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February 27, 2020

Zach Johnson

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Q. Just a spring day in Iowa today to come out and play golf.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's exactly what it felt like. Shoot, it might be warmer there than it is here now. Yeah, it was very trying, especially considering what we experienced in the practice rounds. Completely different wind, which we knew we were going to get from the north, and then obviously temperatures drop with that, and this course is hard regardless of which direction it is, and it was not an easy walk today.

Q. I'm not going to say you're a glutton for punishment, but when you show up to the golf course and you know the conditions are going to be this tough and keeping the ball in play and making putts is really going to be the key, I have to imagine mentally it's a little bit of an edge for you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know. I've welcomed -- I don't want to say I've relished, but I've welcomed conditions that are difficult. That's probably somewhat of a part of my career, but I've also shot numbers and won tournaments or come close to winning tournaments where you've got to go really, really low, and you throw grass down and it hits your foot. I probably prefer this on a difficult golf course.

I grew up in it, you know. Again, I'm not going to say I'm licking my chops because that's the furthest thing from it, but I don't mind the grind, and I don't mind -- I appreciate how my golf game has evolved and probably lends itself to difficult, trying conditions.

Q. Nice start; can we get some comments on a difficult day out there condition-wise?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was just that. It was very -- we knew it was going to be difficult. We knew it was going to be difficult two or three days ago, especially considering what we experienced in shorts and humidity the first two or three days. This golf course is hard, regardless. I thought one of the more trying things today was some of the holes that -- well, I shouldn't say open, but a lot of the holes that are really, really difficult you had a tucked pin with an opposite wind, and that makes it even that much more difficult. But it's not unfair, it's just hard.

I'm pleased. I mean, it's one day, but I'm very pleased with the execution and the opportunities that I gave myself.

Q. You've always been a good wind player. When you know that you come to a place where it's going to be blowing even when it's not freezing, it's going to be blowing here, do you think that gives you a leg up in terms of the mental grind that is this place?
ZACH JOHNSON: I just had that question over there. I'm not going to say I woke up this morning and was licking my chops and relishing the day, but at the same time I embrace it. I think everybody probably embraces it to some degree, but I welcome it. My golf game, I appreciate the fact that my golf game probably -- you could say lends itself to it. I mean, I'm a boring player in the sense that fairways and greens are a premium, and more than that, I think my trajectory control in winds like this which kind of go hand in hand with spin control, I don't know if they're imperative, but they're awfully close.

Granted, it doesn't matter what week it is, you've got to make putts, and shoot, you're playing in wind on putts like this, it's hard.

Q. What did you do well today?
ZACH JOHNSON: I kept the golf course in front of me, and when I say that, that doesn't mean I'm short every shot. What I'm saying is, okay, here's the shot, and we did a really good job, my caddie this week, Smitty, of eliminating a shot based on uncertainties, and then certain shots where I could be kind of aggressive, I took advantage of it. Conservative-aggressive I guess would be the right way. But I putted well. I'm not going to be really stupid, dumb. I putted really well. But I gave myself a lot of opportunities.

I mean, outside of maybe an up-and-down on 11 -- is that right? That's the hole that's right there, you've got a hard right-to-left wind and a back right pin, you can't go right. Outside of that up-and-down from the left, I really didn't -- I may have mis-hit one or two shots.

Q. Is it harder to win out here these days?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think my record would say it would be, if we're going to get really practical about that question. Yeah, I mean, I don't know. You all probably study it -- I know you don't study it more than I do. My guess is that the average age is getting younger, and the guys are better athletes. Those kind of things were kind of out here when I got out here, but they're more prevalent now, and guys are maybe more motivated or more ready, but also I think their motivations are proper and pure, but yeah, it's hard. I haven't played my best in a lot of respects, but it's very difficult.

Q. One thing you do look at, obviously, is how you played. If you had to put your finger on the last five years collectively, what would you put it down to?
ZACH JOHNSON: I would say it was a mental -- I would chalk my difficulties or trials up more on the mental side than anything.

Q. How so?
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank God it wasn't physical. I felt like -- like I've always been a guy that I practice -- I practice very effectively and efficiently with goals in mind, objectives in mind, and I think we had those, but mentally I approached it as if I was assessing every aspect of my game all the time, and then when I felt like, okay, everything feels like it's in a pretty good place, then I really wasn't ready to go compete at times. And that's not how you -- so now my practice is for improvement, and it has been. Mentally I've fixated on that, and I would say that the things that my coaches and I discuss and how we go about it both on the range and in my practice rounds very much complement that.

If I'm going to get really simple on that question, my short game has been horrific for the last two years. My ball-striking has been as good if not better than it has been forever.

Q. Where does distance come into the equation? Have you tried to chase distance?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. No, I haven't. I mean, I'm hitting it further than I ever have, but -- well, I don't know if that's technology, I don't know if that's agronomy, I don't know if that's me in the gym, I don't know if that's a combination of all of that. But what I do know is there's a lot of players that have really competed at a high level and had success as of late that don't really hit it any different than I do, in some respects maybe a little bit shorter. It's not a motivation. I mean, is it part of the equation? Possibly. I mean, playing some practice rounds and the pro-am here, there was a lot of holes outside of the fairway where I remember hitting, chopping out wedges, and you're not seeing that.

But when you have this kind of wind, it's probably a good thing. It would be really difficult if we had the rough we were accustomed to having.

Q. What's the biggest challenge at your age?
ZACH JOHNSON: Probably avoiding the fact that I know I'm 44 would be one thing. You know, I mean, I feel good physically. I remember I was having a discussion with two of the guys that oversee what I do in the gym and my body and that kind of thing, a PT and a chiro, who guys that are my confidants in this, and they're like -- yeah, I mean, I am in the gym every day. I'm doing something every day. Whether somebody -- I'm getting any sort of physical therapy or manipulation or anything like that is not necessarily accurate, but I am doing something every day just to feel like I can go out. I might not even practice that day, but I can't go practice at home, here, on the road, without doing something physically to get me going. Sometimes it's a sweat, sometimes it's just a -- anyway, that's the biggest difference, and I think it probably hit me maybe 40-ish but specifically in the last couple of years. I remember just rolling out of bed, taking a couple swings and then just going, and that ain't happening. Some guys probably can do that at my age, but I'm not that guy.

Q. Talk about how much of a different adventure it is on this course every single time you go out there. How do you sort of compartmentalize a successful first round like this knowing you've got to do it three more times?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you know that before it happens. I feel like I prepare mentally for everything, good shots, bad shots, good streaks, bad streaks, good stretches, bad stretches, good days, bad days, et cetera. I mean, the beauty of this golf course is that it's going to have teeth regardless of the temperature or the wind, et cetera. You have to know that before you even tee it up, and I welcome it. And I think we all probably do to some degree. I'm a competitor first. I like a challenge.

It almost becomes irrelevant because it's so consistent week in and week out.

Q. It doesn't sound like motivation is an issue with you. How would you assess where you're at that way?
ZACH JOHNSON: Motivation to play well? No, I mean, it's never been that big of an issue. I mean, practice usually isn't that big of an issue. But like I said, I think proper practice has been an issue, meaning improvement versus assessment, and I can elaborate on that forever. I'm not going to. So no, like rolling out of bed and reasoned and wanting to compete -- well, at 4:45 in the morning it's not ideal, but it's not usually an issue. I like that. I like seeing what I can do based on the work I've put in to prepare.

Q. We've asked a lot of motivation related questions. Being an assistant captain for the U.S. Team this past year, where does that rank in the motivation, saying, hey, I'm in the team room, I see all the other guys playing?
ZACH JOHNSON: Good point. It was the same way in France, too. Any time you're a part of one of those teams, it's -- well, obviously it's an honor, but it is fantastic, but it's mentally better competing and playing. I understand my role and I understand my job, and I would rather -- you want -- again, I've said it a thousand times. I will be the cart guy, the towel guy, the peanut butter and jelly. I don't care. I want to be on that team.

But you want to play. And I remember, it was one of the fondest memories I have, when Tiger was our vice captain at Hazeltine, whenever that was, '16, we were playing a practice round or may have been one of the tournament rounds, but it's irrelevant, he had his role. He had his job. Captain Love said this is kind of how I want you to navigate it. Obviously you take Tiger's insight on that, but that was what he did. He was like, it's almost harder to do that even though the pressure is less, but it's harder because you're so unaccustomed to it because you don't want to mess it up because you want to put those guys in a very, I'd say, in a posture that breeds success, and that's hard.

All that being said, to answer your question, highly motivational.

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