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July 31, 2008

Zach Johnson


CHRIS REIMER: Thanks for joining us in the media center. Best round of the afternoon, I believe, so obviously you've got to be happy with 3-under par out there today.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'm very happy. I mean, I've had some good rounds here. I've had some decent finishes, but I've always had the opportunity to have some really good finishes and just never have.
All in all, I got off to a good start, so that took a lot of pressure off and hit a lot of good shots. Made a few putts here and there, and I guess I left some out there. You can always say that, but I also made some.

Q. You're not surprised that there were so many -- it looked like a dozen guys within two shots of the lead.
ZACH JOHNSON: Am I surprised by that? No, I'm not. At a course of this magnitude, that's usually what it does. I don't want to say it separates the field, but if you play well, it gets bunched up because it's really hard to go very low. And if you play decent, you're going to be right around par. That's just the way it is.
I think it's playing as long as I've ever seen it. Granted, they've added some length, I think, last year, before last year's event, and the wind today and certainly with the somewhat saturated fairways, it was playing very, very long. So it doesn't surprise me. That's just the way this course responds to golf.

Q. You say that you've had some opportunities for some good finishes but something has held you back. Can you talk about what you think that is?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, last year I think I finished bogey-double and finished 9th, so it was a bad finish. And then the previous year I believe I made a 9 on 9. I don't know what I finished, but it was close to Top 10 again. So I've had some big numbers.
For me it's one of those courses where a lot of these holes, I've got to get the ball in the fairway if I want to get it around the green. Basically I've got to eliminate the major disasters. I kind of approach some of these holes, namely like a No. 9, for example, depending on the wind, almost like a short par-5. That's kind of the way I've got to approach it. Get the ball in the fairway. If I can't get it to the green, get it to a place where I can get it up and down. Today I hit an okay drive and I hit a hybrid.
To answer your question, the more and more you play this course, the better off you are, especially with knowing where to hit it around the greens. I'm just staying patient. I'm at the point right now in the season where I've got nothing to lose, so I'm just going to go out and free-wheel it and have fun.

Q. Could you talk about what was going so well on the front nine? You had a good string there.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know. I hit a lot of close shots. I made four birdies, but the 2nd hole I nearly holed out. I mean, I hit it to like a foot, my third shot. I lipped out on 1. 4, I hit it to maybe a foot, and that was a 3-iron. I just hit a quality shot.
5, I chipped in, and then 6, I made about a 15-footer. It wasn't like I was making major long putts or anything, I was just giving myself chances. I actually hit a pretty good shot at 7 but I was still in the bunker and made bogey. 12, I hit it to like two and a half, three feet. So I really didn't make any putts. But I had a couple of opportunities on the back, namely 15. I let that one slide by. But all in all, I really scored quite nice.

Q. The Ryder Cup automatics are going to be locking up here in not too long. You're kind of one of those bubble guys. Of course most of your points were accrued last year. If you were Azinger would you pick you right now?
ZACH JOHNSON: If I was Paul Azinger would I pick me right now? Yes (smiling).

Q. Honestly. I figured you'd give me an honest answer.
ZACH JOHNSON: It's hard to take me out of my own shoes. But from a golf standpoint and an experience standpoint and from a fire and kind of wanting to be on the team standpoint, absolutely I'd take myself. I've played in the last two Cups. There's nothing more I want than to play on that team. Based on my resumé this year, no, absolutely not, there's no way. But I'm so close. I think I missed two cuts, three cuts this year. So it's not like I'm playing that bad. I'm just not putting it together on the weekend.
I've got a lot of 20 to 45 finishes, that sort of thing, 20 to 50 finishes. But that's not getting the job done. I have no excuse.
You know, I think my game is good for that arena. You know, I don't know about necessarily the golf course because I've never played it. You know, Paul is certainly taking the reins here. He's kind of maneuvered the system a little bit, and I think it's all positive stuff. I think he's going to get the hottest players at the right time. So if I can get hot, regardless if I make the top eight or nine, I've got a chance. That's kind of my approach. I don't want to have to be picked. I've got two weeks to do that, and that'll be -- that's certainly kind of an incentive. It's certainly not my goal because I want to stick to one week at a time, but it's incentive. And after that I've got some time to make him think about a pick if I don't get in that top eight.

Q. When you say you've got nothing to lose, obviously you're not referring to your Ryder Cup chances, it's just that you're going to let it all --
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, there's a lot of incentives still. We've got one more major, we've got the FedEx, we've got the Ryder Cup. That's what I mean. I'm just going to go out there and play hard, you know?

Q. Could you just talk about this stretch of the last -- I guess the next eight weeks? I'm guessing you probably won't play Greensboro?
ZACH JOHNSON: Undecided.

Q. And then you've got the slotted off week, but beyond that, if you make it all the way to Atlanta and you make the Ryder Cup team, which I think there's a decent chance of that with four picks, you're looking at six out of eight or something or seven out of nine?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. You know, that's the nature of the job right now. There's no other way to look at it.
I love my off weeks. I think my off weeks are just as vital as my on weeks. That's kind of the way I approach it. I've had some things this year that have -- I took four weeks off early in the season to kind of get -- last year kind of took a little bit out of me, so I did that. That was my choice. That kind of affects where I'm at right now, too. Outside of that I got a minor injury that left me three weeks out. So I'm ready to play. I mean, I'm healthy, and I guess without getting too cheesy, I'm hungry. Yeah, I don't mind it. I'll play potentially seven out of nine weeks. That's not that bad. I mean, it's a lot.

Q. Sounds busy for top tier guys.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's a lot, but it's nothing that I haven't done before. That's why we have time to take off if we want it afterwards. You know, if I don't make those last few events or whatever, I'll have some more time off.

Q. How much does experience help on this golf course?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think quite a bit. I think quite a bit. I think more on the greens than anything. I mean, I think when it comes to experience on golf courses it's where to hit it certainly, where to leave the ball around the greens. But out here, I think the golf course is pretty straightforward enough off the tee that you know what you've got to do. That's the beauty of it, there's your target, you've got to hit it in the fairway.
Around the greens, though, depending where the pin is, you've got to know where to kind of plot your way around it, and that's the way I play golf. I kind of pick away at the golf course and not try to force things, and whatever it gives me, I try to take advantage of.

Q. You said your off weeks are just as vital as your on weeks. Why are they so vital and what do you do on your off weeks?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've learned that if I play a lot in a row, namely -- well, four would be a lot, but I think I played five once on the PGA TOUR in a row, and I won't do that again. You know, I'm just -- physically I can take it. Fortunately I'm working out quite a bit, and I can take that. But mentally, the fatigue there that sets in that affects my game. If I can have an off week or maybe two to refresh and still maintain good golf form, which I do, I'll come back very rejuvenated and ready to get out again.
My off weeks, depends if I have one or two off, but my first off week I'll take the first two to four days off and then get back in it and start practicing and hitting balls with my coach and then play a little bit. That way by the time I need to head on the road, I'm ready to go.

Q. Back at No. 2, how far did you have and what was your second shot, what club?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. 2, I didn't really hit a very good drive. I didn't hit it straight. It was questionable. I would have had to have smashed a 3-wood to get it there, so I laid up. I hit a 3-iron for my layup shot. I think I had about 60 yards on my third shot. Yeah, I think I was about 250 uphill to the front of the green, 248 playing over that. And then I hit, whatever, a sand wedge to a foot.

Q. Would you be surprised to learn that DiMarco actually called a swing coach last week and is seeking outside help for the first time?
ZACH JOHNSON: Am I surprised?

Q. He probably should have done it earlier, but he never has.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't know. I know where you're going with this one. It is a little shocking, but at the same time, knowing Chris and knowing what he wants to do and where he wants to go, it doesn't surprise me, because he loves this game and he's one of the greatest fighters I've ever been associated with on the golf course. I'm sure his approach still is, you know, he's got two more weeks, there's no reason why he can't fight his way onto the team. Cups are big to him. I mean, they're huge to me, too, but I'm just speaking -- I can't speak on his behalf, but I know they're big.

Q. He's not in the FedExCup at this point.
ZACH JOHNSON: There you go. Desperate situations, if you will, call for desperate measures. You know, he just needs a little bit more confidence, that's all. I think we both do. I haven't been able to play with him much lately, unfortunately. I got hurt and then he got hurt, so we haven't been able to play a whole lot or seen each other that much. He actually had a similar situation as I did with his hand or wrist or whatever.
No, it doesn't surprise me. It's going to take one or two things here or there and he'll be off and going. I still think his best golf is in front of him, no question. I hope mine is, too.

Q. There's only one victory amongst the top players here in week on the leaderboard today, victory this season.
ZACH JOHNSON: Okay. I don't know who's on the leaderboard, I'm sorry. I know Retief was up there at one time.

Q. I'm just wondering, why now and what do you think this means for the rest of the weekend?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I guess the first way to answer that question is it's just Thursday. It's not like the tournament is remotely even over, but we're putting ourselves in position obviously for tomorrow and even the weekend. I don't know. That's a good question.
The other side of it is there may not be that many wins on the leaderboard, is that what you're getting at?

Q. Yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON: But you're talking about an event that literally is full of winners, experienced winners, and it's the best players in the world. There's no surprises as far as I'm concerned.

Q. I was thinking maybe you guys were saying, hey, this is the time to get them.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think that every week (laughing). I don't really want to play unless I feel like I can win.

Q. You mentioned about looking at your bag and getting a different club. When you have somebody, like Tiger Woods has been so successful on this course, do you go and look at some videos of him playing and maybe -- or have you changed some of your approaches to some of the holes here?
ZACH JOHNSON: No. One, I don't play a game remotely like his (laughter). Two, I know what I need to do. I mean, this is a major-style golf course. In majors you've got to get the ball in the fairway and get the ball around the green and give yourselves opportunities. There's no secrets here. I know exactly what I need to do.
I like it because I think this course puts a premium on fairways even though it is playing long and the rough is not that long.

Q. It's particularly challenging, though?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely. This is one of the most challenging arenas we play in golf. It's one of my favorites, too. This is the type -- visually the type of golf course I grew up on, tree-lined, typically thick rough, bentgrass, fast greens. That's Iowa, too. That's one reason why I like it here, too.

Q. Do you pretty much stay with the same 14 clubs, or do you --
ZACH JOHNSON: Interesting. This week I actually switched, changed.

Q. So you don't do that often?

Q. What did you do?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, let me preface that by saying I've -- I switched to these irons in the beginning of '06, and before that I played the same set for seven years, so I'm now going on two and a half years with this set. Not this set, but this style, you know what I mean? I started to upgrade a driver, I changed drivers at John Deere --

Q. I meant more like Phil going to five wedges and no driver.
ZACH JOHNSON: My wedges have not changed since probably '02, '01, maybe, same 51, 48 Vokey.
Kind of seeing this week, what the golf course is giving me, and then also next week -- at the beginning of the year I went to a 5-wood, took the 2-iron out, and now I have a hybrid that's a 3-iron, but it's the same loft as a typical 3-iron, I believe. I think it's like 20. And then I have a -- so my 4-iron is now -- excuse me. I took the 3-iron and added loft to it, so it's technically like --

Q. This wasn't a trick question.
ZACH JOHNSON: I inserted a hybrid for a 3-iron because I think it's better off the fairway into these greens, landing soft and high, and I think I can actually hit it out of the rough if I need to. That could have been a shorter answer. Sorry.

Q. I presume you haven't been back to Iowa lately, but things don't sound very good there still.
ZACH JOHNSON: I haven't. No, they're not great. Obviously I get updates all the time. We're planning on something the second week in September, I believe.

Q. Fundraiser?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, we're kind of putting something together. I really can't reveal too much information, but it's going to hit the media shortly, I think. It's pretty cool. It's going to be an event that obviously -- heading with one of my sponsors and also another entity in Iowa. But it's going to be really cool. It's going to hopefully just provide a lot more awareness and obviously raise some money. It's also going to revolve around other sporting events, so we're hoping that it really takes off. It's just hard because it's -- you want to get -- it's the logistical planning behind it that is difficult to get it done soon and quick.
We were going to do something like this even next year, but once the floods hit, it made it even more worthwhile to try to get it done this year.

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