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April 6, 2008

Johnson Wagner


DOUG MILNE: All right. Well, Johnson, I feel like you've spent almost as much time in here as you have on the golf course this week. Congratulations, 2008 Shell Houston Open.
With the win, you are headed to Augusta and you pick up 4500 points in the FedExCup race. That moves you up to 1st for the year so far. Obviously overwhelming but an incredible feeling. Share some of your thoughts.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, it was incredible week from the start too finish. And I played great all week. It was very high pressure the last two days, and I don't know how I got through it, but I thought I was going to get sick on myself out there a couple times. But it was very rewarding, and I just couldn't be happier. And this is probably one of those events that I put at the top of my list as wanting to win.
DOUG MILNE: Before we open up our questions, just share how was last night? Did you make it through last night okay? Did you get any sleep?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was pretty tired after yesterday. Watched the basketball games, which were kind of uneventful. Tried to stay up as late as I can and fall asleep. I woke up all through the night and woke up this morning. Yeah, it was okay. I don't want to do it again right now.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. We'll jump in with some questions.

Q. Talk about your emotions throughout this day, just kind of ringing your hands on the towel and sweat through your shirt.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I keep getting wet out of the shower. On the towel, when it's hot, my right hand seems to get sweaty. I'm thinking about wearing two gloves. There's already somebody out here who does that.
Those are normal things that I do. They didn't have anything to do with pressure.

Q. Just talk about your emotions.
JOHNSON WAGNER: My emotions? I was freaked out all day today and yesterday. But, you know, I've been doing a lot of deep breathing out on the golf course. It kind of settles me down. I managed to prepare for every shot out there, and there's probably not too many shots that I hit that I would like the play over.
Some of them were mishits and not where I wanted them, but I didn't hit it in trouble and it was very good.

Q. Can you talk about standing over that putt on 17 and talk about 18, also.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The same with the putt on 13 that I ended up 3-putting or 14 when I 3-putted. I left it way short. I knew the putt was going to be slow. Just a bad putt. I got over that par putt and just, you know, went through my routine. And I've been putting so well all week and I made so many birdie putts of that length, and I just told myself to roll it right in the middle. And it went in, and I got pretty excited about it.

Q. 18, standing on the tee?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Standing on the tee. I was okay walking over there. All right, we haven't had to wait. Let's just walk up there and hit that tee shot. When I got over the bridge and saw that the guys in front of us hadn't even hit yet, I kind of started freaking out.
Lot of bad thoughts went through my head, and, you know, it would have been a lot easier to go up there and hit the tee shot. With a 2-shot lead I knew I could play safe over to the right bunker. It's not where I wanted to hit it. It was a safe alternative to the big lake on the left.

Q. About the only mistake you had with the putter all week was 14?
JOHNSON WAGNER: 14 it was. I don't know what happened there. I don't know if I just lost concentration. I just didn't want -- it was the kind of putt, these greens are so fast, such a fine line, be perfect speed and rolling it right off the green. You know, I didn't want to leave it where I did, but, you know, it happens.

Q. Johnson, everyone else that was contending had won before, but this win means so much to you, two-year exemption. You get into some really good events and also you get to play in the Masters next week. What really means the most to you?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Nothing really has sunk in yet. There's so many benefits to winning out here, and the Masters is great. I guess I'll be going to Mercedes Championship next year, which is also great. Just the feeling of accomplishment. This is something I've wanted to do my entire life, and to win at the highest level of golf, you know, I'm just thrilled and not shocked, but just -- I just can't believe it.

Q. Did you think that would come this year? Obviously you guys are confident, but did you think "This is my year to get it done"? Were you feeling good about your game to start with?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I thought I would win last year. I won twice on the Nationwide Tour. I got myself in the final group here and also finished second at the Viking Classic, and, you know, yes, I thought I could win this year, but thinking you can win and actually it happening are two different things.

Q. What sort of significance do you attach to being able to have done it -- you didn't stumble into this one on a hot Sunday, because you played in the heat of having the lead for four days and withstood it. Is that another dimension?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It is. I mean, you know, any win is a good win, I would imagine. This one feels pretty good to me right now, but I don't think it matters. I think I just maybe went through a little more pressure than if I shot a 9-under on Sunday and come back and won from 6-back.
I think I learned more and I'll be a better player for winning wire to wire. Knowing if I ever grab the 3rd round lead or 2nd round lead, that I've been in that position and I can draw on this experience.

Q. Johnson, how hard was to it keep those thoughts about playing for a Masters spot out of your mind? That's human nature. One hole from the Masters. How hard was it to keep those thoughts out of your mind, or did you even try keep them out?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I definitely tried. It was hard, though, and I think I said on Thursday after the 63, someone asked me about the Masters, and I said I'm trying not to think about it now, but come Sunday if I've got a 2-shot lead on 18, I'll think about it. I get up there and they walk off the tee. I've got all this time. I don't want to talk to anybody because I don't know if I'll be able to speak.
Yes, I thought about it, and I caught myself quickly and tried to just focus on the tee shot.

Q. When were the times you thought you were going to be sick out there today? (Laughter)
JOHNSON WAGNER: When I can -- probably be easier the tell you the times I didn't feel like I was going to get sick. Warming up on the range, I was very nervous, but, you know, still tried to stay calm and breathe and just all day. I mean, walking over across that bridge at 18. Not that I really felt I was going to get sick. My stomach was turning a little bit.

Q. You said you thought bad thoughts when you saw the backup there. What were some of the bad thoughts that were running through the head then?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Don't hook it in the water (laughter). If you do hook it in the water, make it cross the land so you don't have to hit the tee shot again. That's about it.

Q. Johnson, you missed some cuts this year, and then you kind of had a mediocre week last week in New Orleans until your final round of 69. Have you figured something out?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I've been working really hard for the last month. I didn't get in Bay Hill this year and stayed down in Florida and worked with my coach, Bobby Hines. I think we played golf together five of seven days. I actually played very good in New Orleans. I had a terrible Saturday and was actually going to miss the Saturday cut, but we had a bunch of rain, and I had a chance to come and play again.
Played great on Sunday. Shot 69. Really felt good coming into this week, and this course is just tailor made for me, I guess. I just have good feelings out here. It's no surprise that I played well here, in my mind.

Q. How many gloves do you go through in a round?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Just one, you know, unless I get mad and rip it off.

Q. You mentioned your family connection to Augusta. Does that kind of give you a little comfort level?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I don't know. My first Masters, I don't know. Sounds funny, you know, even saying it, but it's going to be a great experience. After winning this week and playing as well as I am, I feel good going into it. My family connection there I don't think is going to make any difference whatsoever. But it's going to be a great week.

Q. Is that the shirt you plan to wear next Sunday at Augusta?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I had a little thing on the Nationwide Tour. I wore lime green on Friday every Friday. It was kind of my good luck color, my cut-making color, and it kind of failed me last year. So I thought once I got in the hunt, it was going to be lime green Sundays. So here I am. I need to get a couple more lime green shirts so I don't sweat this one out every week.

Q. Does it help that you've already played Augusta?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. You know what? I think it helps. I actually watched 2002 highlights last night on the Golf Channel after the basketball games. I think watching it on TV for so many years, helps more than anything, seeing the putts, seeing how to play 16 when the pin is back left. And watching it my whole life, I feel like I know it. And I'm sure getting out there is going to be a different experience, but I've got three days to learn it.

Q. So many guys kind of freak out because they don't see the elevation. Lot of the different things like that. You've got that knocked because you've seen it and you know.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Exactly. Definitely doesn't show up as hilly on TV as it actually is, but I don't know. I have nothing to lose next week. I don't care if I shoot 90 both days and miss the cut. I'm so excited to be there, and it's just a dream come true.

Q. So you can't tell me that you're watching those highlights last night --
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was thinking about it.

Q. -- I can be hitting that shot?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was watching the basketball game. My wife came back from a walk. She said, "What are you doing watching Masters highlights?" I thought to myself, that's a good point. We hadn't talked about it all week, and I'm so glad that nobody brought it up to me that's close to me. Nobody said "Hey, if you win, can I get in tickets to the Masters?"
Nobody said anything to me about it, which was great. It really helped me focus on not focusing on it.

Q. What popped in your head when the ball in the cup and you're pumping your fist like crazy?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think I'm a pretty -- I don't know what the right word it right now. I'm pretty composed. I don't really show much emotion on the golf course. But when that putt went in on 17, I mean, I gave it more of a fist pump than I think I ever have. When that went in on 18, it was more relief that it was over and excitement and so many different feelings mixed into one. I just kind of went crazy. But I was happy to go crazy.

Q. How many rounds have you played with Tiger Woods?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Never. Played with Mark O'Meara this year at the Buick. He told me I should go up to him and ask him to play a practice round with him sometime. I would love to. He's the man, you know. Anything you can do to get close to him and learn from him would be a good thing, and he's the best probably athlete ever to play any sport.
So it would be an honor to play with him whenever.

Q. Does this kind of at least get you ready for the gallery? See the crowd in the thick of it last few holes, the crowds gather?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think one of the best things I did this weekend was kind of block the crowd out. I know they were there, but I was trying to just act like it was just another Tuesday with nobody on the golf course and just playing with my caddy, Steve, and -- but the crowds at Augusta will definitely be hard not to notice.
I think one of my favorite things -- I thought about this last night right when I turned off Masters highlights. They were showing the 16th hole. I can't wait to skip balls across that lake in the practice round.

Q. Does this win mean more to you, knowing who you beat? You had Geoff Ogilvy chasing you, Freddie getting hot and making a run at it. You just had all these big names this week.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's always -- any win is good, but to win against a field that the Shell Houston Open drew this year makes it even that much sweeter, to win against an upper echelon field.

Q. What have your friends told you who played the Masters? You've got some buddies have played there before. What have told you after getting back?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Nothing, really. One of my good friends, Brandt Snedeker played as an amateur after he won the Publinks. I'm very excited to see him next week out there. I don't really recall anything that anybody said about it. I'm looking forward to making my own experiences.

Q. Are you going to be there tomorrow afternoon?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I will be there tomorrow for sure.

Q. You haven't decided when yet, or ASAP?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Probably going to get out of town tonight.

Q. Are you really going to drive?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. My manager showed up today and arranged someone to drive my RV. I'm glad he didn't tell me about it today, but I think we're heading out sometime tonight.

Q. Have you looked at your phone even?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. It's back at the RV, which is about 500 yards that way (indicating). I'm probably going to turn it off and turn it on sometime tomorrow. I think I'm going to enjoy this and not listen to voice mail. I've had so many friends and so many people close to me text messaging me and leaving me voice mails all week, and it's nice to know I have such good support around me.

Q. You'll be in Augusta tonight?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Will we be in Augusta tonight? Yes, I'll be in Augusta tonight.

Q. Did you hit a ball in the water all week this week?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Yes, Friday, twice. I hooked it in the hazard on 3 and sliced in the hazard on 11 on Friday. And then, you know, I played far away from it the rest of the week.

Q. Other than skipping balls across the lake at 16, what else is on your to do list?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Par-3 contest.

Q. Souvenirs?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Exactly. I fully expect to play well, but I would really like to make an eagle sometime and get a pair of Augusta goblets, Augusta crystal.

Q. Talk about your thoughts on the back-9, because you know Chad had a rough front-9. All of a sudden he starts getting hot, and just how did you -- did you think "Oh, man, here he comes"?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was excited for him. He had struggled so much on the front-9. I didn't think it was -- he was ever going to really get back into it. He rattled off birdies on 11, 12 and 13 and making good putts. I was like "Oh, boy, here we go. I better get it going."
Then when I made bogey on 13 and he birdied 14, it was tight. I hate to say it, but when he hit it in the bunker on 16, that really relieved me because if he had stuck it in there tight, I knew that I was going to have to start being aggressive, and that was kind of against my game plan today. I wanted to hit a lot of greens, give myself a lot of chances, but I didn't want the fire at flags. I wasn't feeling great over the ball.
Does that answer your question at all?
DOUG MILNE: Okay. If you wouldn't mind, just lastly take us through your birdies and just give us a little bit of description and club.
JOHNSON WAGNER: No. 2, hit a blocked driver that somehow found the fairway and tucked a pitching wedge to about 25, 30 feet and it was kind of a curler. I had seen Chad putt it past the hole. It trickled right in the front of the cup. That got me going.
Then on No. 4 I hit in it fairway bunker, laid up to about 100 yards. Hit a very good wedge to a tough pin to about 10 feet right of the hole, made that.
Didn't get it up and down on 6 out of the bunker.
Made a good birdie on 8. Laid up into the rough. Had 107 yards with sand wedge. Made about a 6-footer. Then 13 was probably the best shot I hit all day. Hit a great drive at 8 after I had been struggling off the tee and hut a 3-wood from I think I had 260 front edge, threw it right on the front and had a nice easy 2-putt birdie and then the 3-putt on 14.
DOUG MILNE: All right. Johnson Wagner, congratulations. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Thank you very much.

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