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February 17, 2009

Zach Johnson


DOUG MILNE: Zach, thanks for joining us for a few minutes here at the 2009 Northern Trust Open. I was just looking at start of year your, you had a T-6 at the Mercedes, you won the Sony Open in Hawaii, T-12 at the FBR, and you have had only one round over par of the 12 rounds so far this year. That said, how do you feel about the start of this season, as opposed to other seasons?
ZACH JOHNSON: Good. Yeah, I'm certainly very, very pleased with the way the season started. I had some pretty specific goals coming into this year, and obviously one was to get off to a good start. I've never done that, and this year it has surfaced and that is surfacing because of what I did in the off-season and because of what I did after the FedExCup last year.
So it took me a little -- I won obviously after that, but that was just getting hot at the right time. I think the work that I put in fundamentally after the FedExCup is now really starting to settle in, and as you can see my finishes, scores, what-have-you, are starting to run parallel to why I changed fundamentally -- not changed; polished, fundamentally. So all in all, I feel good.

Q. Riviera is known for being one of the classic courses on the TOUR. Did you like it the very first time you laid your eyes on it, and how do you feel it sets up for your game?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's Top-5 for me on the PGA TOUR. Ideally, just like any course, I'd love to see it firm and fast and those sort of conditions. I think it just puts more of a premium on fairways and quality shots into greens.
But, you know, I heard it was pretty firm prior to this rain, and I think that was evident, even in my practice round today. It is not that bad, even though they got a monsoon yesterday.
I love everything about it. I think this golf course has character beyond character. I think what sets it apart is it's just old school in the fact it's just golf, straight-out golf. There's nothing tricky about it. You kind of go out and come back in on both nines. Everything kind of slopes toward the green, kind of like -- it's the roll of the land. Not much earth was moved. It's got up, down, short, left, right; it's got everything, all the shots required, long, short, high. You've got to hit every shot. I think that's what sets it apart.
It's a highlight of my schedule.

Q. Your putting stroke, would you assess your consistency in the last two years, and tell us what you've learned about your putting stroke?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I'd say the last two years has not been very consistent. I think it's starting to get back to that. I would say 2003, 2004 and part of 2005, it was very good. It was very consistent.
But in that time span, I really just kind of had gotten used to my putter, the one in which I use, the Seymour. So it was more kind just getting up there and feeling it and hitting it. It was consistent because of my approach into each putt, but I got too complacent with it, probably '06, part of '07. '07 was obviously pretty good, but '08 especially, beginning of the year, way too complacent and I didn't maintain good fundamentals.
So the end of last year, and obviously this year, I've kind of gone back to where I should be, the way the putter is designed, the way -- just a more neutral position, and as a result, I'm starting to see the line better and make more putts.
My contact is more solid, and the ball is rolling better. So, you know, it's a progression. It's kind of like this (indicating up-and-down). It's starting to go like that (indicating upward ascension) fortunately, higher, the bar graph, if you will.

Q. Is that under the direction of Pat O'Brien?
ZACH JOHNSON: Pat has something to do with it for sure, yeah. My swing coach, Mike Bender, has a lot to do with it.
Pat has been good for me, just kind of keeping things simple, my posture, my setup, my routine. Mike Bender, I probably use more for fundamental purposes.
And then my mental coach. The games I play, the speed drills that I play, the reading drills that I play, all of these are contributing factors. All three of those guys, I would say, have equally contributed on all levels.

Q. Zach, probably when you walked in here, you probably passed the crowd around Ryo. Can you talk about being 17, and could you have handled that? Just the whole crunch of attention.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, at 17, I was worried about soccer practice, golf practice, studies on occasion, where I was going out on Friday night, and that was about it.
No, I can't imagine being in this arena at that age. Some of these kids, both male and female, that are doing it, are obviously phenomenal athletes. I was not one of them.
So, yeah, it's pretty impressive.

Q. For a while, you were building a reputation as a guy who could only win PGA TOUR titles in Georgia. How satisfying was it to win one earlier this year halfway toward Japan?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it was like in a foreign country.
Any win on the PGA TOUR is very satisfying. Some, obviously, you get the question, so which is your biggest win. Certainly Augusta is going to carry a lot more weight, but you know what, the one I just won, the previous one, is always the one that's the most -- from a confidence standpoint, it's always the best. Because that's where I draw back and where I feed from, because those feelings are what I feed on in certain situations.
This TOUR is getting younger and I'm getting older, it seems. We're having kids that are studs coming out of college now, or out of the mini-tours that are athletes. So any time I can be in contention or have a chance to win, in other words, or win, I feel pretty good about everything. It's just getting harder and harder, is what I'm saying.
Hopefully I'm hitting my prime or not there yet, but I guess those factors I just mentioned, these kids coming up, that's what makes me want to work harder and certainly want to improve.
Yeah, getting out of the State of Georgia was a big win, but I had a number of good finishes and just didn't crack through to win. The two courses I won on in Georgia just play to my game.
DOUG MILNE: Well, Zach, as always, we appreciate your time. Best of luck this week.

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