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July 20, 2018
Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom
MIKE WOODCOCK: We're joined in the interview room by former Open champion, Zach Johnson.
Zach, that was a 67 today. That puts you into the lead going into the clubhouse at 6-under. You're very well positioned going into the weekend. You must be very pleased.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I am. Yeah, I'm very happy. I probably played equally as well yesterday. I thought the conditions -- I guess there was some rain, but I felt they were more manageable today. I don't know what the scores are showing. Different, but more manageable in the sense that you could predict where your ball would end up off of the tee easier because of the rain -- or whatever you want to call it, mild saturation.
Maybe a little more predictable on your approach shots, maybe. And certainly the greens were about the same. I mean, I putted probably a little bit better today. I mean, if I go through my round yesterday, there really wasn't a whole lot of difference. It's just that I made more putts today.
MIKE WOODCOCK: And obviously pleased to bounce back from a bogey at the start and bounce back very quickly.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I hit my worst shot of the day in the 1st tee box, which was awful. Deserved a bogey, but it wasn't a bad bogey, considering where I hit my tee shot.
Then the birdie on 3 was nice, just in the sense that it kind of gave me a little momentum. Two quality shots, good putt, and off I went from there.
Q. Where exactly did you hit this tee shot?
ZACH JOHNSON: I hit a low hook -- well, it really wasn't that far off the fairway, but I was -- I wasn't swinging like a baseball, but it was close. My second shot, just kind of played conservative, punched it out of there, hit a sand wedge down there. It jumped out of the rough on my third shot. Two-putted from 30 feet, plus or minus.
Q. Yesterday, Zach, we were looking at your record here The Open Championship. You've made 11 consecutive cuts and seven top 25s. Do you think this is your best major? And if so, why?
ZACH JOHNSON: I mean, statistically, my guess is that it is. I don't -- I probably should know that, but I mean, it depends on your definition. If top 25s or making cuts are a part of it, then, yeah, probably.
I don't really know why. Augusta is Augusta. You know what you're going to get there. It probably doesn't favor me unless the conditions are really, really firm and fast, meaning the scores are not 15-under.
The other championships -- you know, I think the golf courses year to year are just dramatically different, whether it's West Coast, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast. And then over here the golf courses are not dramatically different. The elements might be, meaning you might have brown fairways one year and then you go somewhere else and it might be plush. Was it Lytham? Lytham was very green one year, I remember, the year Ernie won.
So, yeah, I don't know. I think my game lends itself to this championship because my style can play here. I'm sure everybody does that. I play the holes backwards. I take what the golf course gives me, and I try to execute. You've still got to hit good shots. Even though you know what you need to do, you've still got to hit a good shot. Is there some risk/reward at times, or are you pushing it sometimes? Absolutely.
It seems to me with the exception of maybe one hole today, it was very apparent what club I needed to hit off the tee box. Yesterday it was much more trying. Is it an 8 iron off the tee box? Is it a 5 iron off the tee box? Is it a hybrid? Is it a driver? I mean, that's also the beauty of this championship, especially at this venue, because it's all of it. All of it. You can hit any of those clubs. You've just got to hit it straight.
Q. Zach, outside of your -- regardless of your first two starts here when you missed the cut, did you immediately fall in love with links golf? And if so, why?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. My first three starts, yeah, I missed the cut. Yes, I did. And the main reason is because I feel like this championship more than any tournament completely magnifies exactly what I need to work on, my strengths and my weaknesses.
Everybody says you've got to hit it low, knock down, punch it in. Yeah, you do. You've got to use the ground. You've got to know where to land it, all of the above. But you've got to hit it high. You've got to hit it left.
You've got to hit it right. You've got to hold it. You've got to turn it, use the wind. You've got to do everything.
And I just immediately, once I learned that -- I don't know if it was the first year or the second year or the third year, I just gravitated towards this style of golf.
I think the adjustment, though, for me in the last, whatever, 15 years was more so the speed of the greens. We're just so accustomed to faster greens. And then reading the break. I'm usually a high, dying, breaking putter that takes the extreme amount of break, and that's not necessarily the case here. I mean, it just seems like it's a ball-out or right centre every time. There's just not much movement, but you've still got to hit a solid straight putt. So I've learned how to manage that as well to some degree.
I mean, I say all that, but it's just two days. It's just I've still got a lot of work to do this week, and I'm not going to take anything for granted. Based on what I've done in the past and what I've done the last two days.
Q. Zach, you've already achieved every player's dream, winning an Open Championship at the home of golf. What would it mean to you to do it again?
ZACH JOHNSON: I really haven't given it a whole lot of thought because I'm so about right now. But the reverence I have for this championship and specifically that trophy, that Claret Jug, I'm not suggesting that someone doesn't have a higher reverence for it, but I'd argue with them.
I just greatly appreciate it. I greatly appreciate how the game was formed over here, how this championship came into fruition back in 1860. I just -- everything about it, I've embraced, and I love.
I'm not going to sit here and say, man, I just love playing in the wind and rain because I don't, but I can do it, you know. I may not play well, but I'm going to go out and fight.
Q. All that British Open success started right here back in 2007. What's one or two memories that you still remember from that week here?
ZACH JOHNSON: You're not going to like this one, the only shot I remember hitting here was an 8 iron on the 8th hole, which is a par 3, and I hit it out of bounds. That's all I remember. I remember the layout. I don't remember many shots that I hit. I remember the 18th hole being predominantly into the wind, and now it's predominantly downwind, these warmer temperatures getting that south wind. At least that's my presumption.
I remember 17, I hit 3 woods all four days, and I've been in between 6s and 5s, the whole week. Completely different golf course than I remember back in '07. But like you said, I remember making the cut and thinking, man, this is good. Finally.
I think '06 we were at Hoylake, and I had a chance there. I just hit some poor shots. And I knew that I could, if I just executed properly, I'd hit solid shots, which is my whole, entire goal. I could do well here. So I don't know what I finished. You'd have to tell me. My point is I felt like I could do okay.
Q. When people see the name "Johnson" up on the leaderboard, too many of them are guilty of assuming it's the other guy despite the fact that you're the one who's got one more major title. Do you think sometimes you're overlooked? And why would it be that your career isn't given the profile it deserves?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you'd have to answer that. I can't give you an answer on that. I mean, I certainly am not the No. 1 player in the world that ends in "Johnson". I mean, Dustin and what he's done over the last, I mean, decade but specifically the last few years, is very remarkable. He's seemed to have played well regardless of geographics, regardless of time of year. So you get what you deserve there.
But all that being said, I don't know if I'm under the radar or overlooked, whatever you coined it. That's not for me to say. And the comparison of Johnson & Johnson is probably not fair to me or him truthfully. I mean, you're talking about he's won one major, is that right? Yeah, one major, but, I mean, the odds are in his favor for another one at some point.
Q. Do you hear people being confused as you're walking along?
ZACH JOHNSON: I mean, I've been called "Dustin" many times. I doubt he's been called "Zach" that many times (laughter). It goes back to what you said. Maybe some people do assume, when they see the name up there, that it's Dustin. How many tournaments has he won, 20?
ZACH JOHNSON: 18. There you go. Pretty safe assumption.
Q. You're 12.
ZACH JOHNSON: So I mean, it's a safe assumption. I guess Johnson & Johnson is doing okay. I don't care.
Q. Zach, as you might suspect, it was standing room only for Rory and Tommy just about 15, 20 minutes ago; now about half full. Despite being an Open champion --
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.
Q. Despite being an Open champion, do you relish probably not being the No. 1 fan favourite over the days ahead here? Does that make a difference to you?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't relish it. I'm just so wholeheartedly used to it. There's nothing more than that. Maybe I'm just overly conservative and boring, and that's perfectly fine. I just like to compete. It doesn't matter where it is, what it is. Just give me an opportunity.
Q. Zach, you, the last couple years, have kind of hooked up this road trip house with the 20-somethings. How has that gone? Has that helped kind of relax the week? Because you are not one of the 20-somethings, are you kind of a chaperone? How does that work out?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, kind of feels like -- I wasn't in a fraternity in college, but it kind of feels like I'm going back to my alma mater, and I'm the old guy stepping into the current frat house.
Q. Old School.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, Old School-ish. No, that's an exaggeration. You say 20-year-olds, but we still have Jimmy Walker and Dufner and I. Jimmy is almost 40. Duff is 40. Granted, I'm 42.
Yes, to answer the first part of your question, it does make the week significantly easier because of the amenities we have and because I'm with buddies and because I'm with guys that, I mean, certainly, I can feed off and vice versa. It's never a bad thing to bond or hang out, whether you're competing or not.
Yeah, I think -- it's the third year? Yeah, third year we've done it, and it just makes that coming over here, the acclimation and all that, especially considering I play the John Deere every year, that much easier.
Q. Is it the same guys every year?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, it has been the same guys every year, and this year we added Kiz.
Q. Is there a waiting list?
ZACH JOHNSON: Is there a waiting list to get in? I'm not privy to the list. I would hope that I have a vote. You know, honestly, it comes down to accommodations and what is feasible, more than anything. We have been fortunate, extremely fortunate, to bring a chef with us. Even though he is British, he lives in the States. So he's able to come and see some family and that kind of thing, and he's -- I mean, that's huge. When I can leave here, my physio is staying with me, and go there and get my work done there and feed myself, oh, my gosh, that's pretty good.
I do miss a lot of the Indian food around here, doggone it.
Q. Are there privileges to coming in the house when you have the lead?
ZACH JOHNSON: Not to my knowledge. You know, there was last -- no, two years ago. Who won The Open two years ago? Henrik? Is that two years ago?
MIKE WOODCOCK: Yes, Henrik.
ZACH JOHNSON: Two years ago we made -- I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home.
Q. How much was that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it varies based on how many guys -- I have no idea. My point is I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.
Q. So you'd kind of maybe rather finish second?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. I'd be happy to fork that over. This year a bunch of guys are going elsewhere. So it's not going to come to fruition. It's not going to happen, but that's fine.
Q. Can you give me one word to describe the final three holes here?
ZACH JOHNSON: I would say "nasty". Yeah, nasty good. Nasty good. I was talking to some of the guys yesterday that played in the morning, and they were saying guys were hitting driver over the burn on 17, which when I got to 17, I don't even know if I could have got a driver to the burn. So in a matter of 10, 12 hours, it can change like that. So it's nasty good. Yeah, it's really good.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports