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September 21, 2016

Dustin Johnson

Atlanta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Dustin Johnson into the interview room. Thank you for being here, Dustin, and taking the time. You're coming off a wonderful year with a major championship, a World Golf Championship victory, and also a playoffs victory. Give us your thoughts on coming into East Lake, where you've had a couple of top fives the last couple of starts.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I feel like I'm playing pretty well. I had a good week a couple of weeks ago. Nice week off. Got to rest a bit, which is nice.

I feel like all year I've played really solid. I've had a lot of really good finishes, and obviously, finally getting that first major and then winning the WGC a couple of weeks after that, and a couple of weeks ago winning the playoff event, the BMW Championship.

Feeling good coming into this week for sure. I like this golf course. I think it sets up well for me. It's long. It's tough. You've got to hit a lot of good shots around here.

Q. Do you think finishing on what used to be the 9th hole, the new 18th hole, is going to provide more excitement?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it definitely will. Especially, I think they're going to play it a little bit shorter than they have in years past. If you drive it in the fairway you're going to have a chance to go for it. It's still a tough second shot, but you've got a chance to make an eagle on the last hole, which coming down the stretch, that's always going to be exciting. Just be a little more exciting than 18, the old 18, which is a par 3, which is a very difficult par 3 at that.

You know, you see a lot of birdies, maybe some eagles. So that will be a lot of fun.

Q. Brandt Snedeker was in here earlier, and he said he played with you at Firestone and that was one of the best ball-striking performances he'd ever seen. But he made an interesting point. He says you now feel as though you have got how you should play -- not how to play -- but how you best play. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I feel like I'm playing how I should play. I still think I can play better, but I think everybody does. I feel like there's still a lot of room for improvement. I definitely feel like I'm playing better on a more consistent basis, where I play good here and there. I feel like now I'm playing consistently better golf.

A lot of it started when I started hitting a cut off the tee and then cutting most of my iron shots. It just is a little bit easier for me to hit and definitely replicate over and over.

My timing doesn't have to be spot on for me to hit a cut shot. I can still get away with some misses that still turn out to be pretty good shots where, before, when I turned everything over, it was just -- my timing was on that day, I was going to play good. If it wasn't, I was going to play bad. Now I feel like each day I can go out -- whether I'm -- even if I'm not swinging my best, I feel like I can still compete.

Q. Is that something you worked on with Butch?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, we always -- ever since we first started working together, I don't know how many years ago, it's been, I don't know, six years ago or so. Yeah, we've always -- you know, that was one thing we worked on was hitting a cut shot and just -- you know, it took me a little while to finally hit one at a golf tournament. If I was at home practicing, I could hit it no problem. But if I'm standing in the middle of the fairway, it was hard for me to see a cut shot.

I don't know, a couple years ago, it was during the off-season, I just went out and -- I was struggling a little bit, and so I just said, I'm going to just cut it. Started playing a cut just on every shot, just in the off-season, and I think a few days in a row I shot like 62 -- 61, 62 or something, three days in a row, playing a cut shot, and I said, I guess it worked. So I'll keep on trying it.

Q. Dustin, your record here is fairly unspectacular.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Thanks for that. I appreciate it.

Q. By your standards. I'm just curious about to compare the Dustin Johnson today to the one that's had a couple of top fives here in six attempts, how different is the one that's showing up today, as a player and as a person, than the one that's played his past record here?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: This golf course is just tough. It's not a golf course where -- you know, it's a golf course where you've got to be on to shoot good scores. You know, last year I played pretty well. I was right there, I think, on Sunday. But it's just a golf course where it's difficult if you're not driving it straight.

If you're not in the fairway, you're going to have a really tough time around here, especially this year. I think the rough is even thicker and deeper, and the ball just sits straight on the bottom, and it's not fun.

Me today, I feel like I'm driving it a little bit better than I have been in years past. My wedge game is definitely better. So if I do miss a fairway, I can just get it out to where I've got a wedge, and I feel like I've got a good chance to get up and down.

I think the biggest difference for me than in years past is my wedge game has improved a tremendous amount.

Q. Dustin, a Ryder Cup question. Have you talked with Davis about who you might want to be paired with? If so, what makes a good partner for you specifically?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, I think I can partner well with pretty much anyone -- except for Phil. Me and him don't partner well together. We play well against each other.

I love Phil, and we're great friends, but we have a lot more fun when we're playing against each other, not as partners.

I mean, I've played with Jordan in the Presidents Cup. I played with Matt Kuchar the last Ryder Cup, and we did well. So those are guys that I'll probably -- that I could possibly play with. I mean, we've talked about it, and there's a couple other guys that I might could pair up with too. I mean, I don't feel like I would pair badly with anyone.

Q. Plead the Fifth next time. When you were a captain's pick -- weren't you in 2012?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think so. I don't know.

Q. This might be tough for a follow then. I was going to ask you if you had any recollections of what that was like trying to get a pick, and can you imagine what the guys are going through this week?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I don't know if I was a captain's pick. I was? Okay. I can't remember. I can't remember that far back. I do remember I went 3-0, though. I do remember that.

Q. Do you think that the guys who are on the bubble, trying to play this and also trying to audition?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, it's one of those things where it doesn't really matter. Your golf game is going to speak for you. If you play well, you're going to get picked. If you don't, you're not. So it's pretty simple. There's nothing really to worry about. Just go out there and play golf. That's kind of how it is making the team. If you play really well, you're going to make the Ryder Cup team. If you don't, you're not.

Obviously, there's a few guys there to decide between, and I think this week's going to be a big deciding factor too. I don't know. Whoever they pick -- I mean, we've got a really good team, and the next guy that's going to be picked and be on the team is going to be a good addition. It's not like there's a bad pick, I don't think.

Q. Just curious, will they let you know who the pick is ahead of time? Or are you going to watch halftime of the game to find out?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I don't even know when they're picking. Do they pick right after the round or something?

Q. No. Halftime of the game they're going to announce it, football game.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I'm sure I'll know before, but that doesn't really matter. Like I was saying, anybody they pick is going to be a good addition to the team.

Q. Dustin, congrats on a great year so far. What would it mean to you, where would it rank if you were to become the ninth different FedExCup champion here this week?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, it would mean a great deal. It would definitely cap off a great season, you know. It's definitely a championship I haven't won before, the TOUR Championship or the FedExCup championship. So it would be two great championships to add to the résumé. I would be honored to stand there at the end and hold up either one of the trophies.

Q. Dustin, in your mind, is there still a conversation about player of the year? Or do you feel like you've got the résumé to have already locked it up?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, it's not up to me. You know, it's up to my peers. So it's kind of what they think. I mean, I feel like I've got a good shot to win it, hopefully. I guess we'll see after this week.

Q. And just to follow up, you've come to East Lake several times inside the top five, not as number 1, I don't think. Do you feel any different coming in here this week number 1 than you've felt in the past?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I feel like I'm playing better golf. I feel like my game's better than it has been in years past. I felt like all around game is better. I feel like my short game's really good right now. I feel like I'm putting the ball really nicely, I'm driving it well. So I feel like my whole game is better coming in this time.

Q. Dustin, different events stir different emotions. What's it going to be like for you to get back on the 1st tee at a Ryder Cup?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: It's great. It's one of the things I always look forward to. It's one of the best events we play in. It's just so much different because we're all on the same team and we're playing against Europe.

It's -- I don't know, just the camaraderie and the excitement and the energy that's there that week, it's hard to even describe it. I just really enjoy it. I think it's a lot of fun. I look forward to it every year, whether it's the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. I think they're both fantastic events.

Q. You're very well-known for your work with the longest club in the bag, but how much work did you have to put in with one of the shorter ones, the wedge, to get as comfortable as you are with it now?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, I put in a lot of work. I still do every day. Well, every day that I'm out here usually. At home I'll work some on it, but I do a lot of my practicing when I'm out here.

But every morning before I play, I work on it. Every day during practice rounds, I work on it. So I mean, I try to do it as much as possible. I work on the wedge game every day before I tee off. So just, you know, I've got three shots that I work with on each wedge, and I hit those every day before I tee it up.

Q. I thought there was a story from your first Walker Cup when there was maybe a little -- I don't know if it was nerves or whatever.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I was nervous.

Q. You hit it like 400 or something like that. Do you remember that?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I do, very vividly too. I remember. It was me and Colt Knost. We were playing against McIlroy and -- it might have been Willett. But, yeah, I think I let the ball fly before they even finished saying my name. I was pretty nervous, but luckily I hit it right up the middle, and I think I hit it about 80 yards past McIlroy on the first hole.

And Colt was laughing at me the whole way up the fairway. I'm like, Whatever, okay. And then he gets over the second shot, and at the Walker Cup, they walk down the fairways with you. There was about, I don't know, probably about 5,000 people walking with us. It was the biggest crowds I've ever seen. You could hear him like trampling down the fairway, and he's over the ball, and he had to back off like twice. So then I was laughing at him.

Q. Do you remember in Wales that first match you played, did you tee off first, or was it Phil?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, Phil made me tee off first.

Q. Do you remember a distinction between nerves or --
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it was exactly the same. I was nervous. I think it was a 3 wood hole, but I was like no chance I'm hitting 3 wood. I'm hitting the biggest head I've got in the bag, and it was a driver. I didn't hit that great of a shot. I kind of hit it in the crowd on the right, but I hit a nice 4 iron from there onto the green and made a 4. After that, I was fine.

Q. And now after all these years and things you've done, what makes you nervous?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I still get nervous on the 1st tee every time. Ryder Cup, 1st tee here, any tournament. But it's in a good way. It's not like a bad nervous. You know, just because it means something to me. Kind of the day you're not nervous on the 1st tee is kind of when it doesn't mean anything to you. I'm nervous every time coming down the stretch on the tournament when I've got a chance to win.

Q. [No microphone]?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Probably that Sunday at Pebble Beach, where I shot 100 [laughter]. It felt like 100.

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