May 20, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Zach Johnson. Zach opened up with a 2-over par 74 today. Slower start than maybe you anticipated but really solid play on the back, a special moment on 11. Talk us through that.
ZACH JOHNSON: It was actually opposite. I got off to a great start. Played really, really solid on the back nine. Actually had other opportunities I didn't capitalize on. I guess you take the good with the bad. My last nine holes was a struggle.
Could have been a lot better. I three-putted the 8th and the 9th hole, my last two holes, but it could have been a lot worse too. I made a couple of saves. Actually, I'd say a few saves that were nice. Maybe it evened out. I feel like I'm playing better than my scorecard, which is good, yet frustrating.
I like the golf course. I've always been a fan of Pete Dye. Hopefully, I can right the ship the rest of the week.
Q. Just wanted to pick your brain a little bit because I know you have some perspectives on Xander Schauffele. I'm in San Diego now, and he's out of there. He's had top 10s in three of the last four Majors, and if he doesn't find the water at the Masters on 16, it would have been four. He's No. 1 in FedExCup points after Phoenix. So he's just a guy who is continually knocking on the door in the Majors. One, what do you see in his game that positions him to be right there? Two, you've won two of the Majors. What's it take to get over the hump? And once you do, how does that change perspective?
ZACH JOHNSON: What was the first part of the question? That was a lot.
Q. What positions him to be knocking on the door so often?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, he's a stud. The consistency he shows in the events that are the most trying -- excuse me. If you have consistency in the events that are most trying, you're a stud, and I'm not trying to be cheesy or cliche. There's not an aspect of his game that lacks -- everything is solid. I wouldn't say he's a phenomenal driver or phenomenal iron player or phenomenal pitcher. He's really good at everything. What sets him apart is there's no weaknesses.
That's what you see. Those are the things that are visual. I would say, based on the times I've played with him, obviously, being associated with him a couple of -- well, I guess one Presidents Cup I saw him and watched a lot of him, nothing fazes him in big events. He has the intangibles. He has the innate ability to embrace the most trying of circumstances.
He's going to win, obviously, a lot more golf tournaments if he stays healthy. He's going to probably put himself in position on specifically Sundays to win major Championships.
Second part of your question, to get over it is really just belief and obviously capitalizing. When it comes down toe execution, with a talent like that, it's probably just a matter of time. If you were to tell me he's going to rattle off, I don't know, a bunch of top fives in Majors for the last ten years, I wouldn't be surprised. If you told me he's going to win three or four, I wouldn't be surprised. It's hard. I'm not suggesting it's a shoe-in, it's a given, but there's only four a year. Ideally, there's only four a year.
Xander is going to be in the mix of it a lot.
Q. Maybe one last thing. I don't know if this is splitting hairs. What's the mental approach like when you're very, very close over and over again, as he has been the last few years, and then how is that different, if it is different, than when you finally win one and there's some relief, I suppose?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, my -- I guess my trajectory when it came to the Majors is probably a little bit different than some. That was my fourth year on the PGA TOUR when I won my first. I think prior to that -- one or two, two or three top 10s, nothing significant. It's not like I was -- I had the experience of understanding what it took in a major necessarily at that point.
I think to answer that question, for the most part, everybody in this field really, really wants to be here. So when you have the ability to be in contention -- when I say in contention, I'm not saying, oh, man, he's one shot going into Sunday. I'm talking the last four or five holes in a major championship, when you're near the lead or have the lead, when you're there, it's understanding, hey, this is why I practice. This is what I do. This is why I'm here. You embrace that moment wholeheartedly.
Now, you don't deviate from what you've been doing the previous 65 holes, but you just have to embrace the moment. And trust what you're doing is good enough. You don't have to reinvent your golf game just because I might win a major and I need something different. You don't have to be different.
I would say in a major, I would say in a cup, I would say in any big tournament you don't have to do anything different. You just have to execute.
Q. Last one from me. You just have to explain and walk through what you have to do mentally on those final holes to be in that moment and seize the moment. Is he mentally wired in that way fundamentally?
ZACH JOHNSON: I mean, I don't know all the wiring and the intangibles you can't see, but what I do -- what encourages me when it comes to him having the ability to put himself in position to do that, consistently or more as time goes on, is his temperament and the fact it almost looks like he plays amotional golf, like in other words, every day, every hole, specifically every shot, it's kind of like a circle. You commit, you hit it, you walk to the next one. If you hit it good, great. If you hit it bad, okay, it happens. He doesn't get rattled when it goes south. He doesn't let the moment or the emotions gather, and I'd say fester.
He's a guy that -- that's hard to do. I don't know if he was -- if that's his God-given or if he's practiced it. You'd have to ask him that. I think he has what it takes.
Q. You have some better results this year than you've had over the last couple years. Is there anything you're doing differently? We just had Dufner in here talking about how he's at 44 and he's trying to just kind of -- I don't want to say play out the string, but that's what it almost sounded like. I don't want to say win one or two, but play out the string until he turns 50, that kind of stuff. What's your thoughts on that?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm always reminded of where I am due to my seniority on the Tour, specifically my age. I hang around a lot of guys that are younger -- well, it's not hard to hang around a lot of guys that are younger. They all are younger, with the exception of maybe someone like a Dufner, Jimmy Walker, Stewart, Brian Gay -- there's just not many of us out here anymore that are 42 to 50.
So, yeah, what's going on in my game? I don't feel like I'm 45 when I step on the 1st tee. I still feel like I'm trying to prove myself. That may sound generic, but I am. Trying to prove it to myself, not to you all or anybody else. I'm just trying to go out there and prove that the work I'm putting in is beyond adequate.
I know my team's still great. I know the direction we have is still great. Frankly, I don't feel like I've played that great. So I guess that's a good thing. There's been a lot of consistencies in some areas. If you'd have asked me two years ago what my issues were, I'd have said, well, I'm hitting it awesome, I've been putting like a chump.
Right now I'm putting phenomenal. I don't know what I am, certainly top 10 on Tour in putting.
So it's just a matter of getting all aspects of my game colliding and meshing, and I think -- I really believe that's in the future. I'm hoping it's this week or maybe next week. If it's not next week, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I don't -- I know 50 is not that far away, but there's a lot of stuff I can do out here for the next 4-1/2, 5 years.
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