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April 12, 2008
CLAUDE NIELSEN: Well, ladies and gentlemen, let's start with a word of congratulations to defending champion, Zach Johnson, on a very impressive round today. Zach, 4-under 68 in somewhat challenging conditions; 2-under after three rounds.
Would you please review your regard, and maybe make a few comments about the conditions of play today?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, got off to a good start. I think that was the key. I hit -- parred 1, obviously. I hit a good drive on 2 and put myself in a good position for a decent lay up. I hit a 5-wood down there, soft 5-wood. I probably could have got it to the trap but I would have smashed it, soft 5-wood, put me in a great uphill shot on my third. I was only about 35 yards and I pitched up there to about seven, eight feet and made that for birdie.
Third hole, I had a good drive, and then a sand wedge, I don't know what it was, two feet, probably, a foot and a half, two feet.
6, I hit a great shot. At that point I thought the siren was going to blow. It had a been thundering two or three times and I hit a 6-iron up there to about 18 feet. Took me 42 minutes to putt the ball, and somehow it went in.
7 was a big save from the front bunker. That was about a 10-foot slider. That kind of kept my round going.
9, I hit a great drive. I hit a 9-iron from about 150 to about eight feet again, I'd say; seven, eight, nine feet, made that.
10, I hit a great drive, and then just didn't get far enough on my left side on my second shot and chunked it on that severe Y there. I hit it a little heavy. Thought I hit a good pitch, but it must have checked, and missed about a 12-footer for par. Had a good read, just pushed it.
13, I hit a great drive, just didn't turn it quite enough to give myself a chance to go for it, I laid up with a punch 3-iron. I tried to get it as far down there to the front of the green as possible; that's my approach with that pin. Hit a nice bump-and-run up there to about 3 1/2, four feet and made that. And then parred out.
So the conditions, I think as the day started, the ball was kind of hydroplaning off the fairway I thought. It was like if you could hit it with a little bit of lower trajectory, I think it kind of scooted and I could get some roll. I mean, I could have got home on 2, really easily, which is rare. So that's one example, and there's a couple other examples out there.
I thought the fairways, if you were landing it high and soft, it could plug and get some mud. But all in all, the course is playing fantastic.
The greens are a little more receptive than they would have been if it wasn't for the rain, of course but at the same time they are very fast, very true, so their system is something to be said. This is pretty unbelievable.
So you know, it's still very demanding. The wind is going to pick up this afternoon from what everybody has been saying and, you know, there will be some good scores I think posted, but it's still a very good test.
Q. Has your philosophy or approach changed at all from last year on how you're playing the golf course? I know you've gone for some par 5s this time out; and is it just a matter of the conditions?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's just a matter of the conditions. That's exactly right. My approach has not changed.
You know, I mean, certainly in some situations, you might push it or be conservative, depending on the situation. My strategy is going to be the same.
You know, to put it pretty simple, and this really is clichÃ©, doesn't give you much, but I just play what the golf course gives me and that's the way I've got to approach it. I mean, Sunday might be a different entity in its own, but at the same time, I'm going to play the golf course for what it is. What it presents.
Q. What do you think was the main difference between your play yesterday and your play today, the two numbers?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I think there's some mental differences for sure. You know, I think that I might have looked at the board a few too many times yesterday. That might have been one thing. That, and just this game is about momentum. When you make a bogey as your first other, if you will, other than a par, and don't make some putts early on, you know, it's hard to get it back on a course of this stature.
You know, that, and getting a couple bad breaks, that was the day. I saved my round yesterday and then I had a very, very unfortunate break on 17 and that's the way it goes.
Q. After yesterday, how does it feel to post such a low number today?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it feels good. The pressure is off. It should always be off because I'm not supposed to win, anyway.
Yeah, it's kind of just a nice round, go out there and you know, work on some things and get it back to somewhat in contention or move up the board a little bit. I like seeing the positives. I saw my lines better today, even though I putted really, really well yesterday and just didn't make anything. All in all it was good.
Q. How would you rate the speed of the greens today after the rain compared to Thursday or Friday?
ZACH JOHNSON: I would say they are still pretty comparable to Thursday. Friday they picked up a little more pace because day-to-day, a little more wind, they are going to get a little faster.
I'll tell you that, SubAir system, they are still quick. I had one on 17 today, partly downwind, that might have been part of it, a little bit of it, but I barely hit it -- I thought I hit it about two or three feet short and it went three feet by the hole. There's still some pace there.
Q. How long was that putt?
ZACH JOHNSON: 25 feet probably, I would say.
Q. The rain delay, when you got off to a nice start through 5 1/2 holes or whatever, I guess what did you do to just stay in that same frame of mind before, after, during?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, we stayed right there in the trucks. We didn't leave the golf course. So I just sat in the truck and talked to Geoff and we were just kind of, you know, shooting the breeze I guess.
Mentally I was still in a good state. I felt good about things. I'm glad I hit that shot already, and I had a makeable putt. So I'm like, you know, there's really nothing to think about. I'm just going to go out there and keep on executing.
It's all about execution. I think I did a pretty good job of that today.
Q. You mentioned that you might have looked at the leaderboard once too often. Can you elaborate on that, please?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I just think -- it's Friday.
Today I looked on 18 I think after I was done. So Friday, there's really no need to. This game, it's not a sprint. It's more in the terms of a marathon.
Q. Do you mean that got you apprehensive or something when you looked at the board?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, just a little bit, knowing that I'm at 2 and I played pretty good the day before and now the leaders are at 8 and I'm thinking I've got to pick up some shots when -- you know, rather than letting the course and the shots come to you, you kind of force the issue and try to take the golf course over.
There's certain golf courses you might be able to do that and this is far from one of them.
Q. Throw a couple at you. I think you might have just answered the first one. Granted it's only Saturday, but you know who is making his little seemingly inevitable move up?
ZACH JOHNSON: Romero? Yeah. (Laughter).
Q. Do you guys get a sense of that when you're out there? And my second question would be, of all the guys kind of in your age group, 29-, 30-, 31-year-old guys, is there any reason why Paul Casey could not be the next guy to win a major? Seems like he's got the package.
ZACH JOHNSON: There's not any one of those guys who couldn't win a major as far as I'm concerned. They are all really, really good. It's just a matter of staying mentally fresh and not letting things get you down. You're going to get some bad breaks and hit some great shots and make some pars or bogeys. It's a matter of staying in it.
Are you aware of him? Well, yes and no. I didn't look at the boards today so I didn't know where he was. Looks like he was probably a couple under when I finished for the day. He's certainly making his move.
But he hasn't done much the last three days. He's just playing pretty steady, solid, conservative golf, and now he's beyond in contention. So you expect it. I mean, it's not -- nothing out of the order. He's just a different breed. (Laughter).
Q. I think that's your best round in a major in relation to par. Did your wife's request to shoot 65 motivate you at all?
ZACH JOHNSON: You've got to quit talking to my family outside the ropes there. (Laughter).
No comment -- (laughter). No, that's always a request. It's her birthday, so I tried.
Q. With that in mind, you look at Casey, he's also 4-under on the front. You started out with a 32. A 68 is a 68 here, but are you a little bit thinking you could have had some more, after starting out 4-under through nine?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I saw one or two other opportunities -- and heck, I shouldn't say -- I certainly had a better opportunity on 8 today. It was the wrong club. Did it last year, too, with that pin. So there was potentially a half a shot there. And then obviously 10, that's another half a shot, or a shot. I chunked it and it wasn't like it was that difficult of a shot.
And then I had another opportunity on 15 and hit another bad wedge. I saw a putt, and there's maybe one more shot out there considering where I was hitting my shots. My ball turns over on 16; I'm tight. At the same time, I made a 10-footer on 7 and I made an 8-footer on 18.
So I think things have a way of evening out, and it did today. It certainly didn't yesterday, but it did today.
Q. Were the conditions today at all reminiscent of any of the days during last year's tournament, and if so, do you feel that you are -- that you play better in maybe less than ideal conditions?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't think any of these days have been remotely like last year. In fact, probably the complete opposite. I don't think we had any rain last year if I'm not mistaken. It may have been at night but certainly not during competition, and it was windy pretty much every day, and cool.
I think tomorrow's got potential plans to be somewhat reminiscent of last year, but as of now, there's been no similarities.
You know, I guess I can consider myself a mudder; based on where I grew up -- you're going to write that one down, won't you. Based on how I grew up, that's how you've got to be; you've got to grind.
Q. I assume you don't try to notice the reception, but have you noticed a difference in the reception this year as kind of the crowds maybe rally behind you more as the defending champ?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think you said it, I don't try to notice but you can't help but notice. It's very encouraging. It's very nice. You know, the fans here are very golf knowledgeable, very sincere. Certainly very genuine. You know, they appreciate golf and appreciate the history of golf and what guys have done.
It's not just me; it's everybody else. You've got the other Masters Champions here are getting the same applause. And you know the old timers, if you will, that's one of the best things about Augusta. That's one of the best things about the Masters.
Yeah, the support is second to none.
Q. What is Saturday night like when you're in contention in the Masters?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.
Q. What is Saturday night like when you're contending in the Masters?
ZACH JOHNSON: What is Saturday night like?
Q. Yeah, do you remember what it was like last year?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm trying to think what I did last Saturday night here last year. Well, it's better than Saturday night and missing the cut or not being in contention. (Laughter) That would be the simple answer.
Yeah, you know, you've got the jitters. You've got the nerves, certainly. But at the same time, for me, it's one of those where now, I've been in that position and so I feel like from a confidence standpoint, I think that's huge. And two, as I've said many, many times, you know, based on numbers, based on stats and based on names, I'm not supposed to win, so there's no pressure on me.
Q. You mentioned when you thought you were somewhat in contention -- I know a lot depends on what happens this afternoon --
ZACH JOHNSON: Exactly.
Q. -- do you have an idea what you might have to do tomorrow?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm going to have to post a really good number. There's no question about that.
You know, I made somewhat of a move today, but that's all it was.
Q. Would you change your approach?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. Absolutely not.
Q. Regardless of where you wind up being, don't you have to feel really good about how you defended your titles, two really good round out of three?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's a fair assessment. You know, came in here -- I didn't want to defend. I wanted to win. I know that kind of sounds strange, but that was my approach. I prepared to win; not to defend.
Q. What are your thoughts on Snedeker, for a guy who is still 1 1/2 years in the league or whatever it is; he's always struck me as an excitable guy but maybe that's because he talks 98 miles an hour.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, he's got a motor, but I mean that, he just does everything like that. I don't think it's quick. I don't think that's the right word. I think it's more of a --
Q. Just the energy?
ZACH JOHNSON: High energy, but it's efficient. One, his routines are, to the second, probably spot-on, whether it's a putt, whether it's a full shot, what-have-you. From a mechanical standpoint, that's not a fluke; he was Rookie of the Year I think -- I could be wrong. I'm pretty sure he was Rookie of the Year one time.
Q. You stopped paying attention after your Rookie of the Year.
ZACH JOHNSON: I didn't win Rookie of the Year.
Q. I know you didn't.
ZACH JOHNSON: Exactly. (Laughter) He's got some experience. He's not afraid. He hits it solid and he putts it good. There's no reason why he can't do it. We prepared last year -- or this past week ago at the same place. We were both down at Frederica. I think he's got a place down there. He was working with his instructor down there and I was certainly working with my mental coach, Morris Pickens. We didn't play together or anything like that. I played with Jonathan Byrd.
Q. That's Sea Island?
ZACH JOHNSON: At Sea Island, yeah, down at Frederica (Golf) Club, which was great, great prep. They had the greens rolling there probably 12 to 13, pure, every shot we wanted, wedge shots; you could go on the golf course. They really rolled the red carpet out for us, and I think that's really helped me the last two years prepare; and Brandt.
Q. With the rain today, you said it wasn't playing that much longer yet, but with the temperature dropping, course being softer tomorrow and the prediction for wind, might it be a will the tougher for a short hitter tomorrow?
ZACH JOHNSON: It could be. It's all going to be based on how much rain and how much wind, because the wind is going to dry out the rain and the rain is going to make the wind -- or excuse me, make the grass softer.
So it's hard to say. But it could be more difficult. My hope is that it doesn't rain a whole lot more and the wind picks up.
Q. When Paul got in a little bit of a bind for the comments he made about Americans in the Ryder Cup, where he said -- I think the direct quote was --
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it was the World Cup.
Q. Was that something you guys, did anybody take offense or did you guys understand where he was coming from in that, or has there ever been any ill feelings towards Paul by the American players?
ZACH JOHNSON: First, I don't remember specifically what he said. I kind of remember the gist of it, one.
Two, it's my experience that a lot of things are taken out of context, so I haven't heard verbatim. I don't know what his feelings were or what his opinion really specifically was. That would be my second approach to that.
And third, I would say that we all make mistakes; if he did make a mistake. We're all human in that regard.
Four, lastly, I think he's a pretty good guy.
Q. You mentioned having the good fortune to prepare on very fast greens; coming into a tournament where the greens are so much faster than usual, is it all physical, or is some of it mental or a combination?
ZACH JOHNSON: What do you mean by physical? I'm sorry.
Q. In terms of mind-set versus actual technique changes that you might make.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, there's no technique changes. There's a mental adjustment I think, and the fact that -- I don't remember who told me it first, the first one that told me that. But after my first year at Augusta -- my first year at Augusta, it wasn't very efficient. I got in Monday night because Atlanta finished late that Monday, so my first practice round at Augusta was on Tuesday, so I was very unfamiliar.
And I putted terrible. I remember someone telling me after that week is over, you don't try to make putts at Augusta. You try to see your line and hit it down your line, and if it gets to the hole, great. That's usually the way you go about it.
Granted, you have uphill six feet, you're going to give it a little more. But like my putt on 18 today, my second putt was probably all of eight feet and that ball, most greens probably would have rolled about two feet.
CLAUDE NIELSEN: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your questions, and Zach, congratulations. Good luck tomorrow.
End of FastScripts