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January 6, 2014

Zach Johnson


THE MODERATOR:  We’d like to  welcome our 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner, Zach Johnson.  Zach, it was a tough day.  Lot of people jockeying for that number 1 spot, but once you got the lead, you held on to it for a while.  Were you ever comfortable with that lead or were you still nervous on 18?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, I had some nerves.  But I felt pretty comfortable the entire week, but even specifically the back nine.  I thought I was in control of my golf ball.  I felt like I was in control of my putter.  And I thought Damon and I had a good game plan and hit some quality shots that certainly helped, but I think quality putts that helped even more.

Q.  How do you learn to win as a golfer?  How did you learn to win?
ZACH JOHNSON:  That's a good question.  Well, first and foremost, being in contention multiple times helps, because you're going to fall apart at some point.  You're not going to win every one of them.  I say being in contention, to me, being in contention is not even necessarily the back nine, but I'd say the last four to six holes, you know, when you're two back, two up, what have you, that's being in contention because so much is going to happen.
So with that being said, I think what I've learned in the times that I haven't come through and I'm in contention, if you will, I'm not doing what I was doing to get into contention.  So, in other words, just keep doing what you're doing.  Try not to make the shot any more or less relevant than the next or the previous.
I just think it's about really just getting down to where your golf ball is in that situation and what do you have in front of you?  Now you've got to certainly play your way around and avoid the big mistakes and that kind of stuff, but that's the same thing you do on Thursday.  I'm just doing what I felt like the back nine today was not any different than my back nine on Thursday.  I felt very natural, felt very comfortable.  I felt at peace out there.  There was nothing more than just hitting shots.  It felt great.

Q.  Being an efficient closer, can you really learn that or is that just something you're born with?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, wow.  I don't know.  I've always liked the stories, I've always liked the teams and the individuals that are kind of coming from behind, that are not supposed to win.  Those always intrigued me in sports.  Competition intrigues me more than anything.  But the competitive aspects of sport that really drive me are those situations where Wichita State makes the final four, you know?  George Mason and Butler almost wins a national title.  I love that kind of stuff.  I'm not a fan of them, but you catch my drift.  I love seeing the underdogs.
I'm not saying I'm always an underdog, but I kind of feel like it.¬† If anything, I put myself in that posture where I feel like I'm an underdog.¬† I didn't like putting myself in a two‑shot deficit posture, but sometimes that's the way it works.

Q.  I know you're probably past the point where you need a confidence boost in your career, but beating Tiger a month ago, does that help in that department?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Sure.¬† Yeah, I mean, I think any win brings or breeds confidence.¬† I guess I'm a month removed from that, so I didn't practice probably as much as I would have liked.¬† However, I didn't feel like I needed to, because I thought I was in pretty good form coming into this week.¬† So, yeah.¬† Anytime you beat the number 1 player in the world or one of the best players to ever play or arguably in a field of that depth.¬† I know it's only 18 deep, but talent‑wise, confidence comes from it.¬† Hopefully it breeds it and it breeds momentum.

Q.  I remember you said prior to that week you met with your team for two days and worked on some things as far as stats and what you need to work on.  What did you talk about there?  What did you learn?  Obviously, it's helped you win twice since then?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't know if I learned anything different than I have in years previous.  It's just those team summits really start to magnify and pinpoint aspects that we can really attack in my game.
There's been years where I'm going I want five to ten extra yards up the tee.  I think that's going to help.  There have been years where the only focus has been putting.  But now there are about three or four stats that we can kind of cater to with drills, and that's what I'm trying to do.
My time and effort and energy goes into two or three drills on the putting green, two or three drills on the ball striking, some scrambling, and then that's it.  The team summit is not a whole lot when it comes to the mental side.  That's kind of peripheral.  It's certainly discussed as well.
It's just a great way for me to end the year, talk to my guys that I trust and trust me and get somewhat of a direction for the next year or even the next quarter, I guess.  That way we can really get after it.

Q.  Let's go back to Wichita State for a minute.  Who was your underdog or comeback thing in your formative sports years as a kid that you remember that stuck out for you?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Growing up in Cedar Rapids, I'm an Iowa fan, so it seems they're always an underdog too.

Q.  Still are.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Thanks, to some degree.¬† It depends on the sport, wrestling.¬† But you know I think of like the years with college football and college basketball.¬† Those are my two passions.¬† I'm not talking just Iowa.¬† I mean, Drake in '08 when they made a run.¬† That kind of stuff.¬† It just fuels me because I love seeing those, for lack of a clich√©, David and Goliath kind of things.¬† I can't‑‑ you know, the one that comes to my mind or a bunch come to my mind.
But everyone's talking about teams that are making their run in the Elite 8 to the Final 4, but it seems to me Gonzaga was one of the first, and then there was a Davidson in there, and I just love seeing that.

Q.  Even though you look like David, you're starting to turn in some Goliath type results.  Can you still look at yourself as that?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I'm going to try to.  I'm going to try to.

Q.  Are you?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Currently I am.¬† I still have that vision, yeah.¬† I guess part of it is that I feel like‑‑ granted, we're talking about two tournaments.¬† The last two tournaments where I beat 17 guys and 29 guys, so little perspective there too.¬† Not full‑field events or full‑field tournaments.¬† But also come the creme de la creme so to speak too.
So I definitely feel like I've put myself in a place that this is a little foreign to me.  You know, some of the numbers I'm not exactly comfortable with or have never been to, meaning top 10 in the world, that kind of thing.  But I'm also a realist.  I know this game at some point could beat me up again.  So I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing.  Try to keep things very simple.
I don't want to cluster my golf game even though I'm playing great.¬† Now there's going to be, and you guys know, there are going to be more media requests for me in the next couple weeks, and that's fine.¬† I can deal with that.¬† I dealt with that in '07, I dealt with it in '10, and '11, I can deal with it.¬† So those peripherals, I'm used to.¬† But winning a lot of golf tournaments in a row or multiple times in a four‑month stretch, I'm not that accustomed to yet.¬† I hope I can get more accustomed to it.¬† I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal, like I said because I'm going to try to keep things as simple as possible.
It seems to me the best players in the world that I've witnessed and watched, they don't play as much as I have in the past, but when they get to the golf course, they do the same exact thing, and that's what I'm trying to do.  I'm going to try to keep doing what I'm doing.

Q.  Only one guy has ever won here with as much as a 74 on his round list, and that was Jordan in '05.  He did it in the first round.  What was the main difference between yesterday and today for you?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yesterday I got golfed.¬† I didn't feel like I played that bad yesterday.¬† I hit two errant tee shots and I didn't capitalize on some holes.¬† I three‑putted for par on a hole.¬† 16 bit me.¬† 14 really bit me.¬† Just two misses that you just cannot have.¬† I probably got ahead of myself there.¬† I probably wasn't enough.¬† I was probably thinking too much about the outcome.
I got a text from Dr.Mo that it looked like I was being a little more analytical than I typically am and not athletic enough especially on the putting green, because I had opportunities yesterday, I just didn't capitalize.  Today I had a lot of opportunities.  Some I did capitalize on, some I didn't.
But being athletic over the golf ball, especially on the putting green is kind of something that I'm continuing to work on.  I think that was the big difference between yesterday and today.

Q.  Obviously this place is known as favoring long ball hitters.  But can you talk about how you really broke this golf course down and what shots?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Sure.¬† The winds we had, with the exception of Friday, were consistent Trades, I guess.¬† North by northeast, maybe a little east in there at times.¬† That's a good win for me on this golf course.¬† I can get home on two of the par‑5s.¬† I mean, I'd never hit anything more than a 5‑iron into number 4‑‑ 5.¬† I hit 7‑iron in there yesterday.¬† So that's rare for me.
Then the first day, 9, I made an eagle and got home in two there.¬† But the wind was different.¬† So I took advantage of the par‑5.¬† I didn't bogey any par‑5s, and that's key.¬† Out here you can make a six pretty easy on a par‑5.¬† But going back to what you're alluding to, getting the ball on the fairway and getting my wedges a chance was crucial.
There were a couple holes today I wanted to hit driver and hit 3‑wood.¬† I knew I'd still get a 9‑iron and a wedge in my hand and I could attack it.¬† Specifically holes like 13 and 14.¬† 14 I hit driver every day with the exception of today.¬† But I knew that front pin, even if I got the ball on the fairway, 30 to 40 yards short the of the green, brutal pitch.¬† So I went with the four shot and still made birdie.¬† So that was key.¬† It's about plotting my way.¬† Putting myself in a yardage spot that I know is going to give me an opportunity.

Q.  You talked about the difference between yesterday and today.  How much motivation did you get out of yesterday?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, a lot of time.¬† I was not very happy about yesterday.¬† I tell you what I was really happy about, actually the last two holes I hit solid shots, and I think that kind of carried into‑‑ I know I didn't have a great birdie opportunity on 18, but I misjudged the wind and the yardage.¬† I hit quality shots that gave me momentum coming into today, and I got off to a great start today.¬† I had a good look on 1, just missed it, chipped in on 2.¬† That really catapulted it.¬† But 3 I missed a four‑footer for birdie.¬† So I had great opportunities early, and it just kind of continued.
I think 17 yesterday was kind of my turning point.  That bogey on 16 really just kind of shook me up and woke me up.

Q.  Fish tacos good?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Fish tacos don't hurt ever.  I recommend them.

Q.¬† 8 of your 11 wins have been come‑from‑behind now.¬† Why do you think that is for someone who appears to be so comfortable with the lead?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I don't know entirely.  I like fighting back.  I like trying to fight to get to that win.  I think the main reason is because there are so many good players out here.  So even though I might be playing as good as everybody else or potentially even better, it's just hard.  I mean, a bump here and a roll there, that's what this game is all about.
But I'm comfortable there.  I don't mind having to do that.  I hope there is an opportunity where I have a significant shot lead that I can maintain at some point, because that hasn't happened very often.  I think my first win I had a lead, and I think I only won by a shot.  So the one thing my wife continues to say is why can't you just make it easier on us?
Sorry, Honey, but it's just hard.  There are too many good players out here.
I had a 3‑shot lead going into 18 at Colonial.¬† Is that my second time I won, I think?¬† Yeah, second time I won.¬† But I had a ball marker mishap, so I barely snuck that one out too.¬† Just little things like that I've got to try to alleviate.

Q.  If you have a wedge in your hand and a good lie and good number and accessible pin, what do you consider to be a good shot, inside of ten feet, inside of three feet?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I consider a good shot one where I've picked out my target, I've committed to the yardage, I've hit it essentially at my target and landed it where I thought I should land it, and it ends up with a birdie opportunity.  That could be 15 feet in certain conditions.  It could technically be 20.  But 15 feet, it could be a foot.
Distance from the hole is not a measurement for me as far as a quality wedge shot.  It's just that's not part of the equation.  Getting those opportunities, continuous opportunities inside 15 feet, specifically inside 10 feet, you're going to make some.  You're going to knock on the door and make some, and that's what I'm trying to do.  I think Stricker probably does it the best, but I know my wedges aren't bad.

Q.  Can you talk about the chip on 15 and how you pulled that one off?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yeah, especially after yesterday.¬† That one was‑‑ I felt good over it.¬† It's hard.¬† The grain is rolling into you.¬† I mean I had 37 yards to the hole.¬† Probably playing 40 of the uphill.¬† Grains are rolling into you on your lie and on the green, so if you just missed it a little bit, it's coming back at you.
Typically on a 37‑yard pitch, you're not generating a whole lot of spin, so you're thinking I've got to land it 30 to 32.¬† That's one where I got 37 holes, playing 39, 40, I'm trying to hit a 40‑yard shot.¬† The front of the green is the pin.¬† If I hit it too hard, then I've got four or five feet‑‑ excuse me.¬† Three to four paces behind it.¬† I've got nine to 12 feet.¬† I can accept that.¬† I mean, I hit a great shot.¬† But I expected it to be 4 or 5 feet past the hole.¬† It just stopped.¬† It's landing into the grain.
And granted Dustin hit right before I did, so I had somewhat of a look at it too.  Doesn't make that shot any easier though.

Q.  Hit before you twice.  First time was a totally different shot.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Oh, Dustin you mean.  Yeah, that was unfortunate.

Q.  I was wondering when you see the ball doing what it does so many times on that hole?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Talking about Dustin?

Q.  Yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, he's out of the rough.  I don't know what his lie was like over there.  His first shot was way more difficult than his second, clearly.  Yeah, not something you want to see when you haven't hit yet and it's a buddy of yours.  You don't want to see that.

Q.  14 to 16 was 12 any good or was that a good birdie?
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Was number 12?¬† 12 was great.¬† That's probably one of the best drives I hit all day.¬† I hammered it.¬† I think I had 80 yards to the hole.¬† 83 yards to the hole.¬† I was trying to hit it‑‑ no, I had more than that.¬† I was playing 83 and trying to hit a 70‑yard shot.¬† It was probably 13 to 15 yards of win.¬† I was trying to hit a 70‑yard shot, and I hit it two feet, foot and a half.¬† There you go.
Was it that long?  ShotLink's not that accurate.  That was two great shots right there.

Q.  I know you talked about how this game can slap you down in any minute.  But can you take just a second and try to imagine driving in that Dodge whatever car that was that you drove on the Hooters Tour?
ZACH JOHNSON:  It was a Dodge Intrepid.  I had two of them.  I upgraded.

Q.  To being here Top 10 in the world, 11 career wins, a major, six national teams, et cetera, is this kind of where you always expected to be or is this more than you would have thought?
ZACH JOHNSON:  This is more than I would have thought.  If somebody would have asked me going into my 11th season, if somebody were to ask me ten years ago, 11 years ago, it would have been more than I thought.
But the beauty of it is‑‑

Q.  This would have been more than you would have thought if someone asked you that ten years ago.
ZACH JOHNSON:¬† Yes.¬† We're sitting here right now, and who knows what you're going to ask me ten years from now.¬† Hopefully it's the same type of question, but I don't‑‑ those are the kind of things that are out of my control.¬† So I'm going to try to control what I can control.¬† And that is keeping my game simple and just keep doing what I'm doing.
But I never would have thought that.  I don't have dreams of that caliber.  I don't dwell on that kind of thing.  I just try to play and try to get better, because God knows I can get better at this game too.
I mean, 11 wins is validation that, one, I'm doing the right things at times.  Two, I've got a phenomenal team.  I don't want to make light of that situation.  I know I talk about my team all the time.  But that's because they need to get their dues.  They're phenomenal.

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