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September 17, 2013

Zach Johnson


THE MODERATOR:  We'll get started.  We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson.  He's here for the seventh time at the TOUR Championship by Coca‑Cola and just one day removed from his tenth PGA Tour victory, winning yesterday at the BMW championship.
Zach, first of all, welcome back To East Lake.  Get your thoughts on being here and also the win yesterday.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I'm excited to come back here.  This is arguably one of the best tournaments we have for sure, if not the best.
It's a tournament that encompasses the whole year.  So you've got to have good, steady play.  It's a tournament that has a small field.  As a result, it's pretty easy as far as getting around.  And it's a tournament that has great sponsors with Coke and Southern Company.
And it's East Lake.  I love East Lake.  I've played well here, and I've played poorly here.  I love the golf course.  So I'm excited about it.
Last week, or yesterday, I guess it was‑‑ I don't know if it still hit me, but that's okay.  I've still got a lot of work to do.  It was a fantastic week from start to finish.  Something that hopefully I can somewhat continue into this week and beyond.
As a side note, there was a point yesterday I remember I‑‑ let's see, I birdied 2.  I forget my next birdie, maybe 7.  I'm thinking, well, now, okay, I'm probably now in East Lake.  Just kind of a thought I had.  Then kind of threw that aside and kept playing.
One of my goals last week was just to play well enough that I could get into this tournament.  So that has been accomplished.
THE MODERATOR:  And not only are you here, but you're No.4 in the FedEx Cup standings, which is right where you want to be.  With a win this week, that will be good for the FedEx Cup.  Just talk about your thoughts on that.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  That's why we‑‑ that's the point of the FedEx Cup is you want to get in contention coming into Atlanta, and fortunately, I'm in that position now where one really good week has significant incentives.
The beauty of that is that we've got a great competition here to try to get to that point, and I love it.  I love everything this course demands.  Certainly, the field's great.  It's just a fantastic tournament to kind of make a splash at the end of the year.
Two weeks from now, we've got the Presidents Cup.  So a lot of cool stuff on the horizon.  Motivation is not very difficult right now.

Q.  Any phone calls or text messages with your brother about‑‑ you must be thanking him now for going out and doing the scouting trip.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I'm not so sure I thanked him necessarily, but we've texted a bunch and his wife quite a bit.  There's been some communication.
They're very thankful that I played well the last couple weeks.

Q.  Was East Lake on your radar going into the Playoffs, knowing you were going to skip that first event and where you are on the points list?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, it's one of those things.  I think I was anywhere from 17 to 19 going into Barclays.  You'd have to go back and look.  I can't remember.  I think I was 17 or 19‑ish, 18, to start the playoffs.
Taking a week off, I knew I was going to drop, obviously, but I didn't think I'd drop seven to eight spots.  I mean, I just didn't know.  I've never been in that scenario.  So I didn't realize how big of a drop it could be.
So it was on my radar, there's no question about it.  Not playing that week made it difficult‑‑ or made it harder to get here, and then making the cut on the number in Boston made it difficult too.
So my last two rounds in Boston and then obviously my four rounds in Chicago.  You're talking about six rounds of golf that essentially got me here and put me into a top five place.  I think I made two bogeys on the week in Boston and I made four bogeys in Chicago.  So just consistent, steady play, and then taking advantage of opportunities when I had them is really what got me here.

Q.  Obviously, way ahead of things here, but if Sunday comes, you're top four right now, you basically control your own fate here.  $10 million purse or prize at the end of that.  Have you gotten your brother a wedding gift?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes, we have.  My appearance.  No, I'm just kidding.

Q.  Would you add to that wedding gift?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I haven't given that any thought yet.  Those hypotheticals will be, you know, much more laid out if that does come into effect.
I haven't got the faintest idea.  I have zero idea of what I'll do if I ever get to that point.  When things of that nature and that magnitude have hit us before, there's a huge filtering process, and there's a team of individuals that we consult with on what to do and how to do things.  I don't see it being any different in that regard.

Q.  Does it almost‑‑ and your answer kind of speaks volumes here.  Does it almost seem a bit surreal to have a $10 million prize for something like this?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes, yes, absolutely.  I think that's‑‑ I mean, that type of incentive is hard to just wrap your mind around.  I can't imagine.
Now, granted, it is‑‑ I hate to say it, but it is just money.  So it ain't‑‑ fortunately, I'm in a position professionally where I don't think that's going to change me or my family at all, the hypotheticals.
But if my wife was sitting here right now, she'd light up because she would be like, oh, sweet, we can give more.  That's just kind of the way she's built, and it's starting to rub off on me.
If that comes about, that's‑‑ there's a huge responsibility that comes with that and something that I feel like is a gift.  So I've got to be very diligent and responsible in how I utilize that gift.
Once again, that's so far off in the future to me and something so hypothetical that I'm not even going to‑‑ you have to embrace the thought, but then you've got to throw it aside and get down to work.
So if God sees fit that's what he wants me‑‑ the position he wants me to be in, I'll be happy to take that posture and hopefully do the right things with it.  But I'm not looking at it now.
The nice thing is that, going back to the beginning of your question, is I'm in the top five, and having somewhat control over my destiny, if you will, this week is an advantage.  I think I've been in that position one other time.
The hard part about that is‑‑ and that's just the game of golf‑‑ is that you can play really, really good and lose, and you can play very average and still be okay.  It's hard, when you have limited control over things in an incentive‑based arena like this, it's hard.  But that's the just the beauty of the game, I guess.
Good problems to have.

Q.  You talked yesterday a lot about not really being able to wrap your head around the ten wins.  I'm just curious if you have been able to do that since then.  And then secondly, coming off the win, is this week harder to turn it around and kind of get right back on the saddle, if you will, than maybe some others, or is it easier?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I'd be lying to you if I said I hadn't read some articles.  I've seen a couple of articles, local articles from my hometown that were written.
Yeah, I mean, I didn't realize what that kind of meant, especially considering the number of guys that are currently playing that have that number of wins, especially, I think it's under the age of 40.  I guess I don't get caught up in stats.  I guess that's a good thing.  If anything, it just drives me to get better and hungrier to try to win more.
The second part of your question, motivation is not difficult this week.  So getting back and playing Thursday is probably going to be a good thing.  One, I feel like I'm playing well.  That's fairly obvious.  And, two, ending on a Monday in Chicago after a good round, to get back into some sort of a comfort level and not get too caught up in what happened is to get yourself back inside of the ropes.
I remember in 2007 when I won Augusta, I committed to Hilton Head prior to that, and I kept that commitment.  And the best thing for me was to get back inside the ropes.  I'm not saying it's the same, but it's got some parallels.
I mean, I'm really stoked and excited to play Thursday, and I get to play with Adam Scott.  So that's always cool.

Q.  Zach, so Jordan Spieth was in here before you, and I don't know if you've had an opportunity to play any rounds with him or spend much time with him.  Can you kind of talk about the year that he's had and being here as a 20‑year‑old in comparison to what you were doing at 20.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I think I probably played with him‑‑ I played five holes with him in a playoff.  I'd like to forget that one.  And I played the first two rounds with him in Greensboro.  I actually flew down with him yesterday.  He waited for me.
I think he's a great kid.  We've texted quite a bit since John Deere and gotten to know each other a little better as time's gone on.
Comments on him‑‑ the first thing that comes to my mind, and I would assume my peers that have gotten to know him at least somewhat, he just seems‑‑ maturity just comes about.  That's the word that comes to my mind, both on and off the golf course.
I know he's 20, and I'm sure there's things that he's doing that I was doing when I was 20, but his game is mature.  It seems to me like his mental approach and how he plays is extremely mature, and just very well constructed.
I don't know if I need to elaborate more on that because you've just got to look at what he's done.  In a short amount of time‑‑ although he's played a lot of golf, but in a short of amount of time, what he's done on his resume is just impressive.  You guys know better.  I don't know numbers.  I don't know stats.  Who was the last one to do it?  Probably Tiger?  Maybe Phil, I'm assuming.  Just a guess.  Maybe Justin Leonard.  I'm not familiar.
But anyway, it doesn't happen very often.  I mean, the guy took Akron off, which is one of our best tournaments we have all year.  Extremely impressed.  I'm extremely impressed.  Phenom is a big word, but if he's not a phenom, he certainly is close, and he's a good kid.

Q.  Following that up a little bit too, how have the peers taken to him as far as do you joke around with him?  Hey, kid, how are you doing?  Is he just like another peer?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I can't answer that.  I mean, I can tell you what I've done.  I don't have any idea what my peers have done.
Yeah, I mean, I've made fun of him, and he's made fun of me, but I think we've become pretty good friends in a short amount of time.  I think he's‑‑ you know, you can tell that he‑‑ there's a point, I think at the beginning of his summer here when he's trying to get on Tour, he might have been‑‑ deer in the headlights is a stretch.  But he kind of looked I'm just kind of coming here for business, and that's it.
Now I think he's starting to get a little more settled in the locker room, on the practice facility.  He's starting to settle down a little bit, he and his caddie Mike, who's a great guy.  It's normal.  It just comes with time.
I joke with him.  I mess around with him.  Every time we're being sarcastic or trying to be funny, there's some serious talk too.  Yeah, I don't know how else to answer that.

Q.  Another question from kind of out of left field here.  If you were in a position where you could help me decide who the player of the year was, do you weight performance in the Majors considerably more than you would a performance over the course of the long grind of the season here?

Q.  And how much?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I do weigh Majors more than non‑major tournaments.  Given that, we've got some pretty phenomenal, star studded, field‑packed tournaments.  So winning would be my barometer, just winning, because it's so hard.
It doesn't matter what tournament it is, but even winning‑‑ Majors is one thing.  Excuse me.  Winning tournaments is one thing.  Winning Majors is another.  And winning big tournaments is a big deal.  I'd have to look at numbers to see who would be in that‑‑ in those categories right now, but winning golf tournaments would be on my barometer.
THE MODERATOR:  Zach Johnson, thank you for your time.
ZACH JOHNSON:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

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