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September 22, 2009

Zach Johnson


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson into the interview room here at the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, currently No. 4 in the FedExCup standings, and Zach, I'm sure it's good to know that a win here this week will wrap this thing up for you. Just get your comments on what you're looking forward to.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that would be a good thing. You know, I mean, my outlook on this week is just to treat it as any other week. I mean, it's all cliche, but I got here for a reason, which was a goal, and then to have the opportunity to win the Cup was a goal.
I don't know why I would do anything different, given that, I think there's going to be those thoughts that enter my mind as the week goes on, and I think that's natural. I think you've got to embrace them, but yet you've also got to put them on the side and get down to business.
I'm excited for the week. I've got one pair of rain pants right now. I think I might have to get some more. But other than that, I'm ready to go.
JOHN BUSH: And you're back at East Lake for the first time since 2007. That was quite a week for you, finished runner up, and also had that third round 60. Just comment on being back.
ZACH JOHNSON: I've got good vibes here. It's a good golf course. It's a classic course, as we all know, meaning old. Granted, there's been some changes. The greens have all been resurfaced since I played here. I didn't play here last year. And I think maybe one or two holes have kind of been rerouted. I know one in particular. So subtle changes. But I love it. I think this course puts a premium on fairways and also a premium on putting. So, you know, usually two of my strengths. So I hope I can perform at a high level and get myself in contention.

Q. How hard is it to prepare for a week like this when it's been raining, you don't know -- there's a lot of uncertainty.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I went home obviously after Chicago, and five out of six weeks I played and they were all massive tournaments, the way I look at it, starting with Akron. So I was ready for a break. And I didn't do a whole lot until Friday. My coach came up, so I practiced Friday, Saturday, and I took Sunday off with the family. My plan was to get up here yesterday, and I did, and practice. Not so much.
You just roll with it. I mean, we're used to it. I don't want to say we're used to this magnitude of what's going on. But delays and water and that sort of stuff, we're pretty resilient, I guess, in that respect. But I guess I should have stayed home yesterday. I could have got some more practice in.

Q. Presidents Cup is coming up in a couple of weeks, and although you probably haven't given it that much thought looking ahead, but is there a feeling of kind of wanting to continue the momentum from the Ryder Cup last year and continue the American victory run?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, absolutely, yeah. I wasn't on the Cup team last year, but there's no question about it. I mean, that's why you go. You go there -- you go there to play with your peers, team up with your peers, play for your captain, win the Cup, and represent your country. I think that's the utmost. That's the most important thing. If you can win, great. I mean, it's a camaraderie thing. It's very unique. Probably in golf it's the best thing, whether it's a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup. I just enjoy it that much. I enjoy team sports.
Yeah, I hope there's momentum going into the Cup, but you know, I mean, still got to go out there and perform. I mean, last year was last year.

Q. Following up on The Presidents Cup, what kind of captain do you think Freddie will be, and what do you think about playing for Freddie?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've gotten to know him a good bit over the last few years, or since I've been out here, I should say. One, he's just fun to be around. Granted, he's got a story or a joke, he's easy going. He's enjoyable to be around. Having him lead us I think is going to be great, going to be relaxing. That's what I anticipate.
Now, deep down he's a competitor and so are we, so you add that element in there, and I think it makes it even that much more special.
Having Jay Haas and I guess No. 23 with us, too, right, that's going to be interesting. I'm excited. I love Jay, and Michael, I've held that guy on a pedestal since I was about four years old. That's going to be awesome.

Q. What is that going to mean to have him be around?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's going to be spectacular. I don't really know how to explain it. To me it almost seems a little surreal right now, knowing that arguably the best or one of the best athletes of all time is your assistant captain, I guess he is. I don't know what you'd call him. Hey, captain. I don't know what I'm going to call him. I'll probably get tongue-tied.
I've met him on a couple of occasions, Cups and stuff like that, and he seems like a normal guy, just great. Some of the players know him better than I do. They say he's easy to be around, he's fun to be around.
I was talking to Luke Donald because Luke lives in Chicago and plays, I guess, with Michael on occasion, and he said Michael is excited. He said he doesn't know what he's going to do, but he's excited. The man likes competition.
You look at his career, and I think a lot of things stand out. When he was on those Dream Teams, that was important to him. Representing his country is a big deal, as it is for me, and I'm assuming all my other teammates, too. So it's going to be fun.

Q. The points restructuring came out last November. When did it dawn on you that being in the Top 5 was so advantageous going into this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: It dawned on me -- here's the thing: I should have known, because I was on the board (laughter), or am on the board, and there was probably a time when I did. But we'd get it situated, and then we'd settle on it and agree on this, and then I'd just forget about it. It dawned on me again probably about a month ago, I guess. If you stay in the Top 5 you've got a chance to win in Atlanta.
Yeah, I mean, my thing is if I start focusing on numbers or focusing on stats or focusing on outcome-oriented statistics, then my game goes astray. I mean, I've got to pretty much be concerned about inside the ropes, and that's it. It's just a nice thing, you know, staying in that Top 5. At the beginning of the year, it wasn't necessarily a goal, but my goal was to be in contention in Atlanta.
You know, I've got that opportunity.

Q. With the weather conditions just obviously this week and looking ahead, what are your intentions today? What's your outlook?
ZACH JOHNSON: Right, that's a good question. You know, my schedule coming into the week, because I played it so many times, was to do a lot of short game practice around the greens and that sort of thing, play nine holes each day. I mean, I don't know if I'm going to get nine in today or not, but that was my intention.
I'll hit balls. I'll putt a lot, chip a lot. I feel like I know the course well enough that I don't need to sit there and play 18 holes every day, especially considering -- I'm assuming it's going to, knock on wood, dry out a little bit. But I probably should get on the golf course a little bit just to get used to the saturation in the fairways and that sort of thing.
I was just hearing some guys saying that the greens now are Bermuda, and they have the SubAir system, so they're going to respond all right. That's what that technology is for. I think it's just a matter of getting used to no roll and muddy conditions.

Q. We're doing a feature on the 1st and 18th holes. Could you just talk about your strategy on those holes, particularly 18 being the finishing hole is a par-3?
ZACH JOHNSON: Birdie them. (Laughter.)
I mean, 1 is a pretty straightaway par-4, tee shot drops down a little bit, second shot is uphill a little bit. So the fairway there is a premium. It's kind of a blind second shot. You really don't know where your ball ends up, depending on where the pin is because it's kind of a two-tiered green, if I remember correctly.
But it's a positioning hole. You get yourself in position in the fairway, you can be aggressive with some of those pins, especially the front pins because you have a back board. The back pins are not as easy. 4 is a good score there.
18, I mean, par there is great. If you have a chance for a 2, being -- I don't know how far the hole is, probably 230 to the front. I don't know, 245 to the middle, 250, so yeah, that's a beast of a par-3. It just happens to be the 18th hole. But it's fair. It sets up -- they put the pins in fair places, and you hit a good shot, you get rewarded.
The beauty of it is if you miss it just a little bit among those traps, you usually have a chance to get it up-and-down. But a solid -- well, some guys maybe 4-iron, 3-irons, upwards to 5-woods, 3-woods at times, depending on the wind. It's a great finishing hole.

Q. Have you given any thought to what would happen, what you would do, with $11.35 million if you win on Sunday?
ZACH JOHNSON: Excuse me? Once again, no outcome-oriented thoughts. (Laughter.)
Whoa. I'd have to consult my financial wife on that one. (Laughter.) I have no idea. Good problem.

Q. I'm working on a story on yardage books. How important is the yardage book to you? What would you do without it?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I think about that a lot actually, because whether I'm playing in like a corporate event or if I'm playing at home with my buddies or something like that, I'm always reaching back. It's just never there. I've got my laser, granted, when I'm playing with those guys usually, but I rely on it quite heavily. So does my caddie. But for me it's part of my routine. I'm pretty systematic in that sort of fashion, I guess.
There's a routine I have every hole with my yardage book, and granted, the first hole I look where the pin is on the first tee, and then hit my tee shot. Depending on where the pin is might determine what I hit off the tee, and then from there I play. And once I get to the green and I have an opportunity, I mark down on the next hole where the pin is so that when I get to the next tee I'm ready to hit my shot, depending on what the hole requires.
Yeah, I rely on it very, very, very heavily. It's become -- I feel naked without it out there, that's for sure. I've tried it -- there was a couple years ago, a few years ago, I tried just to let my caddie do everything, yardages and everything, and it just felt awkward.

Q. Some people just think there's numbers in there. What's in there besides numbers?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I guess it is numbers, but you're getting the outlay of the hole. You're getting the wind chart; that's big. You're always looking at where the compass is to determine where the wind is coming from, or somewhat determine where the wind is coming from.
In our books we have -- my caddie goes around the course and we plot out the elevation change, so a percentage in elevation on every shot, or potentially every shot I guess you'd look at it. So that's for the most part crucial.
I remember the first week we did that was 2004 at the BellSouth, and I won, so we haven't changed that. You know, the breaks of the greens, too. He marks down previous years, previous weeks, which way the ball is breaking on certain putts. I mean, some of them are pretty obvious, but there's some that may confuse you, whether it's the grain or whatever.
There's a number of things. Then you have the basic things, run-out into the bunkers and carries and that sort of stuff. Our greens are gridded, which is important to me. That way I know how far I have to carry it, what's behind it, et cetera, et cetera. So there's a lot of really important information in there. It's my golf Bible.
JOHN BUSH: Zach, thanks for coming by. Play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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