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May 2, 2009

Zach Johnson


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson into the interview room here at the Quail Hollow Championship, our 54-hole leader after a 4-under par 68 today. Zach, if we can just get some comments on another great round.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, today I felt good about going into it. I certainly did end my round yesterday, but at the same time, those last three holes were a little perplexing. I hit quality shots, my execution was great, I just didn't score. I felt good about today, and I didn't get off to the start I necessarily wanted. But I remained patient, and I think that was the key for me the whole week but certainly today. The fairways are hard to hit, the greens are hard to control your spin, and you know, the greens are fast. So it was certainly patience.
We put ourselves in nice places in the fairway some of the time, and as a result I could be aggressive at certain points of the course, and I took advantage of it. You know, but I've got a two-shot lead, I guess. I'm happy to be there. At the same time on this golf course that's a matter of one hole, maybe even one shot.

Q. When is the last time your confidence level was where it is say right now? I know you had a missed cut at the Masters, which was probably a surprise to all of us, but a third at Bay Hill and a win already this year, and it seems like you've been sailing along with hardly in the setbacks.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you. My confidence has been pretty high the entire year, certainly Mercedes was good. I don't know what I finished, probably Top 10 there. And then obviously it rode into Sony. I've been feeling great about it all year. I've had a little bit of sickness here and there at times. My allergies have been frustrating. I didn't realize I had them. Prior to that I had the flu and a number of instances that just kind of knocked me out.
Augusta is the one that's probably the most confusing. I don't know what happened there. We talked at length about it. But all in all, it's been a great year. I mean, I'm making cuts and then obviously my goal every week is to give myself a chance to be in contention and give myself an opportunity to win hopefully. You know, I've had my fair share in certain tournaments. That's really all I can ask for.

Q. You were 2-over in the first four holes. How did your mindset change at that point?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I was 2-over through 4, and then I actually hit a pretty good sand shot on 5 and just lipped out a birdie putt that was makable. That was frustrating. I really had only missed one shot in those first five holes and I was sitting 2-over. It was a mis-club and missed wind on a couple shots.
The tee shot I hit on 6, the par-3, really kind of settled me down and got me going. I hit it in there to probably five, six feet. That birdie there really just kind of propelled me through the remainder of the day. I saw a lot of positives, off the tee especially. I hit a lot of quality shots, which I think is imperative going into these greens with certain pin placements.
It was patience, patience the whole way.

Q. 3-wood on 6?

Q. I ask you this because he's one of the guys that's right in your rear-view mirror, but did you glean anything you could use playing with Tiger at Bay Hill the other week?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I mean, aside from the fact that he makes a putt when he needs to make a putt. Always. Whether it's light or dark out.
That's just his nature and that's just the way he goes about it. It's just phenomenal. It's fun to watch. I felt like I did all right at Bay Hill. I gave myself a chance. I guess I had a chance at some point. If I would have made a few putts at some point I would have had a chance. I was proud of the way I played in that situation. But it was a learning experience, and I want more of those.
Quite honestly I'd love to be playing with him tomorrow. Regardless of score, I would love to play with him on Sunday in contention.
Given that, I'm very, very, very content with where I am. I mean, your rear-view mirror on this TOUR can be very big, and certainly he'd be the highlight of it, but the leaderboard is stacked. It doesn't really matter who's behind you.

Q. Kind of along those lines, we talk about the fact this is one of the best fields outside of a major championship. How satisfying is it to be sitting there with a two-shot lead going into the final round?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I don't want to get overly complacent, I don't want to get too satisfied, but at the same time, it's nice. It's reassuring I'm doing the right things. It's encouraging that my game plan and my strategy is working for the most part. So yeah, I mean, the field is deep certainly. But you know, I feel like if my game is on, I can compete with the best, and hopefully -- it's been three days. I need one more day of it. But yeah, all in all, like I said, I'm very content with where I'm at.
I think the most encouraging thing about where I sit is I feel like there's certainly room for improvement there. My putting has been great, but my short game outside of that has been okay. I chipped one in the water today, flopped it, whatever you want to call it, shank.

Q. Was it a shank?

Q. Hit it too hard?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, misjudged the lie, evidently. Yeah, it's confusing. My short game needs a little polishing. But it's fine.

Q. A couple guys this week had actually before the tournament said they liked your chances, I guess, because of the way the holes shape for your draw.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, there is a lot of -- I can see that. There is a lot of right to lefts, and I understand their point in saying that. I mean, 1 does not help me much, 4 does not -- I hate the tee shot on 4, and maybe one or two other ones. But for the most part, yeah, there is a lot of right to lefts.
Still, though, I think a quality struck shot, you're going to get rewarded for it, whether it's in the fairway or just in the first cut. The first cut is obviously very manageable this week. The course is in great shape. I think the superintendent and all of his staff certainly deserve a pat on the back because it's like a major as far as the quality of the course.

Q. How did you end up at that Carolina practice, the Panthers' practice the other day, something to do with Jason Baker?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know what you're talking about.
I'm teasing.
Jason Baker has become an acquaintance, a good friend. Well, we're going that direction, I think. He's an Iowa boy. He played football at the University of Iowa, and that's where I'm from. I'm a football junkie, especially college junkie. But he's just a great guy. We've got a lot in common, a couple mutual friends, especially on TOUR. He's a golf nut, I'm a football nut, so it's kind of nice mixing that together.
We've also got some other obviously values that are parallel. Yeah, I don't know where it could go, but it's just -- I was a kid in a candy store yesterday. I was only there for about 45 minutes, but I was just like wide-eyed, kind of a fly on the wall, so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was awesome. Those guys are huge (laughter). They had no pads on, and they still scared me.

Q. What are you, a buck 60?
ZACH JOHNSON: 165. I'm getting huge.

Q. Did anyone say anything about you?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don't think -- I think he was the only one out there -- my defensive end days are minimal. He's 6'8" or 6'7", 288 he's listed at. He probably runs a 4-7 or something like that.

Q. Yesterday we had probably eight guys at the top of the leaderboard under par, today we had seven. Can we expect more of the same tomorrow do you think?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think a lot of that deals with the fact that there's a lot of birdies out there in certain areas of the golf course, especially once you get past 6. So I'd say kind of 7 through 15 is a time when you're going to see a lot of red go up. And then, yeah, maybe a couple holes early, early on. But 16, 17 and 18 is really what, I think, causes that fluctuation. Yeah, you could. It's going to be wind based, I think. I think that's going to be one of the ingredients there, and then certainly the fact that it's Sunday and the last day of the tournament could add an element to it, as well.

Q. Did you have an eagle today?

Q. Could you walk us through that since I wasn't paying attention at that point?
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. I was like 5-over.
Well, I made birdie on 6 so I kind of got some momentum, made a good drive on 7 and kind of in between clubs, between a 4- and a 5-iron, and I tried to cut a 4-iron and hit it pretty good to the back edge of the green, and the pin was back there, and I probably had, I don't know what it was, 16, 17 feet probably. It was one of those where it was pretty fast so I just really wanted to get it -- I didn't want to hit it too hard because it was down grain, downhill towards the hole, and one of those putts you just try to get it on line, and if it goes in, it goes in. So I'll take it.
JOHN BUSH: Go ahead and finish the round for us.
ZACH JOHNSON: 8 is that back right pin and I think that's probably the hardest pin on that hole for sure. Our game plan starting the week was if and when it's back there -- I've hit driver there every day, but if it's back right, then it's try and get it to a perfect number in the fairway so I can get a full shot into that. It's a pin where you feel like you've got to be aggressive. I think you've either got to hit it on the pin, past the pin or right of the pin because you can actually hit a pretty good shot there and make a 5 in a heartbeat. I hit a good sand wedge in there to about ten feet and made the putt.

Q. Did you clear the bunker on that or was it close?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it landed on the green and just stopped right there.
12, I hit a punch 3-wood just trying to chase it down the fairway, hit it perfect but it ended up kicking right into the first cut, and I had 125 to the front. It was like 137 hole, and I hit it -- it was downwind so I just kind of hit a three-quarter wedge, not thinking that it would stop, and it stopped. I was trying to hit it left of the hole, trying to roll it down the bank, but it stopped. It was two feet. So that was lucky.
14, 20/20 hindsight, I probably should have hit 5-wood off the tee, I hit 3-wood. It was too straight. I needed to turn it more right to left, and it was in the rough. Good lie, I thought, and misjudged it evidently. I mean, my next shot was moving -- it went in the water. I don't know how fast it was going, but it was moving pretty good. I missed my landing target by probably 15 yards. Actually got a good up-and-down there for bogey. I was very happy with that.
And then 15, I hit a great drive, hit a good 3-wood up the right side. I was just off the green and had a long two-putt, but judged the speed pretty well and ended up two-putting.
And then 17 was actually playing fortunately pretty easy. I mean, for that hole. It was a 7-iron, a perfect 7-iron for me. I just had to hit it over the trap, hopefully draw it in there. I hit it in there and it stayed on earth. It was close. I hit it pretty straight and the wind got it. It was just a dead pull. Fortunately it landed about on the pin, slightly left. It stayed on the collar and I read it correctly, and the speed was right on, otherwise it probably wouldn't have gone in, and it just dropped in the right side of the hole.

Q. Did you have a lump in your throat there?
ZACH JOHNSON: If anything -- I don't get lumpy in the throat, but on Saturday, yeah, I was like, "get down, just get down, get on the ground." I was walking off the tee and looked at Damon, my caddie, and I just -- I was furious. I hate mistakes like that. We all make them. We all certainly make them. But I feel like I'm pretty conservative, and I hate mistakes like that. I just got lucky.
Of course the previous day I bogeyed, bogeyed, bogeyed 16, 17, 18, and I hit five good shots. So it all evens out.

Q. At least from what we've played this year, how do you think 16, 17, 18 here stacks up in degree of difficulty with Bay Hill and I guess even looking at --
ZACH JOHNSON: 16, 17 and 18 at Bay Hill are probably as comparable as you're going to find. Sawgrass next week, there's some teeth there. There's also some risk-reward. I think 16, 17 and 18 at TPC have probably more risk-reward involved. In other words, you've got a par-5 in there, so that's a birdie hole. 17 is a piece of cake. Yeah, no comparison, you're right. They're easy.
But I think those two tournaments probably -- you like to see that. I mean, that's exciting for golf because that way, especially for fans and television, where someone pulls out, but yet it's never really over. It's never over until the last putt drops on a golf course of that magnitude. What do they call this, the Green Monster?

Q. The Green Mile. What's the biggest challenge about playing in the last group on Sunday?
ZACH JOHNSON: I have no idea. Well, let me think about that. Certainly Atlanta, Sony, I did at International, I had like four points and finished 40th.

Q. Is it a long wait to get to play?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't mind. I mean, I'm going to change my schedule a little bit. I'm going to go work out now and have a late dinner, which is fine. I'll sleep in. I'm by myself this week, which kind of stinks, but I'll be fine. I'll just get up later and go through my routine a little bit later, pack up the bus, come on out, go play some golf.

Q. Do you drive that thing?
ZACH JOHNSON: On occasion, yeah. If it's minimal time -- I could drive it to TPC but I want to go home. I'm playing three in a row. I would drive to TPC if I was only playing two, but I'm playing three in a row, so I want to get home and spend some time at home first before going down to Ponte Vedra.

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