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September 23, 2014

Zach Johnson


SARAH GWYNN: Zach, welcome, thanks for joining us.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, ma'am, thank you.

SARAH GWYNN: If you wouldn't mind, just run us through how your preparations have been going so far and your first impressions.

ZACH JOHNSON: Things have been good. The one thing that I keep remembering in my Cup experience, The Ryder Cup experience, it's only Tuesday, and I cannot wait for Friday. I mean, that's really what it boils down to. But I had a good session today. I played here a little over a year ago in a corporate outing, and the golf course is much better than I even remember, so I'm delighted to see that. I like the character it has. A lot of undulation, hills, short, long, up, down, left, right; it's got everything, which is good. I think it's a good venue for this event. But nothing really more than that, other than, I'm hungry.

SARAH GWYNN: You're one of the more experienced players on the side. Do you feel like you have a mentor role to any of the other guys?

ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't know if I'm quite there, but at the same time, I'm certainly not afraid to shed some light on some things I've experienced, and/or maybe some key factors that I think could be beneficial to some of the guys. I mean, obviously Phil and Jimmy are our tenured veterans on the team. I don't know where I fall, maybe right in there behind them somewhere. But I've learned a lot. I've always said that executing shots in this tournament, more than any tournament, is going to help you when you play individually at any certain Tour event. So there's just certain things I think you've got to really focus on and other things you don't have to really pay attention to. I just like what this tournament demands and requires, and it brings out the best in people, and certainly the worst. But hopefully more of the best this week.

Q. What's it like having a captain who won his first major before you were even born?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I never really looked at it that way, but it's tremendous. Bottom line is he's a professional golfer with a resumé that is awfully deep. He's got a lot of sage advice and wisdom that I think we can certainly dig into and maybe learn from. And then you compound that with the fact that we are playing in a country that he's had some success in, to put it mildly, I think it's terrific. I mean, he's been welcoming of any and every idea we have, and he's obviously given us a lot of nice motivational tidbits. Tom Watson has been nothing but just beautiful to be around.

Q. How has it been different from someone who is closer to you competitively?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I haven't really gotten to that point yet to really figure that out. I mean, the three other guys I've had, I was pretty close -- there was more of a friendship prior to the week. I mean, granted, I've been around Tom numerous times. Fortunately, typically it's the Masters and the dinner and those types of events that go along with the Masters. But the other three captains I've had, I knew and played and competed against numerous times in Lehman, Pavin and obviously Davis, who is my neighbour. So there's differences there. The bottom line is, the captain has some pretty substantial responsibilities, but when it comes to the first tee through the 18th green, it really falls on our shoulders and our caddies' shoulders and my teammates' shoulders. I'm not saying that they can't help or potential influence what we are doing out there, because there is some advice and talking we can certainly keep going with. At the same time, I really firmly believe that we didn't lose The Ryder Cup because of Davis Love. Does that make sense? That's what I'm trying to get at. We're all pros and we all know what we're trying to do. You know, The European Team beat us.

Q. When Tiger was playing in these things and he was in his heyday dominating, Europe always kind of targeted him, and if they did beat him, that point always felt like a little bit more than just one point, kind of as a psychological boost. As you go in this year, you have Rory at No. 1 dominating at the moment and you've got Ian who has played so well in these things, who kind of can be targets for you guys in terms of maybe if you take them down maybe Friday, can that be more of a psychological boost for you guys, if you are able to knock their two hottest guys off, so to speak?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've never really looked at it that way. The bottom line is this: It doesn't matter if you're in tandems or you're going out there a single on a Sunday match, anybody can beat anybody. You know what, I say that, but if I'm in a tandem taking down either one of those guys, it's going to feel great. But I mean, I feel great beating anybody. It doesn't matter who it is. It's frankly irrelevant. A point is a point is a point is a point, or a halve, whatever you want to look at it. I mean, I didn't want to lose to them, either. Losing a point is losing a point. I mean, that's really what it boils down to.

Q. I think everybody kind of expects those guys --
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I would think the expectations fall on the media and the fans. I don't think there's any expectations, certainly not on my part, before I tee it up.

Q. In matches you've played, what has been your highest and your lowest moment in The Ryder Cup?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, my highest moment -- well, a couple of my highest moments, I'd say the biggest, highest moment I had was my first match ever probably, which was in Ireland. It was me and Chad Campbell and we were down two with three to go and we halved the match. I hit a couple of 3-woods on par 5s, where we 2-putted to win those two holes, and then I made about a 15-footer on 17. Paul McGinley topped me from about 12 feet, but they were both sliding putts. So that was a highlight, just the execution of those shots in that arena in those situations, because I had never been there before. Specifically 16, in that match, Chad hit a great drive in the fairway and I had a number I knew I could cover the creek, trout stream or whatever it was there at K Club. But it was one where I was like, man, that just doesn't feel right. Tom Lehman comes up and says, "You're 2-down." That's all he had to say. So that's one thing. I also remember that same year, I was paired with Stewart Cink, and we lost our match on a hole in one by Paul Casey. That kind of stunk. Of course we were getting obliterated. I think we lost on the 14th or 15th hole, whatever the par-3 was, I can't recall. That was a pretty low moment to be honest with you. I'm trying to think of some other -- I mean, any point I've won has been a high. Even two years ago, my singles match against Graeme, who has obviously played well in these, I beat him on the 17th hole, I want to say, par 3. I mean, that was a big moment just because it's a point for my country. But I can't think of anything other than really those few moments.

Q. This is your fourth Ryder Cup, I believe, right?

Q. Is there anything different, really, this year under Tom Watson, some new wrinkle, something that just seems new, fresh, different?
ZACH JOHNSON: Not yet, no. It seems like everything is pretty much exactly what I'm accustomed to. I don't know if you were in here when I first started, but it's Tuesday and I can't wait for Friday. That's always the feeling I get this week. I have to really pace myself, both in the amount of practise and maybe even the amount of holes I practise, that kind of thing. And then workouts and that kind of stuff, too. No, it's been great. I mean, what I do appreciate about Tom is he's not afraid to get up and give his two cents on anything, and he certainly wants you to ask questions and he can shed some light on some things, too. He's just a wealth of knowledge, really. Some of it may not be applicable to that person, but some of it might be, you know. Little things like that can help. I don't know if it's anything quite out of the ordinary that I've experienced with my previous captains, as I was talking to Doug about. So far, it's been terrific.

Q. You said also, earlier, that some things you have to pay attention to and some things you don't have to pay attention to?
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, in The Ryder Cup in general, yeah.

Q. What is it that you don't have to pay as much attention to as other places?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't think you have to really pay attention to how you're striking it, certainly Monday, Tuesday, potentially even Wednesday. It's just not that important. You're so excited to go and your body, especially when you come over here, you've got some jet-lag and your legs are still trying to get back to normal. There's little things like that, you just have to be cognisant of that. Really shouldn't matter that much until Thursday, Friday, obviously. Don't get too worried about not being that comfortable yet, because it's not necessary. If anything, it's just not that important. I mean, just keep preparing as if it's a normal tournament, and I think good things can happen. The other piece to that is any Ryder Cup, you don't have to change your game. You're here for a reason. Just keep doing what you're doing. You don't have to fake it or alter anything you're trying to do other than hit quality shots. It's still golf.

Q. Going back to your highs and lows, can you go back to The K Club and the Sunday singles match against Darren, how intimidating was that and what were you feeling?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was -- I don't know if intimidating was the word. It was just extremely difficult. Difficult, one, because it was my first singles match ever, in any Cup, right, Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Two, because it was a guy I had actually played with quite a bit those three years I had been playing at this level, a guy I really respected. And obviously you throw in thirdly, his wife, I want to say it was five weeks, maybe six weeks prior to that, his wife had passed. So he was kind of a question mark and decided to play. I mean, I had emotion for him and his family. It was just very difficult. What I do remember is even though they weren't cheering for me, the crowd was absolutely tremendous, for him, picking him up. And I saw putts that just, I don't know how far they were, but they were long, just dribbled right in like they had nothing, no chance but to go in. Chips and putts off the green, numerous times. I remember giving him about a 4- or 5-footer on 16, because I felt like it was the right thing to do. The Cup had already been won. It was one of those things, there was a setting there with the grandstand across the creek and -- I can't remember who was caddying for him. That's beside the point. I remember just giving him the putt. I was like, you know what, he's got a 4-foot, 5-foot slider, it isn't that big of a deal at this point. He was already winning the match anyway, so I remember giving him that. It just felt right. It was hard.

Q. One thing that strikes me as a bit different about this Ryder Cup is the story that the Americans plan to bring over a choir to drown out the sounds of the crowd. What do you make of that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know what you're referring to. Our team is?

Q. There are stories in the newspapers that Tom Watson might be bringing a choir over.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's the first I've heard of that.

Q. What do you think, good idea?
ZACH JOHNSON: Like a choir for our team room or like a choir on the golf course?

Q. On the golf course.
ZACH JOHNSON: I'd have to think about that one. That's news to me. Is this conjecture? (Laughter).

Q. It was in my newspaper, so I swear by it.
ZACH JOHNSON: So, it's true. Wikipedia. I don't have any idea. You know, here's the beautiful -- and I tell the rookies this, too. One of the best things about this tournament is the fans, here and in the States. The chance and the jubilation of singing here is one of the things that I can appreciate the most, as a sports fan. I mean, I love going into hostile environments and seeing teams rise up and take down the home team. And saying that, I don't know if "hostile" is the right word I would use in this sort of arena. I just really appreciate the pageantry behind what this tournament is and certainly what these fans are all about. You know, if we have some of our own fans joining in and doing something similar, I've got nothing wrong with it. If anything, it just adds to what this tournament is all about, as long as they're quiet what I'm hitting (laughing). There's a level of, I would say -- what's the word, I don't know, class involved, and a level of integrity that needs to be maintained. But yeah, I'm not expecting anything crass or crude. I'm not afraid to call somebody out if they are being obnoxious at a time -- noise and volume is one thing. But, you know, being crass and crude, I don't have much toleration for that. And I haven't experienced that.

Q. There's been a couple of themes this week. One is that the Americans are all about redemption for Medinah, and the other one is that Europe is the favourite this week. To which one do you put more stock in?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, the first one, the whole redemption thing, I'm not suggesting that there's not some validity to it. I don't know where it started or who came up with it. I don't think it was anybody on our team and I don't think that's necessarily our approach. That was two years ago. It's not like I'm here because we lost two years ago. My motivation isn't because we lost two years ago. My motivation is because I'm playing in The Ryder Cup and it doesn't matter what happened two years ago. I'm still upset that we lost two years ago, because The European Team did win. But I mean, I'm not here to redeem myself or the team. Once again, I feel bad for Davis, but I'm not here to redeem anything.

Q. Has it been brought up at all on the charter or anything?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I haven't -- the only thing that's been brought up is the fact that we've won, what, two in the last, how many years?

Q. Two of the last 18 --
ZACH JOHNSON: Two of seven in the last 18 years. So 2012 is a part of that, but if you just look at it from a broad scope, I think that's more important. That's my motivation.

Q. Why do you think Europe keeps winning?
ZACH JOHNSON: Because they score more points.

Q. Thank you.
ZACH JOHNSON: You're welcome. Why do they keep winning? I don't know yet. I mean, other than the fact that they have played well and won the tournament, I can't answer. And the puzzling thing there, and I don't know everything specifically, and if you look at, granted in 2008, we won the tournament. In 2006, we got smashed, didn't really matter. But in 2010 and 2012, I want to say we won more sessions. It's not like we are playing that bad. We just haven't broken through. And I think we've won more sessions, specifically in tandems, than we have individually. I know we won individuals in Wales, but obviously we lost in 2012. So I don't have an answer for that yet.

SARAH GWYNN: Thank you.
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