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April 8, 2008

Zach Johnson


CRAIG HEATLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my distinct pleasure to welcome back the 2007 Masters Champion, Zach Johnson. Zach earned his first Ryder Cup berth in 2006. He played on The Presidents Cup team in 2007 , and he had a second victory in Georgia last year at the AT&T Classic. Zach also won the 2004 BellSouth Classic in his rookie season.
This is his fourth Masters appearance. Zach, welcome. I just wonder if you would share a few thoughts since we were here 12 months ago.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. Well, in a lot of respects it seems like it was yesterday. More respects it seems like it was probably about ten years ago.
Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to come back -- I should say, I had the opportunity, just couldn't fit in my schedule, so my first day back was Sunday night, and we drove on up, me and the family. Had a baby that was not being very cooperative, and I and my wife both had headaches as a result, pulled into Magnolia Lane, felt pretty good. (Laughter).
Yeah, it's just the old vibes, the old memories, the feelings; it's just great to have. As far as last year and what's transpired and what's gone on, I mean, I had no idea what I was going to get myself into, especially when I left this chair last year. Everything, even though a lot of it was overwhelming, as I've said a lot, a lot of it was chaos. Although I think we controlled it to the best that we could.
I wouldn't change a bit of it. It was all positive. Not one second of it I wouldn't change. I probably got run down the middle of the summer, but you know, I learned from it, so I'm hoping next time around, if there is a next time, that I'll be more ready.
Outside of that, having that green jacket for a year has been a blessing, a privilege and an honor, so I am looking forward to many more green jackets, hopefully this year; I don't know who is going to put it on me, if it's going to be mine. That aside, I'm just excited to be here and to be a part of the Masters Tournament till I say no more.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Well, it's a pleasure to have you here. Questions?

Q. Is it still somewhat astounding or astonishing that you were able to win the tournament last year with that strategy of not going for any of the par 5s through any of the four tournament days and will you play that way this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: I talked about it with my caddie and my instructor. It's one of those situations where we are not going to base it -- it's going to be a day-to-day thing, a condition-based thing.
Last year, that's just the way the conditions were. It was playing long, and you know, with the wind, being cold, the ball doesn't go very far when it's cold.
This year the forecast is warmer as far as Thursday through Sunday, but meteorologists, I don't trust them a whole lot, so I don't know. It just depends. There's some par 5s that I would definitely go far, if given the right scenario.

Q. There's a lot of talk about how dominant Tiger Woods is in general, for you personally, is that motivational to you, or is that intimidating at all?
ZACH JOHNSON: I believe someone asked me that yesterday, and I'll say it this way. I think Tiger Woods, having the best athlete in the world and most recognizable athlete in the world, the most dominant athlete in the world playing our sport is by far and away the best thing that could happen to us.
One, it transcends golf; he's transcending golf. He's bringing it to another level. He is, you know, from a fan base, from a TOUR base, he's making the TOUR a lot better than what it was. And from another player's standpoint, from my standpoint, he makes me want to get better. He says he can get better, which is absolutely scary; I mean, I know I can. It's encouraging. Makes you want to work harder. He's a freak, in a good way.

Q. What advice would you give a first-time winner of the Masters, looking back with hindsight?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think first and foremost, first-time winner, I would say, you know, I really felt wholeheartedly and I was very -- I've said it a lot. I had a great team assembled before last year. After last year, I knew I had a perfect team assembled. So I think you have to have the right people around you. For me, it certainly starts with my wife and it branches off out of that to my sponsors, certainly, my agent, my instructor, Mike, over there, my mental coach, my trainer; the list goes on and on and on and on.
I mean, those are the people that kind of get you through things, whether it's counsel or what have you. I've got great counsel.

Q. In the summer you said you were exhausted; was that from saying yes to too many things?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't think I necessarily said yes to too many things. I said yes to too many things in a certain time, and I got run down, but it was partly my fault, I was getting soaked up in it and loving it.
I went back Iowa, that week I went back to Iowa, I wouldn't change one second of it. It was very hard and it was definitely and emotional. That's when I got sick.

Q. Asked Tiger about this; at Doral, the leaderboard had many, many big names at the top and he talks about everybody seems to be playing really well leading into this tournament. Last year with the weather as a bit of an anomaly to say the least and this year if the weather warms up and conditions play the way they normally play with normal weather and what-have-you, would you expect to have the course, the tournament play out more into the hands of those big names that we have seen kind of rising to the top?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't know, I haven't given that a lot of thought. I think for me, my opinion on that is if it's wet, the longer hitters have a substantial advantage. It can be cold, or it can be hot, but if it's dry -- I mean it was cold last year and it was still dry. I feel like us modest to short hitters have a chance.
Actually, I don't know, a couple weeks ago, I flew with Tim Clark and Tim doesn't hit it very far, he's about like me I would say, we are pretty fair in that regard, and he's had some success here, too. He's had a couple opportunities. You know, he said that the length of the golf course has kind of helped us, which I think everybody -- I don't know, it just depends. He hits it really, really straight, so I guess it really doesn't matter how far you hit it if you hit it that straight.
It's just a matter of for me, I think it's getting loft in my hands into par 4s. I mean, the par 3s, a little bit, too but the par 4s my ball plugs in the fairway and I'm 20 yards behind everybody, that's just a major, major difference.

Q. Do you see the 1-over par winning score as a one-time thing this era, and possibly the norm?
ZACH JOHNSON: Once again, it's conditions. There's no way of telling. It's not a matter of everybody playing mediocre to poor; it's just all condition-based. That's weather.
Last year, especially I would say Thursday afternoon, Friday, and certainly Saturday, it was -- I don't want to compare it to a U.S. Open, but it kind of had that feel and that mental. I mean, just think if this place had U.S. Open rough, it would be unbelievable. I mean, it would be impossible.
But the course was great last year. With the conditions that were presented, the superintendents here and the agronomy people here did a great job. It's all conditions. I mean, score is irrelevant.

Q. Can you contrast the way you're playing going into this Masters to the way you played going into last year?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it's pretty even. I'm trying not to think about last year, I'll tell you that first and foremost. I remember some of the things that were going on before the week started. My driver wasn't great at the beginning of last year. My iron play was pretty good, and I was putting good.
So, yeah, I'm one more year experienced here and certainly you can throw in a little bit more confidence. Yeah, there's a lot of similarities I think.

Q. And whenever somebody wins a tournament like you won the tournament last year, they always say, well, it has not sunk in yet, the night that it happened. Was there a time later that it sunk in?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it hit us on a number of occasions. I remember the very next week, I played Hilton Head and Nick Faldo, I was in the booth with him, and he said -- he would know, the three jackets, but he said, "It takes about two to three weeks." And he said that after his first one and after his second and his third.
It's about right. It hits you about two weeks to a month after, and after that it hits you periodically. Every now and then, you wake up, and you're just like, go into your closet and, oh, yeah, forgot about that one. (Laughter).

Q. Did you find that when you played the course yesterday, did you find yourself kind of thinking back to last year, or are you trying not to think about it too much?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's going to be hard not to think about it because it's human nature to think about it.
Yesterday my mentality was all about being productive. I played 18 holes yesterday, and I had the strategy of how I was going to play each hole -- or I have a strategy of how I play each hole, or I have a strategy of how I was going to practice each hole. Having that strategy and that mentality was very helpful and yesterday I played a little bit and it was extremely constructive and this morning I did and it was extremely constructive as well.
I don't want to dwell on last year, but there's a lot of positives that I can take away from it and certainly implement. I can win here; that's a good thing.

Q. We've been having a pretty serious discussion for more than four months it seems about Tiger winning the Grand Slam this year. I'm wondering, last year, how much serious consideration did you give it after you won this place?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm shocked I didn't. (Laughter).
If it even crossed my mind, and I can't recall if it did -- I'm sure it probably did -- you know, it was in my mind briefly. I'm pretty realistic about things. You know, it certainly was a possibility, but I just missed the U.S. Open, I finished like 50th or something like that. (Laughter).

Q. With Tiger, is that real serious?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think that's just an entirely different situation there. He's a phenom and he's won every major and won every major multiple times.
So I mean, I think everybody would probably agree that it seems like his form, middle to the end of last year and certainly the beginning of this year, I mean, you can kind of compare it to, what was it, 2001, 2002, that time period and that was scary. So he's still as scary as ever.
Yeah, you know, that discussion is going to come up a lot, especially around him. But you know, I don't know how hard it is for him, but that seems like a very hard feat.

Q. Going back to that week in Iowa, your wife told me, you had the opportunity to win shortly after and she was like, "Go out and prove it's no fluke; do it." How much has it irked you, honestly, to be portrayed by people that don't know your pedigree that you came from nowhere and it is a fluke and something that happened with strange conditions, etc., honestly?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I'll be completely honest. It seems like for every one article, for every one media blurb about it being a fluke and condition-based and Tiger lost it, Zach didn't win it, that sort of thing; for every one of those, it seems like there have been 20, 30 articles where Zach Johnson went out and won it, regardless of what happened.
I don't get caught up in the negative stuff. I can't. If anything, the negative things said, I kind of twist them around and turn them into a positive, and in this regard, I think, you know, like I said, I went out and won again, and then I had a couple other decent finishes, played pretty well in the Presidents Cup, and somewhat nearly won at THE TOUR Championship.
So you know, it is what it is. I don't care. I won a major in Tiger's era, who cares. As my mom puts it, she gets nervous about things like that and she gets emotional, and more than you guys can imagine, but she's a mom.
I've had one bad week, maybe I missed a cut, or, I don't know, maybe my back is sore or something like that, and she used to be -- she would be going to church and calling her girlfriends and trying to get counsel and this and that. Now she's like, ahh, who cares, he won the green jacket.
I don't care, they can say what they want.

Q. I know in the conference call you gave us some generalities about what the menu will be. What definitively is on the menu?
ZACH JOHNSON: We've had it down for a while. The menu is going to be an incorporation of Midwest flair, if you will, if there is Midwest, Midwest home-cooking and some Florida flair, put it that way.
The main courses will be corn-fed beef, go figure, and then ahi tuna, if they don't want any steak. And then we've got some shrimp. My wife is from Amelia Island, so that's a shrimp mecca and I've got corn, obviously. I think we've got a corn casserole, if I'm not mistaken or corn pudding. Got some crab cakes, because this is a crab cake area. Yeah, some good vegetables, salads and I think there's a bisque, so it's going to be pretty good.

Q. Speaking of conditions, will you play on the par 3 contest and what's your feeling?
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. I want to win. I almost won last year, I think I finished 4-under and 5-under won.
I like it because it puts a premium on your short game.

Q. How confident were you before you came here last year that you could win a major, and a year later, has that confidence grown or multiplied?
ZACH JOHNSON: Coming into last year, how confident was I, I always felt I could win a major, but not this one last year, because in the practice rounds it was playing so long but then the wind picked up and things changed.
I feel like I can win more majors, there's no question. I'm not going to go into age major saying I need to win or I should win. I'm going to go into majors looking for opportunities, that's all it is. I want to be in contention. I want to have opportunities to get in contention.

Q. What's it like emotionally and mentally to come back to the place of your biggest win ever?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's exciting, it's great. Maybe you weren't in here when we first started, but I came back, I drove in -- I felt terrible. The baby was a mess, he had strawberries all over his face. I had a headache and my wife was not feeling great and we pulled into Magnolia Lane and it was like the clouds parted and here comes the sunshine. It was awesome.
And as far as getting back to golf mentally, I'm more confident than I was last year, at this time, without question. I kind of feel like based on the win, based on the conditions, based on where my ball is going to travel, I feel like I can play. I mean, it's all about putting, of course, but I'm confident that my putter has made a good turn here as of late, and, you know, I feel certainly a lot better about this year than I did last year, at this very stage.

Q. Do you live like the TOUR is giving you enough information in the impending drug testing program and is that something that you and your peers on the TOUR are prepared for?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know about my peers, but I can tell you that, yes, we have been informed, I feel to the nth degree. If you want more information, it's right there. It's one phone call or sitting down with the doctors that are out nearly every week.
So, yeah, I've talked to them. I met with them. It's very comprehensive, but it needs to be. I think the process in which they are going to conduct it is very comprehensive, and also very -- I don't think it's invasive or anything like that. It's going to be very efficient. So I think they are doing a good thing.

Q. You mentioned that Tiger can still be scary when he's playing well --
ZACH JOHNSON: He's scary when he's not playing well. (Laughter).

Q. What was it like to come down the stretch and see his shadow back here, because he was on the board, and just what's it like to beat Tiger? What does it take to beat Tiger down the stretch?
ZACH JOHNSON: A couple things. First and foremost, I didn't look at the scoreboard until 16 tee and I didn't know where he was. I knew he made eagle on 13 just based on the roars but I didn't know where he stood relative to where I was. I didn't know if I was in the lead until 16 tee.
What does it take? Part of that was just ignorance. I didn't know where I stood. It was, I guess like I said before, it was ignorance and bliss in that regard. I don't want to get caught up in scores and there was a time I needed to look at the board and that was the time. Especially on this type of golf course, there's not much risk/reward for me here so I just play my game and hopefully make some putts.
Outside of that, what does it take? I think it's the attitude that, first of all, Tiger, maybe even some of the other guys, top guys, whatever, they are the ones that are supposed to win. Said player, meaning me, I'm not supposed to, so the pressure is off me. Why not go out and give it all and see what happens.

Q. You mentioned you had a strategy for your practice rounds these last two days and you spent a lot of time on the course and on each hole; what was your strategy and what were you trying to accomplish?
ZACH JOHNSON: I will not give you those answers. (Laughter).

Q. How much fun has it been doing all the champion stuff, planning the dinner and all that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't want to use that word again but very surreal. You hear about it and think about it every year, what's such and such serving; it's been great. It's been exciting. I mean, it's going to be -- tonight is going to be a complete honor, and I'm just going to be a sponge. I'm going to be a fly on the wall just soaking it in, listening in, listening to some stories because that's what I hear it's all about and eat something good food, I hope; I'm confident it's going to be good.
And anything else that goes along with it; certainly this, I was not sitting here last year. This is great. These are great opportunities. I just feel completely blessed in that regard.
Outside of that, I mean, I just hope you get the taste of it in your mouth and you want it again. It makes you want to drive for more.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Thank you. You were sitting here when it counted last year, you are a very worthy champion and it's a pleasure to have you here and good luck this week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you kindly.

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