actually winning it just makes it that much more special.

Q.  Do guys talk to you more about this event now, or not?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Not necessarily.¬† I don't know, that's a tough one.¬† I don't think so.¬† You know, at one time, and still‑‑ what's weird is a lot of guys think I've won it like multiple times (laughter).¬† No, no, I'm just from the area, and I'm part of the tournament, but used to be the Stricker invite.¬† You're getting me mixed up with a guy from Wisconsin.

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