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October 11, 2008

Zach Johnson


CHRIS REIMER: Congratulations, Zach, great round.
You mentioned in here before the tournament that you're going to use these fall events as kind of get yourself some momentum going. Certainly a round like this does that.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. The whole week has, really. I didn't score particularly well Thursday. Yesterday was good. I mean I made a bogey on a par 5. Other than that it was really good.
So, you know, today just more putts fell which was nice to see. But I'm hitting it great. I'm hitting a lot of fairways. I knew that.
And then, you know, I'm getting the ball on the right side of the green to give myself an opportunity. I had plenty of opportunities out there. I'm not complaining. I'm encouraged.

Q. You said before the tournament, especially on this course, if you hit fairways, it's kind of the cure for what ails you or this tournament has been in the past, you can shoot low.
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't think this is a course that I would say -- unless it's pretty windy out here -- because of the change in altitude, hole after hole after hole, and the fairways, the way they're situated that, you know, fairways are more of a premium than just bombing it out there. The ball is releasing. So it was playing wet, it would be a different story but it's not.
So, yeah. I think that's evident also in -- who has had success here. Obviously Justin Leonard has played great here. I think our games, I won't say similar, but pretty come comparable. We don't overpower golf courses. We try to rely on our wedges and putter and go from there.
I think it's a nice course, you know, if you're hitting it solid.

Q. What's the year been like for you, I mean coming off such a great year the previous year? Has it been hard to, you know, balance everything and get back into focus or -- I mean one Top-10?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was a 9th. Barely a Top-10.

Q. It counts.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. It's been difficult but it's all been a learning process. I'm certainly not -- it's not where I want to be from a number standpoint, from a ranking standpoint point, money list, dah, dah, dah, all those number standpoints, it certainly has not been where I want it to be. However I've been very encouraged as to the way my game is going.
I'm still trying to get better. I feel like I'm a better playing player now than I was this time last year even though it won't show on the stats.
Granted, I'm one more year experience but I think a lot of what happened this year has, as I said earlier on this week, I said a few other times, my instructor kind of mentioned to me, Mike Bender, I don't know if it's a great analogy, last year I went out and shot 62, which is kind of ironic, but it's hard to follow-up a 62. I intend on doing it tomorrow, but as a whole it's hard to do that, follow it up.
You know, I've had plenty of opportunities this year. Couple even going into Sunday where I just tanked it.
Specifically, my game, I'm very encouraged where my ball striking is, very encouraged with my instructors and I'm really encouraged as to where my putter is going. That's probably what's left me the most.
As a whole today I'm still hitting a lot of fairways and greens. I just haven't been playing that well and now I'm kind of going back to where I kind of was a few years ago as far as my fundamentals go and today is just one day.
The last two days, I putted pretty good. I've seen some of the hard work that has paid off and it's been encouraging. It's a process.
That's a long answer.
Q. I won't ask you the obvious. Back in '04 was the last time you really lead after three rounds. You come back I think according to the statistics they were looking up in there -
ZACH JOHNSON: I think I lead going into by one point at the International one year.

Q. Maybe they were looking at that.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's beside the point.

Q. It still goes back to the question, does it change, chasing, leading? What does it do?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think we probably use a lot of what is said often, notes, Tiger Woods, "I'd rather be one, two, three shots ahead going into Sunday than one shot back."
I think it's all about perception. If you're two shots back and you're playing well, that's great because pressure is not on you. But if you're two, three shots up playing good, You got a 2, 3-shot cushion. It's all how you perceive it. I would rather be in this position.

Q. How do you perceive it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Plus I'm experienced now. If it was my rookie year, if this was the one of the first tournaments I was in contention, I probably would be more nervous.
I'll tell you right now, I'm going to watch football tonight and sleep great. I'm sleeping on a heavenly Bed at the Westin. I've got my boy and wife with me.

Q. Heavenly Bed?
ZACH JOHNSON: Heavenly Bed.

Q. The stats do say you're playing well right now this year. In fact, this week you're third in driving, fourth in greens in regulation.
Now, we haven't seen you play tournament golf since Barclays. Have you been working on your ball striking or working on staying away?
ZACH JOHNSON: Mixture of both. You know, part of the whatever, it's -- Barclays, six, seven weeks, whatever that duration has been, month. Some of it was forced off.
I couldn't play in Boston or St. Louis, I couldn't play in the Tour Championship, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's been forced time off.
Same time, I've also been busy in doing other ventures. We're moving, had a charity event, couple corporate events, couple of contract obligations.
So, you know, there was probably about a month, almost five weeks where I really didn't do much because I was hitting it good still in New Jersey, I just didn't see the results.
In the last two, three weeks I've really started to crack down and make some commitments on what to do fundamentally and then really, you know, going out and executing the drills that my coaches have given me and working on it.
Ball-striking has been probably more simple. Putting has probably been, from a mental standpoint, been the hardest adjustment but it's not a secret. If you were to watch my footage over the last year, especially maybe even the last year or two my hands start to creep back, especially with my putter, even with my ball-striking.
I'm trying to get more in a neutral position with my putter and also with my grip and my shafts with my ball-striking and I don't think about it really a whole lot on the golf course which I guess is a good thing, but I know from what my caddy has told me and what I've seen that hitting solid shots and hitting solid putts has been very evident this week.
It's getting better.

Q. I know your best career round 60, I think you had a 60?

Q. By a quick check, this is your second best PGA TOUR round?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't think I've shot 61.

Q. You say your game is coming around. Did you see 62 coming at you?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I didn't have expectations like, say, going into the week. At the same time I felt pretty good. It's gotten better and better everyday as far as how I'm feeling.
Some of my best rounds I've come in, you know, with absolutely not zero confidence but limited confidence and I play great. The opposite has happened too, where I've been very confident and played terrible.
You know, I think in this game, get some momentum that's bred from confidence and I'm starting to get that. It just goes back to the fact I'm starting to putt a little better.
I'm hitting it great. My equipment has been great. I know we've changed some things here and there but we all do that. I'm not much of a tinkerer. But I got a new driver in the bag for the last three tournaments and I've been driving it fantastic.
So, you know, you get the ball in the fairway, give yourself a chance to hit it close with your wedges. After the first round here, I think I shot 1-under but I had ten wedges and I shot 1-under. I don't hit it that far. It's rare that I have ten wedges out of 18 holes. This is a course where I get the ball in the fairway, I can do some damage. That's that I like.

Q. You're involved with the relief back home. How are things going back there? Is it slow, family good with --
ZACH JOHNSON: Family is good. Thank you for asking.
My mother's office was destroyed completely. She doesn't foresee herself ever going back in there. Fortunately, it's kind of a part-time position so she can work out of the house or she can work at a satellite campus that they have set-up at the high school.
My fairway's clinic was spared, which was very, very lucky, more or less an island six blocks away towards the river and four, five blocks the other way just sitting up. It was a blessing. Completely lucky.
We're fine. Yeah, it's bad. I've been back twice since now over last seven weeks. Had an event back there, Chris DeMarco and Todd Hamilton and a few young guns.
We raised a good chunk of cash, $350,000 which was pretty good for these times in that economy and that state. I thought it was fantastic.
The beauty of that we put it together in four weeks which is -- speaks volume who put it together, my agent, Aegon, USA and the University of Iowa and other corporate sponsors. You know, those are the people that deserve the pat there.
It's still bad back there. The key what I tried to do back there, I certainly want to raise some cash, when you're talking billions and billions and billions of dollars in damage because that's what it is -- my home town alone they're saying one and a half to 2 billion. We're a town of 150, 200,000 people. That's beyond belief. That's going to be year.
The key, we're trying to keep everything going. It just happened in June with the hurricane, certainly the election, certainly the economy, obviously still what's going on in the Middle East.
There's so many other things that have taken place. There's no one to be at fault for that. That's just what happened.
But my goal and the goal of my family and some of my help, if you will, is keep the things going. I'm from Iowa. Nothing ever usually happens there. When you see something happen like hurricanes or earthquakes or whatever, the national disaster, war -- it's not going to happen to us, then it hits you, 25 feet of water above river levels going with a current.
So it was bad but, you know, that community I'm on a positive note is fighting. We're fighting.

Q. Zach, can you talk -- I'm sorry if somebody asked this question, obviously winning three times in Georgia. To win outside the State of Georgia, would that be great or is that just a freak statistical --
ZACH JOHNSON: It's more of a freak thing. I'm comfortable in those two golf courses that I've won at. There's no question about that. That's pretty evident.
I think partly the greens they have there, especially at Augusta, it feels like bent grass. I don't know what it is. But it's fast. I enjoy fast greens where you just got to pick your line and kind of feel the putt.
Yeah. I mean I think anytime you win out here, you're not going to come out here and win and putt bad, you know. Everybody hits it pretty good out here. If you're putting well you can score and that's certainly what those wins revolve around.
The second one in Atlanta, I hit it -- probably one of the best weeks I ever drove it, ridiculously good, made some putts. That was probably the exception.
But, you know, weeks I play well I'm usually putting pretty good and for some reason it's happened in Georgia three times. I don't know why but as far as professionally speaking, I've won outside the state a couple times.

Q. Jump over the Mississippi River, then you're ready for the L.A. Open.

Q. There were a couple shots that -
CHRIS REIMER: I was going to ask, you started birdie, birdie to start and a nice birdie on 18 to finish.
ZACH JOHNSON: Obviously getting off to a good start was a priority. I was kind of downwind on the second shot.

Q. Was that one of your wedges as well?
ZACH JOHNSON: 40-foot sand shot. Yeah, it was. I didn't hit the best of sand shots. I probably made about a 6, 7-footer. Actually I hit a pretty good sand shot, misjudged it.
The next hole, good tee shot, good second shot up there. Probably that was 18, 20 feet and that one kind of got me going. I made good putt on 1, certainly, but when you can make anything from ten plus feet, that's encouraging.
ZACH JOHNSON: 18, hit a great drive, I thought I hit a better second shot than where it ended up. It was pretty breezy at that point. Knocked in another 15-footer. Might have pushed that one a little bit but caught the right edge. It went in.

Q. What did you use on your approach?
ZACH JOHNSON: 8-iron. Had about 155, 153, something like that.
CHRIS REIMER: You're quoted that you're comfortable at Augusta National.
ZACH JOHNSON: I am comfortable.
CHRIS REIMER: Anything else? Thanks Zach.

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