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December 31, 2007

Zach Johnson


STEWART MOORE: Thanks for joining us for a few minutes here in the interview room. Looking back at 2007, like we were just talking about, not a good year for your Iowa Hawkeye football; a great year for you. How do you start anew in 2008 and forget about everything that happened and look forward to the challenge this season?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think Coach Ferentz did a good job of really getting down to the meat of the matter and establishing some new rules, and the recruits he's got coming in, I think they're going to be just fine.
STEWART MOORE: And your golf game?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, '07 was very good. I established a lot of goals, accomplished a lot of the goals. It was a very encouraging year. I mean, even as specific as Augusta. But I think the most encouraging aspect I feel is there's still room for improvement. So that's kind of my motivation. We've got new goals established. We've got a game plan that I think really isn't much different than what we were doing, it's just a matter of polishing and fine-tuning it. So I think we're doing the right stuff, it's just a matter of doing it better.
STEWART MOORE: You've got a lot of family out here this week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's kind of like -- three years ago in '05, my wife and I said if we ever made it back we'd bring our family because the Birds were out here with their family, and that's pretty cool. They're part of the team. Anyway, two weeks after Augusta they didn't forget, thus they're here. But it's great. They're having a good time.

Q. So what's the New Year's Eve plan tonight with a party of 14?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I put it in their hands. I don't have any idea. I know there's a party that's being had that we might attend at some point. But to me New Year's Eve is about as significant as last week. It doesn't even matter to me.

Q. What was significant about last week?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm just saying, as the previous day. There is no significance, that's what I'm trying to say. Last week was Christmas. Okay, as significant as any other Tuesday for that matter.
So I don't know. I think we're going to -- as far as dinner, we tried to get reservations and we just couldn't do it; it was packed. So we're just going to hang out in the room, order some take-in and have a few beers and relax. I'll probably be in bed by 10:00. I can't stay up much past that now.

Q. You talked about room for improvement after last year. Where would you like to improve the most?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, a player like myself, I'm always looking for some more length, for sure. But in order to do that I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm working out as hard as I've ever worked out. I'm trying to get flexible, more flexibility. I'm trying to obviously put some more mass on. I'm trying to do all that stuff, so I'm going the right direction there.
But outside of that, specifically, I would say for me to put on yards, it's going to be five yards here, a couple of yards there. So it's not that significant. But I need to improve my wedge game. That's where I had success this year, I think, is I was able to capitalize on strategizing a golf course, putting myself in position to get my wedges in position to make birdies or what have you.
My putting can certainly improve at times. When it's good, it's good, and there's some inconsistency there that I don't particularly care for. I could get really specific. Looking at some of the information that we have now on TOUR with TOUR Cast or whatever, it can get you down to a foot. So we really studied that hard, my instructors and I, and plotted an avenue we wanted to go down as far as short game and long game.

Q. Any numbers that came out of that?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it was kind of interesting. They had three feet and in, four feet and in, five feet and in. Up to ten feet I was in the top 25 in all of them, putts made. I was top whatever. 10 feet to 20 feet or 25 feet, I was terrible. 25 feet and beyond I was No. 1, or something like that, which was just kind of ironic to me. 10 feet to 20 feet I was 100 something, so there's a focus. How accurate that is, I don't know, but it's cumulative of the whole year, so it's got to be pretty close.
Other eye-openers, scrambling was a big stat last year that improved a lot but I can still improve, sand game especially. I'm hitting a lot of fairways, I don't miss the ball left. I can get specific. That's what those things tell you. I think I was one or two, first or second, in fairways missed left, which is good.

Q. Probably behind Verplank?
ZACH JOHNSON: Probably, or Fred Funk was probably first in both left and right. I don't know. You've got Goydos here, too. I can't remember a fairway missed.
There was a number of things. I'm reading a book right now. It's Tony Dungy's book. It's fantastic. One thing that's kind of hit me about that book, throughout his coaching career, he tells his teams, we're going to do what we do and keep improving on it. That's how I feel about any game. You're talking about a guy that can't overpower a golf course and certainly can't wow the crowd with his 40-yard slice shots. I can't do that for the most part, but I can improve on what I'm doing because what I'm doing is working out right. I just want to get better at what I'm doing. That's what he tells his team. It's very interesting, his approach. He never changed things. They tried to improve their team by draft picks rather than free agency.
The way I look at it is they're polishing, they're fine-tuning, they're not adding new and exotic things. It's all basic stuff.

Q. Do you think you have limitations as a golfer?
ZACH JOHNSON: Do I have any limitations? Can you elaborate?

Q. No.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I can't carry the ball 290 yards. I can't do it. If there's a bunker out there that's 270, I've got to put both cheeks into it (laughter). Other limitations right now? I don't know. It's hard to say.

Q. Here's my elaboration. If there are indeed limitations, which you mentioned 290 carries, do you feel limited as a golfer?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I've never felt limited as a golfer because I feel like the resources that I have -- if I did have limitations, the resources that I have, whether it's my team or whether it's my sponsors or what have you, alleviate those limitations. The knowledge they possess, the technology they possess allows me to exceed those limitations, if there was one.

Q. Do you think you can beat anybody on any given day?
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely, and I would say that about the other 250 card-carrying members on the PGA TOUR.

Q. That's not true, though, is it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I think it is. Absolutely, I think it is.

Q. I would have thought whoever they may be, the others may not have as strong a mind, as strong a confidence --
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, that may be the case. But a guy that carries his TOUR card out here, whether it's one year or ten years, I mean, they have the ability because the depth and the parity of our sport is so wide, I guess, that on any given day you can see anybody beat anybody.
I mean, Tiger Woods has an off-day, he can be beat. That's just the way it is. Unfortunately it looks like he's going back to his routine (laughter).

Q. No off days?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, his normalcy. I don't know what you call it; the way he's playing right now is pretty spectacular.
Yeah, I think anybody can beat anybody. I would say maybe Augusta this year was one example of that. I think some of the other players, like a Ben Curtis, that was shocking and surprising to a lot of people. To me it wasn't. I played with Ben a slew of times prior to that win. It did in that spectacle, but talent-wise, not even close. Does that answer your question?

Q. You bring up Tiger. Is there one player out here best equipped to make the biggest run at him?
ZACH JOHNSON: There's a lot of talented players. There's a couple guys out here that kind of wow me. Maybe not like Tiger but are close, and they've already had lots of success. I think age has a little bit to do with it. You look at the Sergios, Adam Scotts, those guys right there are phenoms in my opinion, much like a Tiger, but Tiger is on another level. Those two individuals are pretty special.
Some of the young kids coming out, some kids on the Nationwide Tour. That Jason Day kid, he hits it really good. It's a matter of getting your bearings and getting your feet wet sort of thing. Transitioning from the Nationwide Tour out here isn't that big of a deal, but it's a transition. It's hard to say.
There's different aspects that are -- as far as power on the golf ball there's a lot of guys that can hit it like Tiger, power-wise. Mentally on the golf course, I don't think Tiger reveals enough for me to know, so I would say that he's second to none. And if there is a second I don't know how far down it would be, and I don't know who it would be because he's that much more dominant in that area.

Q. Is the guy who can challenge Tiger year after year on TOUR right now? You're getting killed today, aren't you?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's fine. It's something I've never really thought about. Is there a guy on TOUR that can challenge Tiger right now?

Q. Year after year.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's kind of hard to answer, because if he is, he hasn't. I'm really trying to go about this in a practical sense. And if he is on TOUR, I don't know who he is. I guess that's my best answer. I hope it's the guy sitting in the chair right here.

Q. Is he in this room?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know how you guys play, but good luck in Q-school (laughter).
Here's the thing. One of the things that's very impressive about Tiger is if there is someone that's come along and they have maybe a year or two span where they're pushing Tiger, they're kind of neck and neck and pushing him, Tiger then raises his game even further. So if there is someone to challenge him, the challenge is going to be there but it's going to be brief and he'll just keep going. Does that make sense? He just has another -- he has the gear to take it to another gear that I can't pinpoint. Maybe that's a limitation I have.
Like I said in the beginning, I'm very encouraged that I know my golf game can get better, physically, fundamentally, mentally, I know it can get better, all three aspects. But he's got something that we just can't -- that's not tangible.

Q. Last time you made the Ryder Cup it's an entirely different point system. How do you think that will shake out this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: First and foremost, I don't think it matters -- as far as the 12 guys assembled --

Q. Eight plus four.
ZACH JOHNSON: I understand. As far as the 12 guys assembled at the PGA Championship I think it is, I don't think it matters who it is. I think we're all professionals and I think we all can step up our games and face the challenge. Was there a need for the change? Possibly. To get the guys who are playing best at that time and the opportunity for the captain to pick whoever he likes, yeah, I think it can work. You're also asking a guy who's played two Cup matches and two Ryder Cups.
My knowledge is -- I don't have the experience of some of the other guys. I like the changes. On the surface I like the changes a lot. Whether or not they're going to work, I don't know. Like I said, the bottom line is we've got to go out and perform. I hope I'm a part of we, but I'm not going to emphasize it like I did two years ago because my game went stray as a result, but I want to be on that team very bad.

Q. Do you think because of the fact that there's not an emphasis on Top 10 --
ZACH JOHNSON: I like that. You can get a guy that plays really, really well throughout the year, has a handful of Top 10s maybe but no wins --

Q. It happened to Verplank, he finished 11th a bunch of times --
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it happened to Kenny Perry, he's finished 11th or 12th a bunch. And John Rollins, he's as good as anybody out here.

Q. So you like that aspect?
ZACH JOHNSON: I do, yeah. I like the four picks because the captain or captains can really -- there's a lot of factors involved. They can pick the hottest players, they can pick a player that has the game and the mentality for something like a Cup match. They can pick a guy that, based on the golf course that's presented, maybe that's long, maybe you'd want a guy that plays more strategy golf. I like that aspect of it. Plus you get the top eight guys, and those are the guys that are -- they played the best the last two years, especially the current year probably. I do like how it's weighted more current year, and I'm happy to know that I've already won some points (laughter).

Q. What do you think the biggest surprise was last year?
ZACH JOHNSON: The biggest surprise last year, of '07? Man, you are pushing buttons, that's good.

Q. It's still '07 technically.
ZACH JOHNSON: Biggest surprise? Well, I mean, you have the implementation of the FedExCup and everything that came along with that. There was talk that you take one week off, you probably can't win it, but that certainly didn't manifest itself (laughter).
I don't know about surprise, but I think one of the things that was shocking -- almost that's shocking on TOUR now is you have guys 50 and older that are still winning and you have guys in their early 20s winning. That goes back to just the depth and the parity of our sport. Fred Funk winning, and Watney won, right?

Q. Who was the youngest winner last year?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. That's a little shocking, surprising. I guess you could throw Augusta in there. I wasn't supposed to win. I'd put that in there. I mean, I thought I could win; I didn't know it would be this year.

Q. You've had seven-plus months to wear the badge as a major champion. I can remember Payne Stewart talking about when he won his first major, he went to the tee, would be announced and would talk about feeling this pull to become a different player now that he was a major winner. Did you ever wrestle with that?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. I mean, I understand that. I think I did after I won my first event as a player. But quite frankly I played really, really good after The Masters. Like I said, what I did at Augusta was encouraging because I knew I could improve and knew I was doing the right things, so there was no reason for me to think, oh, man, more pressure on myself. I've got to change things up and make sure -- I finished sixth the following week after that which was probably a high after Augusta, and then I won again like a month later. I played really well at TPC, finished 17th maybe, 16th, something like that, but I played a lot better than that. And then I got sick in the middle of the summer and then I played really well at the end of the year. '04 when I won, I felt like, man, I could win every week. It took me three years later (laughter).
I thought, you know, it's not as hard as I thought it would be out here. That was brief. That was probably a couple months after the fact.

Q. In '04?
ZACH JOHNSON: In '04. I was sorely mistaken.

Q. Have you been back to the club since?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I haven't.

Q. Seriously?

Q. Why do you say it that way?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'd love to play or hang out or whatever. I just haven't had the opportunity. I'm planning some off-weeks during the winter months, and I might get up there. I've got some sponsors that would like to get up there, too. Hopefully I can. We'll see.

Q. Is your schedule now that you've been through one FedExCup season, do you see it changing much?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that was a good question. This year it's going to be different because we've got FedEx, Ryder Cup, back to FedEx. So no, I liked this past year. West Coast time is kind of a time for me to get going. It's going to be a little bit different because I played a lot in December and last year I took seven weeks off and then I didn't play until -- my first event was San Diego or Phoenix last year. I'm going to play four or five on the west coast, which is about normal. And then hit it hard on the east coast. The only difference about the east coast is we have an extra week in there. I don't want to play the week before Augusta but I don't want to take two weeks off. I don't know what I'm going to play or where I'm going to play, but there will be a little bit of a difference there.
Going into the FedExCup, no, I'm not going to -- my on weeks and my off weeks are set in the fact that I want to play two to four in a row and take a week off, so it's going to be the same all the way through.

Q. Do you have the west coast set?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't. I'm playing next week, LA, Match Play. Outside of that I don't know.

Q. Buick maybe with the U.S. Open coming up?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I've given that a lot of thought. I've played there every year and I like the tournament actually a lot. Who doesn't like that area? The golf course is really, really hard.

Q. It certainly won't be the same --
ZACH JOHNSON: That's my point. One, it's not going to be in the same shape, clearly. Two, it's going to be a par 70. Given all that, I feel like I know the golf course pretty well -- par 71? No. 6 is going to be a par 4.

Q. But 18 is staying a par 5.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, 13, that can't be a -- yeah, anyway, it's just going to be totally different. I don't know, if I play, I play, and if I don't, I don't.

Q. A year ago if you had been asked to rank the majors in terms of probability of the ones you would win, where would Augusta --

Q. Really?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yep, only because the conditions that I played it in -- everything that golf course throws at you, it's pretty much against you. In other words, the fairways are mowed toward the green, so if you get wet conditions, which is all I ever played in there, your ball does not roll regardless. Back in the day they had the two-tone fairway, you could hit it down grain, you could get, according to Tiger, 20 or 30 more yards of roll, or maybe 10 or 15 for me. So when the conditions are wet there, I'm hitting 3-irons and 4-irons and wearing out my long irons into those greens. But this past year it was so dry and windy and cool at times that getting the ball in the fairway was more of a premium. It didn't stop, it released, and that helped me a ton.
So I was able to hit more loft into greens and control my shots into greens. I'm limited when I have to hit 3 and 4-irons. One practice round I hit a 2-iron into 1, and the same thing on 18. So back to your question, I would have said PGA Championship would be up there. The course setup is really, really fair and in my favor as far as hit the fairways, et cetera. U.S. Open, British Open would probably be two and three, interchangeable, depending on the year, and then obviously Augusta. But you've got to know how to putt, and I putted well that week, and the more and more I play the course the more I understand where to put the ball, where not to put the ball.

Q. Have you been asked to give a piece of equipment to the club for their trophy room?

Q. Have you done it already?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I used a 54-degree wedge on 18, that chip. I didn't have many spectacular shots. My ball didn't hang on the edge and then drop (laughter).

Q. If it would have dropped you would have kept the wedge, though, right?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's right, and the ball. It was a 54-degree Vokey, so I did give them that wedge. I guess I did chip in on 8.

Q. The last day?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, the last day. I hit a good shot in there. It spun back all the way off the green. It would have been my putter otherwise.

Q. What would you have used more on the 5s, another wedge?
ZACH JOHNSON: My approach shots into the par 5s, you're asking? Yeah, it was a combination of a 54 and a 60. The way the game plan that I'd give myself -- depending on where the pin was and depending on what side of the fairway you're on also determines your yardage because you have banks in some spots and you have to release in some spots, so it was a combination of 54 and 60 depending on -- a lot of 54 numbers for 15 because you can lay up too close there. 13 was a lot of 60s. Back right pin on top of that shelf there, that was 101 to lay up as close as possible if we couldn't get there and kind of play like a bump-and-run. I had like 60 yards and I hit like a low -- a wedge or 54 and ran it up.

Q. This is probably a stupid question, but was there ever a sink-in moment this year with the Masters?
ZACH JOHNSON: Specifically -- that's a hard question. Well, getting offered to be on the Oprah Winfrey show, that's kind of weird. That certainly sunk in. And the fact that my wife said you have to do it (laughter). Yes, I would say the biggest was going home for the first time, which was the week of Colonial, which unfortunately is like one of my Top 5 favorite events. I can't go this year, either. My sister is getting married. That was one, going home. And everybody asked, you must be getting recognized more and more, which is true. I mean, that happens all the time. But not to the level where it is back in Iowa.
When I went to Des Moines to the capital there, met the governor and the First Lady and then I went back to my alma mater there, those hours during that time there was pretty wowing, if that's even the right word. It was pretty awesome. I was very surprised. I saw college teammates and people that just came out of the woodwork. It was unbelievable.

Q. That's got to be the best part is going home.
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely.

Q. I remember Weir dropped a puck at a Maple Leaves game the day after --
ZACH JOHNSON: I think he wore the jacket, too.

Q. He wasn't supposed to but I think they let him on?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think that's when it changed a little bit. I wore jeans with it once.

Q. When was this?
ZACH JOHNSON: In New York. We just didn't know. I'm pleading ignorance because it's true. We didn't leave Augusta National until 12:30 or 1:00 o'clock in the morning, and not by choice, that's just the way it was. So we had the jacket, and I'm like, where is the hanger, where do we put it? I didn't know I could take it. I had no idea. Everybody is gone, all the members are gone. The only people left were like the media cleanup people and --

Q. And us.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, and you guys and the bartender in the Butler Cabin.
Anyway, we received the word that you get the jacket for a year, and I was like, sweet. So I took it to New York with us obviously and I went down to Times Square wearing jeans and tennis shoes and a tee shirt. Pictures taken and everything. Then I go on the Regis & Kelly Show and I'm wearing jeans and a nice shirt and a jacket, and then I get a phone call saying please -- you can wear it in those situations because you're talking about the tournament but don't wear jeans.

Q. From the club?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was from my agent. I have no idea who it was. But they were very understanding about it. And my point in saying this is there's a protocol, we just didn't know what it was. So now it's golf-oriented events, Augusta-oriented events, no jeans.

Q. Where is it now?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's at home.

Q. Specifically?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's at home. I think it's in my closet.

Q. Is it wrapped in --
ZACH JOHNSON: It's got a covering on it, yeah.

Q. You wore it on the first whirlwind tour. Have you worn it since?
ZACH JOHNSON: I wore it in Iowa. I don't think I wore it at the capital and I didn't wear it in Des Moines, the day I went there. But back in Cedar Rapids, my wife put together a party, family and some close friends and she brought some surprise guests in, so I wore it that evening briefly, and I also wore it to my charity announcement this past year. Golf-oriented.

Q. Slacks?
ZACH JOHNSON: Exactly, slacks. Have I worn it since? Oh, yeah, I wore it for a Titleist function.

Q. What's the meal going to be?
ZACH JOHNSON: Don't know yet. Haven't gotten there. Probably a surf and turf. Me being from the Midwest, we'll throw some beef and corn in there and maybe some pork, and then my wife is from Amelia Island and they're the shrimp capital, so something along those lines. Tiger says there's nobody there that cares. They're just going to eat it and it's going to be great. The way the chefs prepare the food there is fantastic. Even their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are really good. I know it's weird, but they are.
STEWART MOORE: Thanks so much, Zach.

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