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April 11, 2007

Zach Johnson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Zach, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Verizon Heritage. I know you're tired and we do appreciate you making the effort to be here at 10:15 this morning to help us out. It's been a long road, and you can explain that to us today. Congratulations on your victory at The Masters tournament. I know you're tired, but I'm sure tomorrow at 8:10 when you're on that tee and they announce that you're the 2007 Masters champion that will make it a little easier to tee off.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's going to be strange, for sure, but I'm excited about that. You know, like you said, the last few days have been quite the whirlwind, a bit chaotic at times. It all blurred together, to be honest with you. I don't know what we did, but I wouldn't change a second of it. It was a phenomenal experience starting Sunday afternoon, and then obviously going into the last couple days.
You know, I just feel blessed and honored to be able to wear that jacket, and I guess be a part of history, they say.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Questions, please.

Q. Have you gotten used to the celebrity yet? Do you think it's going to wear off pretty soon, and have you had a chance to hit a golf ball since Sunday?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I haven't gotten used to it, and no, I haven't hit a golf ball (laughter). I was just talking about that walking over here, gosh, I've got to play golf today. It's probably good, get me back into some sort of normalcy. For whatever reason when you're inside the ropes, it kind of feels normal because I'm so used to it. That's going to be kind of nice.

Q. I heard you had to go back to Augusta to get your RV; is that correct?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's true.

Q. Did you drive it down?

Q. Where did you park it in Augusta?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if I can reveal that, to be honest with you. Magnolia Lane (laughter).

Q. Maybe take us through the last couple of days, just once the TV cameras turned off Sunday night, kind of what your schedule has been like.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I didn't get back to my bus Sunday night until about 11:30, didn't leave Augusta National until like 11:20. What happened after that? I tried to sleep, failed miserably, part of it due to the obvious, then the other part of it due to the other obvious, being like a 14-week-old baby.
Then we rounded up the next morning and flew to New York about 9:00 o'clock or so. From there I don't know what order we did things, but we did ESPN radio, Dan Patrick, we did CNN -- not CNN -- yeah, we did do CNN, Jim Rome, Cold Pizza, Letterman later in the afternoon, and then the next morning we did Regis & Kelly. I did other interviews on the phone or in the car or whatever, some pictures here and there, New York Times. I don't know the order, but I know we did a lot, and it was pretty interesting.

Q. What had been the most media requests you had prior to that on any given day?
ZACH JOHNSON: Most media requests for one day?

Q. Yeah, prior to winning The Masters.
ZACH JOHNSON: It was probably back to when I won the Nationwide Tour, or money winner or whatever, or my win at the BellSouth. I can't recall anything more than that.
I get more media requests up in Iowa, Cedar Rapids, up there, but I don't know if it was to that extent.

Q. Everybody is wondering how it will change you or how it will change you.
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if it will change much at all. That's part of why I have -- the team I have assembled, if you will, starting with my wife and then obviously branching off with family and friends and instructors and coaches. I mean, if anything changes it's just the fact that I have a five-year exemption and I can play in the Masters forever. I hope forever is a long time.
I'll say this, I don't plan on changing. I said that after Atlanta, whatever it was, 2004. I don't foresee it changing now. I wouldn't know how to change. Personally, I mean, I really wouldn't. I just feel like good things are around the corner. I'll keep improving. That's what I'll keep doing.

Q. I was kind of surprised by on the Letterman show that the only thing they let you do is get up there and give your Top 10 why I won The Masters thing. Was that what you were expecting? Was that okay with you? And the other thing is what conversation did you have with Obama and Halle Berry?
ZACH JOHNSON: Good questions. Was that what I wanted or perceived?

Q. Were you surprised?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I wasn't surprised, and I am very, very thankful that it was only that (laughter).
I don't particularly care for the limelight at all, and then you throw in the fact that it was Obama and Halle Berry. I'm certainly third -- I'm probably fourth. I don't know who third is. That's fine (laughter).
Senator Obama came up to my dressing room or whatever room you call it there and introduced himself, said he was a huge fan, and we chatted briefly, which was really, really cool. Very nice man, very young. Gosh, he's only in his 40s. Very nice, very well-spoken, and evidently loves golf. So pretty cool.
Ms. Berry, met her on a couple of occasions, the next morning, as well, and my wife and I we're huge movie buffs. She's a pop culture freak. She was extremely sweet. Evidently she and her significant other are into golf, too, so that was a conversation piece.

Q. You gave her some golf tips?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I did not. I was too tongue tied.

Q. Congratulations.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.

Q. I heard on the radio on Monday while I was driving here, somebody from your home place talked about contributions that individuals have made to help you in your career.

Q. I think he talked about giving you $500 or something. He did want it back incidentally. Could you tell me something about that and how much money was generated?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, to an extent it's a fairly standard program that a lot of guys go about doing when turning professional, just to get the financial resources. So basically there was a contract written up, we asked for contributions. I had some friends that helped me along with that, a lawyer in particular and a really close friend of the family. And these gentlemen or families or companies, if you will, made contributions to me buying stock, so $500 a share, they could buy as many shares as they wanted, that was the money I lived off of on the road, and at the end of the year we'd have a little party and I was able to give them -- all but one year I gave them all their money back plus a percentage of my earnings, which is what the contract stated.
So that family was certainly a business family in the beginning, but then it turned into very much just a friendship, and those guys are still pushing me and still behind me now. It's pretty remarkable.
You know, they're all from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the most part, and basically out of my home club, Golf Crest Country Club.

Q. How many are there?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. So many have come in, I couldn't even tell you. In the 20s probably.

Q. Could you tell us a little bit about the RV, when you got it, what size it is, and are you the only driver?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I can tell you a little bit. We've had it since 2004. I think we got it in Muirfield, Columbus, is when we first got it. It's 45 feet. I think it's the longest one they make. As a matter of fact, I know it is.
You know, it's an RV coach. It's not a bus, like it's not a Prevost, but it's home on the road. I really like it. My wife loves it, so I keep her happy (laughter).
You know, the distance from site to site isn't terribly long. I'm not going to go more than four or five hours. That's part of it. I just don't want to do it. There's services that help us along with that.

Q. You said before when you were talking about the Letterman show that you don't really care for the limelight all that much, but yet when you get into this career, you think one day I'm going to win the U.S. Open, I'm going to win The Masters, and all that attention comes with it. How do you think you'll kind of handle your time in the spotlight now?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think it comes with the territory. It's my responsibility as a golfer to do that. It's my responsibility as a Masters winner to -- it's an honor and privilege to have that jacket. I'm not going to flaunt it clearly, but I'm going to try to portray Augusta National, its members, and the tournament the best I can. So I can't avoid things clearly, and I don't want to.
But as a PGA TOUR member, it's my responsibility to uphold our product, and that's how I'm going to treat it.

Q. Have you seen any players since you've gotten here, and just what has their reaction been?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've seen a few. A couple guys said, that was really lucky, but nice going (laughter). I'm just kidding. I've seen very few, very, very few, but it's all been obviously very nice. I don't know what I'm in store for, but if it was a friend of mine, I'd be congratulating him just the same.
So it's very nice and very flattering.

Q. You were checking a text before. How crazy has your phone been going the last couple days?
ZACH JOHNSON: Beyond crazy. Every time I turn it on, it just starts going nuts. But that's a good problem to have.

Q. They made the point more than once at the end of the telecast on Sunday, that he wasn't even the best golfer on his high school team. Now, who was the best golfer on the high school team and where is he today?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if I want to reveal that. Honestly, he was one of my closest friends growing up and still is. He's a good friend of mine. He actually works for Aegon now, and his family, they live in Cedar Rapids. He played at the University of Iowa, I played at Drake. Really, really good friends of mine.
Same thing with college.

Q. How tempting was it for you to take maybe a few weeks off and kind of enjoy this instead of come back right and play?
ZACH JOHNSON: Obviously it occurred to me, but for a number of reasons I felt like I should be here. First and foremost, I committed, so I'm going to uphold that. Second, I love this place. I'm not just saying that, but I absolutely love this golf course and everything about it. I think third, as I stated before, getting back to inside the ropes and playing golf is kind of a sense of normalcy. So I think in that respect it's a good thing.
I've got two weeks off next week. I've been playing for months, and I anticipate those two weeks being a much-needed...

Q. I was just wondering, have you been offended at all by the presumption that you were a surprise winner, that so few people might have expected this?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not in the least. I've read both sides. I've read some -- not read, but people have read to me some editorials or articles saying you shouldn't be surprised based on what I've done, and I've read some that clearly state it's surprising. I understand both sides. I mean, bottom line is if you were to poll any player, in my opinion, any given week, any one of us can win. So it really doesn't matter to me.
Yes, I realize it's The Masters. Every now and then, yes, I just start going, "Oh, my gosh, what the heck happened?"
But there's surprise winners every year all over the world. I just feel very fortunate.

Q. Since you're playing here and you say you really love it here, talk a little bit about the golf course here. What do you like about the golf course and what do you like about the area, just the whole thing?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think first and foremost, that the golf course speaks for itself, and in that respect, it's very traditional, very tree-lined, very tight, puts a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway, hitting the ball on the green. Greens are small, good pace, and the wind swells here. The person that comes out on top played the best. That's the individual that deserves to be the champion. I just love how it separates the field. If I'm hitting it poorly this week, it's going to bite me bad. If I play -- if I hit it well and I'm putting decent, I can score. I just think it's got that good dimension.
Hilton Head, it's good food, good people. Food is a big thing to me. I love food (laughter).

Q. On Sunday you obviously showed a lot of mental toughness, and then when Phil later was putting the green jacket on you, the physical difference between the two of you was pretty apparent. Can you talk a little bit about from your background the importance of the mental toughness versus the physical skills?
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. Well, you know, I think growing up I played so many different sports, and competition in general is just in my skin. It's always been there. I don't care really what it is. It can be the most subtle thing, I want to win. I don't care. So that's what drives me.
I mean, I guess the best part about golf is that I'm not relying -- it's just me. I'm not relying on anything else, it's me versus the golf course and the elements presented, and let's go see what I can do. It's a challenge the entire round, 1 through 18.

Q. On that point, was the Ryder Cup in any way significant in terms of toughening you for what you experienced?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a good question. We talked about that. I think so. I think there's some specific things that I can look back on and see how I performed and maybe how it helped me the last years. I mean, I performed well at times in the Ryder Cup and I performed poorly at times.
But I think that experience has helped me a ton, and I think as the time goes on now I'm going to really see how much it helped me. It's an arena much like this.

Q. Talk at Augusta the last few years has been how it's limited potential winners to just a few big hitters. Last couple of years guys such as yourself and Tim Clark, what about the course at Augusta has allowed you guys to compete and win?
ZACH JOHNSON: Another good question. Obviously they put the rough in over the last -- when they started to put it in, the last four or five years, and then a lot more tees. So hitting the ball in the fairways, now much more of a premium.
This year, for me, I think even Tiger alluded to it, is the fact that I can roll the ball in the fairway. The last two years, which is the only two years I've played prior, were pretty wet conditions, and my ball is going to plug like everybody else's, it's going to get mud like everybody else's, so I'm hitting a longer club. If I can get some release in the fairway and get some loft on my shot into the green, that's huge. I mean, it just gives me a better chance to get it close and feed down to the banks.

Q. Do you have any sense for the hype and hoopla your victory has created back in your home state?
ZACH JOHNSON: I just had a feeling that was going to be the first question (laughter). Do I have any idea? I might have a sense of it, but I mean, perhaps you can tell me best. I probably don't have a very good idea. The requests that have come in obviously throughout the United States and then even more so in Iowa has been overwhelming, flattering.
So great question, Rick. I don't have any idea. You know me, it's just one of those things where I'm excited to come home, and I can't wait to see family and friends.

Q. Sports Illustrated this week has a picture of Tiger Woods, not you. Does that surprise you?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's a picture of Tiger, not me? Does that surprise me? Absolutely not. Actually that's probably a good thing (laughter). No, it doesn't surprise me. The guy is phenomenal.
We said it two weeks prior down at Doral, my wife and I were talking -- we were just talking about Tiger's career in general and seeing his stats. I mean, the man is amazing. He never ceases to amaze us what he does. I'm sure last week he probably didn't have his "A" game.
You know, that's fine. I'm happy that he's on there. If my name is mentioned, that's great.

Q. If I can ask one more thing, considering the whirlwind Tour you've been on, does a few days of R & R back in Iowa sound kind of inviting even though it's snowing today?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. Snow? That would be a good thing. That would mean I'd have to stay inside. Is it really snowing?

Q. Yes, it is, unfortunately.
ZACH JOHNSON: Wow, so much for spring practice. I look forward to going back, especially getting back to Cedar Rapids and obviously Des Moines. I want to get back as soon as I can, and hopefully -- I know the immediate future doesn't hold it, but hopefully some day soon I can get back there and say hi to everybody.

Q. What are you going to do these next two weeks, just sort of get caught up with life or what exactly?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, obviously I'm playing this week. The next couple weeks after that I'm sure we'll have some meetings with the Johnson team, if you will, a couple powwows just to get things in order for the remainder of the year and beyond.
At the same time I'm not going to do anything different than I do my other off weeks. I'm going to take the first week off for the most part, rest, see some friends, relax, that type of thing. Might go on a vacation, might not. I don't know what we're going to do. We talked about that.
And then my second off week I'm going to get back to work, start practicing, putting a game plan together for my upcoming tournaments.

Q. Do you really know about some of the things this opens up such as the Grand Slam of Golf and the Mercedes and things like that?
ZACH JOHNSON: It has occurred to me and we've briefly touched on it, but we haven't dwelled on it. We haven't had time. There's been other things taking place. All those perks and exemptions, if you will, are pretty awesome (occurred). It hasn't sunk in. It really hasn't sunk in.

Q. I apologize if this has been asked, I missed the beginning, but I'm just wondering if you've been able to check all your messages yet. I'm just wondering if there's been any unusual messages of congratulations either from somebody you hadn't heard from, a kindergarten teacher or a celebrity or President Bush or any world leader, any examples of any messages that really surprised you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, there's been a few. No world leaders or anything like that. The governor of Iowa contacted me, and I fully anticipate getting back to him as soon as I can. I hope he hears this actually. But his message was beyond kind and very gracious. So I anticipate getting back to him as soon as I can.
I received a message from a former Regis alum like myself, Kurt Warner, the quarterback. We've actually kind of known each other throughout the years. We've had mutual friends and I got to see him this year in Phoenix. He's a great individual and he congratulated me, and I fully anticipate getting back to him as soon as I can.
I mean, those two kind of stick out. But all the other ones were great, close friends, family, some friends I didn't realize were even friends, people I really didn't even remember until they explained themselves. It's amazing how the number gets out there. All these messages and text messages and whatnot are great things. I listened to every one of them, read every one of them and appreciate all the congratulatory words and notes.

Q. I just wanted to ask you, I know you said it was kind of a whirlwind tour the last couple days, but was there one moment that was kind of the coolest thing where you were sitting there thinking, wow, I can't believe I'm doing this right now?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, there was a number of those. I don't know which one sticks out more than the other. Obviously Late Night with David Letterman sticks out. He's tall, and the studio was cold. It was like 50 degrees. I was shivering. I probably looked like a stiff. That was obviously cool. But then meeting Senator Obama and Ms. Berry, and meeting Kelly Ripa and Pat Sajak was really cool. Dan Patrick was awesome. I love the Dan Patrick show, I love Mike & Mike. I did those two shows. Talking to Romey was cool. I know he's not an Iowa fan, but we didn't bring that up.
All in all, it was just a great couple days.

Q. Just one follow-up question. I know you talked about how much you like Harbour Town. Was there ever a thought of I love the course, I love playing this tournament, but I'm just so busy I can't do it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, the thought occurred, but briefly. I just felt like the biggest thing is that I committed to it and I'm going to honor that commitment, especially the Monday of.
And second was the fact that I love this place, I love everything about it, the tournament itself. I mean, it's great. It's one of our better tournaments on Tour.
And then thirdly is the fact that this gets me back, I think, into a sense of normalcy, a sense of just golf. It's my job, and I can get back in the ropes and get back to what drives me.

Q. Talking to a few of your Drake teammates and your coach, and they didn't express surprise when you decided to turn pro, but they obviously thought that (inaudible). What kind of reaction did you get from people when you told them you were going to try playing pro golf?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, the pro action was probably more so from me. I felt like I was persuaded more by coaches and friends than myself just saying, yeah, I'm going to turn pro. I really didn't want to go back to school right away, and I can't -- getting my masters was an option, or getting a job, a real job. I just figured, I love competition, I love golf, I've gotten better and better every year, I've seen progress. I've got good support back home, and if I can get the necessary finances down, why not give it a shot. Once my parents were convinced, which was difficult at first, I hit the road and I think I probably won my second or third mini-tour event. That confidence just kept on going.

Q. I have talked with Ben Poehling and he was talking about just the idea that you've learned how to win and that you've improved. Just talk about some guys kind of hit a plateau and obviously you've been able to improve. What's been the key to keep you kind of going to the next level all the time?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think -- Ben said it right. I think, like you said, winning on myself, for that matter, any mini-tour or major tour is huge. It just teaches you a lot of things. I really think just the hard work that I put in has gotten me to where I'm at, and I think that hard work stems from obviously the values instilled by my folks. And then I think the values of Iowa in general, and then alongside of that, the support I've had team-wise, my instructors, Mike Bender, Pat O'Brien, my trainer, Chris Noss, the things that we've done, little things week in, week out, year after year, the work I put in the off season on the wedges, the priorities we have with my golf game. I really firmly believe since 1998, everything happened for a reason. That's why I'm sitting here.

Q. I was really interested to hear you say the name of Kurt Warner because he goes from arena league quarterback to Super Bowl champion. Do you see a similarity there? There's almost the same story with you and him.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure, absolutely. We both played at Missouri Valley. He was at Northern Iowa and I was at Drake. I think he started his fifth senior year, and he obviously went and played professionally in arena league, and next thing you know he's NFL MVP. There probably are some comparisons there, comparisons started before that, being at Regis High School. He was a much better athlete than I was, for sure. Yeah, I mean, maybe -- I don't think there's any doubt some of the things we were taught and the upbringing we had probably got us where we are today. I know our faith plays a big role, too. We're both Christians, and that helped a lot.

Q. As much as you say normal, do you have elevated expectations of yourself as you go into majors the rest of the year, at Oakmont, at Southern Hills, and now do you believe in your head I'm a guy who can win majors?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't think it can hurt, no question. I'm going to draw back on this victory, and even Sunday, all day Sunday, late in the back nine on Sunday, for a long time, shots I hit, situations I was in, the rhythm I was in, the pace I was in, all those things are going to help me down the road.
You know, those major settings are fun. I mean, there's only four a year, and I'm going to be pretty amped to get into them and play some major golf again. I'm looking forward to Pittsburgh.

Q. Last question. Do you actually drive your own RV or do you have a driver?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's a mixture of both, yes. It depends on how long it is.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you.

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