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September 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 TOUR Championship. 12th on the FedExCup, and the unique thing is the last two events that have been in the state of Georgia you have won, so it must be great to be back here in Georgia.
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. I don't know what it is, but I like coming to Atlanta, for sure. I mean, Georgia in general. I'm looking forward to the week. I've played the last three weeks, so I'm a little tired, but I'm going to pace myself at the beginning of this week and hope to get ready by Thursday.

Q. Can you talk about the greens situation and the impact it's going to have on the tournament, please?
ZACH JOHNSON: I wish I could. I haven't seen them. I do not know. I know nothing. I know that they've changed now the rules to the fact that we can play every hole but three holes, three greens. So obviously they're not as bad as what they thought they'd be. Initially we couldn't step foot on them until Thursday, so I have no idea what they look like, no idea how they'll roll. I just got here.
I mean, everybody has got to play them, so it's not like it's going to be any mystery. Everybody has got to tee it up on Thursday and everybody has got to play them. Like I said, I'm sure they're not as bad as everybody made it out to be, but frankly I have no idea what they look like.

Q. If you had to make a sweep of the tournament, can you think of a better state?
ZACH JOHNSON: If I had to make a sweep? Oh. No (laughter). No, not with that one tournament about 120 miles east of here, no. I can't off the top of my head.
There's more tournaments in Florida. Are there more tournaments in California, too?

Q. Probably.
No, I cannot.

Q. Did you think about that at all when you were coming over here?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I am now. You know, it's been apparent. People have brought it up, but it is what it is. I have actually played well on this golf course. I've played in this event twice, and I've played well. I've hit it well, putted decent, and I think my best finish is like 9th or 10th.
You know, it's a hard golf course for me in the fact that it's very long. I don't know what the course is like as far as condition -- it looks good to the eye, just glancing at it. I hope the rough is penal. That would be optimal for me. But we'll see.

Q. A lot of people who may not be golfers don't understand the idea of playing four weeks in a row being an issue. Why is it? When does fatigue set in? What do you have to guard against?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, the basic fact is we want to play on the weekend. We want to play on Saturday and Sunday. So for me my preparation starts for the most part Tuesday morning, get here and -- sometimes Monday, but get here, get my practice round in, nine, 18 holes, practice a little bit, workout on Tuesday, Wednesday is a Pro-Am day, big day. Obviously Thursday and Friday are grueling days, and then Sunday or Monday is traveling. It may be a day off from golf but it's a travel day. It takes a lot out of you. I don't know why that is, but especially if you've got a long haul, it doesn't make things easier.
So four weeks in a row of pretty much golf every day, maybe a day off here, is very extensive. It takes a toll on your body mentally, physically. I know it's just golf, it's not like playing football every day or anything, but it does, it takes a toll on you. It makes me appreciate my trainer a lot more, it makes me appreciate the workout facilities. It makes me work harder. I mean, the best player in the world is one of the fittest athletes we have. He's a pure athlete. There's a reason as to why he plays well consistently and one of the reasons is he's very fit.

Q. Do you feel physically worn out now and are going to be playing on adrenaline?
ZACH JOHNSON: In '04, at the end of my rookie year, at the end of the year I was spent. I did the stretching, I did the occasional tissue work, but I didn't work out much at all. That's when I hired and trainer and I've had him for the last three years. At the end of the season, I'm tired, I'm ready for some time off, but I could keep going if I had to. A week off here, a week off there, but I've also learned what's best for me, and it may not be best for another player, but I need to have time off to work out, to let my body rejuvenate, and I need to have time to practice. So hopefully I'll have some time to do that.

Q. The past few weeks we've seen players complain a little bit about the schedule, complain about how the payout goes, complain about the greens here maybe a little bit. Do you think TOUR players as a whole need to make a conscious effort not to turn off the fans with too much complaining?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't know what's been said. I don't know what's been said as far as the schedule. I don't know what's been said as far as -- I mean, the greens obviously, that's just unfortunate. That's Mother Nature, and there's no way around that. You've got bentgrass in a climate that's hard to keep bentgrass.
I hope it doesn't turn off fans. There's no reason that it should. We're still showcasing the best talent, we're still going to tee it up on Thursday. I don't feel like -- if they're complaining about the fields or the schedule, I don't think there's a whole lot of merit to the complaints. That's my opinion.
Our point in having the FedExCup is to showcase our best talent in a four-week stretch that culminates in the TOUR Championship, limiting the fields, having some sort of playoff-type atmosphere. I don't know if playoff is the right word, but that's what they've coined it. I think they've done a great job. I think we have a great product and I think it's going to get much better. Does that answer your question?

Q. You touched on the idea of why they created the playoffs, the so-called playoffs. The last few years you've come here at the end of October, beginning of November, there's no buzz at all. But this weekend you have the possibility of No. 1, No. 2 going head to head Saturday and Sunday, other players in the mix. In general terms, has it worked? Have the playoffs, the FedExCup, worked?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, yeah. A lot of people say they wanted to have ten-plus people able to win the FedExCup on Sunday. That's a little far-fetched. Plus you're talking obviously Tiger and some other guys who have had great years, and you're talking about seven or eight other guys that are able to win $10 million when these guys have really played the best all year? I don't know if that's necessarily fair.
Aside from that, I think -- I think we've accomplished it, to an extent. There's going to be some tweaking and polishing and fine-tuning that we're going to have to do, but everybody is complaining about Tiger not playing a week and Phil not playing a week. One, that's their prerogative. I understand the reasons. I think they're very legitimate.
Two, if they both play every week, it may not be as tight. Phil winning one event and Tiger winning the next, there's more drama now this week, in my opinion. If we didn't have that, maybe this whole TOUR Championship wouldn't have been as big of a deal.
It is K.J. and Stricker, the other two guys that can win, so you're talking about world-class talent that can win, as well. It's going to be very interesting. And then other guys that can't win it can make it more interesting in winning it and change the whole dynamic of it.

Q. Just the idea that the last event of the season, people are talking golf, but in general you're hearing more about golf at the end of the season.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, as you said, one of the important reasons why we implemented the FedExCup was to make a splash at the end of the year when we really didn't have that, and our competition as far as ratings go, especially, and fan support goes, is football, and I suppose NASCAR a little bit. But football is huge.
So having this at this time of the year is great. We cannot compete with those sports at that point in time. I think ending it at the beginning of September certainly helps. You watch SportsCenter, you open the newspaper, this time of year golf is not usually in there, and now it's one of the first things you see, with football aside.

Q. Two questions kind of along those lines. How do you think it might be different for you going into this week as one of the ones who have been mathematically eliminated from first as the other five?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, my approach is -- I started thinking about the points a little bit here and there I think the first couple events, and I played all right the first couple events, I just didn't score very well. I think obviously I can't win it. You know, it's retirement money, one, so I'm going to try to throw that aside. I'm playing a pretty storied golf course with a massive purse against the best competition. I want to try to win the golf tournament. If I can do that, things will fall into -- I mean, I'm going to make some retirement money, or my wife is going to make some retirement money (laughter), but I'm going to go out and try to play my best. I played well on Sunday last week. I didn't score well last week, but I feel good about things.

Q. How does it feel compared to your first trip here to the TOUR Championship in that you probably couldn't win the money title that year I'm guessing, but it used to be kind of an all-star party for the guys who had the best year. Does that part feel any different?

Q. It's still the TOUR Championship?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's still the TOUR Championship. I look at it as a nice way to end my PGA TOUR year this year. I don't know what the next seven weeks are going to hold for me. I don't know where my schedule is going to lead. Some things are still pending, so I don't know if I'm going to play much after. But I've had a good year, and this would be a good way to go out if I can play well this week and have a nice finish.

Q. And the other real question I was going to ask is, as we finish this FedExCup, how do you measure whether it worked or not? You mentioned TV ratings a minute ago. Is that what you do?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's probably one way to monitor it. I don't know if that's the true way. I think the way to evaluate it, it's going to take time, and we're not going to be able to evaluate it even after Sunday. It's going to take some time, weeks and months afterwards. I know the powers that be at the TOUR will certainly sit down and find out what needs to be done and if this is the right scenario.
I was on the PAC, and we put a lot of time and effort into trying to make it as best we could the first year.
I think the only difficulty it seems from what -- I mean, I understand it, but I've sat in on meetings and I've read the literature that we've been given. A lot of players haven't. They complain about not understanding it but they didn't go to the meetings that were there for them and they didn't read the literature that was provided. That's their own fault.
Given that, I think it's a good thing. I think the FedExCup is going to be -- in the end it's going to be a great thing.

Q. Because?
ZACH JOHNSON: Just because we need something at the end of the year. We need something -- you know, January through the end of August, our product is great. I mean, we've got -- especially in the middle of the summer. We've got the majors and we've got our talent playing a lot. We need something at the end of the year to compete against the other sports, and I think this is going to do it in the end.
The difficulty lies in the fact that some of the fans don't understand the whole system, the points system, and that can be kind of difficult. But maybe we need to fine tweak that, I'm not sure. You know, I mean, I've had to explain to certain individuals a couple of times how the seeding process works and da da da, but the information is there. If you really are passionate about it and care about it, you can find out.

Q. What words of encouragement can you impart with our youth around the world who are pursuing their goals?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think first and foremost, if you've got the desire and the determination to go for your goals -- first set the goals, whatever it may be, I don't care if it's sports or music or whatever the case may be, it doesn't matter, if you've got the will power and the determination to go for it, there's no reason anyone should hold you back. They say nothing is impossible, and I certainly think that's true. I mean, hard work and a good attitude about things, you know, make opportunities and can go a long way.
You know, find someone that -- whatever avenue you decide to go down, find someone that has been down that avenue and find out why they've been successful at what they've been doing, whether it's a role model or whoever, and maybe research that and learn from it. There's a lot of knowledge out there and a way to go about it.

Q. Most playoff systems you have to get through one round to go to the next. Should a player only be eligible to win the FedExCup if he plays all four rounds, all four weeks?
ZACH JOHNSON: Should? Well, obviously not. I mean, that's not going to happen this year. Potentially.

Q. You talked about tweaking things.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's why I said earlier, I don't know if it should necessarily be called a playoffs. It's just a word. Maybe it should be called the TOUR Championship series, I don't know. If you get stuck on really the definition of playoffs, then you know what, it doesn't make any sense, I understand that.
But the bottom line is you're talking about the two guys that were on top -- going into the FedExCup, and they played well enough that they had the ability to take some time off, and that's why they -- you play well January through August and you play well at times during the FedExCup, you have that luxury.
You know, Tiger, for example, he knows his schedule and he knows his routines, and he felt playing four in a row followed by The Presidents Cup a week after is probably not the best thing for him, not the best way he can prepare, so he took time off. It makes sense. It makes complete sense.
I know Phil, one of his daughters, first time she's going to school. That makes complete sense. I'd take the week off, too.
I don't necessarily think you need to play them all, if that's what you're asking. You know, if the TOUR says you have to play them all, so be it. But they haven't, so why should you have to?

Q. Do poor greens take more of a toll on good putters than bad putters because good putters expect to make more putts?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I think poor greens you see the better putters putt well. Does that make sense?
You know, I mean, I prefer a smooth, hard, fast green, obviously, bentgrass especially.
But if I'm hitting my putts solid and I'm seeing the line, I'm putting down the line, I'm going to make more putts than the guy that doesn't putt well on average, or vice versa, whatever the case may be. It's just a matter of hitting the putts solid.
I mean, we play on sketchy grass on the West Coast, on poa annua grass that bumps, and the players that strike them the best and hit them solid are the ones that make the putts out there, too.

Q. Back to the playoffs, are there any specific changes you would recommend?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I haven't thought about any as of yet. You know, I've heard different scenarios and whatnot. I'll probably have a better opinion of that after the whole four weeks. You know, my focus has been strictly just on golf and trying to work my way up into the Top 5 and Top 10 in the FedExCup points and seeing where I could go. I haven't thought about any tweaking that needs to be done, or if any needs to be done, period.
There's going to be some things that are going to be done, but those are things I'm not going to know about and you're probably not going to know about. There could be some major things, as well. You know, I haven't really given it a lot of thought.

Q. Is the simplest thing just to get rid of the word playoffs? If they're modeling it after NASCAR and what have you, it's not the NEXTEL Cup, but playoffs?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's totally different. You're talking about, for the most part, team sports or NASCAR, which is a limited number of cars. So it's different.

Q. But if it was the FedExCup Series, is it easier to explain?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it may be. It very well could be. There's an elimination. Playoffs provide that. But the thing is if I play Westchester and I miss the cut, why should I go play in Boston? Well, if you're 10th in FedExCup points going into New York, why should you be eliminated from the next three events when you've had a phenomenal year prior. It's a totally different scenario. You can't compare one sport to the other in this respect. Golf is just totally different.
Your competition is not one-on-one. It's not a match play event. Your competition is the golf course. I know it's cliché, but it is.
Maybe, yeah. Maybe making the PGA TOUR FedExCup Series would make it better, if there were a better coin. It's just a word. I know some players and some media have gotten caught up in the whole playoffs word.

Q. Do you think all the talk about the greens and the playoff format has diluted this tournament this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't, because no one is not playing that -- I mean, everybody is playing, and the way to dilute a tournament is to have guys -- I mean, people feel about a diluted tournament is people are not showing up and playing. We're going to get great crowd support. We've sold 5,000 tickets since Friday. There's no reason why it should be diluted.
The greens are -- that's what it is. It's Mother Nature. You know, it's like saying on Friday, we get a bad storm and now the greens are all moist and unplayable. It happens. I don't think it's going to be much of an issue. Actually I was talking to Commissioner Finchem before I came in here, and he said some players went out there and they said it's not nearly as bad as what everybody made it out to be.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Zach.

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