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June 3, 2009
MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Zach Johnson to the interview room. Zach currently leads the FedEx Cup point standings. And he's one of three players this year to win two events on the tour. Zach, if you'll kind of start off and give some general thoughts about coming into this week and how you've been playing. Then we'll take some questions.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. As far as this week goes, I mean, I'm just trying to treat it as any other week. It really isn't any different, shouldn't be any different, I guess.
If there is a difference, it's one of my favorite weeks. So I guess that's a positive.
Yeah, my game feels good. It's just a matter of maintenance and still trying to improve. You know, I'm just trying to be patient and kind of letting things fall where they fall. I don't want to force things or get caught up in the future and that sort of thing. So I think I'm doing a pretty decent job of just staying in my own game and staying in the present.
I mean, there's -- obviously what you just said, leading this FedEx stuff, that's obviously a huge goal of mine, but we're halfway done. There's still a lot of golf left.
Q. Could you talk a little about your playing here at Muirfield, what this course, what your impressions are of this course since you've been here before.
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. Like I said, it's one of my favorite venues. On the golf course especially. Off the golf course, it's perfect too, what Jack and everybody does here. It's the red carpet treatment.
The golf course specifically, it's one of those where, you know, it's a big west style golf course. That's what I grew up on. I love the tree line. I love the bentgrass. I love the fast greens. You know, substantial rough. I just like how you have to plot your way around it.
I always look forward to coming back.
Q. How much difference is there -- is it noticeable the difference in the rough and the fairway? Or in the greens from a year ago.
ZACH JOHNSON: Greens, I can't tell the difference. They were fast last year, and they're fast this year.
The rough is penal right now, but last year it was, well, extremely, extremely difficult. Usually, you're wedging it out.
I think you have -- you know, you could potentially hit the ball now a little more forward. So it still gives you -- if you miss a fairway, it's still difficult to certainly make a birdie or even make a par. So I think they've done a great job of making it difficult but playable.
Q. And the furrowed bunkers? Was that a factor?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, those were hard too. The sand now is perfect. It's obviously what we're accustomed to week in and week out. It's a little easier, no question about that.
Once again, it's a hazard, and it's got its difficulties.
Q. What's working well for you this year? Is there something in particular you can pinpoint different from past years? Does it feel like everything's come together for you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Everything is starting to come together more. I think, like I said, my ball strike needs to become more consistent. I think my putting is becoming more consistent. I think my mental game's become more consistent. In other words, when I had good weeks in the past, I was always thinking pretty clean. My good weeks are still clean this year. But my weeks where I'm playing okay are clean.
I think I'm eliminating expectations. One of my sayings -- not my sayings, one of the things I cling to is I'm going to play Thursday for Thursday. That's all that matters. That's my focus right now.
Once I get to Friday, I'll play Friday. That kind of sounds simple, but that's the away I approach it. I'm trying to go one day at a time and remain patient.
If you were to look at stats and look at guys that consistently play well, especially with someone with the type of game I have, we've got to putt well.
Q. When you say clean, you mean just what? Mentally?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I'm not allowing notions or even thoughts that can really, you know, kind of take me to another -- what's the word here I'm looking for? I'm struggling. I've kind of got a process I go through with each shot, and that process kind of starts with -- you know, it's a routine, each shot.
At times I can allow outcome or potentially even the next hole or the next day or the next week get into my mind, results. And I'm not as result-oriented as I once was. It's been a while to get to that point, and there's still some times where I fall into that trap. I'm staying right where I am. I'm staying in my seat, and then I'm going to the next seat. You know what I mean? Just kind of plot my way.
And there's other things. But I don't want to reveal too much.
Q. Obviously, this is no new thing having rain here, but does this -- is this course favor a different group of players when it's rained than if it hasn't rained?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think you could say any course does, yeah. If the fairways are saturated so they're holding, it's the same with the greens, then the longer hitters probably have an advantage. Especially in the fairways.
But when the greens are holding, it really doesn't matter what you're getting into them, more or less. If you're stopping a 4 iron, you're stopping a 6 iron too.
Yeah, I mean, this course -- when did I get here? Monday night. I got in Monday night. It seemed like it was a deluge for an hour, half an hour, it was bad. I played yesterday late morning, and the ball was rolling on the fairway already.
We're going to get some steady rain today, but I think the forecast -- it's going to be wet tomorrow. I didn't think come tomorrow afternoon, evening, we don't get any more rain, Friday especially, it will be playing the way we want to play, especially on the weekend. Given no more rain.
Q. Zach, when you think of the Memorial Tournament as a whole, what are some of the things that come to mind?
ZACH JOHNSON: The first thing would have to be one of the pioneers, in my era, or generation before me, I guess, but a pioneer in my era, that would be Jack. Just what he's meant to the game, what he's done for the game, and what he continues to do for the game.
So having him host us at his facility, which is pretty majestic in my opinion, is an honor. So if you ever have the opportunity to be in contention here, it's even more of an honor. Win here, I can't even imagine. It would be an absolute privilege.
My rookie year, I played this golf tournament. I sat here and said this before. And I get up in the locker room there, and I look at the tee times. And I about fell over. My knees just buckled. Called my wife up, and I'm like, "You're not going to believe who I'm playing with this week." She's like, "You're playing with Tiger?" "No." "You're playing with Phil?" "No, bigger." She said, "You've got to be kidding me." So I played the first two days, Thursday and Friday, with Jack.
Probably -- I mean, obviously, top five best golf experiences I've ever had, ever.
Q. How much did you take away from that experience?
ZACH JOHNSON: How much did I take away from that?
ZACH JOHNSON: A lot. He was -- what is he, 67?
ZACH JOHNSON: So he was 63 or 64 at that time. Made the cut. You could tell he played okay. You know what I mean? He made the cut by two or three shots. He played all right for him. He's 63 years old playing on this golf course. It was amazing.
The loudest roar -- one of the loudest, if not the loudest roar, I've still heard to this day, and one of the times on the golf course where I've had the longest lasting chills up and down my spine, was on 12. Me and Fred Funk and Jack.
I hit -- I don't know where I hit. It's besides the point. I hit. Fred hit. Jack gets up there and hits it. It was the old number 12 where the tee box was up. When you hit an 8 iron, cut it into the wind. Pin is just up over that right bunker. And it's just cutting into the wind. So it's straightening out, coming down on the flag, flies right in the middle of the hole and pops out. He goes, was it good? I didn't see it. Where did it go? Jack, it flew in the hole, and you have about four feet.
Those are the kinds of things I'm never, ever going to forget.
Q. Could you talk a little about so much in this game is a mental side of it, and you're playing so well. You've had such a good year.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.
Q. Talk about your confidence right now.
ZACH JOHNSON: I haven't really touched on that. That's a lot of it. I think it is confidence.
I didn't have a great '08, especially in the beginning. But I had a good end of the year with a win. At that time, I was kind of trying to polish up my fundamentals, not change, but just kind of get back to where I was.
So I did that, and I won. It kind of led into my off-season practice before we went to Hawaii, and then it led into Hawaii, and off I'd gone. That confidence just breeds momentum. I think, when you have those two combined in any sport -- I can't speak on behalf of any sport, but momentum is huge. It's a tough thing to go up against.
So, yeah, I mean, I'm confident that what I'm doing is the right thing. I'm not necessarily -- I'm not saying right now I'm going to win this week. I'm not saying I'm going to make the cut. But I'm confident that my game is in a position where I can go out and compete at the high level and potentially get myself in contention. That's all I'm trying to ask for.
I want an opportunity to be in contention, and the more I have, being in those situations in the past, the more comfortable I am and certainly the more, once again, confident I am in those positions.
Yeah. I have a great team assembled that put a lot of trust in me, and I put a lot of trust in them. We've got a good team. It's just a good way to go tackle each week.
Q. Talking to Steve about his emotions last week after winning at Colonial. I just wanted to ask you about kind of what emotions do you feel when you win. Does that change from victory to victory? Or kind of what goes -- where does it come from, I guess, those emotions when you do win?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a hard one there. It's very gratifying. You know, for me, I mean, golf is just so much my job.
I feel like I'm a competitor first and a golfer second. It just so happens that golf found me sort of thing. It sounds poetic, but I'm not remotely close to being a poetic type.
So my point in saying that is, I just want to play against the best and win. When I have the opportunity to win, great. When I do, it feels fantastic. But that feeling, which you have for -- I mean, depending on the magnitude of the tournament, you have it for an extended period of time. It dwindles away because, as you know, this game is one whereas high as you can get, it will chew you up and spit you out in a matter of a heartbeat. I realize that.
My point is you feel those feelings. You get those emotions. You experience that with friends or whatever, but you want more of it. It keeps you working harder and harder and harder to try to get more of those -- get those wins, get that feeling.
You kind of get the feeling when you play good one week and you have a top five finish. You know, I mean, I played really, really well out here and finished 20th. And I've played pretty good golf, and I've won. It's hard -- it's a fine line at some point.
You know, Majors are a different story. That's completely different. Even Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, those are different stories. The next one is always the best. It's the best way to explain it.
Steve can attest to that, obviously. He's been out there longer than I have.
One time, it seemed like yesterday, I was a young gun. I'm far from that now. I'm 33. I'm not saying I'm old, but our tour keeps getting younger. These kids that are coming to play are athletes. When you have the opportunity to win, I want to try to take advantage of it because down the road it's going to be a lot harder.
Q. When the Tour moves to the Midwest or a northern site, not that you have an advantage, not that it gives you any more confidence, but simply the fact that it's akin to what you grew up playing, does that give you any kind of a better feeling about how you're going to play?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, you know, I'd like to think so. At the same time, I haven't had a whole lot of stellar finishes in the North.
Probably play more on the Tour south of the Mason-Dixon Line or even west. I finished second here once. I don't know if I've had any other top tens up north. It's hard to tell. All my wins have been down south.
But, yes, I'm comfortable because this type of grass and just the feel of the golf course is what I grew up on.
I think the best thing for me professionally -- well, one of the nice elements that has helped me along the way is that I played mini tours in the South after I graduated college. I got used to Bermuda. I got used to the different types of grass. You know, I was always accustomed to bentgrass and poa annua. It's a matter of comfort level, I guess.
John Deere, I love the golf course, I love the golf tournament. I just never play well there. There are other factors involved there because I'm from the area. I can't pinpoint why. It's just the way it is.
MARK STEVENS: Thanks a lot for coming in, Zach. Best of luck this week.
End of FastScripts