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August 4, 2015

Zach Johnson


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Zach Johnson to the WBC Bridgestone Invitational. Zach, you're making your first start since winning The Open Championship. Besides eating corn out of the Claret Jug, maybe give us a little update on --

ZACH JOHNSON: Don't jump to conclusions. That was just a picture staged.

MARK STEVENS: Why don't you tell us what you've been up to the past couple of weeks, and we'll have a few questions.

ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. I'm excited to get back to work. I had a nice couple of weeks off. Done a lot of nothing and then the whirlwinds that come with a major championship certainly are blowing, but all good. I've had a lot of good family time. Had a nice get together on St. Simons with a lot of friends and family, which is terrific. Really quick and impromptu, but it was awesome. The realities of my stage of life right now hit me pretty good right when I got home with three kids. All great stuff. If anything, that helped put things in perspective and got me off my so-called high pretty quickly, but that's the way it is as a dad. But I'm excited. I played in Jason Day's event yesterday up in -- or down in Columbus, which was nice, and I'm ready to get back at it. So I'm excited about certainly the next couple of weeks and then the remainder of the season.

MARK STEVENS: What has the Claret Jug done? And what has been in the Claret Jug the last two weeks?

ZACH JOHNSON: It's an inanimate object, so it hasn't done anything, Steve.

Q. It hasn't traveled anywhere?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's been in my possession for the entire time. Like I said, we had a get together on the island. I think I talked to you about that earlier, which was great. Some of the cool things, just for me personally, is seeing my siblings and my dad and my mom embrace it and see it and kind of look at it and study it and then obviously have a couple of Cokes out of it, you know, that kind of thing. But we've had wine in there. We've had champagne in there. Obviously, some beer in there and that kind of stuff. My kids drank water out of it. They thought that was pretty cool. You'll have to correct me on this, but I said something that Sunday -- or Monday, I guess it was, about not needing a sippy cup anymore with my kids. So, one, they drank out of it multiple times. Two, my sister-in-law made sippy cups as the party favor for that get together. So that was kind of cool, the little Claret Jug sippy cups. We had a good time with it. I did have a corn on the cob in it. I did not eat the corn on the cob out of it. It was just a picture because I am from the state of Iowa. Our sweet corn, we take pride in. It's a corn fed state. It's a big industry, et cetera, et cetera. As a result, I thought it would be a cool little picture, and I'm telling you, the Iowa folk, the Midwest folk in general, thought it was pretty awesome. That's where I'm from, so that's where my corn was buttered. That's so lame. But it's the truth. It was just a little picture. We were with some friends the other night. It was my wife's idea. She's pretty creative like that. Nothing out of the ordinary. We've had some good times. That jug is going to travel a lot. It's going to go to my team, and they can have it for as little or long as they want. We're going to do a calendar with it just to kind of make it easy for everybody, but it will be in Florida with my caddie and my coach. It will be in Texas with my physio. It will be in Wisconsin with my manager. It will be in Iowa with my foundation and my family. It's going to go. I don't want to say it's like the Stanley Cup because that's not a fair assessment or analogy, but it's a team jug.

MARK STEVENS: Can I put in for a day or two?


Q. Zach, what's the reaction been like -- I know it's only been a couple of weeks. But what's the reaction been like compared to when you went home wearing the green jacket?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, there's certainly some similarities and some differences. I feel -- I definitely feel like the whirlwind and everything that's come my way has been a lot more comfortable this time, for a number of reasons. I think we've got a great way to combat and filter through a lot of everything that comes our way. We learned a lot the first time, and I think what we did the first time was pretty good too. You just get inundated with requests and opportunities -- all, essentially, worthy. It's hard to say no, but you can only do so much. I think bringing the jug back to the island where I live now. I lived in Orlando at the time with the green jacket, and we were a young couple with one child. We had some friends that lived there, but just one or two really close friends, and that was about it. Now we live on an island in a community that I wouldn't even know where to start with the number of friends and people and acquaintances that are just close. So we had 150 people. We put together a party in three days, you know. It was one of those things that only in a small town can you do that, right? And there were some we did invite that couldn't make it, understandably so, but it was great. I flew my family down just to have a good time. I think this time around, I think my parents and my family's probably said it best or understand it like I do. Augusta was a lot of shock and awe. I'm in awe right now, but I don't think the shock is there, or the overall surprise of it is there. I feel -- well, one, I feel like I'm a better player now than I was then; and, two, I feel like what I've done since Augusta just makes whatever we're going through a lot more comfortable.

Q. Zach, it was a while between, obviously, majors, but you had success in the middle there. I wanted to know sort of the difference now between satisfying and motivational going forward. What has the win done for you in terms of winning maybe more? Or is it just you're sort of happy where you are? What's the thought process?
ZACH JOHNSON: We were actually talking to somebody else this morning about that. Motivation for me right now is not -- I feel fortunate, it's not very difficult. Ironically -- I don't know if it's ironically, but strangely enough, as I get older, the more and more I want to be in the gym, which is good. Truthfully, we're just honestly working on the physio side of my body. That kind of thing has become a priority more than it ever has been, and I enjoy it now more than I ever have, I mean, I really, really look forward to it. I flew into Columbus Sunday, and Jason Day's event is that evening. I went to the gym in Muirfield. It's like, I wouldn't have done that. I would have gone to take a nap. I'm checking myself like really? Is this really happening? My point in saying that is the motivation is not difficult to practice, to get better, to work. I don't probably put the number of hours I once did in, pre-three kids, pre-two kids, pre-one kid. But it's more focused, it's more effective, it's more efficient. Since '07, yeah, there's been some good things, but I don't have any issue with trying to get better. I think one of the things I'm trying to mentally grasp is the maintenance of the game and also trying to improve, and there's a fine balance there. There's certainly things I do want to maintain, but then there's also things I think I can improve on. So I don't want to get caught up and stagnant and complacent. That's why I've got the guys I have. That's why we challenge each other. That's why we argue. It's all good.

Q. But the win itself hasn't changed you any further?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, it's not -- I mean, I hate to say it -- there may be a little validation there from winning another one, but there's nothing -- I mean, I feel like I could do it one and two. I feel like I could do it again. I'm going to savor and relish this one because they're very, very difficult. I get that. Just getting in contention in one is really what you want. From there, it's just a matter of if things go your way and you execute properly. That's the way I work. I love it. I hope I have more opportunities. If I don't, it won't be from lack of work.

Q. You spoke about the demands on your time after winning at the British. Could you also address the fact that Jordan came to not only play in the John Deere the week before with all that he had at stake but also in your charity event. Were you surprised by that? And also, was it insane the amount of money people were paying to try to play with you and him at the charity event?
ZACH JOHNSON: At my event?

Q. Yes.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's set. That was set a year ago. It's like a package kind of deal. So there was not, hey, Jordan's coming, let's up it up. It's nothing like that. I try to fill the field with my peers and my friends, and that's the way it is. It just so happens that Jordan came back. The beauty of that situation is -- and I can't remember when. I don't remember verbatim what happened, but we were talking about this, talking about that. Jordan and I are good friends. We have similar -- we have a couple of guys on the same team, that kind of thing. So we're talking about it, and he's like, yeah, I'm excited to come back. I'm thinking, yeah, John Deere's excited too. He's like, no, I want to come back to your event. I'm like really? One of those things. It was after Augusta, but it was before the U.S. Open. So then the U.S. Open came along, and I'm thinking, well, I don't know, he's still committed, right? I'm assuming Clair Peterson at the John Deere was kind of thinking the same thing. Clair and I were texting one day, and I'm like, you know, he's a great kid. He's a phenomenal player. He's an even better kid. I'm excited that he still committed to my thing. If he and his team feels it's necessary to not play, I totally get it. I wouldn't be surprised either way, and Clair wouldn't have been either. I think, as a PGA Tour player and understanding what tournaments do, being on the Board of John Deere, helping with this tournament and that tournament, understanding the ins and outs of it, what he did and honoring his commitment is beyond classy and just goes to show, once again, how much he truly gets it. He didn't have to do it, but maybe he thought it was in his best interests too. I don't know. It's not for us to --

Q. One followup. Did your closeness come from the battle that you guys had at the John Deere?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know what, I can't -- he did blade one in to win, didn't he (laughter)? No, I think it truly probably the relationship started or cultivated with the chiropractor we both see. That's kind of how I got to know him. He was playing in Tour events when he was an amateur. I probably met him once or twice. I never played with him. And then his caddie and my caddie, we all get along great. I remember we flew -- the BMW in '13, was that in Chicago, I guess? We flew from there to the TOUR Championship, just the four of us. So things like that. And we'd go out to eat occasionally. We have a lot of friends that are in the same circle. It was one of those he's just easy to be around. I feel like I'm talking to -- well, I was. I was talking to a 19-year-old. But it felt like he had been out there for 20 years. That's kind of the ability and the personality he has. So he's very mature for his age. My wife keeps pointing out, well, you could be his dad, which is technically true, scary enough. He's just easy to be around. To me, he's just Jordan. We were texting this past week, just nothing. It's not like we're best friends or anything like that or BFFs, but we're just two guys that get along with each other and certainly appreciate -- I appreciate what he does on and off the golf course. I've read some things, he must appreciate a little bit of what I do on and off the golf course. So maybe that's part of it too. Maybe that's in the equation. I don't know.

Q. Is there any part of that validation that you're sort of shooting a hole in the theory that you really have to hit it a long way to win a major?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. I think I've proven that. I think other guys have proven that. I don't think the validation with how far I hit it is a part of the equation. I think it's just a guy that doesn't have that, I guess you'd say, flash on the golf course can still win. But, no, that's not an issue.

Q. And one question. How do you make a sippy cup that looks like the Claret Jug?
ZACH JOHNSON: Good question. Good question. She got labels and put it on there and had the Claret Jug on the sippy cup. That's a really good question. She went all out, and then she might have put something in the sippy cup, just saying, that wasn't milk.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about the course this week and what corners of this course concern you. And a second question, could you talk a little bit about ShotLink and how much you use that technology and how it helps you if you do use it.
ZACH JOHNSON: I love the golf course. I don't like to label or place or prioritize courses, but this is way up there for me. I don't know what my best finish is here, but I feel like I've had a top 25 to top 5 almost every year. I'm right in there to a degree. I love what this course demands. I think you've got to hit it straight. There's a lot of tee shots into the fairways that are not flat. So you've got to kind of angle it in there. The driver is important here. I like that. The greens are fast, everything that I grew up on, tight, bentgrass, Midwest-style golf course. I mean, to me -- there's a couple of tee shots that are just brutal. 4 comes to mind. 9, especially for us modest hitters, that's really, really difficult. Last year I kind of had a new approach on 9. I hit 3-wood at least three of the days, potentially all four, because it got me in a place where I could keep the ball on the fairway. I could get out there with my driver and not be on the fairway. I'm learning as I go. 16 is a tough tee shot for me too just because where that bunker is placed in the landing zone. But all that said, I just thoroughly enjoy what this course demands and how it needs to be played. I think we've seen guys that kill it one year, and we've seen guys that kind of plot their way around, Jim Furyk and that kind, that can do well. So I think it separates the field nicely at the end of the week.

Q. ShotLink?
ZACH JOHNSON: ShotLink, I personally don't look at it that much. If I do, it's at the end of the year with my team. They'll look at stats. They'll get the information. They'll find holes. They'll kind of pick it apart and look at the previous goals we had thrown out there, and then we'll reassess and establish new ones.

Q. Zach, it's a pretty impressive list of people who have won at Augusta and the Old Course. What are your thoughts on putting your name on that list? Is it more special winning The Open at the home of golf?
ZACH JOHNSON: I can't say it's more special because I've never had it outside of St. Andrews. At the same time, it's extremely special. You're talking where the game was essentially founded, invented. The true pioneers that played the game stepped foot there and played there and obviously won there. Yeah, I've been getting that question a lot about Augusta and St. Andrews. I don't want to say I'm not trying to think about it because, well, I'm not. I'm not trying to think about it because I can get caught up in it. If anything, I'm pretty proud of the way I handled it because I never really thought about that when I was competing, thank the Lord, because it is. It's a small list, and it's a special thing. You're talking about two places, two venues that, whether you're a player or a spectator, you probably admire and certainly respect and just completely -- you know, that's golf. Those two places are venues that just exude golf. I said it and I'll say it again. It's an honor to play in both of those. It's hard to put into words what it is to win on both of those sites.

Q. Not to get ahead, but you finished one shot out of the playoff in 2010 at the PGA Championship. Have you been back to Whistling Straits since then?

Q. What are your thoughts on that golf course? It's another course that's set up for bangers.
ZACH JOHNSON: I do remember that week -- obviously, I remember that week. It was five years ago. I hit it really good. That was one of the few weeks where I'm like holy -- like four consecutive days. I don't think I could have hit it any better. I putted -- I'd have to look at my stats. It was not very good. I putted okay the last day. I think it sets up well for my game. You have to hit it straight. You have to control your trajectory. I don't think it's necessarily a bomber's course, if my memory serves me right. There's some par 5s that I could get there in two. And there was ones I'm not so sure you want to try. The guys that really kill it, they may have an advantage, but they've got to hit it perfect to get that in play. When it's dry and fast, which it kind of was five years ago, I feel like that place can suit me. There's more wedges than probably most people think -- or loft. I don't want to say wedges, but just loft. Like I said, it usually blows. It's usually one where trajectory and spin control is at a premium, and that's how I play. Hopefully, I can get the putter rolling that week. I'm excited about it. I'm not going to say it's my favorite venue, but I've played well there. This will be my third championship there, I guess it is. It's not foreign to me. St. Andrews, that was my third championship there too. The more you play it, maybe the more of a love you find in it.

Q. I'm just going to ask you, in conclusion, Zach, if you could share some of the messages or letters you received post St. Andrews. Any standout messages? Any surprise messages as well?
ZACH JOHNSON: I had some really nice ones. I remember actually taking a photo of a bunch of letters I received in the mail. Now you're making me reminisce. It wasn't that long ago, I guess. I had one from Mr. Palmer, Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. Player, Mrs. Nelson, and Condoleezza Rice. Evidently, what I did was a pretty big deal -- or what we did for that matter. I just took a picture just to keep them on digital, but we'll keep -- that's the kind of stuff -- I'm not sentimental. You'd be surprised, but like my foundation chairman, we're getting ready to move in the next year. He said, when you move, if you need to get rid of anything, let me know. I said, you bring a U-Haul down here, you can have about everything. But there's certainly things I'm going to keep. Those are the kinds of things I'm going to cherish -- the pictures, the letters, and some mementos along the way that my wife and I are keeping. Neither one of us are sentimental. We'll let everybody else relish in those and embrace them. But those letters stand out. I've had some nice text messages along the way from other athletes, other sports, and then just some random ones from -- I don't even know if I'd say acquaintances, but individuals I've met maybe once, maybe twice. Very kind. And friends from way back when that I hadn't seen in years. Maybe you become best friends with everybody you haven't seen in five years, ten years, but that's the way it goes. I'm fine with it. They're all part of my life and my history. So be it. It's great. It's been humbling, yeah.

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

ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.
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