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July 8, 2014

Zach Johnson


MARK STEVENS:  We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson.  Hard to believe you're making your 13th start here at the John Deere Classic.  You have four top 10s.  If you want to talk about your thoughts coming into the week and then we'll have some questions.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I mean, it's always a week that‑‑ I don't want to rehash it all out again, but I keep saying it.  It's one of the few weeks that I extremely‑‑ really look forward to.  My family does, we do.  We just love it.  I've got family and friends that are coming into town at some point.  I'm playing a golf course that I certainly enjoy and respect, and as a board member of this tournament, it's nice seeing‑‑ I know how hard these people work, and I know what this community puts into this event.
With all that being said, to me this is as good a tournament as I've ever been associated with and/or played.
Coming into the week, I feel fine.  I'm healthy, which is number one.  I've taken two weeks off.  I'd like to take another week off, but I can make two weeks enough.  I think I got a little burned out there May and June.  But I feel good.  I mean, there's nothing wrong with that.  That's fine.  I didn't play a whole lot of golf the last 14 days.  I had my own event, and that's really about it.
I'm excited.

Q.  You've been to larger cities and markets where the TOUR goes and bigger, bustling places where when you show up at the airport there's not a welcome to the John Deere Classic sign.  Can you talk about how special this area is to golf?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  You know, here's the thing.  It seems like for whatever reason, you talk about golf, it just seems like the South comes up.  Well, granted they can play most of the year‑round, and that's part of it.  But growing up here, this place is golf thirsty.  There's about a seven‑month period where it just wants a big drink of golf, and this is one way to provide that.
This market, this area obviously is rich in the game.  A lot of great golf courses around here.  A lot of nice history and tradition even.  I like it.  I think that's one of the attractions that a lot of my peers enjoy.  Some may not, but the ones that keep coming back, they kind of like the‑‑ this isn't necessarily a small town, but it is a smaller market than some of the venues that we stop at.  I think they appreciate the people here and certainly what this area provides.

Q.  Early on you've been balancing the demands of being the hometown guy.  That event yesterday, how do you think that's going to impact how you get through the week?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I've thought about that.  I don't know if it'll affect it at all, but it very well could.  My time the last couple days was pretty demanding, rightfully so.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I knew going into it exactly what was going to happen.  It's essentially the same thing I've done the last couple years but maybe with some tweaking.
You know, changing the date of my event to this week is going to reap some benefits, I think, and hopefully we can sit back and pinpoint those.  I don't know if there's a perfect date for my event, but this one seems to be a better date, and John Deere was‑‑ Clair Peterson was the first man we called once we kind of prioritized different dates, and he welcomed it immediately.
I mean, I didn't sleep great last night just because I'm kind of wired after what I've gone through the last couple days, but I can get adequate sleep here shortly, and I should be good.  I'll be good to go.  It doesn't take a whole lot to motivate me to play this golf tournament.

Q.  We've gotten to enjoy playoff golf the last few years here.  You've been involved in both of them.  What is it about this place and this course that not just the Playoffs, but the great finishes, whether it's going extra holes or‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  You know, I've thought about that, too.  The whole kind of key slogan that everybody is clinging to here is "magic happens here," and it has.  And it probably will continue to.  I mean, if I'm really going to get down into it, I think it's probably the last five holes.  I think starting on 14, you've got often times a reachable par‑4, a birdie hole, but a hole that if you're just a little bit off, a bogey hole.  15 is a really good par‑4.  Obviously 16‑‑ assuming it's one of the signature holes here if not the signature hole, great little par‑3.  A birdieable, maybe even eagle hole on 17, and then a brutal but fair 18th hole with a lot of opportunity and I would say treachery around the corner.
It's just because of the character of the last five holes here, I think.  I don't want to equate it to another golf course, but I look at‑‑ I'm not saying we're going to have seven straight birdies to finish, but if you look at TPC Hartford, it's kind of got that sort of ingredient, where you have a reachable par‑5, you've got a short par‑4, a par‑3, a lot of water, and just holes that you can either go really, really low or it can really bite you, and I think that's why you see a little bit of movement and guys just kind of bunching up at the end.

Q.  That magic, do you feel it prepares you better mentally, being on both sides of two Playoffs?  Does that prepare you for this week compared to some of the younger guys?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, I mean, I think I am used to about everything.  I think I've seen everything now.  I mean, I've won golf tournaments playing really, really boring golf, and I've won golf tournaments with a little bit of drama, as you all witnessed a couple years ago.  Nothing really ceases to amaze me.  I think I'm ready for it all.  I'm not overly accustomed to a bladed sand shot that goes in and hits the pin, but I'll test Jordan about that one.  But other than that, I'm used to about everything and anything I see.

Q.  Speaking of 13 years, you've probably been answering this question for at least that long, but does it seem like‑‑ young guys seem to come out readier every year.  What Jordan accomplished last year, does that speed it up a little bit?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't think so, no.  I mean, I'm used to the‑‑ I think we're all used to these young studs coming up and coming out here thirsty and hungry and just trying to dominate.  But I think Jordan's unique.  There may be a couple other guys here in the near future, but for the most part, we ain't going to see that.  What he's done and what he's continuing to do is not normal.  He's not a young college stud getting on the PGA TOUR.  He's an established PGA TOUR winner and Presidents Cup player.  I mean, that's just not normal.  That's not the norm.  And I don't think it will continue to be.
I say that, but I know, I know there's some guys coming up that have that potential, but what he's done is not normal by any means.  I mean, I don't know who else you'd throw in that category other than maybe like Tiger or‑‑ I don't know.  You guys know better than I do.  I'm not a historian.  Maybe Phil back in the day a little bit, too.  I don't know.  There's not many of them.  Rory.  He was in his late teens.  You have Sergio.  But we're talking about three or four, four or five guys.

Q.  Rare talent.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Rare.  That quick.

Q.  Does his approach to getting exempt and coming out straight out of college and working through the exemptions, do you think that becomes maybe a template for a Patrick Rodgers and the others?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't know if it's a template, but it's an opportunity.  If you can utilize those seven sponsor exemptions, you know, I guess you'd say, what, late spring, early summer, more power to you.  I don't know if it's‑‑ that's the ideal situation.  I mean, if you can avoid Q‑school or the playoff qualifying tournament, whatever it's called now, the Web.com playoff series, hey, do it.  It's not fun.  It's still the hardest tournament that I probably have had to play in so many odd times.  If you can avoid that, that's pretty good.  I mean, you're getting free starts on the PGA TOUR, to one, make money, and two, potentially gain your card in seven stops.  Not that you haven't earned it, but they're free starts.

Q.  How important is it that week to get some positive vibes, so to speak?
ZACH JOHNSON:  You know, obviously I haven't been in top form.  I've had a lot of dialogue with my coaches lately, but nothing that's anything out of the normal.  Just trying to kind of look at things from a different angle.  I'm not going to put any more merit into this week than the next.  I mean, if it happens this week, terrific.  I know I know this golf course.  Obviously I've got some confidence here and that sort of thing, but heck, that's happened many times, and I've come out and laid an egg.
I mean, I'm just going to go play.  If it happens the following week or the next week or whatever, so be it, but it really is a waiting and a patient game for me.  You know, I'm 38, this is my 10th or 11th year on TOUR, and I feel like I'm still learning.  All that being said, I don't think it's nearly as big a deal as sometimes I make it out to be.
You know, truth be told, regardless of what kind of form I'm in, I'm just excited for Thursday.

Q.  Did you really give a shot here, a shot there‑‑ for the three‑peat, did you relive any of the shots after the playoff?
ZACH JOHNSON:  You mean after last year?  Yeah, I'm sure I did immediately after.  I bogeyed 18 in regulation.  That one right there.  Was I in the fairway or was I in the sand?

Q.  Nope, you were in the bunker.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, I hit a great tee shot.  We misjudged the wind and the yardage to the trap.  We didn't think we could get there.  You're right, I was in the sand trap.  So that's the one that sticks out in my mind.  You go to a playoff, you've got three guys.  Yeah, I mean, I hit a chip that potentially could have gone in.  It wasn't exactly trickling, and then I had a 10‑footer the second playoff hole on 18.  If you're going to look at it, that's probably one opportunity I'd like to have back.  But I look at 18 in regulation more than anything.
All that being said, I mean, David Hearn had opportunities.  You all remember.  Not to slight it, but he lipped out twice.  It's not like he hit bad putts, and they weren't two‑footers, they were eight feet and six feet.  That happens.

Q.  You probably got over it a little quicker than he did.  It seems like you were able‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  Potentially, yeah.

Q.  It seems like because you had won the year before‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I don't know.  Last year I was disappointed.  I mean, I didn't have a very good late winter and spring season, and this is kind of the start of, I guess you'd say, a lot of positives.  But at the time I didn't know that.  I'm like, holy cow, I've got a great opportunity and I just kind of let it go.  I was disappointed.
But yeah, I mean, you've got to take it in stride.  The best part of that week was I felt like my game was really, really good.  I think I had the lead going into the back nine if I'm not mistaken, and I hit so many good shots on the back nine and got nothing out of it other than a two‑putt birdie on 17, I think.
So the positives certainly far outweigh the negatives when you lose in a playoff, but it was still disappointing.

Q.  Does it seem like you've been here 13 years?
ZACH JOHNSON:  In some respects it feels like three or four, and then in some respects it feels like 30.  No, I mean, that's bizarre.  You know, I remember those.  I remember those were the first two and only two sponsor exemptions I had into TOUR events.  The first one was by Kym Hougham and John Deere and then obviously Clair Peterson the next year.  Just great, once again, going back to it with these young guys and their seven‑‑ Patrick Rodgers, for example, just a great opportunity.
You know, one year I was on the mini‑Tours with my Hooters Tour bag, and then the next year I was having a good year on the Nationwide Tour and already secured my card, so it was one of those I took a week off on the Web.com, whatever you want to call it, and came here in September because I want to say it was a late date that year.
Still, that feels like eons ago.  I missed a lot of cuts, I missed those two cuts, I missed a couple other cuts early on when I had my card out here, but invaluable experience.  And I'm not suggesting that's why I've played well here recently, but it's just been vital experience.
The other side of that, having those sponsor exemptions here, playing here as a young PGA TOUR guy‑‑ well, I was young then, mid‑20s, playing in front of friends and family is something that while I cherish and relish because it doesn't happen very often but it's not easy, and now it's not that big of a deal, so I've gotten used to it.  That experience and those days of just kind of looking outside the ropes occasionally and seeing a face you recognize, at one time it wasn't easy.  Now it doesn't faze me a bit.  I mean, I still love it and appreciate it, but it's just‑‑ it was nice to have those starts.  Made cut, missed cut, it was irrelevant.  You know what I mean?

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