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July 28, 2010

Johnson Wagner


JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Johnson Wagner to the interview room here at the Greenbrier Classic. Johnson, thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's my pleasure.
JOHN BUSH: I know I spoke to you a month or two ago, and this was definitely one of those tournaments that you were looking forward to.
Just comment about being here at the Greenbrier and how much this tournament means to you.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I've been here a few times, and I went to college at Virginia Tech just down the road. We came up here a couple times to play getting ready for tournaments. My brother went to school in Lexington, Virginia and his team used to come up here.
The hotel is fabulous; the golf courses are great; the people are even better. Just really happy to see Mr. Justice purchase the hotel/resort and put on this tournament.
I just think it's one gonna be one of those events on tour that's one of the more classy, well-run, best-received events we can have.
Really happy to be here.
JOHN BUSH: A lot at stake for you, Johnson, at this point. We've got four weeks left before the PGA playoffs for the FedExCup starts. The top 125 gets in the Barclays, and you're currently No.151.
JOHNSON WAGNER: How am I in the media room then?
JOHN BUSH: Talk a little bit about the next four weeks and how important they are for you.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I've been trying to get into the top 10 on FedExCup every week, so I think that's been my problem. Now I'm trying to get into the top 125 and really trying to play one week at a time and just play good golf.
I'm more concerned with 125 on the Money List right now, so I've got eight or nine more events to do that. If I play well now and get into FedExCup, that'll just be a bonus. FedExCup is a big part of the tour, and I was left out of it last year. I don't want to be left out again.
JOHN BUSH: Questions.

Q. A nuts and bolts thing. You have a tour victory in 2008, correct?

Q. That earned you what, a three-year exemption?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Two-year exemption.

Q. Two-year exemption. So '09 and this year?

Q. So you're fighting to get 125. How tough of a grind is that for somebody just fighting to keep a card?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It's tough. Really, truthfully, you don't have to play that well to finish in the top 125. I'm not embarrassed at all, but I'm very disappointed in myself that I've been where I've been the last couple years. I know I'm good enough to win, and it's disappointing that I'm not in this position more. I feel like I should be a Top 70 guy on the Money List every year for the next 20 years, and I just haven't been.
I've worked hard on my game, and I think I'm better now than I was. It's just kind of waiting for that to happen. But it's hard. It's a grind. It's a mental grind thinking about it. I mean, I've been thinking about it for two months and I had half the season to go. There's so much time left.
But it's definitely a mental grind when you're chasing that number.

Q. A new event like that on tour, how much feedback do players seek from guys playing that are gonna be playing here this week and wondering, you know when I'm setting up my schedule in years coming whether I want to play here or not?
JOHNSON WAGNER: There's a ton of guys that won't be here just because it's a first-time event. You're exactly right. It's great guys like Jim Furyk and Sergio came. I'm sure after this week is a huge success, they'll tell their friends, and, you know, next year you might have Phil, Lee Westwood, you might have everybody just because of the facility, the hotel.
I've been trying to tell everybody that I know how great it place it. Just what I've heard from some friends that haven't been here yet, it's been very well received. The field will get better and better every year here just through word of mouth.

Q. Since 2008, what's ailed your game if you look at it?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Nothing, really. I feel like I'm playing great. My mental game is weak and I'm a streaky putter. Just can't seem to putt well and I can't seem to play -- have everything going decently at the same time.
One week I'll drive it good but I won't make a putt. Just everything is not coming together.

Q. When you get the first win like that, is there maybe a little bit of a tendency to sort of relax or not work as hard? Does that happen?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Definitely. You know, I think that was part of my problem last year was that I thought it was easy. I thought it was, Oh, I'll just win an event every year. It's easy. I learned the hard way that's not right.
Leading up to this win I was work harder than I ever had in my life, and I'm trying to get back to that. I feel like I've been doing that but just haven't had the results. They'll come.

Q. Players like to think they might be able to win every week, but with a new event and not many players familiar with the golf course, does that level the playing field even more?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think so. It does and it doesn't. You go to a place like Hilton Head where we've played forever, and a guy like Jim Furyk is definitely gonna have an advantage over some rookies.
The best players are always gonna have that advantage. They map the golf course better. They do everything better; that's why they're the best in the world.
But I think it does, it brings the rookies and everybody a little closer to them because there's not that local knowledge.

Q. You were talking a little bit about being a Virginia Tech alum. What's it like to play with Virginia Tech alums that are out here on the course and be around Blacksburg?
JOHNSON WAGNER: This is the closest -- other than maybe Greensboro this is the closest -- and Charlotte, I guess, as well -- this is the closest we get. It's always nice. I love going to those events just because of how many hokies are out there, and I actually have people following me other than my family. It's great.
I love Blacksburg. I can't imagine going to school anywhere else.

Q. Yesterday you guys got to have a practice round. Tell us about the 18th hole.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I played with Brandon de Jonge who is another Virginia Tech guy, and he lipped out for a hole-in-one. I made birdie to halve the hole.
It's not that difficult. If the greens were firm, there's such a big hump in the middle, it would be challenging. But as soft as the greens are, I'm hoping for some hole-in-ones. I hear they're giving away some cash.

Q. This is pretty much the home course for Sam Snead. Tell us about his legacy what he's done for golf.
JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, I'm not that familiar with Sam Snead. I've been to the Homestead and here a bunch, and I don't know his legacy that well.
I just -- you know, I know what he did for this area and how much he meant to this area. But as far as his accomplishments, I'm not -- I'm just not that knowledgeable.

Q. Talk about 18. Pretty good chance that the big man might be giving away some cash you think?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think we'll see one. I do.

Q. But so you don't want it ensure it, I guess?
JOHNSON WAGNER: No, I don't. I don't at all. If you give 156 players of the best world four shots from 160 yards, I think there's a good chance there's gonna be a hole-in-one.

Q. What about the big boomerang in the middle of the green? Is that something you guys have seen out here?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I love it. I'm a classic golf course fan, connoisseur, if you will. I love Seth Raynor designs. Lester George who redid it recently is one the best Seth Raynor kind of historic designers as well.
I love what he did. I love the golf course. I think we need to play more golf courses that. We played a place in Canada last week that was built in the early 1900s as well, and it was one of my favorites of the year. Aronimink and Philly, all these old golf courses are so special and unique in so many ways. I think that's what makes 'em great is their uniqueness.

Q. I know coming here wasn't a tough sell for you, but what was the sales pitch like to come to this event?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think it's a great place for families, for players to bring their wives and kids. It's a great golf course and a great hotel. A lot of guys were worried about, Oh, there's nothing to do. Where are we gonna go?
You look at the website for the Greenbrier, and you can see there's tons to do. You can do anything. You can shoot skeet, ride horses, go off-road driving. I just think it sells itself.
It's such a wonderful, special resort. I can't think of anyplace else in the country or world like it. It's rich with history. You can go tour a nuclear fallout shelter, and there's a casino. I feel like I'm selling the Greenbrier here, but I truly love this place.

Q. You played here in the past. What's your experience at this course like?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I never played a tournament here. I just came and played around. I played mostly at the Greenbrier golf course where the Ryder Cup was. I remember it being a lot hillier than Old White, so I'm happy it's not that tough of a walk.
I didn't really remember the golf course. It's been redone since the last time I was here.

Q. You get a chance to meet Mr. Justice?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I did. I met him yesterday. Big guy. He's very nice. He was very willing to talk to me. I just thanked him for putting the tournament on. It was a very short interaction.

Q. Analyze the course a little bit. Which stretches will you have trouble hanging onto even par, making some birdies, and which stretches do you score?
JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, the par-3s, I can't give you any stretches, but the par-3s are very challenging, very difficult. They're all -- with the exception of 18, I believe they're all over 200 yards, and the greens are very unique.
You've got the traditional Seth Raynor double-dip green No. 3 where you can park your car in it and not see it. There's a hole like that at Yale Golf Club and I think one other place that I haven't played.
The par-3s are very challenging. If you can play the par-3s even, play the par-5s under par, you know, there are so many wedge holes at par-4s that birdie, you can make a birdie or bogey anywhere. You just got to keep it below the hole and par the par-3s.
Except for 18. You got to get a hole-in-one there.

Q. We've seen a 60, 59 the last few weeks. Is that possible here?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I didn't think 65 was possible last week, and Carl Pettersen shot 60. So I would say yes, 59 is definitely possible. Maybe a 3%chance it'll actually happen, but I would say it's possible.
All the wedges and as good as most players are these days, it's possible.

Q. So maybe, 15, 16, 17-under wins this thing?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Hopefully whatever I shoot will end up winning this thing. I think it could probably take in the 20s.

Q. (No microphone.)

Q. When you talk about a golf course and the fact that 59 is possible, low scoring is certain, what does that do say about the quality of the golf course? Does that say anything about the quality of the golf course, that is less quality because people are ripping it up?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I hope that's not the way I've come off. I mean, I love this golf course. It's great. Its defense though is like the 18th green. It's the unique shapes in the greens. For it to play its toughest, it needs to be firm.
It's summertime in the south, and you've got big grass greens and 90 degree weather with humidity. You just can't get 'em firm. If the fairways and greens were firm, we would be talking totally different scores here.
It's like Greensboro last year or Sedgefield. We had so much rain; it was hot; the greens were soft. The Donald Ross course, the greens are meant to be played firm and fast. I'm sure 20-something under was in a playoff.
But if this event was in the fall, I mean, who knows. Rough up to here and greens that are brick hard. I don't think anybody will say it's not a great golf course.
JOHN BUSH: Johnson, should be a fun week. I hope you play well.

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