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August 11, 2015

Zach Johnson

Kohler, Wisconsin, USA

JOHN DEVER: Good afternoon again and welcome back to the 97th PGA Championship here at Whistling Straits.

I'd like to thank Zach Johnson for carving out a little bit of time to spend with us.

Zach, this is your 12th PGA Championship, but I'm curious how life as a multiple major champion has been treating you the last few weeks.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's been a whirlwind. It's been a great whirlwind. I feel more prepared this time than I did in '07. But -- if that makes complete sense. It is my second major, you kind of know what goes along with that. If anything it gives me the appreciation that I've got the right ensemble of teammates, coaches, that can help me navigate it. Certainly my wife. We kind of know how to attack things and that sort of thing.

But I think the comfort level is probably more there. I've said it before, the shock and awe of Augusta was pretty intense and I would say this year it's more just extreme awe. The shock isn't quite as significant.

Like anything, you get a taste for one or two and you still want more. I'm motivated and excited for this week.

JOHN DEVER: Going back to 2010 here you had four sub-par rounds and tied for third, one shot out of the playoff. Realistically, though, how much does this help you here five years later?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's a great question. I'll tell you this, I've had weeks and tournaments on golf courses and come back -- played really, really well, whether it was a win or close to the top and come back with extreme confidence and tanked it. And I've had the opposite. I've had good weeks at a facility and every year I keep coming back it seems like I play pretty well.

So that being said I'm going to cling to the positives of five years ago and I know what those are. Bottom line is, mentally I know I can play here. I know this golf course, kind of what it demands, and I think there's aspects of it that really suit my golf game.

Embracing that, knowing there's a little bit of confidence is great, but the execution now comes on my shoulders and hopefully it happens this week.

Q. Is Sheboygan, Wisconsin close enough to be a home game for you, will you have the same hype and enthusiasm for your following?
ZACH JOHNSON: There's going to be some friends and family here, certainly. Anytime we're in this vicinity, the Midwest, it seems that there's a good number that try to come up and watch and friendly faces and names, you know, that kind of thing.

Home game, I wouldn't say so. I think this is probably Steve Stricker land, rightfully so. Is Jerry Kelly in the field?

JOHN DEVER: No, I don't think he is.

Q. Do you see power as having a great advantage at this golf course? And then also just you mentioned your preparation. When you've played well at a golf course like you did here, what do you do going back and looking at yardage books or old tapes or anything like that when you come back to a place you've had good experience at?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'll answer the second part first. We don't go back and look at old tapes. The only thing we're looking at is the technique and fundamentals of my golf swing, and it doesn't matter what week it is. We're always going to try to pick it apart and look and see where it's at. I feel like I'm a better player than I was five years ago. I feel like my technique and fundamentals are probably a bit more polished. But that doesn't mean it will transfer on the golf course.

Your first question, I mean, I think I kind of proved it doesn't matter, five years ago. I will say, and my team would say the same thing, I don't know what it was statistically, my guess, stat-wise five years ago, it would probably mirror what I would say, and that is four consecutive days I'm not sure I've hit it that well in a golf tournament. I putted, average would probably be a stretch. It's funny, I remember the first hole. I hit it to five feet and missed it.

Second hole I missed like an eight footer. I missed a lot of makeable, short putts that week and still had a chance to win coming down the stretch.

I made some at some point during the course of the week, but I hit a lot of fairways, which you have to do here, and I hit a lot of greens in regulation. You hit a lot of greens in reg, it seems like you miss a lot of putts.

But the ball was rolling a little bit in '10. It wasn't like Akron last week. But I can always use more roll. But the rough's still penal.

Q. I know golf is an individual game, but could you just talk about what it means to have Americans sweep the first three majors this year for the first time in almost 20 years?
ZACH JOHNSON: I guess I didn't realize or even think about that until you just mentioned it. You know, I don't remember what year it was, it must have been that long ago when we were all talking about American golf versus the world or even specifically European, how they were winning all the majors.

You can try to pick it apart and find a cycle. I don't think it's cyclical, I just think it's three tournaments. And one of us won two of them -- could have won the third. But I don't think it's anything more than happenstance. I don't think there's a formula there or anything to really try and decipher or measure. I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it.

Anybody can win it this week, for the most part. I don't see the correlation with anything, if that makes any sense. Like I said, was it two years ago when they were winning everything? Sure seemed like it. And we were worried about American golf. I wasn't worried about it at all. We've got a lot of young and middle-aged Americans that are still playing pretty good.

Q. How do you feel about playing a major on a links-style golf course for the third time this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: First part, I think this golf course is the furthest thing from links. Links golf is using the land, using trajectory control, running things on the green, using the bounces and the rolls.

This course is all aerial. You have to hit it here to hit it there. It may look like links standing from the clubhouse looking down, but it does not play like a true links course.

The fairways are bent. There's no fescue on the fairway, there's no fescue on the greens, so it's pretty soft. In my opinion, outside of maybe the sand traps and the way they look, it's not a links golf course.

Q. A little guidance about what is a bunker, what isn't a bunker, given what happened to Dustin five years ago. How has the Tour been communicating that, where have you seen the guidance in the posters?
ZACH JOHNSON: I haven't really studied it or paid much attention to it. I think we all kind of know, based on that incident, that better safe than sorry.

I think everything is treated as a hazard this week, every piece of sand, to my knowledge, at least that's the way I'm going to treat it, just to be on the safe side.

I did hear there's something posted next to the urinals, but I have not checked it out yet.

Q. You were talking about Akron. You probably are aware of some of those incredible driving distance numbers. Do you care about your driving distance numbers, trying to hit it 300 or whatever?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't care about it, because I know my limitations and I know -- basically I know my driving capacities, if you will. The guys that hit it long are going to hit it further. And the guys that hit it a little shorter might hit it a little longer.

I remember talking on one round, it might have been the third round last week -- second round -- I hit one, I don't know how far I hit it. I know I had 106 yards to the hole on 8. And I was telling some guys, yeah, whatever. And they looked it up and it actually said 105, so I was off by a yard.

Point is, when it's that firm and fast, you hit a good drive, it just goes. And Akron -- it was set up like a major championship. Maybe not the rough. If you hit it in the rough you could still play it out, for the most part. But it was very difficult.

Hard to hit fairways. I hit my first fairway on Thursday with my driver on the 10th hole. I hit the first fairway, No. 1 with a 3-wood and I didn't hit another fairway until the 10th hole. It was just brutally difficult to hit fairways.

I remember someone mentioning Jim Furyk shot 4- or 5-under the first round, and hit like 12 percent of the fairways, I don't know, but he hit 9 intermediate cut. So that's a good -- it's just hard. And Jim -- that's one of the guys I model my game after. Accuracy is more important, going back to your question.

Q. The first two times the PGA Championship has been held here it's gone to a playoff. Is there a reason behind that, that you can think of?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, guys tied at the end of 72 holes. No, I don't think so. No. It's hard to break away from the field on a major championship venue, would be my answer.

Q. Just going back to the bunker thing in 2010. Do you recall where you were on the course, were you finished, and just what you remember from that day when it happened.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I do have some thoughts and memories. I think I was in the group ahead -- I was definitely done or getting ready to finish, one of the two.

I want to say Dustin was right behind me or maybe two groups behind me, I can't remember specifically. But I do remember being in the scoring trailer and I believe there was a television in there and we kind of saw it. And it was one of those kind of uh-oh moments.

Go figure, but Dustin's locker is next to mine, for obvious reasons. I consoled him the best I could. What do you say? He was upset, clearly, as he should be. But his attitude was actually pretty good.

I remember walking from the locker room to the parking lot next to him. And it was a little bit awkward with cameras around us, we were just chatting it up. He wanted to get out of there. And once again, I would, too.

I think one of the things that probably goes unnoticed with him is how resilient he really is in major championships and getting over things. Obviously we know his talent and we know his game. I am a firm believer that his time will come, whether it's this week or next year, who knows. But he's too good not to be in that winner's circle at some point.

Q. I saw the picture on Twitter that you posted with the Claret Jug and the ear of corn. Can you recount any interesting things you've done with the Claret Jug?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've had it in my possession. It's been three weeks, three and a half weeks, whatever it's been. That was just a nice picture because basically of where I'm from. I'm from the heartland, corn country. And it is sweet corn season back home. I did not eat the ear of corn out of the Jug. I don't even think it was cooked at that point, by the way.

But as far as other things, I haven't done much with it. We've had a number of beverages in there. We had a get together back where I live in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. And had friends and family that were there that embraced it and certainly took their time to enjoy the Jug.

And there will be more opportunity. I want everybody to have -- those that I know and am close to, if they want to be a part of it, that's fine.

Q. There's been a select group of golfers who have won the final two majors. What does it mean for you to be in that position?
ZACH JOHNSON: To me it's just a great opportunity, that's all. I guess any week is, any major is a great opportunity, but it's just an opportunity to go out there and certainly dwell on some of the positives I had here five years ago. And hopefully those positives and that confidence show up.

I'm excited about Thursday and Friday. I get to play with two good friends. I'm really excited that Rory is back. We all want him back, because he's a great kid. And obviously talent -- I don't even need to describe that. And more than that I think he's just a great ambassador for the game. I'm glad he's back. I'm excited to go out and play Thursday and Friday and see what my game does.

Q. Has there been any awkward response to you winning the British Open after Jordan winning the first two? Have fans been pretty good about it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. Everybody has been great. I think if anything -- I'm trying to -- I don't know, because it's the way it is. Having Jordan in that position to win the first three, right, probably took a little bit of pressure off me when it came to media attention afterwards, because he's still a big part of that story.

I think for the most part people are really excited and happy that I'm the Champion Golfer of the Year. Bottom line is, there's three guys ahead of him, it wasn't just me. If you're putting blame on me, there's also two other guys to put blame on as well.

If they are upset with it or have issues with it, so be it. That's sports. It's fine with me. Jordan, if anything -- we saw, he came on the 18th green, and he's a good friend. He embraced it. He was genuinely happy for me, and still is. Bottom line, I've got one, he's got two this year, so I can't really come back with anything.

Q. You sort of addressed this a couple of questions ago, but playing with Rory and Jordan, is it -- you know how many people are going to be out there, et cetera, et cetera, and what the atmosphere is going to be like. We know you've been in every atmosphere there is. Is it harder when there are that many people and you're in that kind of scene?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not anymore. I feel like I've experienced it all. The Tiger crowds are basically second to none as far as numbers and I would say audio.

I can remember I played the first two days with Tiger and Rory in New York. If you can get through those two days, you can get through -- and here, it's hard to get to us here, just because the layout of the golf course. It's a great golf course for us to walk, it's not hard for us to navigate, it's just very difficult for spectators to get around and get really close to the action. That's just the way it is, relative to other venues.

I embrace that. To me, the more the merrier. I've always said that -- over the last years I've said that. When you have a few over there and a few over there, it just becomes kind of a -- the peripherals come into play because there's movement. But if it's just lined with people, it's almost like tunnel vision, it's almost easier.

Q. We've got you with 46 majors you've appeared in, 8 top-10s. That's a pretty good percentage. That's 46 percent. Is there any way you can sort of quantify from '07 to today how you've been able to handle majors and approach them and to be in contention?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you know what, I've never really thought about it. Augusta is Augusta, we play it every year, so that venue is the same every year.

'07 was kind of an anomaly, and the temperatures and the way the golf course was playing. I say anomaly, we just haven't had that cold a week there, it's been eight, nine years, right? Since that point it's been 75, 85 degrees. And it's harder for me to win there, I think.

But this year I felt like, you know what, maybe my game can be suited here. I've gotten better, I'm not denying that, when the temperatures are ideal and the course is playing relatively easier.

But since '07, you know, I think my preparation for each venue is different, but yet there's also consistencies there. I try to get to the venue if I've never seen it before the week of the tournament to get work done. That's always an advantage.

And it's nice now, especially with the PGA of America and this tournament, I've basically seen every venue now. They're not going to courses that I haven't seen, at least -- I haven't seen the full schedule, but for the most part I've been to every venue, at least once. This is my third time here. I guess it means I am getting old.

When it comes down to it, I think that the minor success I've had as far as top 10's in majors has come with, I know the golf courses to a degree and I enjoy the challenge of very difficult, hard golf courses.

Q. What makes Jordan Spieth so good, in your mind? He doesn't really do one thing great, necessarily. He does a lot of things well. But is there something about maybe not necessarily his game, but maybe something about him that just makes him such a good player and so hard to beat?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think I can be brief with this one. I think he is a great putter, first of all. I think he's a great putter. I don't know what his stats show, but I do know that 10 to 30 foot range is pretty ridiculous. I want to say 20 to 25 feet he's making almost like 30 percent. He's making more than one out of four. That's a joke.

And then, yes, outside of -- I get that, every aspect of his game, it doesn't look flashy, this, that, and the other, but everything is really good. Everything is pretty consistent and there's no obvious weakness there.

But I think what sets him apart, at least in my opinion, is the intangibles. If I knew what they were, I'd try to implement them, but it's like an innate ability to just get it done. He has an ability, after a mediocre round -- we saw it at the John Deere -- you don't shoot even par on that golf course and win that golf tournament in any round.

We've seen it in the majors, he comes back with a round or two that you're just like, man, you think he's out of it, and all of a sudden he surfaces again. So he has an ability to just get the ball in the hole.

Q. Can you just talk maybe possibly what those intangibles are with him?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I don't know.

Q. Is there something that you just notice when you're playing with him at all?
ZACH JOHNSON: Like I said, it's just a focus to get it done. He's gritty. He likes to grind. Seems to me he kind of likes when his back is against the wall. And he doesn't succumb to probably the pressure of being a favorite, either. I think there's a little bit of tension and pressure and I would say even restriction, to some degree, that guys have when you're supposed to rise to the top. And for whatever reason he has -- that doesn't bother him a bit. It's impressive.

Q. Earlier this year you had said The Old Course was not one of your favorite courses in the rota. But you won there.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I'll clarify that. It's inaccurate -- go ahead.

Q. You can clarify. My question, though, related to this week is, do you have to like a golf course to win on it and do you like this golf course?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a good question. Second part, no, you don't. This isn't my favorite golf course that we stop at for the PGA Championship, but I've played okay here, so evidently I can play here. So, no.

The first part, maybe you did say it right, forgive me if you did, but year in, year out, that's my favorite golf tournament. And inside the ropes, as a competitor and I would say as a quasi--athlete, I don't need motivation to play at the Open Championship. We don't have it here, maybe that's the reason, we don't have true links golf here, in my opinion. I just appreciate what that tournament is all about, and what it requires of me and us, my peers.

Now, if I'm going to go down the list of ranking the venues of The Open Championship, it wasn't my favorite. I mean, that's because there's two or three golf courses I've played in that tournament that I would probably put in my top five, potentially my top two. But St. Andrews is not in the top two or three. It's probably still in my top 10 favorite of all time. Does that make sense?

I just love true links golf. Yes, my love for St. Andrews has certainly grown. And it literally it grew three weeks ago. My appreciation and respect for St. Andrews was always there. It's probably also mushroomed a little bit, for the right reasons.

But it's hard to rank them. And it's not fair to rank them, either, because I love The Open Championship and I love true links golf. I've said that all along.

Someone said I've made now, I don't know what, nine or ten cuts in a row in that tournament. And maybe it's because I love it. Maybe I've got to start doing that in other tournaments. Mentally I go in there and I'm so excited to play, regardless of the venue of that tournament.

Q. This time next year things are going to be very busy with the Olympics, The Open Championship, and this event will almost be on top of each other, the race for Ryder Cup points, and some players are going to have to make tough choices between the French Open. How do you see yourself navigating that period?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've seen the schedule, I don't know it by heart, but I know it gets pretty congested right in there. A couple of things, I do -- nothing is going to trump or touch the majors. I mean, as a 12 year vet now, and I'm not saying that's why I play, but there's a lot of motivation to practice, and those four tournaments to me are a big part of that motivation.

The Ryder Cup is part of that preparation. That comes in what you do week in and week out. I try to push that aside and I feel like I can. That's the way I approach any Cup is I let each week dictate my mental approach, and hopefully come September I'm in the discussion for the Cups, specifically the Ryder Cup.

But there's going to be some tough decisions, especially, probably more so for the European team potential participants. The French Open is a great golf tournament. Is it the same week as Akron? That's just hard. And the Olympics, it throws a kink in there, it throws a wrench in there, it just makes it that much more difficult.

It is the Olympics. Any athlete that understands international sports or sports in general, would flip at the opportunity to be a part of that. It just doesn't make our year easier. I think guys are going to navigate that next summer in many different ways.

Q. You said nothing will trump the majors. Not the Olympics? It doesn't mean that much to you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Right now, it personally doesn't mean as much, no. Anytime I can represent my country, I'd certainly like taking advantage of those opportunities.

But, to me, I'm glad we're in the Olympics. I was kind of on the PGA TOUR board I think when that discussion was surfacing. But it wouldn't phase me a bit if we were not, either.

And part of that is just because I think golf is so relevant, 24-7, 365, and a lot of sports in the Olympics are not. And it's kind of their time to shine.

These athletes, they have literally put their three and a half years of work for that week or weeks. I'm not saying we'll take away from them, I think we're just adding to that. But I hope to be able to represent my country in that tournament. If not, I'm going to be watching, much like the Cups.

But to me, I mean, the majors, as of right now that's what I'm going to remember as an athlete. It's certainly not going to define me, but that's what I want to remember as a golfer. You get a taste of one, you want another one. You get a taste of two, I can tell you, you still want another one.

JOHN DEVER: Zach, many thanks for your time. Good luck this week.

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