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January 18, 2009

Zach Johnson


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the 2009 Sony Open in Hawaii Champion, Zach Johnson, thank you for joining us for a few minutes here. This is your second win in five starts, heading back to Texas towards the end of 2008, and with this win you pick up 500 FedExCup points. Great playing today. You started with a one-shot lead and you got the job done. Just a few comments on how you feel to get a win under your belt so early in 2009.
ZACH JOHNSON: I feel great. My performance on the West Coast, the start of the year, has not been great. So playing well last week, especially, I think that certainly catapulted me into this week.
Kind of got off to a sluggish start today. A couple of good saves here and there, and managed to right the ship on the back nine and hit some quality shots, and fortunately made some putts.
It was far from easy, especially knowing, well, one, who I was playing with, and two, the other guys on the board. So I'm very pleased with this win.

Q. I know you played basically well overall, but would you say maybe one area has been stronger than the others, maybe putting? It seems like you're making a lot of really key putts.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I putted well this week. I putted very good. I 3-putted I think twice, but they were really long putts, and one was off the green. All in all, I'm seeing my line and hitting it down my line. I've got a good system there. I've got a good system with how to prepare and how to maintain I think really good fundamentals, or consistent fundamentals.
These greens are a little grainy. My caddie, Damon, is great at reading grain, and I had the speed down. Yeah, the putter was certainly the key this week, which when you win, it usually is.

Q. Must make you wonder what went wrong the first two days in Kapalua; you played the last six 30-under.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, first two rounds of the year, and I went skiing the week before. If there's anything wrong, that would probably be it.
Yeah, I had new irons in the bag, new Titleist irons I was getting comfortable with. Certainly didn't take me long. That was part of it. And last week, I hit a lot of good, quality -- pretty easy driving course, but quality iron shots that kept me going (baby crying in background) that's my boy. He's a huge Baltimore fan. (Laughter) No, I don't know.

Q. For a guy who used to only be able to win in Georgia, you've now won in Texas and Hawaii; I guess the question; are you playing Asia next week?
ZACH JOHNSON: Am I playing Asia next week? No, I'm going home, and to a home I have not been in but seven days. So I'm going to go back and rest a little bit and get ready for the remainder of the West Coast.

Q. Which is?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know.

Q. You haven't figured that out yet?
ZACH JOHNSON: I have not. I know I'm playing Los Angeles, Northern Trust, and I'm assuming now the Match Play. Those two for sure, and before that, I'm not sure.

Q. Back to the 30-under thing and the first two rounds, if you look at the weekend, last week, and the way you played this week, can you think of another stretch where you've put together like this back-to-back, maybe Hilton Head?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's tough. San Antonio into Vegas was pretty solid. The last two rounds of San Antonio, I don't remember the numbers, but it was pretty low. I want to say those two rounds and the first two rounds of Vegas were close to 30, if I'm not mistaken. That's five months ago.
So I mean, yeah, this game is confidence. This game is momentum. You know, I had it then and I fortunately got it back sooner than later.

Q. Two wins in your last six starts separated by three months I guess; is that encouraging to be able to play well -- I guess your year started in October, though, didn't it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Kind of did. I had six weeks off. That was my off-season, after New Jersey. I'm just riding that wave, I guess. That's really corny, isn't it? (Laughter) But we'll go with it.

Q. What was the most critical point in that round today?
ZACH JOHNSON: Critical point, there was a couple of times, but I think the putt on 10. David made birdie on 8 and 9, and then hit a pretty good hot in there to about six or seven feet, eight feet maybe, and I hit about 15 feet. Actually hit a good shot and misjudged the wind 15, 16 feet, whatever it was. And that birdie putt certainly helped because I was able to hit a good shot on the next hole and make another birdie.
Those two putts were big, on 10 and 11. After that, certainly the up-and-down on 17, we both misjudged the wind there. I hit the same club he did. I don't know what I was thinking. Those would be the two putts, I think would be on 10 and 11.

Q. Talk about the 18th, if you could, not so much from your perspective of off the tee and how you positioned yourself, but what you were expecting David to do and how to play the hole?
ZACH JOHNSON: With David, I played with him a number of times, both medal play and match play as partner and I guess I lost to him last year in the Match Play. So I've played with him a number of times and I him to make every putt and I expect him to hit every fairway because quite frankly, he typically does that.
He didn't let down. He hit a lot of good shots. I just evidently made one or two more putts over the week. I don't think he lost it. I think that I won it, in essence, which is -- I mean, it's not arrogant, but he played really solid. He had a lot of opportunities.

Q. Curious what you saw from him in the bunker.
ZACH JOHNSON: I didn't go over and look. We discussed would was out and having me hit first. I don't know what he would have done. Maybe he wanted me to hit first so maybe that gives him an idea of what he had to do.
I had no idea what his lie was like. I knew I had a one-shot lead and certainly I'm right in the middle of the fairway with a good lie, and I was fortunate in that regard.
He tried to hit a very difficult shot. I'm not saying he can't pull it off, but it was a hard shot. He pretty much had to try -- had given himself a chance to make a 3. He's not trying to finish second. So just went my way.

Q. What kind of discussion was there on who was away, not a big debate, but was it close enough?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think they were two or three or four yards ahead of us, maybe just because of the angle. I had 230-ish front, and he probably had 225 or so. I'm not sure.

Q. That's not an easy 2-putt where you were, with that pin, is it?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a brutal pin. That's always there. That's one that you just pick your line and it's all speed. If you can get it within three feet, it's a pretty good putt. It was tracking, too. Had a chance if I hit it harder.

Q. Can you talk about 9 and your thoughts coming into the hole and your thoughts going out of the hole?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, yesterday I hit a poor drive. So my thought going into it, especially after making birdie today was just to get the ball in the fairway. I actually hit it pretty solid. I just didn't turn it over enough, and thus, caught the intermediate cut. I kind of misjudged the lie. My caddie thought it was maybe 4-iron or 3-iron, and just kind of poofed out of there. It went in the trap.
It was a difficult sandshot. It was a severe uphill lie with very minimal sand, probably a 25-yard sandshot I would say. So my whole thought on that was try to keep it low, one, and give myself a chance to make a putt. I'm seeing the lines and I'm reading them well. Just give myself an opportunity.
I hit a pretty average sandshot but I still had a chance to make. It knowing David, he was probably going to 2-putt and make a birdie. I knew it wasn't going to be handed to me, and that's why making those birdies on 10 and 11 were big.

Q. What's the best part about winning, this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know, I'll have to think about that one.
Well, I don't know if you can label one. After you get a taste of Maui, you always want to keep coming back. That's a good thing. I get to go back to Maui again. That's never a bad thing. (Smiling) And Oahu. Starting your year in these two destinations is pretty awesome.
Outside of that, just knowing that what I did in the off-season and how we more or less sat down and put a direction down for 2009 and seeing it pay off this week, it's pretty awesome. If anything, I should just -- I've got to put this behind me and focus on my next tee shot, whenever that week is.
However, I do want to resort back to some of these feelings and some of these thoughts, these confident thoughts, these peaceful thoughts that I have on the course so that I can continue a good rhythm.

Q. I'm trying to do the math in my head now, but this is three consecutive years winning after a couple-year drought for you; correct?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's right.

Q. Even a guy like Furyk, for example, no guarantees of winning, and you start looking at guys, who can do it two, three, four, five years in a row. Is that kind of what puts you or starts you in the direction of putting you in a certain group?
ZACH JOHNSON: I have no idea. I don't know.

Q. I struggled through that question and that's all I'm getting from you? As badly as I botched that question, that's all I can get from you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Terrible. (Laughter).
You go back to Jim Furyk, you assume he would be in Maui, and he had a great year last year. He just didn't win.
So yeah, I feel very fortunate to get a W at any point in time, and obviously this one is sweet, the sweetest one I've had, because it's right now. I think this game is getting harder and harder as far as the talent and just makes me want to work harder. I'm playing golf for a living, so it's my job and I'm going to treat my job as any other job. I'm going to make it hard and I'm going to work hard at it and I'm going to practice.
I don't know where it puts me. That's for you guys to discuss, not me. I just know that my game is going the right way, and you know, I'm excited about the future.

Q. When you came out of college, and someone would have said to you then that you would win five times on the PGA TOUR in your career, and one of them being a major, what would you have said to that?
ZACH JOHNSON: "What are you on" probably. (Laughter).
1998, I was very raw. Always a pretty decent putter, but you know, I never was very consistent with any part of my game. You know, if someone would have said that, I would have said, you know, I wouldn't have believed them. There's no way I would have believed them.

Q. Assuming you think you would have been the ultimate over achiever, where in your head now, when you look at the same thing, what do you say?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, the one thing I go back to is the road. I go back to how I got here and the work I put in and obviously those that have pushed me along that road. I don't mean to get cliché, but I think of those people that would have said that are the ones that -- probably the ones that believed in me back then, the ones that started me out in the game, my sponsors and certainly my coaches.
My point is, the team that I assembled, even way back when, and the team that's been assembled now, that's the reason why I'm sitting here. So with anything, I could not have done it myself. Given that, I'm proud of what I've done. I'm certainly encouraged that I've got the right system and I've got the right people, and you know, 2009 looks great. I hope it's better than 2007. And 2008 was great. It's the second event of the year, but you know, it's not going to be easy. Top-10s are hard out here. That's what keeps me motivated.

Q. Do you think you are an over achiever?
ZACH JOHNSON: Do you think I am an over achiever? Yeah, probably a little bit, yeah. I mean, in some respects, yeah. I think.

Q. Are you resigned to that or are you proud of that?
ZACH JOHNSON: Very proud of that, absolutely. That's kind of my upbringing. I'm a gritty competitor.

Q. Bulldog.
ZACH JOHNSON: But just so happens that I play golf.
I had dinner with Corey Pavin last night; I am not Corey Pavin, far from it, especially when you're talking about a resumé. However, maybe some parallels there as far as our stature and certainly how we play the game and how we compete.
You know, I think that's -- I don't know if that's what sets me apart at times, but competition is what drives me. So it doesn't really matter what it is; I want to win.

Q. What are your thoughts on kind of sharing the glory this week with an 18-year-old?
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, that's great. I got to know Tadd a little bit, I think one of his coaches is back in Sea Island. I met him even prior to that and got to meet him, and pretty awesome. What he did this week should be inspiring, not only to himself, but to other kids.
Just knowing him, and I've seen him work -- you know, my caddie and I were talking about it yesterday. I'm on the range warming up yesterday and he got done before I teed off. I get done on 18 and I putt a little bit and I come in here do my media, hit a few balls; he's still putting. That's like five hours after the fact on a Saturday. I had been over there at the beach.
He's worked hard. That kid is going to get -- whatever he gets, he deserves. It's pretty awesome. I also think the way and the manner in which he is going about his business is very good relative to some others we've seen. I think his parents deserve a pat on the back for that.

Q. Getting back to the gritty overachievers in your upbringing, Kurt warner is going to the Super Bowl?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, he is.

Q. Zach Johnson won the Sony Open in Hawaii. Do you think they are still partying in Cedar Rapids?
ZACH JOHNSON: I hope so. Kurt and I went to the same school, he's four years older than me and he's a fantastic guy.
I think Cedar Rapids is happy right now. That area has gone through a lot over the last year, and just having something that they can cling onto that's positive is awesome, because it's not good now and it's not going to be good tomorrow, it's not going to be good for a long time. But they are good people and that's certainly what makes that community.
Yeah, I'm very happy for Kurt and certainly the Cardinals. I guess it's a good day for Iowa.

Q. He got hit a lot harder than you did today.
ZACH JOHNSON: He did. But he's a lot bigger than I am, a lot bigger.

Q. How tall are you? It says 5'11 in the book.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's about right. (Guffaws of laughter).
Okay, 5'10, 5'10 and a half maybe. I'm 5'11.
Is there a roster? It says 6' on the roster. (Laughter).

Q. Toms is at 5'10. What do you think of that one; is that about right?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I think I'm a little bit taller than he is.

Q. A little?
ZACH JOHNSON: Just an inch. You don't think I'm 5'11?

Q. His question. I was just the one talking about it.
ZACH JOHNSON: 5'11, 170. I'm going with that.
DOUG MILNE: If you would just run us through the birdies and bogeys.
ZACH JOHNSON: First hole hit a good drive. Jumped on a 7-iron and ended up probably four feet, 3 1/2 feet. Kind of got me off to a good start certainly.
Good save on 2, the par 3. That was the worst shot of the day. Not sure where it came from. That ball didn't have a chance to stay dry. Actually made a pretty good bogey, considering where I was.

Q. Were you considering going across the lake?
ZACH JOHNSON: I was. I didn't know the rule, but if I could have gone across the lake, ask taken that point from the pin and gone back as far as could I in the fairway, I probably would have taken it and taken the flat lie, because the area I was in, the ball could jump. I was certainly considering it but you can only do that at the point in which it crosses. So I elected to stay where I was. I hit 9-iron on there and 2-putted.
No. 4, I hit a good 3-iron. That was just a good bounce back. That's a put you don't try to make. It got close and dropped, I don't know, 30 feet. It was a bomb.
5 and 6 were good saves.
7 I made a bogey. David hit 6-iron in the trap and I get up there and pretty much had the exact same shot. Hit a good sandshot, misjudged the lie, came out kind of hard. Didn't hit a very good putt and made a bogey.
8, hit a good drive and a wedge to about two or three feet, made birdie.
10, I hit a good drive and hit a wedge to about 15, 16 feet probably. Made that.
11, I hit a 5-iron. David hit a 6-iron and I just hit a smooth 5-iron seeing where his came up, because we hit it about the same distance, to about six feet or seven feet and made that.
14, I hit my drive down the left side, which is not ideal. But I managed to have a good yardage there and just shut the face down on a 7-iron, drew it in there nicely to about ten feet and made a good putt. That was a big putt.
Obviously 18 I hit a good drive and hit a smooth 5-wood to about 35, 40 feet, probably 40 feet and 2-putted.

Q. David kept right at you, which I'm sure you expected. How big then was 14 to get your nose out in front by two?
ZACH JOHNSON: That was big. I assumed when I made that putt I had a two-shot lead and I assumed he was second but I didn't know. I was still trying to putt the pedal to the metal and be aggressive given the shot at hands. If I had an opportunity with a good number to be aggressive, I was trying to do that. Making birdie was big. Even the next hole I had a perfect yardage, terrible shot. Went to the middle of the green but I hit a bad shot, on 15.
But yeah, once again, on 16, I was more aggressive off the tee. I hit a smooth driver and he hit a 3-wood, and had a great opportunity there. Misread the putt -- no, actually I hit a pretty good putt.
I was trying to make birdies. I was trying to chip-in on 17. I saw the leaderboard on 16 green, I think after I putted and just knew I couldn't relax, and I didn't expect to have to relax.

Q. You're in Hawaii.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I'll relax now. (Laughter).
DOUG MILNE: Zach, congratulations.

End of FastScripts

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