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July 12, 2013

Zach Johnson


JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Zach Johnson into the interview room.  Zach, another good round for you today.  Same ol' hat, I guess, for you on this golf course.  Just talk about today if you would.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I think today certainly was a great day for a number of reasons.  I think today was a hard 66.  Yesterday was a much easier 64.  I just didn't drive it as well is really what it boiled down to.  I hit a couple good drives that didn't turn out, too, but for the most part I just didn't drive it as well as I would have liked, or should have.
But the positive side of it is that I feel like I know I can play around here, even if I don't drive it well and I don't hit it as well as I did say yesterday.
My short game was tremendous.  I putted great.  I chipped it probably even better.  So today was a day of just hanging in there and letting things come.  But I like the fact that I don't have to be perfect and I can still play here.

Q.  You mentioned your chips.  How important were those for you, especially like you said since your drives were on and off a little bit today?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, they were huge.  Even some of those putts, too, after the pitch or the sand shot were huge.  Starting on 5, the sand shot on 5 wasn't easy, but I made a good six‑, seven‑footer there, and 6 was a great pitch.  I got a great bounce to a foot.  But it's one you're trying to get it within probably six, seven feet.
I chipped in on 8, obviously.  I'm trying to think of some of the other ones here.  15, that was probably the best save I had all day.  That ball was not sitting great.  I'm trying to get it in a 10‑foot circle, and it ended up probably about six feet.
A couple good two‑putts, and then I took advantage of the holes where I hit it close, too.  I putted great.  I mean, I guess I could have birdied 1, maybe could have birdied 13, but I mean, those were 10‑ to 15‑footers.  I've got zero complaints around the greens today.  Hopefully I can just get that driver a little bit straighter tomorrow.

Q.  When you grind now to get a score like this, is it more satisfying than even going lower when everything works well?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't know if there's any more or less satisfaction involved.  I'm certainly satisfied that I two‑putted the last hole, and I'm looking forward to the first hole tomorrow.  That's really what it boils down to.  This round kind of felt a lot like Saturday at Colonial last year where I hit it okay and I think I‑‑ that's when Jason Dufner and I separated ourselves.  I think I shot 4‑ to 6‑under that day.  A lot of good pitches, a lot of good putts.
But I would much rather have a boring, easy 5‑under than a roller coaster 5‑under, if you will.

Q.  You say that you don't have to be perfect, but this was like your ninth bogey‑free round.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Of the year?

Q.  No, of this tournament.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, I was going to say‑‑ is it really?  Yeah, I know I didn't make a bogey on Sunday last year, right?  So I can't remember prior to that, but‑‑

Q.  Not nine consecutive, but‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't think I made many bogeys last year.  I know I shot 1‑over on the back nine my front nine of the last round last year, but I'm just comfortable.  I'm comfortable with every tee shot.  I'm comfortable with every wind, and clearly I'm comfortable on the greens.
I think it's one of those, you hear a lot of guys, I've worked so hard on my fundamentals, and the patience side of it has certainly been key.  You hear the saying I'm just not scoring.  Well, I'm finally starting to score.  That certainly has been evident the past two days, and you can go back to previous years, too.
I don't know how you measure confidence in golf, but you get to a place where you're comfortable, like I mentioned.  There's a confidence level here for me, and I like playing in front of friends and family, like I mentioned.  It's everything.  It's everything about it.
I think‑‑ I don't know, I'd have to go back and look at previous tournaments, past tournaments, not just here, but for some reason I think I probably play better when the temperature is on the warm side.  I don't know if I get more loose, my back gets a little more fluid.  I don't know, I can't answer‑‑ I seem to tighten up in cold weather for some reason, even though I grew up in it.  I'm not making excuses, I just feel better in warm weather.

Q.  Do you tend to putt better when you play with a good putter like Steve?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Ooh, that's a good question.  Maybe, I don't know.  Davis and I were talking about it, there was a‑‑ I don't remember what hole it was or what putt it was, but he just sets into it and it just doesn't look like he's going to miss.  Even the ones he misses look like they were going to go in.  He hit a pitch mark on 18, he fixed it twice and he still hit it.  He's arguably the best putter in the game, and he's playing, what, 10 tournaments?  It's fun to watch.  Gets you kind of in that mode of trying to make putts yourself maybe.

Q.  Those saves on 5, 6 and 7, do you think those were the most important birdie putts you made today?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Without question.  Kept my streak going.  (Laughter.)  No.
No question.  I pulled that putt on 7 and it still hung on the edge there.  Yeah, those were massive, especially because at that point my ball‑striking was not great.  I actually hit it pretty well on the back nine.  I missed two drives, but God, I hit them good, probably just an alignment tweak.  So yeah, those were big.  Those were big, big saves.  Obviously the chip‑in on 8, there's four shots right there you could go one way or the other, right?  Yeah, I feel good about those.

Q.  I'm just curious who from your inner circle of friends and family will be here this weekend and how many faces you recognize in the crowd?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I do gaze into the crowd to answer the second part.  I don't really fixate on the people watching much.  I can hear my mom's voice.  I can hear my dad's voice.  I can hear my father‑in‑law's chant.  (Laughter.)  And my sister‑‑ family I can hear.  I know who it is.  I hear my wife's sneeze, that kind of stuff.  But where they are, I'm not familiar when I'm playing.  I'm just kind of doing my thing.  I mean, it may even look like I'm looking at somebody, but I'm not looking at them.  I'm probably staring right through them.

Q.  What does the chant sound like?
ZACH JOHNSON:  It's just more of a "yes."  You only hear it if I do something good.

Q.  What do you think about going into the weekend tied for the lead?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Very well could be.  I don't know who's‑‑ what am I, at 12?  Somebody else finish at 12?

Q.  Lucas is out there, too.
ZACH JOHNSON:  So he's still playing and he's at 12.  So you're talking about‑‑ well, Lucas has played here numerous times, and I've played with him here.  I don't know what their scorecard looks like.  My point is maybe they've made 18 birdies and made some bogeys.  Confidence level is one thing.  I feel good about my game and the direction it's going, but I don't have any idea what their cards look like or where they are.  My guess is that they're pretty hungry, so playing with me or having me near the top of the leaderboard is going to be pretty irrelevant to them.  If anything it might fire them up more, at least I hope it would.

Q.  Is this where you wanted to be heading into the weekend?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, ideally I'd have a seven‑ to eight‑shot lead, but I'm not complaining, especially after a lot of good saves today.  Yeah, I mean, I'm very happy with where I'm at.  Like I said, this year has been a little bit of a struggle, especially early on.  I felt like I've played really well as of late, and it just hasn't shown.  The scoring side of golf is starting to surface for me.  You know, it's Friday.  I'm going to play tomorrow.  Tomorrow is going to be Saturday, and that's really my only focus right now.

Q.  Is there a level of annoyance with the IFL?
ZACH JOHNSON:  No.  Well, I'm not going to‑‑ I can fill in the blank there with a‑n‑n‑o‑y, but we won't go there, will we?

Q.  When you see how well Stricker plays this game, he's several years older than you are‑‑
ZACH JOHNSON:  Thank you.  (Laughter.)

Q.  Is that where you want to be several years from now?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Ooh, yeah, sure.  I mean, he's consistent.  My game and what I try to do every year, I'm just trying to be consistent.  I feel like I'm still learning.  I'm still learning which courses are good for me.  I'm still learning about my game.  I'm still learning about which weeks to play, when to take off how many in a row.  I don't know if I'll quite have his schedule when I'm his age.  I don't have any idea.  Yeah, he's just a model of consistency, especially when he took a hiatus there and almost kind of revamped his golf swing and revamped his game.  Clearly his putting didn't need revamping, but his ball‑striking has become very consistent.  His wedge play is arguably one of the best.  I mean, he holed out yesterday.  Today it wasn't great.  Whatever he shot, 4‑ to 6‑under probably.  It didn't look like he played that great and he still shot way under par.
Yeah, I mean, that's the kind of guy you try to model your game after.  I would say Furyk is probably another one up there.  He's a little younger, I think, 42 maybe.  They're not that much older than me.  Jim is four or five years older than me, and Strick has got to be 44 to 45 maybe.

Q.  46.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Is he 46?  Ok.  Well, yeah, so, he's playing 10 weeks a year.

Q.  You seem very relaxed and in a good place.  You've seemed that way all week.  Is that because you won last year and all the pressure is off?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I think that's part of it, yeah.  I never really felt like there was a lot of pressure on me to win here.  Like I elaborated yesterday, it doesn't matter what I shoot here, I'm still going to have great support, but I love the tournament and it gets me fired up to play.  It fuels me to play here.  Yeah, I felt very relaxed, and I felt relaxed when I was in my hometown playing with my family and my head pro back home, and then I felt relaxed Tuesday and Wednesday.  In a good way, I feel like I'm going through the motions.  I don't want to get‑‑ there's a fine line there between going through the motions and almost not mentally in it, but I'm going through the motions, and I'm in my process and I'm focused.
JOE CHEMYCZ:  Zach, thank you.  Play well this weekend.

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