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July 8, 2008
DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson to the media center here at the John Deere Classic. Just a couple opening comments as you start the week, just kind of assessing the state of your game.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, first of all, it's always, always, always good to come back here, I think for the obvious reasons, but I love everything about this tournament. I've served now on the board I think for four or five years and have played here since '02. So you know, obviously great memories, great people, great fans, great sponsor in John Deere and obviously all the others. I love everything about it.
The golf course is pure. The rain obviously doesn't help. This course is one where, much like any course, but when it's firm and fast, it plays more challenging, more difficult, and we all prefer that. However, it's still good, even though it's a little saturated.
The state of my game is -- it's rusty; I can't lie about that. I was cleared to play this past -- a week ago today, to actually start hitting balls. I sustained a minor injury to my left wrist, so it's been a process to kind of get the feelings back. My tempo is not very good and that sort of thing.
But at the same time, my expectations are minimal, if anything. I don't even have any expectations, so sometimes that's a good thing. I've had a lot of high expectations throughout the year because I've playing good, I think, I just haven't been scoring. So maybe this is a way to adjust that.
But I mean, it's all a work in progress. I would have loved to have played last week. Obviously the 4th of July in D.C. would have given me a week to play competitive rounds coming into John Deere, but it didn't work out like that, so I needed to take time off unfortunately. But I'm anxious to play.
DOUG MILNE: Obviously with your connection to this part of the country, we all know how badly it's been beat up the past few months, and you've really gotten behind the effort to do something about that with the PSA campaign and the PGA TOUR Flood Relief Fund. If you could just talk a little bit about your involvement there.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. Well, fortunately I haven't had to do a whole lot. I made the mention -- obviously everything hit -- I relate everything to my schedule as far as where I was that week. It was the U.S. Open week, and that was a tough week, let alone the floods. So you combine a lot of factors there, and that was a tough week. It was just tough focus.
You know, given what's happened -- and honestly, I have not seen it yet. I have not been firsthand to witness anything aside from video and pictures on the internet and certainly word of mouth of friends and family.
Given that, the Monday after the U.S. Open I was in Hartford, got there quickly, and we had a PGA TOUR board meeting. I'm going to be serving on the board next year, so they invite me to board meetings this year just to kind of get my feet wet and kind of get acclimated with what's going on.
I just mentioned it to Tim Finchem and some of the other player relations guys on TOUR if there was -- I knew they did some funds and some backing with Katrina as an example, and maybe even some other disaster relief things, so I thought maybe this would be a good way to kick-start something with the TOUR.
Turns out not only did they really want to get behind it and start facilitating some funds, they jumped on board more than I even anticipated. I think last week was the first week that we've implemented a fund in which players on TOUR can donate -- they can donate $100 if they want to or they can donate a percentage of their check, their Pro-Am check, whatever the case may be, whatever they feel they want to do, if it's in their interest. Not suggesting they need to do it by any stretch. The TOUR is, I believe, going to match whatever comes in.
DOUG MILNE: The TOUR will match 100 percent of the Pro-Am donations and a percentage to still kind of be determined of the actual competitive rounds.
ZACH JOHNSON: Right. I think a lot is still to be determined, which is fine. I mean, even a dollar helps.
That's what this TOUR is about. I've said it many, many times. It's about its charities. It's about helping people. I know we're entertainment and we play golf and chase a ball and hit it, but the TOUR gets it, and it starts with Tim and trickles down to everybody else. They get that there's more to life than what we're doing.
It's not just me. We've got other players that are from this area that have also piqued the interest of the TOUR, namely Jerry Kelly and some of the guys in Wisconsin. It's not just Iowa, but obviously Iowa got hit the hardest.
I'm very, very happy for what the TOUR has done and excited to see how much we can really help make a difference.
Q. Do you have any idea of a number for the first week as far as donations from players?
DOUG MILNE: I have a call in and we're still trying to get as accurate of a number as we can.
Q. Have you been back to Cedar Rapids this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I have not. As I mentioned earlier, I have not witnessed anything except for online video or pictures.
Q. In terms of coming back from a layoff, in particular in this case an injury layoff, what's your overall game plan as far as approaching it?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I don't have -- when you're forced to take three weeks off, it's different. When I take two or three weeks off, I'm still practicing a lot. I'm still playing and trying to polish things up. But when you're really -- you're wearing something on your hand, you can't do anything, and it stinks.
As far as preparation goes, I'm just trying to get the feelings back. My wrist is 100 percent, I think. I'm assuming it is. I don't feel any pain whatsoever. It feels very weak but there's no pain. If I play bad, it hurts we'll say (laughter).
You know, I've played here so many times so I know the golf course. I'm just going to try to get the rhythm and the tempo of the game back and hit quality shots. Like I said, expectations are really nonexistent, so I'm not too concerned about what my score is. I'm going to go out there and have fun, and if I can do that, usually good things happen.
Q. Is there a silver lining in the fact that this is a tournament where you're a board member, you have a local affiliation, so much is expected of you, whether you want to or not you've had some time off to regenerate?
ZACH JOHNSON: Right. I want to play well here. This is one I want to win. I want to win every week, but this is certainly one that's a high priority, there's no question about that. It's just unfortunate what I've gone through physically as of late. I'm just not in my best form yet. To say I can't be Thursday -- I could. I could be in the best form I've ever been in.
But, I mean, last year, for example, I was in great form pretty much the entire year, and I missed the cut here. I mean, that's just the nature of the game. I probably put a little bit too much pressure this year on myself, and obviously this field is getting better, too. This week it's fantastic.
So you know, I'm up for the challenge. That's why I play. I love the competition.
Q. Can you pinpoint the time when you hurt the wrist?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. It was Tuesday morning -- I don't know what the date was, of Hartford, whatever that was.
Q. Just on a swing?
ZACH JOHNSON: I was doing some drills that --
DOUG MILNE: I think it was June 17th.
ZACH JOHNSON: Wow.
DOUG MILNE: It was my sister's birthday (laughter).
ZACH JOHNSON: What was frustrating was I get hurt, and I thought it was a pretty big deal, but SportsCenter was Tiger and his injury; I got nothing (laughter).
It was tendinitis. It was acute tendinitis is the way the doctor put it. I guess it was one of those things where it sets in late. So I did it Tuesday but I didn't feel the symptoms until late that night, and I started icing it, and on Wednesday morning I could not move my wrist, period.
Q. It wasn't a golf injury, though?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it was golf-related, yes. Doing some drills -- I was doing them incorrectly.
Q. Have you ever had to deal with an injury like this before, where it's put you out for an extended period of time?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. I mean, I've never had a doctor say you cannot play or you should probably start hitting balls at such-and-such a date. I've never had that sort of injury. I've had some minor, you know -- I guess some pretty substantial back pains at one time, I guess in '05 where I decided to take a few weeks off, but I could fight through it or play through it. If I can't grip a golf club I can't play, obviously. So that was frustrating.
I did all the necessary precautions. I mean, I took an MRI, the whole scope. I knew I was getting the right care and the right opinion, and you know, health is very important. So I'm encouraged where my health is now.
Q. Was there ever a concern about you being able to play here this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely. I didn't know how long it would take. I've never experienced anything quite like this. You know, last year I didn't get to play in D.C., and -- I've played Congressional and I love it, love everything about it. Especially around the 4th I think it would be fantastic. I've got some friends that were out in the Middle East so I would have loved to have played there last year and this year, but I haven't done that yet, so I really wanted to play last week, too, but it just didn't work out. So given that, yeah, there was a chance that it could have kept me out longer.
If I would have hit balls at a certain point, the way the doctor explains it to me, I could have been out even longer. I had to lay off and do nothing.
Q. Given the year that you've had, obviously with the distractions of being an Iowan and the flooding and the injuries you've had, talk about how the season has gone for you. It's been a different experience than you've had. How does that lead up to where you are now getting ready for this tournament obviously?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm always one that's pretty much present and future related. I don't really relate too much to the past. I mean, my season hasn't gone certainly anywhere where I wanted it to be. I haven't really been in this position from a numbers standpoint, on the Money List, this, that and the other.
But I'm patient. That's one thing I talked about with my coaches, just be patient, because I'm doing the right stuff. I'm not going to vary what I'm doing. Things were good last year and in previous years, and there's really no reason to change. I just need to get back in the form I was in when I'm playing well.
I'm always going the right direction. Sometimes you play really, really poorly and that's the best thing that can happen to you because you learn from it.
You mentioned the floods being a distraction. Certainly it's a distraction, but from what I've witnessed and what I've heard, the people that really went through that, or part of it, they're the ones working hard and they're trying to get things back to normal. You've got to put the past behind you and stick with the present. You've just got to fight through stuff. That's basically what life is about.
Not to get too sentimental, but I'm proud to be where I'm from because of that. I've heard stories about people not waiting around for help. Relative to my job, I'm not going to wait for someone to tell me or give me the answer to something. I'm going to go play golf. That's the best thing I can do for myself, certainly for my fans and certainly for my family. I'm glad to be playing again.
Q. Testing started last week, drug testing. It's so incongruous to what golf is about. Can you address the necessity for that particular move at this particular time?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, that's a tough one. I was always one where, why do we test? I don't foresee it being an issue. And then being on the PAC, which is our advisory committee or whatever, I've just kind of seen where sport is in general, and knowing that we're the largest sport entity that's not testing, you know, that surfaced pretty quickly. I think it's a good thing that we do. I just didn't think it would be that big of an issue, and maybe I'm being naÃ¯ve to think that.
I haven't heard anything about players or anything like that, so I have no idea. But we're checking all bases and trying to make our game even more pure than what it is. I guess that's the best way to put it. It's a gentlemen's game, a game of integrity, and I don't foresee it being an issue.
Q. They say baseball players know who uses --
ZACH JOHNSON: That's what I'm saying. I have no idea. I have not heard remotely one thing. Yeah, I don't know.
Q. As you come back each year, does it get easier to come back and play the John Deere Classic, distractions aside?
ZACH JOHNSON: Easier? Well, yeah, maybe just because I know what to expect as far as all through the course. I've seen the same faces and certainly seen the same -- I've seen a lot of family and friends, so that part is great. But it's another week inside the ropes for me. That hasn't changed a bit. It's work.
Q. Do you detect any changes in your swing post-injury to pre-injury?
ZACH JOHNSON: Hard to tell. That's a good question. Too hard to tell so far. I think even pre-injury a lot of my golf swing tendencies, if you will, that surfaced are tempo and rhythm related. So that's where I've got to start, and that's pretty much where I've got to end. I want to have maybe one, maximum, two, swing thoughts, and in a practice round and on the range, I feel like I've got about 50.
I'm just trying to filter through that and fizzle through that and figure out which ones I can kind of stick with and take to the tee. I don't foresee it being that big of a deal. It's just mental.
Q. You've had some difficulties here in the past. Any rhyme or reason for that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. That's a good question. I really do not know. I think the golf course is pretty good for me. I think it's better for me when it's firm. There's really not much rough here, but if there was rough here -- well, the fairways are fairly generous to an extent. Some holes are pretty tight, but fairly generous, but to an extent they have to be because if you miss the fairway you're not only in the rough, often times you're in the forest. If you're inaccurate you're going to get penalized for it.
I tend to hit the ball in the fairway. I love the greens. So really to answer your question, I don't know why. Maybe it's just the added pressure I put on myself. I haven't figured that part out yet. Maybe I'm just not clicking at the right time, either.
I don't know what happened last year, but I've just tried to chalk it up as a bad week and forget about it.
Q. Is the golf course fairly firm given the rain that it's taken?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it drains great. You get bentgrass fairways like this and bentgrass greens, when I say firm, it can be fast. There's a lot of tee shots here, even with the added length -- when did they add length, two or three years ago?
Q. Last year.
ZACH JOHNSON: Even with the added length, the length was added in certain areas as an option so if it does get firm, they can move the tees back or up, depending on the situation.
But what I'm saying is there's times when I question driver, but when it's like this, I can pretty much hit driver wherever I want and it's going to stop. It rained hard last night and it's dried out nice.
Q. When you're playing well like you did last year, how would you describe your tempo and rhythm at that point? When you're playing well, what's working?
ZACH JOHNSON: Tempo is such a fickle animal for me. I guess I can't really describe it, but in the words of my instructor and my caddie -- instructors and my caddie, it seems like every swing is the same, regardless if I'm hitting a wedge or I'm hitting a driver. Does that make sense?
Q. Is it a zone?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it could be. I think it could be.
Basically my tempo, to get more specific, it's all in the transition, so when I get the club to the top and then start my downswing, that tempo -- if I can get it nice and locked and set there, then my sequence seems better. If my tempo is off, my sequence is off and I'm not in good shape, thus unsolid shots. I almost kind of feel like I'm taking two swings, one back and one through. That's getting specific. I could get more technical.
Q. You mentioned earlier this year prior to the injury you were playing much better than you were scoring.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah.
Q. After the tempo problems, do you doubt yourself or do you get upset --
ZACH JOHNSON: A little bit, maybe a little bit. Doubt always creeps in. It's the nature of what we're doing. You're always trying to get better and when you go south, you wonder why.
I don't know, I think the bulk of why I haven't scored great this year has been I haven't made many putts. I've addressed that. I'm getting back to where I was in those years when I was really putting well. I putted really well last year, but it was a little streaky. I putted really well at times and pretty average at times. Yeah, I know I'm going the right direction. I'm not too concerned about that at all.
Q. How important are playing in majors for you? And the reason I ask is Kenny Perry has sort of taken a contrary way of approaching his schedule this year. Can you just discuss that?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, for me they're extremely important, partly because you've got the history and the tradition behind them. There's just a different feel behind it. I really can't describe it much more than that.
Usually the courses are set up very difficult, and it's just a difficult challenge. I can't speak on behalf of Kenny; he's obviously got his own agenda, his own priorities certainly. It seems to be working pretty nice (smiling). I'm just glad he's here.
Q. So you're going to start skipping majors yourself?
ZACH JOHNSON: I didn't say that. I did not say that.
Q. You mentioned you haven't been back to Cedar Rapids. How did that affect your family, your friends?
ZACH JOHNSON: The irony behind it is I was there the week before it happened. I was there for a week before the U.S. Open. My folks came out to San Diego for the U.S. Open, so they weren't there when it hit. But they had just left. They left the Wednesday -- I think it hit that Thursday. Does that sound right? Thursday and Friday were the worst two days. So they flew out Wednesday. I don't know how they got out.
Family-wise, my parents' house, no problems. My folks both work downtown. My mom's office is situated right off of 1st Avenue on the west side of the river, two blocks maybe, three blocks, I'm not sure what it is, and it had at least eight feet of water in it. Fortunately she can work out of the house, and they've also set up a satellite office at Xavier High School. Nothing too worrisome there. She's fine. Relative to other people, it's really minimal.
My dad's office is five or six blocks east of the river, almost to Mercy Hospital, and I saw a lot of pictures and some video kind of shooting down from McKinley there, McKinley on the hill, shooting down from McKinley, so it's kind of an aerial view but downhill, and I'm telling you it's the luckiest thing. His office is sitting right there and you can see about two or three yards, his office is two or three feet higher than all the other offices there. No damage there whatsoever. You go further east, obviously Mercy was devastated. I mean, they evacuated, didn't they?
ZACH JOHNSON: My dad was very lucky. So was his associate and everybody affiliated with the clinic. He was one of the first clinics that reopened in that area. Gosh, he was back -- I think he was back working almost Tuesday after, Monday or Tuesday after. Tuesday or Wednesday after. I think they had to have obviously some folks come in and look at it and -- I don't know what organization it is, FEMA. I don't have any idea. Whatever organization had to look at it. Relatively speaking, very lucky.
And the kicker is my mom sent a great email. She's like, we're fine. For the most part all of our friends are fine. They've helped other people get stuff out of your offices and helped evacuate their belongings, that sort of thing. But what stinks about the whole situation is the people that really didn't have much are the ones that really got affected. I mean, you can't even put it into words.
My dad had -- I think he had an employee that decided to go back when she could go back to her residence, and she walked back there with her husband or whatever, and they didn't even walk inside. They're never going to go back. What do you say to that?
Q. It's known that you've given various thoughts on your religion and how much of your religious faith you have. Given this year and given your experience being on TOUR, in an overall sense, and it could even be into this year and your injury, what is your faith, given you as a golfer? You're still with your family and you say you love being in Cedar Rapids, but what has your faith been like through this journey on TOUR to winning the Masters and now being here and obviously the devastation that's gone on in Cedar Rapids?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, for me, and when it comes to situations like this, or any situation, but it's all about priorities for me. So if things hit me sideways, or whoever, my family from different angles, it's all about what's going back to what's most important, and for us it's our faith. That's what sustains us and gets us through difficult situations, but it's also where I try to look in great joyful situations.
You know, it's nothing really more than that. It's just how I approach each day and what I stand for, because if you're going to get me, you're going to get all of me, you're just not going to get Zach Johnson the golfer. Best way to explain it.
Q. You joked about SportsCenter and Tiger and the injury.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah.
Q. Knowing now what you know about Tiger's injury at the time, did you get a chance -- I know the Open didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, but on Saturday, Sunday, Monday did you get a chance to watch any of it, and if you did, now in retrospect --
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I watched a lot of it. I was flying most of Monday's round with the playoff. I think I saw the last three or four holes. I watched a good portion on Saturday, a good portion on Sunday.
I mean, I said all along. He's a freak to begin with, and then doing what he did, I mean, you just -- I have the utmost respect. I think he knew going in that this was his last event from what he's come out and said now. I think he said that. Is that right?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, to have an ACL injury, and I've talked to some PTs about it. That's obviously one thing. That's not a pleasant situation. There's a lot of guys that play other sports, but then you compound that with stress fractures, because those are painful as anything else. I mean, those things are terrible. Right in that same area? I can't fathom it. I don't generate enough club head speed or power to hurt anything, I don't think, in a golf swing, so I can't relate (laughter).
You could just see the pain and anguish in his eyes and his face. It was brutal. But he got through it. That's just what he does, continually, continually transcends the game.
Q. One last thing on that. I was in an airport on that Monday, and I was standing next to a guy, and he turned to me during that playoff, and he said, "I want Tiger to win, but I don't want Rocco to lose." Is that kind of how it felt amongst the players, too?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I'm not rooting for anybody in that situation. I'm not going to be partial to anyone. I think the best way to explain it is I don't think Rocco lost, I think Tiger won.
Q. When Tiger first came out eight, nine years ago there was a lot of talk about how he intimidates people and nobody could play their best game around him. It doesn't seem true anymore. Is he pulling people along? Has the standard he's set pulled the whole caliber of golf up a little bit?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it's possible, yeah. I think that's certainly possible. You know, yeah. You've got someone that's really, like I said, transcending the game and taking it to other levels. There's guys out here that want to be the best player in the world, thus they're going to work harder to get to that point. You're going to see improvement.
Yeah, I think we can certainly pay him tribute to a lot of that. The courses are getting longer, the setups are getting more and more difficult, and we're still seeing really low scores. I think that's a good way to describe it.
Q. What have you learned about yourself or your golf game working through this injury and now coming back? And obviously it might be too soon to tell because you haven't played yet, but just getting back --
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it is. I think you said it. It is a little too early to tell. It's my first week back so it's obviously not a pertinent topic of discussion. It's not that serious of an injury. The doctor said it's just rest and time. Obviously I did something that was kind of foolish. Not foolish. I didn't know it was going to hit me. And obviously I paid the price.
Yeah, you've got to be tough. This game is tough as it is, but you've got to be mentally tough, and once you are healthy you've got to take advantage of your opportunities and continue to fight.
Tiger fought through a lot more pain than I'm going through. Granted, he could still grip the golf club. You really can't compare my injury to his in any sort of fashion because he's out for months on top of months.
But yeah, I'll probably learn more as the time goes on. I don't want to take this game for granted, don't want to take my job for granted, and I don't think I do. I'm working hard in my on weeks, my off weeks, and I'll continue to do that.
DOUG MILNE: Zach Johnson, we appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.
End of FastScripts