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May 9, 2007

Zach Johnson


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters winner. You've had a chance to play the golf course. A lot of people are chatting about it. Maybe we can get your thoughts on the golf course, and then we'll open it up for questions.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, prior to the changes, I thought the golf course was really, really, really good. I only played here two years before this year, so I thought the golf course was awesome. I understand why they wanted to change it. I think the changes they made and the setup they have now is even better. It's going to be really good.
It's going to be better as the years go on. The course is awesome. The fairways are -- I guess they've got the sand base now, so they're a little more firm. The only thing in the previous years, when they had a little bit of saturation, they got a little muddy.
The fairways are better -- everything is just better. The greens are great. The complexes are great. No. 12 green they changed; it looks like it's been there for 20 years. I think everything they've done has been pretty awesome.

Q. In retrospect about The Masters, how do you feel about the fact that you not only won a major with Tiger in the field, but you won one with Tiger breathing down your neck and everybody else who was in contention? Does it mean that much more when he's dominating his era like this that you got one from him, stepped on it right about the time he was starting to make a move?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it feels better. Not better, it feels great. Anytime you beat him, regardless of the situation, regardless if it's a TOUR event or a major, it doesn't matter, it's just a good feeling. Obviously he's a phenomenal talent and he has won this and won that and continues to do that.
To me, my wife and I talk about it, the most impressive thing about him -- I can't overpower a golf course like him. I can't hit as far as him. I can't hit some of the shots he can hit. But the one thing I strive to do is bring my game every week, and that's what he does. I'm not doing that all the time.
What I take from him is he is extremely impressive every week. And so beating him in a major like that, during his era, if you will, I didn't know it was possible, but it feels phenomenal.

Q. Can you tell us how your life has been since then?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think you described it perfectly. It's been a whirlwind. But we've been there, done this and had a lot of requests, a lot of offers, a lot of mail and whatnot.
It's been a little overwhelming at times. I've had some mental and emotional breakdowns as a result. But for the most part, I wouldn't change a second of it.
I've got a great team. We filter in what we need and we more or less got a list of how we're going to attack each subject, each issue, and I think we're approaching it the right way. We're learning as we go. Any issues or any problems are good ones.

Q. You say the course is better, but you also say it's harder than it was before. And if so, there was there any one hole that you think is -- that is more challenging than it was?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if it's -- it's hard to say. This course is all condition-based. If it's wet, obviously the course is going to play a little easier, because our balls aren't going to release as much. The greens are new so they're a little more firm, even though what they will be next year and the year after that. Granted, they have the SubAir system, which they can kind of dictate firmness and saturation.
But this golf course is -- it's all wind and rain-based, in my opinion. I don't know if it's going to be any harder or any easier. But if the fairways are going to roll out, and it's raining now, but if the fairways roll out it's going to be that much more difficult.
The good thing is it's still playable because I think Mr. Klauk -- the rough is not horrible. You can get a bad lie, but you can also get one you can play off. That makes it much more enjoyable for us, and I think the fans, too.
The greens seem to be a little more firm than the actual speed, but that's not going to be an issue. They'll be fast come tomorrow and especially come Sunday.

Q. Can you expand on -- you mentioned the emotional and mental breakdown; you talked a little bit about it. Can you expand on that?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's just overwhelming. It's just things have been overwhelming. I didn't anticipate things. That's really all I can say about it.

Q. What things didn't you anticipate?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's hard to say. Well, just -- there's been a lot of, you know, just requests that -- I've got a hard time saying no. That's what it boils down to. And I want to please everyone. Everything is very worthy and very valid, I don't have enough time, myself, to do everything I want to do and that other people want me to do.
That's basically what it stems from. I'm trying to please everybody, and for the most part -- the nice thing is everybody is understanding, I just have a hard time saying no.

Q. Of all the things that you did from Letterman the day or two after The Masters to you were on -- I guess the Oprah thing aired yesterday or the day before.

Q. What have been some of the highlights for you? Has some of it made you go, wow, I can't believe I just got to do that?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, since Augusta everything has still been very surreal. Everything has been wow. Yeah, the Monday and Tuesday in New York, we were still just on a high from the Sunday of Augusta. Everything there was awesome.
That was -- as Brad can attest to, we were there for a little over a day, day and a half, and touched everything it seemed like. It wasn't congested. It didn't feel like it was overwhelming. That was good. We actually got to have a nice dinner and rest that evening. New York was awesome.
Oprah was good. It was a good opportunity, clearly. She surprised me, or they surprised me, which was nice. But it was the middle of my off week, which kind of stunk. It really did (laughter). I hadn't had any time off. And literally the only day I had off was the Sunday -- it would have been the Sunday of the Byron Nelson where I didn't do anything.
So in that respect I haven't rested much. I've taken time away from golf, but I haven't been able to rest.

Q. Has there been any kind of personal celebration, family, friends --
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not yet. We're planning on something, we just don't know when and where.

Q. Given your wife's branch of the family here and now that you're pretty sure you're coming back to this tournament every year for a long, long time. Do you think this will eventually be a little bit of a hometown event for you of sorts?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think so. That's great. The best part about that, that situation, is you know there's family and friends around. I love that support. I love playing in front of them and giving them the opportunity to come out and watch. That's great.
Alongside of that, I enjoy it off the golf course because I'm able to spend time with friends and family, which I don't get to do very often, especially family, with my in-laws being here. Whether it becomes a hometown event, I don't know. That's hard to say. I'm not really from here and I really don't have a whole lot of ties here. My wife's side does, clearly. If that becomes that, that's great.

Q. And you've got also a relationship with people at Sea Island and things like that and everything?

Q. At the very least you're becoming a little more familiar with this area?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, and I do like the area. I mean, in the future I could see myself living in this area if I had to. Who knows where we're going to go from there. We like where we're at, but there's a lot of positives to being in Ponte Vedra, Amelia, Sea Island, all those places have a lot of positives. Especially growing up in the Midwest, it's just totally different.
I like Amelia and Sea Island a lot because it feels kind of small town, more or less kind of where I was raised. Still kind of -- it's not hidden, but it's still kind of quiet.

Q. You've made a lot of big steps in a very short period of time, from the Hooters Tour to the Nationwide Tour, winning in Atlanta, and the Ryder Cup, obviously that's -- did each one of these things basically build to that Augusta moment? Did that Ryder Cup, for instance, prove to you that maybe under intense heat you could come through with the key clutch putts and that kind of stuff?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think the progression I made to the mini-Tours, to the Nationwide and then obviously out here, happened for a reason. I think a lot of my success has obviously been a result of that. I definitely think the Ryder Cup played into that. I'm sure I've drawn on things that I'm not even aware of. There's some things I know I've taken, specifically, from it, and used.
I think the best part about the Ryder Cup is -- I played good at times. I played actually quite poor at times, but I didn't have my A-game and I still performed okay. And I think that was the biggest thing. That was the biggest thing I took from it.
As a result, at Augusta, I felt like I played well, I didn't feel like I played phenomenal. I three-putted a ton. I hit my driver straight but I didn't hit it exactly that solid. As a result, the most encouraging thing about The Masters for me from a fundamental standpoint on the golf course is that I don't have to play my absolute best to win. And I know any other player would say the same thing.

Q. From all that, now that you've accomplished what you did at Augusta, what does that say for you in terms of the next step? When you come here, when you go to Oakmont, and for the next few years at all these big events, what does it say for you?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think the next step for me is to continue to learn. Alongside of that -- I've learned every year. I'm continuing to find new things and pick apart things and reevaluate things. At the same time, I know I can get a lot better.
As a result, I think I've gotten better every year. My stats may not show it, my money may not show it, but I feel that I have, both on and off the golf course, gotten better. I'm obviously doing something right.
So I'm not going to change a whole lot. I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing and polish what I have.

Q. Do you think with The Masters title that you now have and having it come before THE PLAYERS, do you think you're more prepared and more focused with this PLAYERS than you have been in the past?
ZACH JOHNSON: Never really given that that much thought. I don't necessarily think so. This tournament is -- you know, it's its own tournament. Maybe from a mental standpoint, knowing that I can win or succeed on a major setting, much like this, yeah, I think that will help.
But as far as my preparation on the golf course, from a fundamental standpoint or a game plan standpoint, I don't know if it's -- it's not going to be the same as it was at Augusta. Does that answer your question?

Q. Yes.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Zach, thank you. Play well this week.

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