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January 17, 2009

Zach Johnson


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Zach Johnson into the interview room at 10-under par. Zach, third consecutive round in the 60s, just talk a little bit about your round today.
ZACH JOHNSON: It was -- I got off to a pretty good start. I think that's the key out here is that first hole is obviously a bear.
I made a birdie on hole 3 and that just kind of gave me some momentum, and a really nice chip on 5 for birdie. Short birdie putt on 9. So front nine, kind of got it going.
Played solid after that. I had a lot of birdie opportunities. I didn't hit it tight but I gave myself chances, and then I only managed to make one putt on the back. Ended a little bit sour on hole 18, but it was a long putt. It was one that was not easy, so all in all, a good day.

Q. Was birdie the best you could do on No. 9 today after the last two days?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I actually hit a good drive. It just slipped into the rough and I didn't have much of a lie. So, yeah, I'd take it, though.

Q. There's probably going to be a dozen guys separated by three shots. Is that any lead at all?
ZACH JOHNSON: Not out here. One shot, one errant shot can be a matter of a two- or three-shot swing. So out here, it's just, you know, it didn't really matter. I think that's the beauty of this course. It doesn't surprise me it's congested, and the guy that sticks to his own and makes some putts tomorrow is probably going to come out on top.

Q. Except for I think one round last week, you've played pretty well and pretty consistently. Is this what you expected coming into this year, or are you surprised?
ZACH JOHNSON: I really don't like expectations. If anything, I had a good outlook on '09, great outlook, with where my game was and the direction it was going, and certainly the work I've put in to get to this point.
I anticipated playing well over here. Anticipation versus expectation I think is a little bit different. I anticipated hitting it solidly. I anticipated hitting quality shots, and hopefully scoring, and my short game has come along nicely.
This is a course here, if you get the ball in the fairway, you know, and putt decent, you're going to score well, because you're not hitting terribly long iron shots. There's a few holes, 1 and 13, that are pretty gnarly, but outside of that, it's a scorable course.
You know, the other two factors, maybe I skied the week before, maybe that has something to do with it, and I switched to new irons. I've gone to the newer Titleist irons that I haven't played up until Maui. So two years, I was playing different irons prior.

Q. Just quickly, what do you feel differently with these than what you felt before with the other irons?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think they are a little bit more consistent. I think they are a little bit -- consistent as far as trajectory and spin, which is great. It's just a matter of technology and getting better and better, and certainly Titleist putting the right ball with the right club in my hand, essentially what it comes down to.
I've always driven it pretty straight, but my driver is getting better and starting to get a little bit longer, I think, and less spin, anyway. I think that's been a key component. But yeah, I'm playing the AP2. I had a hodgepodge of the set previous. My lower mid-irons were different than my upper irons and now I'm straight AP2s because of the shot and spin rate I'm putting out. It's been fantastic.

Q. Your thoughts on starting and chasing an 18-year-old that shot a 62?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I heard. That's very impressive. I don't know what else to really say. 8-under anywhere is really good. But Saturday in a TOUR event, especially in your own backyard, that's not easy to do. I played a tournament about an hour and 20 minutes from my hometown, and I put up some good numbers, but that's always one of the hardest tournaments for me to compete in. .
So I think obviously he's a talent, borderline phenom, considering where he's doing and how he's doing it. He went out first and earned his way. I heard he Monday qualified. Got a chance to speak with him briefly. I've seen him swing it and seen hit putt it, he's very, very solid. It's not a surprise based on what I've witnessed, but it is a minor shock based on the circumstances. You know, he's going to be great for golf if he continues what he's doing.

Q. Do you remember the first time you played here when the wind turned?
ZACH JOHNSON: You mean this week?

Q. First time that you played here when the wind turned around. Did it feel like a different golf course?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's a good question. You know, if this course is benign and just calm, you feel like you've got to put a really good number up, but any sort of wind, there's a challenge. I can't remember the exact time, no. This was pretty drastic as far as degree of wind.
Maui wind last week was much the same thing, tradewinds to Kona. It's not like it goes from north to northwest and sneaks to north; it's like this (indicating sudden).

Q. Do you think that's why the leaderboard is full of veterans?
ZACH JOHNSON: I didn't even notice that. Honestly, I haven't looked at a board.
Yeah, experience is going to pay off for sure. I certainly think experience on the greens pays off, understanding where to put the ball next to the pin relative to the wind. There are certain pins you accept 30 foot, and certain pints you have to be aggressive. I think there's a little truth to that.

Q. Can you talk about how hard it is to close the deal out to win an event, and then could you kind of sneak back to how hard it would be when you had to close your first win?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's very difficult to win out here. That kind of sounds fairly obvious, but it is, because of the depth of talent and because of how much parity is on TOUR now, both young and old. You've got 100-plus guys grinding it out every week that want to win.
I think getting yourself an opportunity, getting yourself in contention, getting that experience, is vital. I won early, like you said, but I had some opportunities the weeks prior to that to maybe make a dent, and that gave me the confidence when I won in Atlanta.
So you've got to putt well and I putted really well in Atlanta that one year, and as a result, I won. I think that's really what it boils down to.
JOHN BUSH: Thank you, Zach, play well tomorrow.

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