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January 9, 2013

Johnson Wagner


DAVE SENKO:テつ Johnson, thanks for joining us.テつ You come in with your third career win here last year.テつ Maybe just get us started and maybe talk about you had a chance to play last week at Maui, how your game was.テつ I know it's probably difficult to measure things considering the conditions, but maybe just where things stand right now.
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ I worked hard this off‑season again on fitness and on my game, trying to get ready for the season.テつ I had such a good start to the year last year, I thought I might as well do the same things as I did and hopefully I improved on them a little bit.テつ Last week in Maui I played really well, hit the ball great.テつ My swing is in as great a shape as it's been in a long time and just couldn't get any putts to fall or else I think I would have had a chance to win, but I'm excited to be back in Oahu and ready to defend my title.
DAVE SENKO:テつ Did you do anything special in the off‑season with your family?テつ You said you worked on your game.テつ Any particular areas you worked on?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ My short game I kind of took a deep look into my stats from last year and my short game was a glaring weakness, so I worked hard this winter on tightening up my chipping and my bunker play.テつ It showed last week.テつ It was really good, and it's been good today.テつ I think I hit two greens out there in the pro‑am today, so I needed my short game a lot.

Q.テつ For people that weren't there last week, how dramatic is the change in just the weather conditions and the course, too?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ The Plantation Course at Kapalua is so hilly, and you expect high winds.テつ So going in I wasn't too surprised that it was windy, but the balls wouldn't stay on the greens, so it was a challenge.テつ Coming here obviously it was windy today.テつ The winds are a little more subdued here and the balls were staying on the greens today, which was nice, and the speeds of the greens were much better here than they were at Kapalua.
But it's a flat, easy golf course to walk, classic, tree‑lined.テつ And Kapalua is wide open, you can hit the ball anywhere and just tee it up and hit it as hard as you can.

Q.テつ You pretty much dominated the back nine last year.テつ Why so much back there as opposed to the front?テつ You said something about seeing the fairways back there better.
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Today was a much different wind than we played with all last year.テつ The back nine definitely had my number today, but I hadn't seen that wind in a long time.
Just the shape of the holes, plus I think I focus more on every golf course on the back nine because if you're going to win the tournament you have to play the back nine well on Sunday.テつ And I think the first six holes here at Waialae are just a tough opening stretch.テつ 1 is a brutally hard hole; 2 is a tough little tee shot; 3 is the same; 4, 5, 6 are great approach shots.テつ It's just a tough start here at Waialae for me.

Q.テつ You've defended two other times.テつ Is it harder or easier coming into a tournament as a defending champion?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Well, I've got these massive press conferences here with just tons of people, which is challenging.テつ But I did my first defense in Houston.テつ I was really wanting to repeat and do well, and I missed the cut.テつ We had terrible weather.テつ I think I was on the bad side of the draw that week.
And then at Mayakoba last year I learned a lot from it and tried to treat it more as a normal event that I've played well at before, so I think hopefully I'm getting better and better at defending and can be a little more successful this week.

Q.テつ Coming back as the defending champion, does it feel different here at Waialae in the Sony Open?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ It does.テつ It was nice playing the pro‑am today, walking around, remembering the shots that I hit Sunday, the putts that I made, and just the feelings that I had.テつ It brought back a lot of memories today.テつ Obviously seeing my picture up on the programs and all over the place is pretty cool, even though I did have a mustache.テつ Everybody keeps commenting that they wish it was still around, but I'm pretty happy without it now.

Q.テつ You actually look a lot younger.
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ That's what everybody says.

Q.テつ When you're coming down in the morning, what are some of the thoughts going through your mind?テつ How do you stay focused?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Just coming out to play a tournament round out here?テつ When I'm playing well, when I'm swinging well and I know where the ball is going, it's very easy to stay focused.テつ When you're not playing so well, you worry about what your golf swing is going to do that day, where you're going to hit certain shots.テつ I think focusing on one shot at a time, and all I have to think about is that first tee shot, then it's a pretty easy thing.

Q. テつWhat are some of the challenges that the course presents?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ It's so hard to hit the fairways out here.テつ The crosswinds are strong, and I play pretty much a draw, so when the winds get hard right to left it's hard for me to hold a lot of the fairways, so then you're coming into small, firm greens out of jumpy Bermuda rough.
I think driving is probably the most difficult thing at Waialae.テつ And if you don't drive it well, you're going to have trouble coming into these greens.

Q.テつ What are some of the fun things about this greens?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Just the different speeds the putts can be.テつ If you have a downhill, downwind putt, you can roll it as fast as imaginable, and then uphill into the wind, they're as slow as anyplace you've ever played.テつ You really have to be smart and be aware of where you're going to hit your second shot to leave you the best option to make a putt.

Q.テつ Why do you think it's so important to start the year off in Hawai'i?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ This is my seventh year on TOUR, and Hawai'i has always started the year off.テつ To me January means coming to Hawai'i, and it's an amazing time.テつ I think anybody would be lucky to come to Hawai'i in January, and I'm lucky enough to play golf and play golf for money and make a great living out here.テつ It's kind of a working vacation for me.テつ There's so much to do on the islands, and to me it's just not a new year unless I'm in Hawai'i.

Q.テつ You had the fast start last year with three top 10s.テつ What was going through your head after that?テつ Did something change after that?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ I played really well for the next couple months after those first three weeks.テつ I finished fourth at Bay Hill, had a couple chances, had an 11th at Doral.テつ Was playing really well.テつ For me it kind of ended at the Masters.テつ I missed the cut at the Masters after a good week in Houston, and I think I just got really focused on making a Ryder Cup team, getting into the U.S. Open.テつ I was worried about playing in tournaments as opposed to winning tournaments, and I kind of lost my train of thought that I had at the beginning of the year, which was just go out, play good golf, and hopefully find myself in position on Sunday.

Q.テつ You also talked a lot about being more confident than you had been in the past last year.テつ After what happened last year, are you more confident?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ It was good.テつ I had a nice long off‑season, played a couple events overseas and didn't play well, and I kind of just tried to turn my mind off of competitive golf for a while and just restart, and up until about three weeks ago, I was not near as confident as I thought I should be coming into the off‑season, but with some good work with my coach in the end of December, I went into Kapalua in the same sort of mindset that I did last year, and I was really happy with the way I played the last two days, given all the distractions we had with the weather over there.
So I feel like I'm coming in maybe not quite as confident as last year, but I'm feeling really good about where I stand right now.テつ I think I'm a better player, I think I'm smarter, I think I'm just more well‑rounded right now.テつ It's just a matter of if the putts go in or not.テつ I putted pretty good at the beginning of last year, and that's the big difference.

Q.テつ I understand you listen to a lot of music.テつ Just wondered, is there anything that you kind of ‑‑ tunes or songs or bands that get you in the zone?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Not so much the zone, but I do love listening to music on the golf course.テつ Lately my wife, brother and sister‑in‑law went to a Widespread Panic show on the 30th of December in Charlotte, so I actually downloaded the show, and my caddie and I listened to that show a few times on the course last week.テつ Didn't get a chance to this week because I don't really like bringing my Jambox out on pro‑am days unless the guys are up for it.テつ But Widespread Panic, and I've always liked Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, anything good.

Q.テつ Sure, sure.テつ Are there certain mental techniques that you find to help you, again, get in the zone, or if you're on the course and the wind is stronger than you suspected, something that kind of takes you maybe mentally off the course for a second, how do you bring yourself back?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ I've always found that just when I'm nervous or when my mind wanders, if I can just breathe, just focus on taking deep breaths for 20 seconds that it always kind of levels me out.

Q.テつ And kind of the feeling, maybe emotionally‑‑
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Exactly.テつ I think when I find myself really nervous, I realize that I'm probably not taking many breaths and they're not deep breaths.テつ So I think breathing has been something that has helped me to kind of focus and stay calm.

Q.テつ Is there anything you would tell an amateur golfer to help them?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ Slow down.テつ I think you see‑‑ I saw today from guys, they're just so fast.テつ Everything they do is fast.テつ When I play bad, it's quick.テつ I get quick, I get fast, rushed.テつ So slowing down is a big key.

Q.テつ For collegiate golfers out there, what advice do you have for them if they're aspiring to be professionals?
JOHNSON WAGNER:テつ The best thing I ever did, I went to Virginia Tech and I played every tournament, all four years I was in school.テつ I wanted to go to North Carolina, to Oklahoma, someplace that was a big‑name golf school, and if I had, I would have had to walk on, probably never would have played, maybe I would have played my senior year.テつ So I think going to a place that you can play your freshman year or at least have a chance to play early is the best thing to do because if you're not playing, you're not getting better.
DAVE SENKO:テつ Thanks, Johnson.

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