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December 8, 2013
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIFORNIA
DOUG MILNE:¬† We'd like to welcome the 2013 Northwestern Mutual World Challenge champion, Zach Johnson.¬† Zach, congratulations on quite the dramatic finish, and ultimately the victory.¬† Congratulations, and well done, and with that I'll just turn it over to you for some comments.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Thank you.¬† I feel very honored to be the champion.¬† This is one of those things on the schedule that's highlighted.¬† If you can get into it, it's as good a tournament as I've ever played in.¬† I'm not just saying that.¬† Has everything to do with how they do it.¬† Northwestern Mutual, Greg and his staff at the Tiger Woods Foundation, Tiger, certainly Sherwood and the members here.¬† It's as good as it gets.¬† And it's great to play an event like this in the so‑called silly season; right?¬† I don't know if it's much of a silly season anymore.¬† But it's set up just like an old TOUR event, so it gets me ready for January.
Yeah, today was, I don't know, I mean I guess it was pretty boring early.¬† It was a bit too much drama at the end there.¬† But you know, I feel very fortunate and somewhat lucky to be sitting here as a champion.
DOUG MILNE:¬† All right.¬† We'll open it up and take a few questions.
Q.¬† What did you think walking back to the drop area had to happen for you to be sitting here today?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Well, I was upset.¬† You know, I mean I had I don't want to say an awkward yardage, but I had‑‑ I was in between clubs.¬† And certainly saw his shot.¬† You know, very hard shot.¬† End up in the bunker down there.¬† I assumed it was in the bunker and then when I walked up there it was.¬† It looked to me like it was going to be a very, very difficult 4 for him.¬† So once my ball was in the hazard, my whole process was just, I mean I'm trying to get somewhat around the hole and make a 5.¬† You know, it wasn't exactly a full‑wedge shot, but it was one that I could be aggressive with.¬† And 58 yards, trying to hit it about 52, 53, and we saw what it did.
Shouldn't have been in that position, but I'll learn from it.¬† I didn't complete my back swing on my second shot, and as a result, miss‑hit it and everything.¬† It was just bad.¬† Just bad.¬† (Laughs).¬† I mean that was the worst shot I hit all day.¬† Wasn't even close to being‑‑ there was no question.¬† It was probably the worst I hit all week.
Q.¬† Keep going.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Worst shot I've hit in a long time.
Q.¬† Four down to Tiger Woods with eight holes is a pretty daunting prospect.¬† At that point did you have to change your mindset and play more aggressively?¬† Did anything change in your game?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† No, not really.¬† I was very, very, very frustrated with No. 10.¬† I mean I had a good number on my second shot and I made a horrid bogey.¬† I missed a three‑ or four‑footer, whatever it was.
At that point I was just trying to regather, kind of get back into my process, and there was no change.¬† I mean I was maybe a little bit aggressive on 13, but actually ended up in a good position.¬† You know, I made some putts.¬† I made a good one on 11, bounced back from the bogey, really good one on 12.¬† 14 I made a good one, and then I hit some close shots coming in the stretch.
I put myself into good numbers, which was nice, you know, where I could be aggressive. ¬†And specifically on like 16, you know, going for 11, that kind of thing.
I didn't think I was ever out of it, but I was just trying to plug along and make a few putts, and fortunately I did that.
Q.¬† Zach, you seemed really relaxed and loose today.¬† Did that help going head to head with Tiger coming down the stretch?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah.¬† I mean you know, everybody talks about going head to head with him.¬† I mean you want to play with him and you want to be with him coming down the stretch on a Sunday.¬† I mean that's just what you want as a competitor.¬† That's what I want as a competitor.¬† I mean I want to play against the best.¬† He's the best I've ever played with.¬† And I want to put myself in that position.¬† I've been in it, I don't know how many times, twice here and a handful of times on TOUR.
I like playing with him.¬† He's a friend.¬† He seems to bring out the worst and the best in you, you know.¬† But I love that.¬† I'm going to learn from it, and I learn from him, once again because he's the best player that's ever played in my opinion.
You know, it's nothing more than that.¬† I mean I'm just trying to compete.¬† I feel great out there.¬† Like you said, if I win, I win.¬† If I lose, I lose.¬† That's kind of simple, but that's kind of the way I approached today.¬† I just like to compete and being in those situations where you get into holes have you to execute, you have to hit a shot.¬† And that's just fun, even if you shank it.
Q.¬† When he hits his second shot into the bunker again in the playoff, does that change your mindset at all with your shot?¬† I mean did you get a little less aggressive maybe with it?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† You mean in regulation?
Q.¬† No.¬† In the playoff.¬† When he puts it in the bunker.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Oh, yeah.¬† I was five yards closer, I think the second time around, yes, five yards, because I hit a 9‑iron instead of an 8‑iron.¬† So I mean I hit the shot I was trying to hit in regulation.¬† You know, it didn't cut much, which is fine, but I was trying to just stay left of the hole, and you know, nothing more than that.¬† I'm not going to go at the pin.¬† If I do, it would be on accident.¬† You know, but there was no mental change.¬† Even if he would have stuffed it, I'm still trying to go left of the hole and if it cuts, it cuts, that kind of thing.
Q.¬† Tiger talked about missing a lot of putts, and he didn't make many today.¬† Early in the round when you weren't able to capitalize on that, was there any frustration on your part thinking if I can make a couple here I can maybe put a little more pressure on him?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† No.¬† I didn't give myself great opportunities.¬† I had a look on 1, just trying to make a par on 2.¬† You know, really good save on 4, good putt on 5.¬† It wasn't like I was hitting eight‑footers for birdie.¬† I mean I had, you know, a poor putt on 9 and maybe even 7.¬† But no.¬† No.¬† I was just still playing.¬† I mean I didn't have‑‑ I wasn't knocking down pins or sticking it until the Back 9.¬† So I wasn't frustrated at all.
I mean as a matter of fact, I thought I was‑‑ 1‑under through nine was probably about as good as it should have been, frankly.
Q.¬† We had the final World Challenge here at Sherwood.¬† There was a record crowd today.¬† Tiger was right there on the cusp of victory, and then the best putter of probably this generation misses one.¬† Has there ever been a more awkward win?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Awkward?¬† For me?
Q.¬† On your end, yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† No.
Q.¬† Do you need a police escort out or is it okay?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Let's not get any ideas floating out there, Doug.¬† I mean yeah, it's not the way you want it to end.¬† I mean you want to end the tournament with someone making a putt.
I say that, but I've been in the situation and missed putts, too.¬† So you gotta take the good with the bad and somehow they even out.¬† But you don't want to see it like that, especially when you hit a really good sand shot.
I had a strange feeling about that sand shot.¬† I mean I really did, considering the previous, in‑regulation shot.¬† And he hit a great shot.¬† It didn't have as much spin as his first one did.
But you know, he played great.¬† I mean you said it.¬† I don't think‑‑ he didn't make as many putts as I did.¬† That's all it really was.¬† Today.
Q.¬† I mean this is a Tiger who's never had to play the way you do, or Furyk, or Justin Leonard.¬† How much pride do you take out of a career that this far, 11 wins, I think, a major, the Ryder Cup teams, you've cracked the Top 10 in the world for the first time.¬† How much pride do you get out of that, in this era?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah.¬† I mean I'm proud of that.¬† I mean, you know, I feel extremely blessed to have‑‑ to play this game in this era, to play against Tiger, to play against these guys.¬† I feel like I am a product of the guys that have helped me.¬† And that's really‑‑ I know I've got something inside of me that drives me.¬† I love the competition.¬† I love being in difficult situations and having to execute and that sort of thing.¬† I like when you get somewhat in contention, I like getting after it.¬† I've always liked that.¬† Doesn't matter what sport it is.
But I say all of that, and I don't feel like‑‑ a lot of these guys, like the guy today, I may not be as talented in some regards, but I know what my talent is, and I know my limitations and I feel like I know my game.¬† So if it's good enough that week, that day, then great.¬† If it's not, I'll just keep working.
And there's room for improvement, certainly on a left‑to‑right downhill lie with an 8‑iron in your hand.¬† I can improve on that.¬† But I'm going to enjoy that work and I'm going to try to keep getting better.
Q.¬† Zach, sort of along the same lines, you've called Tiger the greatest player ever.¬† You said you want to get in these situations with him.¬† Is there more of a sense of pride or accomplishment beating Tiger in this way as opposed to beating somebody else?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah.¬† Absolutely.¬† I went head to head against the best.¬† At one time there was a couple of guys that were lurking.¬† I mean they were up there ‑‑ I didn't really stare at the board too much, but seemed like they were trying to make a push.
But absolutely.¬† I mean as I said on the putting green, there's a reason why young guys‑‑ he's their idol.¬† He's their Jack Nicklaus.¬† He's the guy that's paved the way.¬† He's the one that keeps pushing the ceiling higher and higher and he's the one that keeps raising the bar.¬† If he stays healthy‑‑ hopefully he does‑‑ there's no telling what he can do.
The guy never ceases to amaze me.¬† What we witnessed early 2000 through, what, 2007 or something like that was ridiculous.¬† And who's to say he can't do it again.
So yeah, I'll take pride in the fact that I played against the best, and I got one.¬† I means he's gotten a lot more than I have, so hopefully I'm in that position again and I think I'll learn from today.
Q.¬† You got Team Zach together right before this week and you guys were all out here.¬† Was this part of the plan to get together this week and figure everything out and win?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yes.¬† The latter part?¬† Yes.
No.¬† Usually the plan is to try to meet in October or early part of November and try to get things situated, but it just didn't work out because of schedule.¬† We were all down in Carlsbad area and met and all my coaches.¬† We put a good‑‑ rehashed the year, tried to strategize for next year.¬† And coming into this week, we were just trying to get ready for next year.¬† I mean I've got new irons in the bag that I'm still getting used to.¬† Pretty evident.
But you know, a new 5‑wood in the bag.¬† That was that Titleist 2 on Monday.¬† Trying to get my bag situated so that when I hit '14 I'm ready to go.¬† Playing well here is just an added bonus.¬† I mean it really, really is.
Last year I think I finished second here two years ago, right?¬† Last year I think I finished last.¬† Top 20, but I finished 18.¬† (Laughs).¬† So you know, I'm just trying to get the proper clubs in my bag, proper ball and hopefully I can get some momentum for next year.¬† That's really all it was.
Q.¬† After you holed out on 18 and Tiger got his par to put it into a playoff and you guys shook hands, what did he say to you?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† I mean what you'd expect.¬† He said, "great playing."¬† We both said that.¬† Right?¬† He said, "what's wrong with the middle of the green?"¬† You know, which is exactly what you should say.
But I mean he was very gracious, as he usually is.
Q.¬† Jason Dufner tried to petition Tiger to get all 36 holes each day so you'd go to the SEC Championship game.¬† Were you trying to petition him to get the tournament back here one more year?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† That would be nice.¬† That would be nice.¬† I mean I love this place.¬† I love this golf course.¬† I've got two seconds and now a win.¬† So I love Sherwood.¬† But in saying that, you know, the point and the reason why we're here is because those are Earl Woods scholars and that scholarship fund, so maybe to travel a little bit would be good, just to get to the East Coast and showcase what this foundation is all about and certainly what Greg and Tiger and everybody is doing.
I think it's a great thing.¬† I've played Isleworth.¬† To my knowledge that's where we're going next year.¬† It'll be a phenomenal test.¬† This is one of those tournaments that this time of year it doesn't matter where we play as long as it's further south.¬† But it's just fun.¬† It's fun playing with your buddies.
Q.¬† And you'll miss what most about this place?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Well, I like this part of California.¬† I'll miss that.¬† I'll certainly miss this golf course.¬† I like it because there's a lot of risk‑reward.¬† There's a lot of strategy involved in where you hit it and how you hit it.¬† I don't feel like it favors the longest guy necessarily, so I like that.¬† And I've got some friends out here.
All that being said, I'm going to be three hours away from home by car instead of five hours by plane.¬† So hopefully I'll get the invite next year.
Q.¬† The hole‑out on 18 is probably going to be a big Youtube viral type thing.¬† Any idea ‑‑ I know it's a little soon ‑‑ but where that shot is going to rank in your career highlights?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† It's probably No. 1 recovery shot.¬† Yeah, it's going to be up there.¬† I mean, you know, I don't know where it will rank.¬† I can think of a number of shots that I had to execute and I came through.
I would say the Presidents Cup one this year was a big one.¬† 15.¬† I think we were three up with four to go and I made it from the fairway to win the match.¬† I mean that kind of stuff.¬† That was big.¬† Plus I got an extra two‑and‑a‑half hours of sleep as a result of that shot.¬† And that's no embellishment.¬† If we'd have had to go to the 16th hole, we wouldn't have finished.
And obviously some shots I can remember in tournaments I've won, there's been a handful here and there.¬† Ryder Cups, there's been a handful, just executing shots down the stretch.
But you know, hitting that shot there, if I'd have hit it to a foot, it would have been a great shot.¬† I'm trying to make a 5 and hopefully just get in with a 5.¬† That's what you're trying to do.¬† It looked like I teased the hole on 16, and 17.
Q.¬† You said the one on 16 looked even better.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† I thought it was going in, too, from my vantage point.¬† 17 looked like it had to be at least within a foot.¬† So whatever.¬† Maybe I was due.¬† I don't know.¬† 60‑yard shot.
DOUG MILNE:¬† All right.¬† Congratulations.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports