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July 11, 2012

Zach Johnson


DOUG MILNE:  We'll go ahead and get started.  We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson to the interview room here at the John Deere Classic.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Thank you very much.
DOUG MILNE:  Zach, thanks for joining us.  You're in the middle of quite the impressive year, four Top 10s, including a win earlier this year at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, and you're making your 11th start, I believe, here at the John Deere Classic, finished Top 5 in two of your last three starts.  So therefore you're pretty much a walk for this week.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, clearly.
DOUG MILNE:  If we can just get some comments on being here this week, and we know it's been a long week already.  You've had stuff with your foundation tournament coming up.  You can touch on that.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Sure.  It's always nice coming back.  Always.  I say that every year, but it's the truth.  I mean I love the people around here.  I love this tournament.  I love the golf course, the staff here.  I mean Clair and certainly everybody that he has on the board, it's just great being a part of this tournament.
Yeah, we came back to Cedar Rapids, my hometown, this past weekend more or less and got some good work in there on the golf course actually.  And Monday I had a number of meetings and a press conference there that some of you I think were attending.  So we made a good announcement with one of our foundation initiatives called Birdies That Care.  And we chose the community free health clinic there as our beneficiary for the next two years, which is very exciting and well deserved.  So it's been a long week already.  I got a lot of friends and family coming in town, so that makes it hectic, but it also makes it that much more fun.  So I'm really excited.
DOUG MILNE:  With that we'll open it up and take a few questions.

Q.  Second and third in this tournament over the years, are you ever going to stuff your trophy case ‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  There's room for any trophy.  It doesn't matter what it is.

Q.  Just talk about, though, you'd really like the win because it's your home?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  I was asked that question yesterday.  I mean there's not a tournament you don't want to win.  That's stating the obvious.  But yeah, I hold this tournament very high in regard.  I've played in this tournament more than any tournament on the PGA TOUR.  This is my 11th start, but it's my ninth year as a card‑carrying member.
I had two sponsor exemptions here and back in the day when Kym Hougham was the tournament director and the transition was to Clair, and Clair and his staff have been very gracious.  So I love everything about this event.  Yeah, I mean that would be a dream come true.  I'm not going to try to get too far‑fetched.  If I can be in contention coming down the stretch on the back nine, that's all you can really ask for.

Q.  The fact you have a Mike on your bag, is that good timing?  I mean you look back, since the end of Colonial, you haven't been scoring like you had earlier in the year.  Is it fatigue or is it good to have him there?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes.  I think it is good ‑‑ well, it's good having him here, just so I can see him.  We had a really good session late Monday night.  I think I was on the range till about 8:30, just before the sun went down and had another good session yesterday and another good nine holes.
It's great.  He knows my golf swing better than anybody, so it's about that time where we can really just kind of iron some things out.
And I was a little bit off, to answer your question.  You know, it wasn't much.  It's not like we're changing anything.  We're just kind of trying to go back to what we were doing and what we should be doing.  You have his eyes and you have the camera.  The camera doesn't lie.  So you know, you can kind of pinpoint things pretty quick.
So I'm encouraged.  I mean it is a slight adjustment, but yesterday was very reassuring as to how I was striking it.  And yeah, I'm really excited about the week.

Q.  If it wasn't for one guy, maybe you might have that trophy already.  You won Valero back to back.  How difficult ‑‑ so you kind of have a feeling for how difficult that is, but then to won three, four.

Q.  Why is that such a difficult thing to do?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, just because there's so much talent and depth, and you know, parity I guess in our sport.  It's nothing more than that.  It's just hard to win any week, but to win three times in a row at the same venue back to back consecutively is extremely difficult.  Now, confidence anywhere is a good formula.  It really breeds momentum, and when you have a world‑class player in Steve.  It's not all that surprising to me.
I mean you know, his chances of winning this week, I don't have any idea, but it wouldn't surprise me again.  He grew up in the Midwest.  He likes these type of golf courses, these style of greens, and you know, he plays pretty monotonous, boring golf, and that's kind of the golf I like to play, so it does not surprise me what he's done.

Q.  How tired were you coming back for that third Valero?  With all the attention and all that was focused.
ZACH JOHNSON:  They switched golf courses.  Or I would have won three in a row.
Frankly, that was three years ago.  I don't really remember ‑‑ was it three years ago?  Two years ago?  2010.  They changed venues.  Yeah, I don't really recall.

Q.  Is it tough being in the spot light that whole week and being asked the same questions?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I mean I guess it is.  But you know it's coming.  I mean you have expectations in that regard.  You can prepare for that.  I think you can prepare for that mentally.
You know, I don't think it's that big of a deal.  If anything, it should be a positive.  I mean you gotta look at it in that sort of fashion where, I mean you're playing ‑‑ you've played great in this tournament, why can't you go do it again.  That aside, you gotta put the previous year behind you.  It's a new year, it's a new Thursday.  It's a new Friday.  Just go play.  I actually missed the cut that year.
But yeah, we're all professionals.  We can get through the media attention, you know, because there is a lot that comes with it.  I think it's a lot easier going through that process than say after a major or maybe after a win the previous week.

Q.  You said of course you get asked every year, but you're in the best position to answer, how has the Deere Run layout progressed and grown and matured over the last 12 years?
ZACH JOHNSON:  How has the golf course matured?  Is that what you asked.

Q.  Yes.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, the last three or four years it really hasn't changed a whole lot.  The maturity of the golf course is great.  I played nine holes yesterday.  I played with Chris Black, a local guy from Iowa and then Chez Reavie, and considering last week, record highs and just ridiculous heat.  I think the superintendents and the maintenance crew has done a great job of getting it ready.
You know, there hasn't been that many changes.  Maybe a couple shaved‑off areas here or maybe some rough moved in here and there.  But this golf course doesn't need much.  I mean when you get soft conditions anywhere, the golf course becomes a lot easier, and just seems like this week because of the temperature, because of the time of year, we get soft conditions and that's why you see those scores.
I remember one year, '03 maybe?  '02, '03 we played the fall and it was a lot harder.  It was a lot harder.  The greens were firm, fairways were firm.  It just made it a lot more difficult.  I mean there's a lot of holes out here, you know, certainly on TOUR when you miss a fairway by three or four yards, you're usually just in the rough.  Here you could be in the gunch.  I mean it's just woods.  So your tee shot has a premium, but it is very fair.  And you know, when you have soft conditions, I guess, you can score.  That's why we saw a 59.  That's why we saw some low 60s scores.

Q.  Over the years have you heard of the reputation, particularly among the pros about the nature of this course and how good it is?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I can tell you if I'm asking a guy why aren't they playing here or if the TPC Deere Run is what we're talking about discussing, I've never heard a negative comment, especially in the run of TPCs.  This is one of their favorite TPCs.  They just like it.
It's not overly hard, but it's fair, it's fun, a lot of character.  You go down by the river, you come back up, and a lot of short holes, a lot of long holes, left, right.  It adds great character, and I think D.A. did a great job of kind of laying it out on this piece of land.

Q.  Given the weather, how is it playing compared to the past couple years?  Is it firmer or ‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, we had a lot of rain ‑‑ a lot of rain.  We had a shower Monday night, I think it was.  Late afternoon, whatever it was.  And it came down.  So I thought yesterday would be really, really wet and kind of plugging in the fairway, but for the most part there was some roll.
The greens were holding, but they can't go over board.  It's a Tuesday.  The greens are going to firm up as the week goes on if we don't get any rain.  They'll stress them out a little bit and probably stop watering them or at least saturating too much.  It'll get faster and harder, I think.

Q.  Than last year and the year before?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I can't recall.  And I'm assuming ‑‑ was last year the 59 here or was that two years ago?

Q.  Two years.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I'm assuming it was wet.  Yeah.  I think so.  There hasn't been that much rain as of late.  There's some brown rough out there in the open areas.  So yeah, I think so.

Q.  Given your current position in the Ryder Cup standings right now, how critical is this next three to four‑week stretch?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think we're past the halfway point.  So it's important.  It's obviously a priority of mine.  I really don't know where I stand in those.

Q.  8.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Thank you for telling me, even though I didn't want to know.  (Laughs).  So those kind of things I really don't look at until I need to look at them.  I'm just making plans.  Every week is a priority.  Every week is important.  That's why you got FedExCup, you got money list.  There's so many rankings and numbers systems out there you gotta stay on your game every week or get left.

Q.  I know you and Davis are friends.  Is it a little more important to try ‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  I wouldn't say it's more important.  It would just be that much more special.  He's a really good friend of mine.  He's our neighbor, and I told him in high regard as a professional and as a friend.  But yeah, being in Chicago, that would be fantastic.  I got family in Chicago.  That would be unbelievable.  If it gets to that point.  I really don't want to have to go (indiscernible).  That's going to be hard to battle.  But you know, it is what it is.  I hope I make the team, but yet I got a lot of work to do.

Q.  It's also a week away from a major championship.  How does that factor in to this week?  How much do you even think about that?
ZACH JOHNSON:  You think about it, and I'm not dwelling on it.  I've gotten accustomed to playing here and then going over there and just getting my game ready.
Acclimating over there to the time change, to the weather and to the golf course is not the easiest thing, you know, because you get in Monday.  But I've gotten used to it.  It's still just golf.  The hardest thing is when it's 95 degrees here and you go over there and it's 50.  45‑degree change in a matter of less than 24 hours, that's not easy.  But I don't foresee it being that.
Two totally different styles of golf.  This is much more aerial.  Over there you're using the ground a little bit more.  But I love it over there.  I love everything about that golf course.  So I'll be ready.  I'm not too worried about that.
DOUG MILNE:  Okay.  Zach, we appreciate your time as always.

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