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July 13, 2006

Zach Johnson


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Zach Johnson, 7 under 64, his first round of the 2006 John Deere Classic. Seven birdies on the front nine, which was your second today, for a 28, the best nine of the season.

ZACH JOHNSON: Really? Thank you.

Q. Have you ever had a nine like that?

ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if I have. Obviously not on the PGA TOUR. I may have at some point, but I can't remember.

Q. What's it like going through a nine like that today?

ZACH JOHNSON: It was great. Actually the back nine I played pretty well. I made a good putt on 10 for birdie and then actually made a good bogey on 18, had mud on my ball from the fairway, but even prior to that I had a lot of opportunities for birdie. A couple good numbers yardage wise. I hit good shots, good execution, just didn't make the putts. Once I got the putter rolling on the front, my back side, it was nice to see the ball go in.

Q. 64 is also your best round of the year. Talk about what played well for you.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, my execution was good today. I mean, I felt like Damon and I were communicating very well, and I drove it well. I don't think I missed a fairway. The conditions, as moist as it is, you can be very aggressive off the tee, into the green, with your approach shots, and there's very little release, so your number is your number. There's really not a whole lot going on there. It'll dry up eventually, but I was able to remain aggressive and take advantage of those putts when I could.

Q. When you have a nine like that, on your back nine, after 18 holes do you want to stay out there and keep playing or do you want to come in?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's too hot (laughter). It was too humid. I was ready to come in. It really hit me on hole 6, my 15th hole, that it was just it felt like the heat was coming off the ground, too.

But considering that, yeah. Momentum is huge. I birdied my last hole, and now my focus is on my tee shot tomorrow morning.

Q. Your father said he was proud of the way you kept your composure after what happened to you on 18, your ninth hole. He said you didn't get that composure from him.

ZACH JOHNSON: He's so accurate (laughter).

Q. Is that just something you've developed with experience?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely, I don't think there's any question. You know, obviously that's frustrating. The most frustrating thing was I hit a good drive there, a good second shot. Mud can do a variety of things on the golf ball, and you can predict it to an extent, but sometimes you cannot.

What I'm trying to do is I've got to cycle how I approach each shot, and I got over the second shot, hit a pretty good chip, and I made a great putt for bogey. I mean, I made an eight to ten footer for bogey, which is huge. It barely went in but I hit a good putt, and I took that and rode it on to No. 1. From there I hit another good putt, and off I went.

This game, if you start beating yourself up over a shot or over the outcome of a shot, regardless of your execution or regardless of where you hit it, it can tear you apart. It's easy to say that now, especially when I play well. But at the same time, you've got to kind of have the perspective that it's just one day, one shot, one hole, whatever.

Q. Did you feel your stroke on the second nine just right there?

ZACH JOHNSON: It felt pretty good on the back, too. I made a good putt on 10, hit a lot of good putts. I had a good save on 12. I had a lot of good putts. They just didn't go in. Whether I misread a couple, skimmed the edges, maybe didn't hit it quite as close, whatever. But all in all, my putter is starting to feel a lot better in my hands, no doubt.

I actually switched putters this week, which is kind of strange. It's the same putter, just a different grip, cleaner face, not as nicked up. It's the same, just a replacement, but it felt good in my hands.

Q. What in your opinion is the tougher nine out here?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, today it's pretty easy to say, I guess (laughter). Ordinarily I would probably say the back is probably easier just because there's two par 5s. If this course is firm and fast, those par 5s, especially 17, that becomes a birdie hole.

Given all that, I would say they're pretty even, they really are. It's all wind based. There's hard holes on the front, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 especially. But like I said, when conditions are as moist as they are right now and there's very little roll the wind picked up now and it's going to dry out a little bit, but when there's very little roll you can be aggressive on everything. The greens aren't as fast, aim it at the hole and hit it.

Q. Can you talk about what you did during the delay because it certainly didn't seem to have a negative effect on your game at all.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I relaxed. I hit a few putts just to get the stroke going. Like I said, I switched putters so I wanted to get the feeling of that putter in my hand, even though it's the same exact putter. And then I just sat around, listened to some gossip, heard some jokes, listened to some more gossip, went and got stretched again towards the end. When I kind of felt like it was starting to burn off, I got stretched again just to stay loose and then went through my routine.

Q. I don't think you've gotten off to particularly hot starts in this tournament. How does it feel to get off here?

ZACH JOHNSON: Good. That was my approach coming into today. Today is the qualifier for tomorrow. It's just one day. I told myself on the front nine, my back side, that you're putting well, you're seeing the line, hitting it on your line, just continue to do that because you never know what's going to happen the next day or the next hole for that matter. I made probably a 20 footer and a couple of 10 to 12 to 15 footers that you typically probably don't make consecutively, but when you've got it rolling, you've got to continue to make them because you may get an unlucky break, hit a spike mark tomorrow and it goes off line. I feel good about starting this way. At the same time, tomorrow, I feel like I'm starting from scratch and my emphasis is my tee shot on 1.

Q. I understand you didn't feel well last weekend in Chicago. Did you get rid of that before you got here?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I don't know what it was. It's still a little dumbfounding because I played good on Thursday and Friday, I think I was at 5 under, I don't know what the leader was at, probably 9 to 11, and woke up, felt okay, got to the workout trailer where I do my routine and just about passed out two or three times, nearly hurled, and I was very dizzy, extremely dizzy. I started turning a little pale, so I tried to get checked out and they didn't know what was going on.

As the day went on actually it got better, and then Sunday I felt pretty good. I mean, I wasn't 100 percent but I was pretty close. I really don't know it could have been allergies that got into my system. I have no idea as to what happened.

The strange thing on that Saturday was I played poorly when I felt good and played pretty good when I felt terrible.

Q. I was just going to ask what was the best gossip you heard during the delay this morning?

ZACH JOHNSON: I'd rather not answer that (laughter).

Q. Follow up to that then, obviously off to a great start today. How do you keep that in perspective for the rest of the week?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think you said the word. Perspective is huge. It's one day, it's one round. Tomorrow, like I said, my focus is on the first hole, my first shot. I'm very routine oriented. I'm going to have a good meal tonight, practice a little bit, a good meal tonight and a little bit of rest because I had to get up early the last three days. I'm going to enjoy my sleep, and I think I think we're going to probably start on time, aren't we? My tee time is 12:30. It's a good start.

The momentum I have, I want to continue. Score is not a big deal, as far as I'm hitting good shots and executing, giving myself opportunities, and that's all I care about.

Q. You've had some good starts this year, but what's the secret to transitioning that to then breaking through again?

ZACH JOHNSON: Not so sure I understand what you're saying.

Q. Well, checking on the first round I see you up in the Top 5, Top 10 all the time.

ZACH JOHNSON: Early on in the week, yeah. Todd actually brought it to my attention yesterday. I really have not had a good final round score on Sunday. Granted, one of my best finishes was Match Play, but that's not the point. For whatever reason I have yet to really have a good number Sunday even Saturday hasn't been great. There's a couple days, a couple good numbers, but for whatever reason the pins get harder, there's no question about that. Usually the course gets a little more difficult and dries out, gets a little firmer because the rough is thick.

But you still have to Thursday and Friday is kind of a qualifier the way I look at it. I'm not trying to make the cut on Thursday, I'm just trying to qualify myself for the next day. That may not make much sense or even be really simple, but that's the way I go about it.

Q. You've said in the past that distractions are maybe that's not the right word, but having so many family members and friends here hasn't bothered you, but are you at the point now where it really doesn't bother you? You know what I'm saying?

ZACH JOHNSON: I understand what you're saying. It kind of felt like that today, yes. Glancing at the gallery, I'd rather not look at the gallery, but you glance in there because you know you're going to see familiar faces. At one time, that did kind of oh, my gosh, so and so is here to watch me. But no, it makes no difference.

The beauty of Iowa is they just cling onto their own people, much like I do. I've followed a lot of people, whether it's athletes or whatever, and I've got support every week. It's fairly unbelievable what I hear.

There's more people this week, but, you know, I've played this is my fifth year, I think, so I'm very used to it, and I enjoy it.

Q. Was your family here today or were they following Michelle?

ZACH JOHNSON: Good question. That's funny. Next (laughter)?

My father was here. My siblings are not, my mom was not able to come today. She'll come the remainder of the week. My dad was going to work a half day, but because of the delay he ended up taking the whole day off.

Q. You talked about how hot it started feeling. Tomorrow you're going to play all 18 in the heat of the day. Do you prepare any differently for that?

ZACH JOHNSON: You'd typically like to wear white on white, but I don't think that matters. This heat is kind of suffocating. The important thing is just staying hydrated. I've got some supplements that I take and some other things I take to prepare before, during and after, so it's a matter of just keeping your system replenished with liquid. You can get dehydrated quickly. I for whatever reason get headaches when it comes to that pretty quickly. Sunglasses help, but that's just one thing, water.

Q. It sounded like you and Chris were discussing Iowa and Florida football games coming up 18 after someone said something in the crowd?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, right. Yeah, we were. Well, there was a "go Hawks" right after I hit my shot, which that's pretty frequent, I'm not going to lie to you. He's like, "Gosh, I'm getting sick of that." He said something like I know what he said. He said, "Do they remember what happened in the Outback Bowl?" I'm like, "They're still living three years ago, Buddy." Then we started talking about the referees, and I said I could send him a couple emails and he'd find out exactly what happened in that game and realize that we well, whatever. You know what happened. I'm not going to go there. But we have fun with it. He's a huge Gator fan, clearly, and because of that I cannot stand Florida, and I live right there, too.

He's a good friend, lives a mile from me or whatever, and has helped me a lot in the past and continues to do that with his opinions and insights, and as a world class player that's something I'm pretty fortunate to have. Sometimes I don't even ask, he just tells me. He's great. His whole family is great, great people.

Q. Did you get a sense of how it went for Chris today, and did you kind of help him early on emotionally?

ZACH JOHNSON: I think I know what you're talking about. I didn't want to call him last week. I did text him. What do you say, aside from obviously our thoughts and prayers are with you. His family is extremely strong, very supportive, very loving of each other. Obviously it's something I can't relate to, but knowing those people and what they're all about and where their values and priorities are, I know they'll get through it pretty well.

Saying that, it's obviously still early on. Chris played pretty well today. He had one squirrelly shot and that was it. He had a lot of opportunities.

Regardless of who it is, I try to encourage whoever I play with, and having a friend like that out there, it's easy to encourage, and he was encouraging me regardless of what he was doing.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through your birdies. No. 10.

ZACH JOHNSON: No. 10, hit a good drive, good layup shot, hit an okay approach shot actually, very average. I probably made about a 22 , 23 footer there.

No. 1, I hit a good 3 wood off the tee and an 8 iron to probably about the same distance, probably about 24'1".


ZACH JOHNSON: 2, had a good drive, good second shot and I two putted from probably 40 feet, give or take.

3, I missed about an eight footer on 3 for birdie. But I made up for it.

5, I hit a good drive and a hit punch 9 iron to about 9'2".


ZACH JOHNSON: 6, I hit a good 2 iron and then a sand wedge to about 5'1".


ZACH JOHNSON: Hit a 3 iron on 1, and I hit it to about 17 feet there, made it.


ZACH JOHNSON: 8, I hit an okay drive, hit it good on 8, kind of pulled it, went in the bunker, and I hit an 8 iron to about 14 and a half feet.


ZACH JOHNSON: 9, I hit a great drive and a second shot from 233 yards, 2 iron, hit it up to about 11 feet and made it.

TODD BUDNICK: Thanks, Zach.

End of FastScripts.

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