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November 6, 2013

Zach Johnson


THE MODERATOR:  Okay.  We will jump right in.  We'd like to welcome Team McGladrey member Zach Johnson.  Zach, thanks for joining us for a few minutes here.  Making your fourth consecutive start at the McGladrey Classic and second start of the 2013‑14 PGA TOUR season.  That being said, I'll turn it over to you for some opening comments.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  It's fourth year.  It's hard to believe it's the fourth year.  Seems like yesterday we just started this event.  But I'm extremely excited about it.  I'm sleeping in my own bed, playing a course that I'm very familiar with; and being a part of Team McGladrey makes it even that much more special.  They're another family of mine, and I think the beauty of what they've done here is they've made this tournament their own.
Obviously having the Davis Love Foundation and [Scott] Ray, Mark Love and all that crew a part of it, you know, they're from here, and with McGladrey, they've just‑‑ they've hatched this tournament from the very beginning and have ownership in it.  So it's fun to be back.  And I mean I just love being at home, and when I can work at home, that's a nice treat.
THE MODERATOR:  Okay.  We'll take some questions.

Q.  Zach, what's your early review on how the new schedule is working and the idea of having kind of like an NBA type of season?  Is it different than what you thought it was going to be, or just in general, how do you think it's going so far?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I mean I was on the board, I don't know when it was.  Two or three years ago was my last year, so I was on it for three or four years, whatever it was.  And I remember this kind of idea had surfaced numerous times when I was on the pack, and then I went on the board, and you never really thought it would come into fruition; and now that it's here, it just kind of feels like it fits.  To me it does.
I say that because I think the TOUR Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs in general have done a great job in kind of making it climatic, and we want tournaments because there's still a number of weeks there we can compete in the States.  We have great title sponsorships; we might as well utilize it and make them bigger and better, and this is the natural way of doing that.
It's going to take a little bit of time to get used to.  I'm not going to deny that, especially from a fan standpoint, a public standpoint, and probably even a media standpoint and probably my peers, too.  We've changed the culture of the TOUR, at least the makeup of it.  But I think the positives are deep, and certainly, if there's any negatives, they far outweigh them.
The trickle‑down effect to the Web.com Tour is tremendous.  We all know what that tour does, and it's a great proving ground to get out here, and I think it just enhances with the product they have.  So it just seems to make sense.  You know, the title sponsors deserve to have more incentive, and when we can maintain opportunities and add incentives to those opportunities for all my peers, it just makes complete sense in my mind.

Q.  Zach, can you expand a little bit about the benefit of playing at home and are there challenges to playing at home?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I mean the benefit certainly is‑‑ I get really practical.  I get to sleep in my own bed.  You know, my kids are going through the same routine day in, day out as we do when we're at home.  Dad goes to work and they go to school, that sort of thing.  We like maintaining routine.
I'm very familiar with the golf course.  You know, I don't practice out here an immense amount, but I mean this range is tremendous.  I know all the guys here.  I know the pros that work here, and my feet have been on that golf course a number of times.  Those would be the benefits.  And the food, by the way.
Is it hard to play?  Yeah, I mean it can be.  You know, it is my hometown now, so there is a little bit of added‑‑ some people would say pressure, but I would just say there's just added weight.  I mean I don't know if it's‑‑ you know, I want to perform well here.  I want to perform here because it's where I live, and I want to perform here because I love McGladrey and what they do.
I don't want to equate it to John Deere, but it has kind of that same feel for me.  And I think I've gotten over the fact that, you know, I don't have to play well here to make it a successful week.  I mean it's not‑‑ that's not the important thing.  I mean that's my goal.  But this is going to be a great week because of what the foundation here does, what McGladrey does, what this community has opened its arms to, and it's going to be a great week regardless.
And we've been blessed with good weather, too.  So hopefully we can get some more fans out there.  But you know, it may not be easy, but I think I've gotten used to it.

Q.  How far do you live from here?
ZACH JOHNSON:  That would tell you where I live, now, wouldn't it?  I don't know you all that well.  No, I'm just kidding.  I'm teasing.
If you come up to the light, I'm in the neighborhood caddy‑corner to the left.  I mean I could walk if I wanted to.  I mean ride my bike for sure.  Walk would be‑‑ it would be a 15‑minute walk.  It would be a three‑minute bike ride.

Q.  Last year I think one Top 10 first half of the year and then obviously the great finish.  When you're going through a little bit of a tough period, what do you do to kind of get through it without driving yourself nuts?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  No, I was asked that question yesterday in another interview, and I would say that 2013 was a great learning experience, first and foremost, and then I would say there's two words that kind of come to my mind, and they kind of go hand in hand.  And it's patience and trust.
Early on in the year‑‑ and you know, I segment it into two halves, but I would say both words, both ideals for both segments.  I had to be patient in the beginning of the year because I wasn't playing great, and I had to trust in my routine, had to trust in my process, had to trust in my coaches.  Felt great physically.  I felt really fresh mentally, had enough time off, but I was off mechanically and technically, more than I care to admit.  And that's where the trust came in, that's where the patience came in.
You know, you work on it, it takes a little bit of time; you get on some courses you like, you get in some tournaments you like and then starting to see some positives.  Colonial was a positive, and then you get into the meat of the summer and then I really started to see some things surface.
And at that point I had to continue to trust the fact that I put all that hard work in and it's going to surface.  It's really going to start to show.
The patience side of the thing was I'm playing great, why am I not winning?  I mean I'm in contention‑‑ well, depends on how you define in contention.  But I'm almost in contention every Sunday.  Why am I not winning?  I'd lose in a playoff and then I'd Top 5 and then I'm in the final group in a tournament and da, da, da.  Well, you just gotta remain patient, and fortunately I did that, and Chicago came along, the BMW, and I guess I took advantage of it.
But yeah, those two‑‑ those two halves were totally different, but a great learning process, to say the least.

Q.  Patient over worked if you're not playing well?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes.  I mean I have in the past.  I think I'm tenured enough now that I know what works for me.  The next person that sits up here and you ask that question can be totally different.
I mean I know how many balls I gotta hit.  I know how much time I gotta put into it and the balance that it requires, still learning.  Not denying that I'm not tweaking or learning, but for the most part I think I've got a decent formula down and it's just a matter of refining it.
I mean I don't mind practicing, so if anything, I probably‑‑ especially on the road, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I don't mind practicing at all.  If anything I probably gotta harness that a little bit and go in the gym instead of on the range.

Q.  This place has to lead the world in per capita pro golfers in residence.  Why is that?  I mean what's the attraction?
ZACH JOHNSON:  It's deep.  It's very deep.  I think‑‑ well, it starts with the people, and it starts with Davis, certainly you'd probably say Davis's father before him and what they kind of laid out here at Sea Island.  I think from there you go to Sea Island Company and what that company has done from a golf standpoint, the amenities, the golf courses, the practice facilities, the infrastructure.  From there I think you go to, you know, certainly the fact that it's an island and it is in the South.  We've got mild temperatures.  We can play golf all year around.
And then I think you just talk about the community as a whole.  It's a community you can root and just kind of dive into and stay, and I think that's‑‑ I mean I know that's what my wife and I intend on doing.  I hope that doesn't change.  But it's easy to be here.
I mean from a work standpoint, I've got three or four places I can go and I can get a lot of work done, with Frederica, Ocean Forest, certainly here.  And then you could even throw in the Retreat Club right across the way.  So I mean from a golf standpoint, it's second to none.  I mean it's one of the top destinations as far as I know.
And the amenities are great.  But I think the beauty of this place is everything else.  It's the people, and it's the mom‑and‑pop shops.  It's the food, again.

Q.  One followup on that.  How did you discover it?  And is there a camaraderie amongst the guys?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, I think so.

Q.  Especially when you're not here?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Right.  Yeah, no.  I think so.  I mean we all follow each other.  We play with each other when we can here.
What was the first part of the question?  Forgive me.

Q.  How did you find it?
ZACH JOHNSON:  How did I find it.  That's right.  I started working with Dr.Morris Pickens, who's the sports psychologist that works out of the learning academy here for Sea Island in 2006.  And so I started frequently coming up here to prepare for tournaments; Augusta, Cups, that kind of thing.  I fell in love with it immediately.  And obviously having Davis here, good friend, was a big factor.
Jonathan Byrd, one of my best buddies, and his wife and my wife were good friends.  That whole kind of contingent there was here.  That was a big factor.  But I came up here to practice, and I'm thinking, man, I could live here.  And we were in Orlando, and there was a lot of positives there, too, but we wanted someplace different.  And I brought my wife up here thinking there's no way, because she's from Amelia Island, about an hour south, and she didn't want to live on the island again, I didn't think.  But she fell in love with it immediately.
You know, it is a small town, which we like, but you know, it is a small town.  So the community has embraced us, too.  I mean we're just part of the community.  I mean we've got‑‑ I guess we're athletes, but they, you know, I don't have to worry about where I go or‑‑ I'm just a part of the community like everybody else.  And so are my kids.

Q.  Soccer dad?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Exactly.  Soccer Saturday.  Football Friday.  You know, it's everything I grew up accustomed to in Iowa, except for we got an ocean instead of a cornfield.  And a little bit of a southern drawl, which is great.  So we love it.

Q.  Just another followup.  When did you move here?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Five years ago.  Jonathan Byrd asked me this yesterday.  It was five years ago, and I can't remember if we moved September, October, November or December.  So it was five years ago.

Q.  And when you are struggling like we were talking about earlier, because your friends like Jonathan and other pros are here, do you ask their help at all?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I mean some of my peers I'm very close to, and if I desire to go to them and reach out to them, counsel with them, ask their wisdom, I mean I do it knowing that they would open their arms and help me.
I mean Jonathan and I are very close.  We have the same coach.  We have the same swing coach and mental coach.  And our games are totally different, but that's beside the point.  We're just close as families and friends.  So I mean he would be a guy that I could discuss anything with, and have.
I feel like, you know, with him our relationship is to the point where I don't even necessarily need to go to him and he doesn't need to come to me.  If he's struggling or I'm struggling, we'll know and we'll just encourage and just be there.  I mean that's what friends do, I guess.  I don't know.  It just so happens we're trying to beat each other, but that part's irrelevant.

Q.  One more.  Because you're closer now to Augusta, are you more likely to go up there for a pre‑tournament trip?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, you know, I moved here in '08, so ‑‑ I won in '07.  So I mean it's hard to compare.  I was only in Orlando a year after I had won.
I mean I don't go up there that often.  I would say I average probably one to one‑and‑a‑half visits outside of the tournament week, depending on the year.  I love going there.  I mean it's Augusta National.
But you know, I know that tournament.  I know the grounds fairly well.  And you know, courses change Monday through Sunday, specifically even Thursday to Sunday.  I would say that that one can change the most during the week of a tournament.  If you take the Masters week versus the other weeks that club is open, it's vastly different.  I mean the greens are pure there.  It's always pure.  It's just ‑‑ if you're going to go there in December, January or February, it's cold.  It doesn't play like it does in April.  I mean I enjoy it, but I don't go that often.

Q.  Zach, speaking of home‑court advantage, is that minimized a little bit because the week of a TOUR event a course, no matter how familiar you are with it, is playing different than the other 51 weeks of the year.

Q.  And the Ponte Vedra guys told me this about the [] course.  So is that minimized?  And if the wind keeps blowing like it is, is that 2, 3, 4, stretch going to be really difficult?
ZACH JOHNSON:  The first part of the your question, I don't think there's any doubt.  I think it makes complete sense.  One, it's a deep field with great players.  Doesn't matter where you play, anybody can win.
Going back to the weight of it, the pressure of it or trying to play, I mean perform.  I don't know how you put it.  You said expectations, well, I mean there's 12 guys that live here that are on TOUR, and then there's 15 more guys that are associated with this island in some degree.  So you're talking about a third‑‑ not a third.  But a fifth of the field that has a connection here.  So it's not easy to play.
The point I'm trying to get at is I'm not the only one.  There's a lot of guys that are in my shoes this week.
What was the second part of your question.

Q.  If the wind keeps blowing the way it is.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes.  2, 3.

Q.  2, 3, 4 starts to get tough.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yes.  That area is kind of open.  It's certainly away from any sort of sheltering from the trees.  I played here Monday in Davis's pro am, the foundation pro am, and I've not played in wind like that here, ever.  It was a constant 10 to 15 gusts; had to be 25 or 35 at times.  My hat flew off twice, so it was windy.
And yeah, those will be key holes.  There's just not a whole lot of room for error when you have significant winds.  The forecast doesn't look like it's that bad, or that windy.  But any wind on this golf course, you gotta pay attention.  And it has everything to do with the fact that there's marsh left or marsh right and the run‑offs on the greens.  The greens aren't that small, but they become smaller with wind and with the run‑offs.

Q.  You mentioned the wrap‑around season earlier.  How, if at all, will that affect your schedule?  And secondly, did you ever envision a time when you maybe cut down on the number of times you play in a year given the success of like a Steve Stricker and some other guys that have done that?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  Well, I mean the wrap‑around portion, I mean I play this week every year.  Last year is different because I had a baby in November, or my wife did.  So I played McGladrey and that was really it.  I played in December as well, with Tiger's event.
I've added Vegas this year.  So I've added one tournament.  I don't foresee the actual calendar '14 year being any different than it was '13 for me.  It's a Ryder Cup year, and that's obviously a priority.  It's a priority to be on the team, but I mean in order to do that, more starts could help.  But I'm not looking at that yet.
What was the second part of the question?  I'm brain dead right now.

Q.  Just if you ever envision a time where you would cut back on the number of tournaments you play.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, yeah.  I know my wife has.  I mean I love my job.  I love to compete.  I love to play on the PGA TOUR and play against the best, you know, but I mean I relish my weeks off.  I mean I've got three kids, 1 to 7.  I mean I relish those times.  I mean I have to.
I feel like my scheduling, the strategy involved is just as much my on weeks as it is my off weeks.  So I totally understand Steve and/or the Strickers' philosophy and strategy there.  He's at a little bit different point in his career, too.  I mean he's a little bit older.
And it does make sense in my mind.  I mean maybe not to a 10‑tournament season like he kind of said at one time, but it makes sense.  I mean I don't know if jealous is the right word, but I certainly admire it.  You know, he's putting family certainly first, and that's pretty admirable.

Q.  Zach, a new face on the bag for you this week.  If you would, how did that situation come about?  And I recall a couple of years ago at the Deere when Damon wasn't on the bag, you had a good bit of success.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, no.  My boy Damon fired me.  No, I'm just kidding.  He‑‑ I think in the previous ‑‑ he turned 50 two or three years ago now.  Three years ago.  And the Champions Tour Q‑School had always segmented into two different weeks, and this year it's just one solid week with I don't know how many, three or four, four or five regions, you know.  He's playing in Orlando this week.  So I mean I'm not going to deny the guy to play.  I mean he loves to play.  He is a professional golfer.  You know, he's played professional golf since, you know, probably before I was born.  So I'm not going to restrict that.  And he's still good, fortunately and unfortunately.
So you know, I mean I counseled with Damon on it.  I mean I wanted to get his opinion as to who I should go with.  You know, it was one of those situations I talked to a lot of different people; my wife, obviously, Dr.Mo, my sports psychologist, and Damon and I would say Mike Bender, my coach.  And I mean I would have loved to have Mike do it, but he was also here.  He's got other players in the field, and I don't know if that's necessarily the right thing to do.
John Deere was one of those situations where it just worked out, but I don't want to take his time away from his other personnel.  Dr.Mo very similar thing.  He wanted to do it and I wanted him to do it, too.  He thought he could do two or three days.  I'm like, I don't want one caddie and another one stepping in.  So Chad Reynolds is Nick Watney's caddie, good friend, lives in Jacksonville.  And you know, I talked to Nick first, you know.  I didn't want to ruffle feathers there.  But I know Chad.  He's a good player.  He's been out here a number of times.  I just wanted to find somebody that I didn't really have to worry about, you know.
I thought about going down the friend route.  At some point I want to do that, whether it's my brother or, you know, another family member or just a close friend.  I mean I'll hopefully take advantage of that at some point.  But I mean this is a big week for me.  I wanted to get somebody that really is a professional caddie, and I know I've got one.
THE MODERATOR:  All right.  Zach, thanks for your time.  Best of luck this week.

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