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May 20, 2007

Zach Johnson


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome our 2007 champion, Zach Johnson. Zach, something about the state of Georgia and you that seem to fit well together.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm not sure what it is. You know, for whatever reason, I've had success here in this state. You know, obviously the people are great. The fans are phenomenal. The sponsorship of AT&T, that goes a long ways. A great company, a great partnership with the TOUR, for sure. I just feel very blessed to be in this position.
JOE CHEMYCZ: 4500 FedExCup points, a check for almost a million dollars, moves you to about four on both of those lists for the rest of the year. I know it's an awfully good start so far.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you. Yeah, you know, that was my goal. I put a lot of hard work in the off-season. I had seven weeks at home, which I've never had. I guess I should thank my baby because that's why I was home (laughter). I put a lot of work in. I hadn't really practiced that much in the off-season prior. It's really starting to come through.
I owe a lot to Mike, Morris Pickens, Pat O'Brien, my trainer Chris. It's a team effort. Obviously all my sponsorships, AEGON, TransAmerica, Titleist, all those guys have really stepped up, really helped me out.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Questions.

Q. Are you coming back next year to defend your championship?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. We'll see. I hope so, but we'll see.

Q. What is it about the course that you like so much, that suits your game?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I really liked it this year just because it played hard and fast. I obviously don't hit the ball that hard. I don't overpower golf courses. But this is one, when it's fast, you don't have to. It's more precision in the fairways, where to place it, then controlling your distances with your irons. For the most part I did that well.
I mean, the greens were at a great speed, which I like. They're bent, which is what I grew up on. Arguably the best course conditions we've played all year and maybe for the remainder. I can't remember the superintendent's name, but he certainly deserves a pat on the back. It was as good a test as we could possibly have.
You know, that goes a long way. That's why players come back.

Q. As far as your strategy, seems like you just kind of hung around a little bit, kind of stayed under the surface, then all of a sudden you were there. Is that the way you were thinking?
ZACH JOHNSON: I would have liked to have had the lead going into today (laughter). I had a lot of opportunities yesterday. I hit the ball probably better yesterday than I did today, but still hit it solid today.
You know, I feel like, with the speed of the fairways, the speed of the greens, I know where to miss it. As a result, there's only so many pins that I can be aggressive with and attack. You know, I put myself in position to be able to do that. As a result, I fortunately made some putts.
I mean, I think I 3-putted for bogey once today, and that was my bogey. But, you know, I mean, I hit two bad putts. So, you know, it was a mental struggle. Four days out here, regardless of where you play, especially with this walk, this course is one of the hardest courses to walk, it's all about perseverance and patience. The reason why I'm here is because of the team behind me. As a result, I'm very thankful.

Q. Right now you're one of the hottest golfers in the world, but at the same time you're a very steady player. How much stronger are you mentally this year than in past years? Do you feel stronger mentally?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I do. I definitely feel a little mentally stronger. I think a lot of it is, all of us, but I really put a lot of care into it, if that makes sense. I really, really, really put too much focus into every shot or too much merit into every shot prior to maybe this year even. Now my focus is more or less the process and the routine of each shot rather than the outcome. As a result, I see my outcomes tighten up and be a lot better. Does that make sense? I know it's funny.
In other words, I really don't care where it goes. I mean, I'm going to give it 110% every shot, every putt especially, but if I make it or miss it, I'll do it again the next one.
I think years prior I was too focused on, 'Okay, if I birdie this hole, I can do this.' 'If I make this putt, I'm going to move up here,' rather than just going through the process, going through the routine, executing the shot.

Q. Were you less worried about the result at the moment. Just follow-through?
ZACH JOHNSON: That would be a better way to put it, yes (laughter).

Q. Are you better at forgiving yourself for the bad shots than you were?
ZACH JOHNSON: Forgiving myself?

Q. If you had a bad shot...
ZACH JOHNSON: It more like I accept it. I don't know about 'forgiving'. I've got a circle, if you will, every shot. Starts with making my decision, then it goes into my routine, then it goes into the execution of the shot. I accept where it goes. I relax and go to the next shot. I just do it every shot. Doesn't matter if it's a full swing or a putt. That's been a lot of help. Morris Pickens has helped me a lot with that, my mental coach.
It just keeps things a lot more simple for me. It's polished up my mental attack every day. You know, I feel like if I'm swinging bad, I can still get it around when I need to. My golf swing's improved. No question about that. My fundamentals have improved. But, you know, that's always a work in progress.

Q. The big issue for the tournament this week has been the new date. You won here in the early April date, finished second in the early April date, now you win the third week of May. Talk about the differences and the challenges it presents.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I mean, first and foremost, I think it's the weather. There was a ton of people out there today. I think the last nine years prior to this we've made the cut twice on Friday. I think that kind of is enough said right there. The weather certainly is a lot better, just like it is down at Sawgrass. Got more fans out. It's better for ticket sales, better for charity, better for AT&T, better for everybody associated with the tournament.
Specifically the golf course, you know, it played a little faster and harder. I recall when I won in 2004, it was cool in the morning, 65 to 70 every day. It wasn't bad. I was lucky with the weather then. I remember hitting a 3-wood pretty much where I hit my driver on 18. There was parallels as far as the course conditions went that year. At the same time we saw sleet, snow and rain in one day.
This tournament deserves it, AT&T deserves it, Sugarloaf and all the fans, volunteers deserve it more than anybody.

Q. Is there extra pressure when you're almost expected to win because of your stature now in this field?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you know, I'm not a firm believer in expectations. I mean, I think, you know, you get caught up in expecting to do this or expecting to do that, things go astray. Paramount is the fact that it doesn't matter where you play. You're talking World Golf rankings here, numbers. That's really insignificant.
Every field is good. This field was great. It didn't have the so-called 'marquee players' that everybody knows about or the media attaches to. At the same time, you know, everybody that teed it up this week, for the most part, you're going to be hearing a lot from those guys in years to come. They're going to be top 50, top 30, top 15 players in the world. A lot of young talent.
It doesn't matter where you play. I expect myself to, you know, more or less play to my ability, play hard, but I don't expect to win every week. I mean, that's just maybe too unrealistic, especially with the depth and talent on the TOUR.

Q. Phil has won seven straight here in Atlanta or Augusta. Explain to people how that's possible, given the fact that y'all's games are pretty disparate?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm having a hard time following. He won back-to-back and I did --

Q. Yes.
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know (laughter). I have no idea. I mean, our games are totally different. Well, I would say he's arguably one of the best putters on TOUR. Typically I putt decent. There's maybe one minor parallel. But he hits it a long way. He's left-handed. He's won a significant amount more tournaments than I have (laughter).
I don't know. I don't know. That's a good question. He's a nice guy. I think I'm a pretty nice guy, so...

Q. Any reason for your success in Georgia?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I think part of it possibly is the style of golf courses. I know the greens are similar to what I grew up on. I think also a lot of it for me is this time of the year, mid to late spring, it's kind of when I see my hard work in the off-season peak. I've always been kind of an April to May, early June player. I did it on the Nationwide Tour. I've done it out here. For whatever reason, I don't have any idea. I guess I need to find some property here somewhere.

Q. You do realize the Open is in early June.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, yes, yes. I'm well-aware (laughter). My focus now is Muirfield.

Q. Not that anyone has accused of you being a flash in the pan, but for the general public out there, does winning again so soon after the Masters kind of validate that breakthrough victory?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I mean, that's a totally different entity. You're talking a major. I don't know. That's hard to say. Style of golf courses I guess, if there's anything that resembles Augusta, which is impossible to duplicate, would be here. Maybe it's the speed of the greens and the undulation, the hills that I play best at. I don't know.
As far as validation, you know, I don't know. One lipout here, one more bounce the other way there, I may not be sitting here. There's always some fortuitous breaks there. I don't know. I just feel very honored.

Q. The other aspect of the scheduling question, this being moved to May, people are worried about the quality of the field dipping down. In the very first year on this date, the reigning Masters champion wins. Do you think word will percolate out how nice this place is to play in May?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think based on the comments of the players this week and then also TV coverage, if they're paying attention, they're really going to understand. It's blatantly obvious how good a shape it was and how good the weather was. It could have been hotter typically this time of year. That's getting picky. I mean, it was perfect.
You're talking about the lack of depth, whatever. I realize that numbers-wise, world rankings-wise, Money List-wise, we didn't have everybody here. At the same time, it doesn't matter. It really, really does not matter. There's so many good players every week. I know that gets redundant and cliche-like. Any one of the guys that teed it up this week could have won this golf tournament. The names that played this week, you're going to start to -- we know who they are. You're going to start to understand who they are and why they're here.

Q. For seven or eight years there have been a couple guys who won majors and then disappeared after they won. Did that thought ever creep into your mind? Do you think that's something planted by people in the media that don't know golf or how good a player you are?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if anybody said that about me. It hasn't crossed my mind, no. I didn't win in the three years after Atlanta in 2004, but I had a lot of great finishes, had a lot of opportunities to win. I think it was just a matter of breaking through and doing it again.
I've gotten better and better every year. Maybe not statistically, maybe not money-wise, maybe not world rankings-wise, but I know I've gotten better and better every year. I've learned both on and off the golf course.
My approach wasn't going to change after a major. I mean, I won for a reason. Why should it change? I'm just going to try to polish and get better.

Q. When Ryuji hit the ball in the water on the playoff, did anything change for you? Looked like you decided to go for the green already.
ZACH JOHNSON: Right, I mean, I didn't know what to do. I talked to Damon. I admire his courage in going for the shot. I understand why he hit his shot. If it was a little bit right, it may have carried on. I don't have any idea.
We thought about laying up, but at the same time I had a perfect lie, perfect yardage. It was a really pretty routine shot. I felt like, you know, Ryuji plays well, hit a decent wedge shot. He hit it 10, 12 feet. Who is to say he can't make that? Who is to say I can't make par laying up?
I felt like my best opportunity to win the golf tournament was to stick to my game plan, that was to hit a little 4-iron. It wasn't anything too demanding. Fortunately I had a great lie. As a result, I was able to pull off the shot.
I pretty much had that putt in regulation, for the most part. Hit it a little firm in regulation. Hit it a little softer in the playoff. I managed to 2-putt. Ryuji didn't hit that bad of a drive. Probably got a pretty bad kick, from what I could tell. If it's three yards to the right, he's down there where I am.
I mean, I feel bad for him. There's a name for you right there. Y'all are going to hear about this kid forever. He's 20 something years old. As a result, he'll be out here for many, many years. I think in time you'll see him on the leaderboard a lot.

Q. Playing the par 5s at Augusta, does it give you satisfaction to play it the way the big hitters play it and win?
ZACH JOHNSON: I was talking about that the other day. I went for a lot of par 5s in two this week. I went for No. 2 twice. Obviously 18, I think I went for that every day. 2, three out of four days. 6, I went for it once, made bogey. You know, totally different entities, two totally different golf courses in that respect for me. I'm able to get the ball in certain areas here that I'm not at Augusta. As a result, I can be aggressive on my second shots.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Run through the card real quick.
ZACH JOHNSON: Birdied 1. Hit a good drive. Hit a pretty good second shot. Came up a little short. I don't have any idea, probably 40-foot putt. I like guessing (laughter).
JOE CHEMYCZ: 43 feet.
ZACH JOHNSON: Wow, okay.
No. 4, I hit a pretty poor drive. Actually I clipped a tree, kicked back. I hit a layup shot, a good one. I thought I hit a good third shot. Didn't spin as much as I thought it would, my wedge shot. I 3-putted from 20, 25 feet, I would think. Missed about a 4-footer, which is frustrating.
No. 8 I hit a good 4-iron. I executed two good shots from 7. I hit a great 4-iron on 8. Got me going. Hit it up to about 20 feet, made that.
9, I hit a good drive and a good 9-iron. I thought I released more. Made a pretty lengthy 30-some-footer there probably. I made some putts, lengthy ones on the front.
10, hit a poor drive, good layup shot, good wedge to probably four and a half feet, five feet, made that.
15, I hit in between a driver and a 3-wood. I (indiscernible) my driver on the previous hole, so hit driver. Got it up there in good wedge position to about 115 hole. Hit it up there to about 15 feet, managed to make that.
Then 18, in regulation, I hit a decent drive, not very solid. I had a downhill lie. As a result, I had to hit a 3-iron. Ended up on the back part of the green, then 2-putted. Made probably a four-and-a-half-footer I would say for birdie.
In playoff, I hit a good drive on 18 and hit a stock 4-iron right where I was in regulation, so...

Q. Are you a scoreboard watcher? Were you aware standing on 14, 15, 16, 17?
ZACH JOHNSON: I did not see the scoreboard until 15 green. I knew what was going on. At that point I was hitting good shots, felt like I was reading putts well and reading them on my line. That's usually what I do. I might look at it early on in the round just to see where things are.
It's too early really to tell. I don't pay much attention until at least 14, 15, 16.

Q. Yesterday you were very upset with your putting. You 3-putted early in the round. Where did you begin to feel like it was coming around?
ZACH JOHNSON: I was frustrated yesterday. I hit the golf ball yesterday probably as good as I could probably hit it in a matter of 18 holes. I think I missed one green, and that was No. 10, but I was greenside. I hit a bad sand shot on the front edge. Whatever. I hit a lot of greens today, too. I probably hit 16 or 17 today. No, that's not right (laughter).
I mean, really, I've been striking the ball well. It's just a matter of putting it well, seeing the lines. You know, I think my frustration let up when I made a couple putts early on 8 and 9 today, which led into the Back 9. But I worked on my putter. That's the only thing I did yesterday when I got done, was putt. Fortunately it worked out.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Zach, congratulations. Thank you.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you very much.

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