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March 31, 2007

Johnson Wagner


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Johnson Wagner, thanks for joining us today after an 8-under par 64, setting the course record here at the Shell Houston Open. Make some opening comments on the good day for you and so far really good week.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's been a great week. I love the Houston area. Played the Nationwide Tour Championship here last year. The Houston Golf Association, I've seen a lot of volunteers out here that are the same as well. They do a phenomenal job. Really happy, comfortable in Houston.
I've just played great, really had a good feeling all week and today was the same. Really comfortable out there.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Obviously, with an inch and a half of rain, the course played longer but probably also play softer, and the greens I'm sure were more receptive to long irons and you made a lot of birdies.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The course was in great shape for the all the rain we had. The fairways were wet, lot of casual water, but with an inch and a half of rain, you have to expect that and the greens definitely softened up and gave me more opportunities to go at some flags that maybe I wouldn't have had a chance to before.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay. Questions?

Q. You are finally able to get out here and play, absolutely no wind, you know it's going to be soft, I mean, are you just feeling like you got the green light --
JOHNSON WAGNER: I warmed up well on the range. I knew with no wind the course was going to play as easy as it has, and then I just really hit the ball solid and gave myself a lot of opportunities all day, and really other than a couple long putts that I hit a little past, I never really struggled to make par.
So it was very easy round, very fun round, and the course was definitely there for the taking with all the rain.

Q. Can you talk about that stretch of five straight. Was there a shot that kind of got you going?
JOHNSON WAGNER: The first birdie I hit 6-iron into 5, maybe 10 feet. John Cook was right on my line, showed my a perfect read. Ball went right in the center. I just had a really good feeling. Made a long putt on the next hole, about 25 feet, and really just hit good shots and gave myself a lot of chances.
You never expect to make every 15-footer, but it was nice that they all went in on that stretch.

Q. What's been the difference this week? Is there one thing that you can pinpoint?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I definitely putted well. I definitely made more putts than I have in the past month or so, but I've been playing really solid out here, been really happy with the way I played every week. I've made a lot of cuts and just, you know, haven't quite been able to get into contention going into Sunday, but definitely the putting has been really good this week.

Q. Did you work on something or change putter or --
JOHNSON WAGNER: No, same putter for three, four years. Just really worked hard on Wednesday this week. There's a great putting green -- I probably shouldn't say this, kind of a secret. There's a nice putting green over by the 10th tee. Spent probably three hours over there on Wednesday with my caddie, and we just really, you know, got a good feeling for the speed and the roll of these greens.

Q. You alluded to this the other day. Sunday, performing on Sunday. Are you going to change your mindset or approach tomorrow?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, going in the past few Sundays, I've always been five, six back. Feel like I have to have pressure. Now that I'm going to be closer to the lead, hopefully, you know, still tied. But I doubt it with the guys that have so much golf left to play, but I know now I actually have a really good chance to win tomorrow.
I'm going to be real patient and not try to press from the beginning. If I make a few birdies early, great, if not, I know they can be out there.

Q. How much of a factor is it that you're in, don't have to come back tomorrow, you can kind of sleep in?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's going to be nice. It's going to be real nice. The weather could be beautiful in the morning. They could have five, six holes to play with perfect weather. The weather was great this afternoon other than a few sprinkles. Optimal score conditions. I'm definitely happy that I don't have to get up at 5:30 again tomorrow to come out and wait to start again.

Q. Did you do anything fun for your birthday last week?
JOHNSON WAGNER: My wife and I moved into a new house. Kind of had some friends over and threw a big barbeque. Nothing crazy.

Q. Did you think it was going to be easier to come out here and win on this Tour? You had good success on the Nationwide. Are you about where you thought you'd be at this point?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Winning is not easy on any level, and, I mean, I haven't really given it much thought.
Definitely goals for this year for me were to obviously win at least once. I'd like to win multiple times, but I never put a timeframe on when I would put myself in contention and have a chance.

Q. It took you four years on the Nationwide Tour to win. You obviously paid a lot of dues. Now you're sitting here, looking ing at ten starts in your career with a really good chance to win.
How have you sort of sped up the whole process so much in terms of putting yourself --
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's taken me a long time to win on every level with college golf, with pro golf. I don't really consider -- obviously the PGA TOUR is a lot different from the Nationwide Tour, but it's still professional golf.
The names are different, the courses are different, but I feel like I gained a lot of experience on the National Tour, and I might not win tomorrow, but I'm going out there and try hard. Whatever happens, happens.

Q. Course record today, did you know that?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was informed in the scoring trailer. Pretty exciting. I don't think I have a course record anywhere. Is it actually solo outright, Joel?
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Sixty-five last year.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The guys on the course are going to chase me down today. It's the first time I've ever held a course record. It's exciting.

Q. For like overnight?

Q. What was going on, I think on 12, where you had to wait?
JOHNSON WAGNER: There was just some spectators walking. One guy walked a little bit and stopped right behind the flag. I just backed off and waited for him to move.

Q. You looked like you were real amused.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It was funny. They told him to stop and he stopped, and then right as I got over the ball again, I looked up and he was walking. Then they told him to stop, and he stopped right behind the flag.
It happens. It wasn't a big deal but just -- it's nice having people watch you, that's for sure. I'd rather have that than nobody out there.

Q. Johnson, how relieved were you to see really no wind today? Because you have situation where yesterday the wind is really blowing, you guys are struggling to break 70, and now here today all the -- all the flags are completely slack and you have just a couple guys to break the course record and you did.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I usually like playing in the wind. I was pretty disappointed with the way I played yesterday. I don't know if nerves played any part of it. I felt like I played well. I just didn't make the six 15 footers that I made the day before like I did today, but, other than a few poor putts, I played a good round yesterday, and I hope the wind blows tomorrow.
I might eat my words with that, but I enjoy playing in the wind and wouldn't be Texas if it didn't blow, so --
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on the rest of your round. Maybe go through that birdie stretch we talked about 5 and 6, but then 7, 8, and 9 you had birdies, par 3.
JOHNSON WAGNER: 7 I hit 8-iron to about 8, 10 feet and made it right in the middle, good putt. Then 8 was playing a little longer, so I had to lay up today. Laid up to a really good number. Hit pitching wedge from about 115 to probably 2, 3 feet.
Then 9, I hit a 3-iron to the probably 15 feet short and right of the hole and went in again.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: 9, is that a hole you're pretty happy to walk away with the par, but when you made the birdie, it must be that much better.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The pin was front right. Humps and bumps on that green really weren't in play at the flag. I hit it in the right spot -- a par there is always a good score. I was pretty pleased with a birdie.

Q. How do you -- how would you assess so far this year, did you come out comfortable, you know, or were you a little nervous coming out on the Tour?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's tough playing -- not many people know the status that guys coming off the National Tour or Q-School has. We reshuffle based upon how much we've made throughout the entire year.
The first event in Hawaii I was shaking on the first tee, it's my first PGA TOUR start, and I was really nervous. I overcame it, I guess, and ended up making the cut and having a decent finish.
I've progressively gotten more confident with each start, and I feel really at home out here. I have a lot of friends that graduated with me last year through Q-School and through the National Tour, so I'm feeling really confident.

Q. Is that the most nervous you've been on a golf course, that first time you talk about shaking?
JOHNSON WAGNER: U.S. Open in 2004 I qualified for Shinnecock. It was similar nerves to tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon, probably be the same.
But if you're not nervous, something is wrong. Everybody is going to be nervous, especially when you're in contention. It doesn't bother me.

Q. You were heartbroken that Sunday at Shinnecock, watching on TV that you weren't out there -- it's brutal?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It was fun watching it. I like brutality on the golf course.

Q. Like the punishing stuff --
JOHNSON WAGNER: I like watching that. When I was a golf fan, I also liked watching U.S. Opens because it's set up so tough.

Q. What is more in your comfort zone as a player? Do you think of yourself as a better freewheeler where you got to make a lot of birdies, or do you feel more in your personality to grind?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Little bit of both. I won a tournament on the Nationwide shooting 20-under, shooting 12-under. I never won a tournament shooting 1-under, but I think the U.S. Open setup would be good for me. I drive it pretty straight. The tougher the conditions, better and the better player I become. I want it even tougher.

Q. So then a day like today for you isn't necessarily a lick-your-chops day. You know you can make birdies obviously, but you know everybody else can, too?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I looked up at the leaderboard once today on the 12th hole. I was 9-under, and I thought that I would be close to the lead. But I looked up there and everybody was playing well. I think 5-under was going off the leaderboard, which means that was 25th place or something.
Everybody shooting low kind of inspired me to go even lower. It's fun coming out when everybody is in contention and anybody can win. I enjoy this kind. I enjoy tough golf. I enjoy golf, period.

Q. I wasn't watching the last hole. You had a 10-footer?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I really wanted it to go in, but just left it on the low side. Hit a good putt, so nothing you can do about it.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What did you hit in there?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I hit 4-iron in there which was a little different from the 8-iron I hit in yesterday.

Q. Jonathan, it takes a lot of guys awhile to kind of get established on the PGA TOUR. Some kind of fluctuate back and forth. You sound really confident and just talking about how you would like to get multiple wins. Could you talk a little bit about your confidence and what kind of makes you unique in that regard? Because there's a lot of guys out there who made it in through Q-School who are struggling to make cuts?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I don't consider myself an overly confident person. I hope I don't come off that way. I believe I can do anything. Of course, I have a lot of self doubt at the same time. I struggle with bad thoughts on the golf course, but it's always important to talk a good game.
And, you know, guys coming out, it's turf playing out here. I just -- I had such a good year last year and good friend of mine, Brandt Snedeker, finished third in San Diego, Jeff Quinn, four Top-10s in a row. I've seen all these guys doing it.
Boo Weekley is another friend of mine that graduated. He should have one the Honda classic, and he's had a lot of good weeks.
So I've seen guys I've beaten, you know, for three, four years, you know. I've seen them do well, so why can't I?

Q. How did it get to be that you play out of a club in Croton, New York?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I caddied up there for four summers. I won a golf tournament up there. They gave me an honorary membership. Hudson National Golf Course is a great place. My parents don't live up there anymore. It's a phenomenal golf course. They've treated me very well.

Q. You were born in Texas?

Q. How long did you live here?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Until I was eight. Most of my family is still here, extended family in Dallas, Amarillo. I get back quite a lot.

Q. You said you have doubts sometimes and you've got the biggest -- would you like to spend the next ten minutes talking about all the doubts you've ever had?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. No. Maybe with the exception of Tiger Woods, I think everybody has doubts on the golf course. Everybody gets nervous, everybody has, you know, bad days. But, you know it's nothing you can worry about. You got to go out and hit each shot.

Q. What's your favorite moment today?
JOHNSON WAGNER: John Mallinger chipped in for eagle on number 13, the par 5, and he was 10 yards behind me, same line, and I just wanted to chip in it right on top of him and chipped it up to about a foot, seeing him hole out for eagle and giving me a chance is pretty fun.
John Cook hit it to about a foot from a hundred yards. He was finishing first so we both hit inside him. It was cool, cool moment. We had a great day out there.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Johnson Wagner, good luck tomorrow.

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