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September 3, 2014

Zach Johnson


MARK STEVENS: We would like to welcome Zach Johnson to the interview room. Defending champion. You're currently number 11 in the FedExCup standings. Kind of talk about your goals coming into this week, and then also a little bit about the course and your thoughts of playing here in Denver, and then we'll have a few questions.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, as I said in my media day, I don't know if any of y'all were there, but this is Zach Johnson's happy place. I love the state of Colorado. I love the town of Denver. I feel like I'm playing somewhat of a Midwest golf course at 5200 feet. So, I love the way the golf course lays out. Essentially, I like what it demands. And it's fair, it's right out in front of you. I think that's a trait of a good golf course. The old cliche, it's they don't make them like they used to, kind of thing. But, yeah, it's fun being back. I mean, obviously, I've got fond memories of this championship at a different venue, but it's just great being with the white pavilions and all the BMW logos, it's a nice feeling.

MARK STEVENS: Okay. Then quickly, your thoughts on where you are in the playoffs and your goals for this week.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I want to win this week, and I would like to win next week. (Laughter.)

MARK STEVENS: Good goals to have.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. No, I feel good. My game feels good. Not to keep saying the same old things, but I think that I'm in a position now where my health is improving a little bit. I had some nicks and knacks, nothing significant, fortunately. But, I feel good about that. I broke my driver two weeks ago, I thought it would be a big deal. It turns out it probably isn't that big of a deal. I think I got a really good driver in my hands right now. So, that's imperative and essential. So, yeah, game feels good. A good week this week puts me in a great position for next week. These playoffs are all about opportunity and capitalizing on great opportunity. It really only takes -- I mean I know consistency is never a bad word in our sport, but it seems like these four weeks, one good week is even better than consistency. So, a hot week would be nice.

MARK STEVENS: Okay. Thank you. Questions?

Q. About the course setup. With the altitude here, the bombers are going to be hitting it even longer. Does this course set up for them or not for them?
ZACH JOHNSON: There's a few holes where I guess you could say there might be a bit of a favor there. At the same time, if we don't get any rain, it's just going to be hard to control where that ball ends up. It's already drying out. I played nine holes yesterday afternoon, and I was surprised how much the ball was rolling out. So, specifically downwind, obviously. But a lot of roll in the fairway, even some release on the greens with loft. With a wedge there was release. So, I think the firmer -- if it continues to get firm, we get minimal rain, I don't see the advantage being that significant. And I think the rough is penal enough that you got to pay attention and think about it. It seems like that kind of question, I can probably always answer better about a day or two into the tournament. It's hard to really see until I'm really competing and seeing the scores. Bottom line is there's certain courses that probably lend itself to hitting it high and far. I'm not so sure this is one of them.

Q. Early in this wraparound season you were playing as well as any golfer on the planet. You could make a strong argument?
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.

Q. For that. How close are you to being back to where you were then?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think I'm very close. I'm not saying -- I'm not trying to think about it. I mean the form I had essentially, well, I guess it would have been, what, July of last year through January arguably, right? It was probably the most consistent, good golf I've played in my career. Just putting myself in contention a number of times and capitalizing on two or three, whatever it was. That was nice. So, I feel like I'm close. When it comes down to it, my ball striking is, it's fine. My stats show it. I don't watch -- I don't look at my stats, but I know my team does and I know it's fine. It's more than good enough to certainly contend on the weekend. It's just a matter of making putts and I really, really feel that my putting has come. Made some nice little strides here lately, maybe more a more simplified, as far as how we're approaching it. And I'm really not thinking about it. It doesn't linger when I miss putts or have a bad day. I'm not overly fixated on trying to find the newest, best thing. I'm still sticking to what I've been doing for years. So, I feel good.

Q. I have a specific question. When you come to a climate like this where it's much dryer, do you change your hydration strategy or do you just -- and if so, could you describe that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't. What I've grown to know -- when I come out here to go skiing, I do. I drink a lot more. Just because I'm not playing, competing, and I'm going to go skiing. So, and I'm usually at what -- 7500 to upwards of 1,200 feet, excuse me, 12,000 feet. So, I'm really drinking a lot of water then. I am drinking a lot now. But, when it comes to my competitive weeks, I got two or three bottles of water bedside. I'm constantly drinking water at dinner and at night, and obviously, throughout the day. So, I feel like I'm obviously hydrating. As a matter of fact there's been two of my peers, I'm not going to say who it was, but I'm like an old man when in comes to playing with because I think I hit every port-a-potty on the golf course at sea level, so I'm hoping I see a bunch this week. It just means I'm hydrating. I've got dry skin to begin with, so that's maybe part of the reason. But it's just, you know, my body feels better if I continually force it down.

Q. A Ryder Cup question regarding Tom Watson. Do you have any recollections of him as a player or seeing old videos, etcetera, and how crucial do you think his experience will be in -- when the pressure's on that week in Gleneagles?
ZACH JOHNSON: First part, I don't have many recollections of Tom playing. I certainly remember a few shots here and there and in the Majors. I certainly, obviously, remember 17 at Pebble Beach. I don't remember what year that was, but the U.S. Open there. I remember a couple shots in the Open. Obviously, I'm going to remember 2009 against Stewart. But, prior to that it just seemed like, what was it? I guess '70s and '80s, it seemed like he was hoisting that trophy every other year, the Claret Jug. But, when it comes to the Ryder Cup, I don't really know what to expect. I don't have any expectations in that regard. The bottom line is he's not -- he has not been one of our, I guess you would say, regular peers out here. So, it takes little bit -- I just don't know him as well as some of the other captains I've had, because I've competed so much with the other guys. That being said, that's not a bad thing, that's just fact. And his experience certainly in big events big arenas -- Cups, The Open Championship, Scotland in general. I mean, I hope there's maybe a small element of knowledge he can shed and help us with. But I don't know what it would be, obviously. But when it comes down to it, what I've learned in that event is the captain has a Major responsibility, and so obviously, a substantial role, but when it comes to the competition, to a degree it doesn't really matter who you're paired with, it does to an extent, but more for the most part we're all pros and specifically, on Sunday it doesn't matter, we got to go play. There's only so much strategy that you can kind of over think. I'm going to play my best for that guy, because he's been nothing but gracious, and welcoming, and hospitable, and he's Tom Watson. So, any time I got my nation's flag on my sleeve, and I'm led by a captain that's named Tom Watson, I don't need much more motivation than that.

Q. Along the Ryder Cup theme, the last three picks were made last night. Could you talk about captain Watson's picks and how they complete the U.S. squad?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, no, I'm excited. I'm certainly excited for those three. I think that they're well deserved, well earned. Certainly, three guys that -- whose resumes speak for themselves. I really don't envy the position that Tom Watson was in over the last couple weeks, that is, you know, one of the roles he has and responsibilities he has as the captain. I respect it, but I don't -- I'm kind of glad I wasn't in that position. Knowing the guys that he has around him, Raymond and Andy and Stricker. Obviously he's got great counsel, and he's got great guys that he can rely on. But, just a difficult process. Bottom line is, I think the three guys he picked were beyond justifiable, and I think there's probably two or three guys that he could have picked you could justify just as much as the three he did pick. So, not easy. But, I think that it looks to me like experience probably weighed in a little bit, and I think that's great. If I was in his position, that's certainly would have been a key major factor for me. And then maybe who you pair up with whom and that kind of thing. But, experience is never a bad thing, especially when we got, I guess, technically we got three rookies. Obviously, Jordan's played on a Presidents Cup team. We have got enough rookies that for the team that I think that getting a couple veterans is never a bad thing.

Q. You mentioned your team earlier. How many people are on your team and what are all their duties?
ZACH JOHNSON: Holy Cow. Yeah, no. Well, my team starts first with my wife. Her role is more probably support and counsel, more than anything. I mean, that and I just, you know, I keep her in the loop on things as much as she wants or needs to know. There's times where she just doesn't have really any concern, and I'll just go to another person. But, Mike Bender has been with me the longest, he's my swing coach. 14 years now. Almost 15 years I guess, technically. I've been with Chris Noss, my trainer now for over 10 years, almost 11 years. I've been with Doctor Mo Pickens, my brain guy, if you will, since the summer of 2006. So, over eight years. I've been with Troy Van Biezen, my chiropractor that's on the road with me now for four years. And I've been with my manager for 12 years. So -- and obviously my caddie now for 11 years, Damon Green. So, those are the guys that I lean on, those are the guys that I trust, and those are the guys that trust me. So, that's where we, that's where I go to collaborate, and that's where I go to cultivate, that's where I go to get back to where I was, to try to get better, to try to learn, to try to grow, etcetera. Those are the guys. We do have a statistician that I see once a year, but I don't see him that often. Peter Sanders. But, another great guy.

Q. So, you've been with these guys for a long time, you weren't always as financially set as you are now. So, how did you swing that having all of that?
ZACH JOHNSON: You had to bring up the finances. Well, it's probably unique, my situation. If you go from the back from the very beginning Mike Bender. I'm on the mini-tours at that time. I don't have a whole lot of money. I had guys that specifically bought shares in stock in me to go play mini-tour golf, right? So, I had that support back home. But, that was just the essentials. Food, shelter, getting in my car and gas, and paying entry fees. So, Mike would have been excessive. But, he didn't charge me, to be honest with you. Once I got may Nationwide Tour card and had some success out there, whatever year that was, 2002 or 2003, I think it was. Actually started to see the finances go the other direction. Obviously, I'm going to take care of him. Since that point, we have just continued to grow and get closer as friends. So, that's one of those relationships from a financial standpoint that I hope I don't take for granted, because it was a pretty special, I don't know, I guess he saw something. You would have to ask him. It's one of those situations, I really don't want to ask many questions with it, because I don't know why he did it. And then the other guys, yeah, I was in a place where the training side of things, the physical side of things, I know it's, it does cost money and but this is livelihood. My body is my equipment, and have I to take care of it. I don't love it, but have I to do it. I grew up -- I'm a chiropractor's son, so I understand what it, what the body, can do and how it can breakdown, specifically in this game. So, Doctor Troy and Chris are two guys that I rely heavily on. Then the whole mental side of the game, that's something that I think you can always fine tune, you can always polish. Doctor Mo seems to have a pretty good equation and formula for that, at least with me. So, a lot of that is just practice, too, and learning how to practice and why and when and focused practice. So, you know, yeah, the way I look at it is, I run my own business, and I have to have individuals that are the pillars of my business and those are those guys.

Q. For the people here in Denver that are out here to see you, is there special meaning for you that you have a chance to repeat and now, you're playing a course in an area that you specifically love?
ZACH JOHNSON: When it comes to defending or repeating it, that part, honestly, it's pretty irrelevant. I mean defending champion only means a couple more obligations, maybe Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. In this case Tuesday, Wednesday, maybe something prior to the week of, maybe some good feelings with friendly faces that you've seen in the past. But, I don't have a 2-shot lead when I tee it up on Thursday. I mean it's irrelevant at that point. So, I wish it meant more than that, but, yeah, I'm going to be in a good mind-frame just because once again, like you said, I love this place. My sister lived here for a number of years, my brother-in-law. I had aunts and uncles here I've spent so many -- I got so many childhood memories in Denver, and Colorado alone. And there will be many more, because this is where our family essentially goes to for vacation. This is just, this is it. So, and I like the people here. The fans are terrific. They're knowledgeable and they just love sport. Obviously, they love golf and it seems like they're pretty golf thirsty. There's a lot of kids out there yesterday, and I know school was in session. So they're pretty hungry for golf.

MARK STEVENS: Okay thanks for your time, Zach. Best of luck this week.

ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.
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