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September 15, 2007

Zach Johnson


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Zach Johnson into our interview room, Zach with a course record 10-under par 60, a tournament record, a career best. It did a lot of things and vaulted you into contention for the Georgia triple that we know so much about. Maybe just talk about the day and then we'll open it up for questions and specifics.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure, thanks, Joe.
I mean, I feel good about the week in general. You know, I shot 1-over on Thursday, and I just got it ahead of myself. That's really what it boils down to. I had it at 3-over at one time, got it back to even and finished at 1-over. But going into my second round I still felt good. I had a good number yesterday. I felt great coming in today, and today was a day where I hit more fairways and made some putts, and when I missed a fairway I recovered nicely.
It was the putter. Any time you shoot that low, you're obviously putting well. It doesn't hurt when you've got Ernie, who's probably the most rhythmic guy out there, the way he struts and the way he swings, that was good for me. I enjoyed my day. So yeah, I'm hoping that I can throw the day aside and play well again tomorrow.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Did the eagle at 15 have you thinking about 59?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that pretty much did it right there. Yeah, 16 tee, I had to take a couple deep breaths and just get focused, and I hit a good drive.
I actually hit two good shots there. But yeah, clearly the shot that really got me here was the second shot and the putt on 17, and then whatever on 18. I could barely stand up (laughter). I don't know why. It's only Saturday, too. It was really peculiar.

Q. How does the pressure of trying to shoot 59 compare to trying to win a tournament or trying to win The Masters even?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's completely different. You know, for me, I can't speak on behalf of the others, but I try not to shoot a number ever. So when you start thinking about a number, it's usually not a good thing. I didn't even look at the leaderboard. Once I got to about 6, 7, 9-under or whatever, I was like, well, I'm probably moving up the board pretty good, so let's just not look at it. Those are the kind of things I try to just throw aside and try to stay in the present. Shooting a 59 or winning at Augusta is two totally different entities. I'll tell you right now, I had no idea what I shot at 18 at Augusta, but I had a pretty good idea what I shot today at 18. It's just totally different, just a different feeling. You know, living and dying by each shot, I guess.

Q. What would a 59 have meant to you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it would have been awesome. It's one of those mysterious numbers we have in golf. 18 would probably be another one. Rich Lerner mentioned Jack's number of 18 majors. Outside of that, I don't know. I think the Georgia slam is a big deal.

Q. Can you talk about the bunker shot and how difficult it was?
ZACH JOHNSON: It wasn't that difficult of a bunker shot only because I had a lot of green and I had to just get it on there and let it feed down towards the hole. I couldn't have executed it any better. I thought it was going to break a little more left.

Q. How close was it, how many inches close to going in the hole?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was probably a foot, I'd say a foot. Anywhere from probably 10 to 15 inches, I don't know.

Q. Did you see that up there, on the board, the distance?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I didn't look at a board the entire day.

Q. You said earlier that you were more nervous than at Augusta. Why do you think that is?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I mean, going into Saturday and Sunday at Augusta, I was kind of in contention so I knew it already. And then going into this round, you know, you don't -- it's just different. We usually play to win golf tournaments, and today I was kind of playing to shoot 59. It was just different. It was just a totally different mind frame. Like I can tell you, when I go back home I try to shoot the course record at times. But it's probably not the way to approach it.
You know, the scary thing is I had the perfect club and the perfect number on 18 tee shot, I just pulled the shot. It's just a totally different mind frame, a totally different entity. It's hard to explain.

Q. Had you played the 6th hole before in practice? Had you seen it before? Ogilvy said he didn't even know where the tee was.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I did. I hit one shot in the practice round.

Q. Pretty good shot today.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.

Q. Can you describe the walk to the 18th tee and how you felt over the ball? Did your hands feel any more moist?
ZACH JOHNSON: My shoulders felt heavy and my legs felt like they weighed nothing. My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding. I was breathing all right, though. I guess the yoga that I've been doing helped out a little bit, seriously. And I felt good about the tee shot, the 18th tee shot. The number I had was great. I had a great club for it, just a smooth 2-iron, and I fanned it. But whatever. It is what it is.

Q. Was there any point at Augusta where you felt that way even over your last putt in the Masters?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not quite like that. I mean, my second shot on 18 at Augusta was pretty nerve-wracking. It was also funky because the lie and stance was awkward. When it left the club face I got a little nervous because it went straight right.
But the chip shot on 18 really didn't -- I was fine with it. Under the circumstances I would say it was -- it was one of those shots I was trying to make. I knew at that point I had probably a one or two-shot lead, and I figured if I make this, I'm going to be hard to beat. So I was trying to make it. Much like the second shot on 18 today. I guess that would be the only similarity today, was the fact I was trying to make both of those shots.

Q. You say you don't ever like to think about a number, but Tiger has still got a pretty good jump on you if things hold up going into tomorrow. Do you think about tomorrow? Will it take a 59 then?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's the least of my concerns. I mean, that guy, he's playing probably pretty darn average today at best, so he's bound to shoot whatever tomorrow. That's the least of my concerns. This is the Playoffs, I'm after the points.

Q. Did you say you started thinking about 59 really with the eagle on 15?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's about when it hit me, yeah.

Q. What contributed to your summer, shall we say, slump, doldrums, whatever?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, average, I guess. Well, I think a lot of it was just the whirlwind that my life was now in. I mean, I was just getting used to all the clutter and the chaos that goes along with winning a major. All good stuff, I mean, all great stuff. It's just a matter of controlling it. And I think we did a good job of that, and hopefully it happens again. When it does I think we'll be better for it.
You know, that, and I was worn down. The extracurricular things off the golf course certainly wore me out and I got sick. I was sick for a good two weeks. I had to withdraw from Memorial, and there were some other factors involved there.
Aside from that, I'm not sure why. And I took some time off, too. I didn't play a whole lot, either. In the summer I tried to take some more weeks off.

Q. What's the closest you've come before, either in practice rounds or just messing around at home?

Q. Yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON: I can't remember. I know my lowest competitive 18 is a 61, but that was on the Hooters Tour outside of St. Louis, but that was par 72, and I made a bogey. You know, I think I maybe shot 61 a couple times back at my home track in Iowa. As a matter of fact, I know I did, at Elmcrest.

Q. So this is pretty much your first experience at going after 59?
ZACH JOHNSON: Legitimately, yes, absolutely. My best chance.

Q. Has it sunk in you have a chance to win this tournament?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, no. I'm really bummed about my game, to be honest with you (laughter).
Yeah, I'm trying to -- once the golf is over with -- I'm worn out. This four weeks has been long, so I'm trying to just -- I haven't been practicing a whole lot afterwards at all. Tuesday I took it slow, I played nine holes and hit a few, same thing on Wednesday. Whatever happens, happens. That's kind of the way I'm approaching this week. I felt good last week. Last week I just didn't putt very well and it took effect on other parts of my game.
You know, I think the biggest positive, aside from the number and a chance to win the tournament, is the fact that we've got the Presidents Cup and I feel like everything is going in the right direction. I'm excited about that.

Q. That shot on 17 out of the bunker, where does that kind of rank on the career highlight list?
ZACH JOHNSON: That was a tough shot. I mean, I had 204 yards I think it was, 205 yards. I actually hit the drive solid, I just pushed it, and it was on a downhill lie in the bunker. It was one of those things, just put it on the front, if it releases, it releases, if it doesn't, it doesn't. I hit a low 4-iron, caught it a little thin, but that's what you try to do almost. It was pretty lucky but also a pretty good shot.

Q. When you walked up to the ball was there any thought kind of, well, there goes 59?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm just glad it wasn't in the rough. The sand traps here are in perfect condition. The rough is very -- well, the rough is penal. It's good. It's just good rough. You can get a bad lie and you can get a good lie. But it's healthy, so I was happy it was in the bunker.

Q. You're the first guy to get to 18 with a chance to do it, but every day this week we've done the math on someone shooting 59. I wonder, as you look forward --
ZACH JOHNSON: I see what you're saying.

Q. The likelihood of this record standing once we get to -- assuming no one breaks it tomorrow --
ZACH JOHNSON: You mean the 60?

Q. Yeah, once they get the greens redone, this is an extraordinary week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it has been. I think a lot of it is, one, the biggest thing -- the main thing is the greens aren't nearly, even remotely, as out of shape as they were made out to be early on in the week. I mean, the maintenance crews here, and I know they've had some help from some other courses around, they're the ones that deserve a lot of the credit, or all of the credit, because they were really bad like a week ago.
So one, the greens really aren't that bad; two, I'm hitting 4-irons at the hole and it's releasing a foot or a couple yards maybe. So you get your number, and it's just like, okay, what club am I going to hit to land it that distance, rather than having to play the release, which is what you usually have to do. Outside of that, those numbers are still pretty low. That's obviously some great golf. Tim and I don't hit the ball that long. This is a long golf course in general. It's playing shorter this time of year, obviously due to the heat I would think, and the fairways are in perfect shape. But it's a hard golf course for me to score on when it's in the fall and somewhat moist.

Q. In what way did it help playing with Ernie?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you know, the last time I played with him, I played really well, too, very well. It was at The International last year on Saturday. I don't know how many points I scored that day, but it was a lot. I don't know why. He's obviously a very nice guy, funny, and I think outside of that, the biggest thing is it's his rhythm. He's just kind of easy going, Easy Ernie. His rhythm is great. It's easy to kind of get in that.
He looks like he's barely walking and I'm trying to run to catch him (laughter). It's just easy. He and J.P. were great. Unfortunately he had some bad breaks out there. He was very encouraging, the last three or four holes, very encouraging.

Q. Is there any point you can think back to the beginning of the round that maybe there was a shot back there that would have made a difference?
ZACH JOHNSON: You always look back at putts. There were some holes where I had opportunities. 12, I had probably eight, ten feet on 12. I thought I made it. But whatever. I made some good putts today, long ones.
A couple other shots in general, I can't recall. There was probably two or three putts if I hit it a little higher or a little harder, but I made well more than my share.

Q. In baseball there's that kind of unwritten rule you don't talk about a no-hitter, a superstition --
ZACH JOHNSON: I just saw one.

Q. You did. What about 59? What is the approach that you take?
ZACH JOHNSON: 59 is way better than a no-hitter.

Q. But in terms of superstitions, talk about it during the round?
ZACH JOHNSON: Don't talk about it. I think it's probably the same thing. In the dugout they let him go do his thing. The 6th or 7th inning he's kind of deciding -- Damon and I didn't talk about it. Damon didn't feel great. He had some issues. He's a little sick. He was vomiting last night. But he got through it, he's tough.
It was obviously in the forefront of my mind, but there wasn't much said. I would assume 59 is -- it is, it's more rare than a no-hitter, two or three no-hitters a year? Perfect game and 59, close.

Q. 59 is more rare.
ZACH JOHNSON: Than a perfect game even?

Q. Because of what you were saying in terms of just being able to hit the distances and not worry about runout and all that, would it have felt at all like a 59 with sort of an asterisk, or is 59 is 59 is 59 no matter when and how?
ZACH JOHNSON: 59 is 59 is 59. 62 is 62 is 62. Courses can play easy, wind can be benign, the greens can be perfect speed, but you've got to get it done. That's what it boils down to. That's why Tiger Woods is very impressive. He consistently does it. That's what makes him unbelievable.

Q. You saw Buchholz's no-hitter at the Red Sox game?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I got off the course on Friday, and my wife was there with the baby. We got an invite to go to Fenway and watch the game. I got done late, and I'm like, baby goes to bed at 7:30, I didn't play great, I've got to probably tee off around 10:00 the next morning. I don't really want to do it. It was actually the Mickelsons that invited us. I'm thinking, well, how often do you -- I've only been to Fenway one other time and I absolutely loved it. I'm not the biggest baseball fan, but a live game, Red Sox at Fenway is priceless (laughter). I mean, it is.
So, who cares, let's just go. Let's just go and have a good time. My boy is eight months old, and his first professional major league game at Fenway, he sees a no-hitter.

Q. They're sending the guy back down to the minor leagues next week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Are you serious? Well, it still looks good on his resumé. I'm sure he'll get back up. That was very impressive.

Q. Have you put your finger on the whole Georgia thing, or is it just one of those deals you don't mess around with? It's pretty ridiculous.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't understand it. I cannot figure it out. I've got some great friends that live here, I don't know if that has anything to do with it. Two of my roommates from college live here. I don't know. But I love it.

Q. Starting back before you were even a TOUR guy, right, you played your way in or got an exemption?
ZACH JOHNSON: Monday qualified in '02, and I finished like 17th at Sugarloaf, four-putted the 18th hole, otherwise I had a Top 10 and would have made the next week's Open event or whatever. So yeah, I don't know if I ever won a mini-Tour event here.

Q. Did you ever play in those Hooters championship tournaments out at Whitewater Creek?
ZACH JOHNSON: In Peachtree City?

Q. Yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON: I did, I played there twice. Well, I played the TOUR Championship -- well, that was our TOUR Championship. If it was there in '01 and '02 I played it both times.

Q. Did you play well?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think I had a second or third there one year. I think the other year I didn't play great.

Q. What did Ernie say to you when he shook your hand on 18 after you holed out?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, he's a man of few words, but he said very impressive, very impressive. He said it was a pleasure to be around. He meant it, you could tell, he was smiling. He also got some bad breaks, got some bad starts so he was trying to get off the golf course, much like I was, but for a different reason. But it was fun. He's one of the best to play with.

Q. A little off the track here, after the Presidents Cup, are you going to play any of -- will there be four left in the Fall Series?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know, but there's five left. I don't know, I can't play the week after. That's one of my corporate obligations I have, so there's only four weeks. There's a chance, but I'm not sure. There's also some other things that are pending. Alongside of that, part of the reason why I got off to a good start this year is that -- due to the fact we had a baby, but I had six, seven weeks at home where I practiced. I practiced in the offseason, but I have a schedule, and I want to have at least three or four weeks to do that.
You know, I don't know what the fall is going to hold. A lot of football on Saturdays, though.

Q. You don't have any international stuff lined up in the hopper?
ZACH JOHNSON: Some stuff that's pending, nothing more than that. I'm now playing The Skins Game and I'm playing the Shark Shootout, obviously the Grand Slam. That's one of the things pending.

Q. You're one of the guys who were kind of on the inside when all these Playoffs were being planned and bantered about. Do you think they've accomplished what they've set out to?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a very good question. You know, I think in a nutshell, yes, I do. Our purpose in having the whole Playoffs, the FedExCup, was to add another element at the end of the year and make it bigger, make it better. We have a great product, obviously. When you have the best athlete in the world playing our sport; we have a good product.
I think the ingredients are there. There might be some fine-tuning and some polishing that needs to be done, but I think all in all, in time it's really going to be a good thing, especially when the fans really start to grab hold of the specifics and the details of it, and the players obviously for the most part want to play. Those that don't or haven't played every one, they don't have to. They have the luxury where they don't need to. That's the benefit of playing well when they did.
You know, so I think it's been pretty successful. I mean, there's going to be a lot of drama. There could be a lot of drama tomorrow potentially. I don't know where the points are, but I'm assuming Tiger has probably got the best chance, if not the only chance, to win it. But you never know what can happen. It's a pretty nice deferred compensation plan.

Q. You said it would get better. What's going to be different?
ZACH JOHNSON: I just think when people really start to grab hold and understand the specifics of it, the points system, how it's all January through August and then August through September and then also -- if any tweaking needs to be done, I don't know what it is, but I'm sure the players will appreciate it this way. The tweaking that will be done will be done by advice of players, and that's the way the TOUR operates. Serving on the PAC, I formally understand that and believe that they're doing the best they can. We've got a great product, and it can only get better, as long as Tiger isn't retiring.
JOE CHEMYCZ: Before we go, take us through every hole if you would.
ZACH JOHNSON: Every hole? No. 1, I hit driver down the middle, hit an 8-iron to probably about 12 feet right above the hole. Hit a good putt, too.
2, I hit a poor shot, fanned it to the right, hit a great flop shot to a foot, inches. Hit a 5-iron on 2.
3, I hit a poor drive into the bunker, left bunker, and hit an 8-iron out of the bunker to about four feet and made that.
4, that's when I started driving it well. I hit a good drive there, hit another 9-iron to about 20 feet, made that.
5, I hit a good drive down the middle, hit a 4-iron, probably should have hit a 5-iron, I had 40, 50 feet, two-putted.
6, I hit a little 3-iron, it was 210 into the wind. It was all of two feet probably, two and a half feet.
7, hit a good drive, hit a good 8-iron to about 15 feet. I misread it. We had different reads, Damon and I, and I hit a bad putt, so I missed that.
8, I hit a poor drive, hit a good second shot but I caught a flier and hit it over the green, hit a flop shot down to about 15 feet and made that for par. That was the putt that kind of got it going. That was at 8.
9, hit a good drive, left side, just snuck in the rough. I had a horrible lie. I had to hit a lob wedge out of there and hit a 2-iron behind the pin about 20 feet and made it for birdie. So I picked up one there based on where my tee shot was.
10, hit a good drive and a 7-iron below the hole, hit the wrong club, and just missed my birdie putt.
11, hit a 4-iron to about three and a half feet, made that.
12, hit a good drive, sand wedge to ten feet, just missed it.
13, good drive, I hit a little 6-iron to about 20 feet beyond the hole, made that, straight putt.
14, I hit a good drive, hit an 8-iron to about eight feet, nine feet maybe, made that one, had a good read on it.
15, I had a very good drive, had to cut it, which is not my forte. I hit a 2-iron to about 16 feet beyond the hole, made that.
16, I hit a good drive, hit a little 5-iron, I thought it might have been a 6-iron. Evidently I should have hit the 5-iron a little harder because I had about 22 feet, 23 feet, 24 feet. I had the right line, I just didn't hit it, left it about a foot short.

Q. 17, I hit a good drive but pushed it into the bunker, 4-iron, landed on the front third, released to about five, six feet, made that.
18, I hit 2-iron, blocked it in the bunker, lob wedge to about two feet.
My second shot on 18 was 50 feet, 9 inches?

Q. You said perfect number, perfect club on 18. I'm just curious what went through your mind as you saw it start to leak out to the right?
ZACH JOHNSON: "Go left."
Well, the wind was coming out of the right so I was trying to bank it up against the wind and let it fall left, and I just pushed it. I actually hit it fairly solid. But that pin was so vulnerable. Everything just kind of fades into it. Obviously it's a 225-yard hole, but for that hole there's probably going to be some birdies there today, and a backstop. It's not an easy shot, but for a guy that draws it -- I would prefer that shot there every day.

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