September 9, 2003
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to welcome Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson. Zach, congratulations on your second Nationwide Tour win of the season last week, and you also broke Chad Campbell's season record for earnings. If you could just talk about that win and then we'll go into the John Deere Classic. Congratulations.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you very much. It's good to be here. Yeah, I guess I won kind of early on in the year and I've been playing well throughout the middle of the year, as well. I wanted another win at least. My goals are still to win three and win the money title out there, but last week was definitely a good week, very fortunate.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Talk about coming to the John Deere Classic. You've played in this event before, and now having secured your PGA Tour card for next year you'll be out here full time in 2004 but it's got to be nice coming to the event on a roll.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, it is, thank you. The John Deere Classic, I'm so happy to be here. I love the golf course, I love the area, I love the people surrounding it, top to bottom, Clair Peterson and his staff. The course is in great shape. It's a little dry but that's just because of lack of rain and I think that makes it even a little bit more difficult. I hope so anyway. The greens are rolling great. Everybody should be proud. Whoever put their hard work into it, they should be very proud of it.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: What holes are the most challenging out there and what makes them challenging.
ZACH JOHNSON: All the par 3s are pretty darn good. 16 is not terribly long but the one coming off the river, that's a good hole, and the one three are good sized irons. Those are definitely difficult, especially No. 3 being uphill and kind of blind. No. 9 is a very good hole, especially if it's into the wind. You have a long iron into it, not exactly the easiest green in the world, as well, so that hole is very challenging. Well, the final stretch, 15, 16, 17 is a birdie hole but if you don't get your ball in the fairway off the tee you can make a number there, as well, but 15 through 18 are spectacular, especially the views.
Q. What do you think of the field?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've been talking to Mr. Peterson over the last couple of weeks and just trying to arrange things and getting here and stuff and he's been updating me on commitments and stuff. That's pretty awesome. This area should really come out here and support that. It's spectacular, the guys like Davis and Azinger, top to bottom. It's great. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't played against those guys all but maybe one time, so it's awesome.
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I hope not. I'll let you know come maybe Sunday, but my approach is just going to be golf. If I hang onto that then things get straight. Not necessarily. I've played on the Nationwide Tour, which you can argue is possibly the second best tour in the world. That's veterans and young guys, too, that have played up here and will play here again. I hope the intimidation factor won't come into effect.
Q. What has been the key to your continued success this year, top 10s, top 10s?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've had that question a lot. There's probably a number of factors. My golf game in particular, I worked hard in the off season on my mechanics, especially my putting. To shoot the scores the guys are shooting out there, you have to make putts. That's probably been the main thing has been my putter. I've been hitting it pretty good, as well, and driving it in the fairway. That's definitely helped. There's other factors outside the golf course. I've got any wife traveling with me, which makes things a lot easier, much less strenuous on me for sure. I got off to a good start which made it more comfortable. Momentum and confidence led into some good finishes and I got comfortable out there and I hope I can get that way next year if not this week.
Q. You talked about working on your mechanics. Was there anything you weren't quite pleased with last year that you tried to improve upon for this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. It's probably the same stuff I continue to work on. That's just my transition from my backswing to my through-swing and trying to make that more structured and solid at the top. My instructor is Mike Bender and we've been working hard on that throughout the off season. I saw it -- well, it has paid off this year. It's getting a little -- every now and then when my swing gets off that's usually the case, my timing, my tempo get out of whack.
Q. What had you been doing, rushing the transition?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I would pretty much lose my angle at the top with my wrist and my club head and as a result I would get pretty -- I don't know what the word would be, wobbly, at the top, and I would lose control of the club face and as a result not knowing where the ball might go.
Q. Will you have a lot of family here?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I will, family and friends. A lot of Cedar Rapids people will be coming down, no question, which will be awesome. I haven't seen them in a while and hopefully I can put on a good show for them, but it's great, all the support, family, friends, I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Where was the last place -- where was the closest place last you played? How long ago was that?
ZACH JOHNSON: That would have been Omaha. I can't remember the name of the tournament. That's awful. A Nationwide event in Omaha, which was probably about a month ago. I had some family and a bunch of friends come to that. Before that was Chicago. We had an event outside of Chicago.
Q. Have you been a little bit surprised just how consistent you have been throughout this year?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, that's another question I get asked a lot. I'm not one to look at stats. I've been told by others that there's really -- well, most of the stats I'm up there in the ranks, which is very flattering. My scores have been consistent, and if someone were to go back and look at the last couple of years even, I wasn't able to get my Buy.com card the previous two years, so I played the NGA Hooters Tour, and even then my scores were pretty consistent. I don't know why it is relative to others, but I don't know, I must have -- I don't know what the reasoning is behind it. An uncanny ability to get it in the hole when I'm playing bad.
I don't know what the reasoning is behind that, but the last three years I've definitely taken a step up from where I was in previous years. In 2000 I was playing on the Buy.com, but I played for the most part awful, but it was probably the best year of my career from a learning standpoint. I knew playing with those guys and seeing them, I knew what I had to work on and I was able to do that the last three years, and I feel like I have a foundation with my putter, a foundation with my golf swing and I'm trying to build on that.
Q. You feel like you've been improving the last three years, it's just this year it's really starting to come together and pay off?
ZACH JOHNSON: From my standpoint, yes. I played well the last couple of years, it's just that Q-school is so fickle. If you don't play well at the right time, unfortunately you're going to be back on the mini-tours, not that you can't have success there because you've seen a lot of guys even this year or the previous couple of years jump up and have success, the Chad Campbells, the Ben Curtises and stuff.
I think those last couple years were great for me confidence-wise because my scores were pretty good. If I could get to the finals of Q-school I thought that I could have a chance to win out here -- or on the Nationwide and maybe even out here. Fortunately it's gone my way.
Q. Pardon me for not knowing this. How old are you?
ZACH JOHNSON: 27.
Q. And are you here on an exemption or did you qualify?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, a sponsor exemption, which I received I would say at least a little over a month ago probably.
Q. Who's the sponsor?
ZACH JOHNSON: John Deere as far as I know. I don't know specifically. There's restricted and unrestricted sponsor exemptions that every tournament has, and based on that I'm not sure which category I fall into.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: It's basically a tournament designation, it's not necessarily the sponsor but it's the tournament designates X number of players per event unrestricted that they can choose to play in the event, and then they also have to have sponsor exemptions that are in the Q-school category or that type of thing, and Zach being somewhat local and having a lot of success in this area, having played at Drake, he's a natural fit that will attract some fans and some interest that may not be national as much as more the local level, but it's great for fan support locally.
Q. From what you know of the course and what you know of the field, whose game does this course fit best?
ZACH JOHNSON: Boy, I haven't played with a number of guys out here. I think to sum it up -- the fairways are fairly lenient from what I can tell relative to some of the courses they play out here, but they're playing fast and hard. If you can get it in the fairway you can score. You miss fairways out here, the rough is pretty good, but everything kind of slopes off, so it's difficult to score if you don't get the ball in the fairway. I don't think you have to be a terribly long player, I just think you have to get the ball in the fairway and make putts. Whoever putts well usually will have success.
Q. How did you score in your practice rounds?
ZACH JOHNSON: Today was my only practice round for this week. I played pretty well. I don't know what I scored to be honest. I don't recall. I made some birdies, so that was fun.
Q. Did you have any concerns about taking a week off from the Nationwide? Did last week kind of alleviate that a little bit?
ZACH JOHNSON: The last week did help with that. I still have goals out on that tour for sure that I want to attend to, but not really. This week being so close to home, having family and friends, you know, it's just one I want to play in. Last week's one did alleviate a little bit of the concern. There's still a lot of tournaments left out there, so I'm not terribly worried about the money title or anything like that out there now.
Q. How far is Cedar Rapids?
ZACH JOHNSON: Hour and a half, probably 90 miles I'd say.
Q. Do you have any set goals for this tournament this week? I mean, have to finish top 15, top 20, have to shoot a certain score or anything like that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think some guys -- I don't particularly like to look for numbers, scores or finishes, but I'm going to use the same strategy I've used all year and even in previous years and that's obviously to play my best, fairways and greens, the old golf cliches, and let everything take care of itself. I'm going to try to win. If I get in my mind, make the cut or top ten or whatever, things get out of focus and go astray. I'm not trying to sound too confident or cocky, but I'm going to try to win. I'm playing decent, so in the back of my mind I think I can do it.
Q. How motivated are you to do that much better not only with the family and friends but since last year you didn't make the cut here? How much extra incentive does that provide for you?
ZACH JOHNSON: Not a ton. I want to have fun this week. Obviously it's a notch up from where I played this past year, so if I can have fun and enjoy my time with my friends and my family, then everything else will take care of itself. I'm not trying to put any added pressure on myself and I don't think I should just because -- fortunately I'll have more tournaments to play on the PGA Tour. This is just one of those weeks, but it happens to fall in time and place where that is very convenient.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Zach Johnson, thank you.
End of FastScripts.