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March 25, 2014

Zach Johnson


DOUG MILNE:  All right.  We'd like to welcome 2008, 2009 Valero Texas Open Champion Zach Johnson.
Zach, thanks for joining us for a few minutes.  First start since 2010 here at the Valero Texas Open and you're certainly coming into the week with a lot going for you, two official PGA TOUR wins this season and also the playoff victory over Tiger in the World Challenge in December.  No. 9 in the FedExCup standings heading into the week.
With all that said, I'll turn it over to you for some comments.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I'm excited to be playing this week, excited to be back.  Been a couple of years since -- more than that.  It's been four, five years.  But you know, my family has always loved San Antonio.
It's one of those things it really just fits in my schedule this year with slight rearranging.  I haven't been back since the first year and I've heard the golf course, one, is in tremendous shape and, two, slightly softened.  So I don't know if it needed much anyway.
I'm excited to see it.  I'll see it this afternoon.  But, you know, Valero has been tremendous for the Tour, certainly tremendous for this event in San Antonio.  All the more reason to come back.
DOUG MILNE:  With that we'll take a few questions.

Q.  Zach, obviously over LaCantera, it was great for your game.  Coming over here that first year, had some mixed results.
Did you kind of fall out of love with the tournament, with the new course?
ZACH JOHNSON:  No.  I didn't necessarily fall in love with it.  Anytime you change venues when you have success there's going to be a hesitation, I guess you would say, right?  Yeah, I liked LaCantera.
Was it a phenomenal golf course?  No.  But it was good for me.  I think it's still a good golf course.  You can shoot a low number there.  I don't know if that makes it good or bad but you can shoot a low number.  You had to shoot a low number.
This TPC here is certainly, probably, more of a challenge.  It's probably a better golf course tee to green and around the greens.  But, I didn't fall in love with the tournament nor did I fall in love with the golf course.  I have to go back and look.
I shot 4-under the last day, my last day, Friday.  I made four birdies and the day previous I was searching a little bit and I think I shot 80.
DAVE SENKA:  You did.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Thanks, Dave.  Either 6 or 7, putted the 13th hole.  I got really frustrated and started playing hockey with the golf ball.  But it stopped every time before I hit it, just to clarify.

Q.  That was a par 3, the 13th?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, front pin.  Hit it to the back of the green.  I made a 7 or 8.  But I was on the green in regulation.  That was me.  Just putting demons, I guess you would say, right?
But, you know, having a nice rebound on that Friday was actually really big because I took the next week off -- I don't remember what was after this week that year, probably Dallas, and then I went to Colonial and won.  I remember that 4-under I posted on Friday was great momentum for Fort Worth.
Going back to the subject, no, I've never fallen out love with this golf course.  I think it's been tremendous what San Antonio has done and certainly what this tournament is doing.

Q.  What have you seen now?  I'm assuming you've gotten out on the course?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I have not.

Q.  What have you heard maybe different?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Like I said earlier, I think I heard it's been softened a little bit which is probably good.  I don't know if it necessarily needed it that much.  A couple holes here and there needing a slight massaging.  It sounds like they've done that.  I'm anxious to see it.
Probably going to touch them all today because of the forecast tomorrow.  So, yeah, I'm excited just to go see what this course has in store.
But, you know, from what I remember it's pretty good.  With any sort of wind, these greens, like carpet right now, they're so good right now.  It's going to be a good golf course.

Q.  So your decision not to come back last couple years --
ZACH JOHNSON:  Strictly scheduling.

Q.  At the same time, Zach, you have to have pretty good feelings about this city and having won here twice, even though it was a different course.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Sure.  Absolutely.  Yeah.  That's what I tried to mention.  I love this city.  I love the people.  I've done a couple speaking engagements and charity-type things with the tournament over the years.
So, yeah, it's been great for myself and my family.  We've always liked it.  I've actually got my niece and nephew here on spring break.
So, you know, we're not going to bring them to a place we don't particularly care for or aren't fond of.  Yeah, granted, the J W and the resort here certainly adds a lot to that.  This place is pretty spectacular, especially if it gets 80 degrees.

Q.  You've won several times on Tour.  How do the ones at LaCantera kind of rank?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I don't know if you can rank them.  My favorite one is always the next one.  I don't know -- I'm hoping there's a next one.  Don't want to get too ahead of myself there.
It's the truth.  I don't take any win for granted.  I don't take any win with a slight.  I mean it's just hard.  It doesn't matter what tournament, what time of the year, what course, it's just not easy.
Granted, you talk about Augusta and a Major and the Masters, that one is going to stand out for obvious reasons but, outside of that, they're all great.  I mean I'm not going to get -- I can't get too sentimental on one or two wins.
The one in '08 in particular because I had a bad '08.  I think I played in the first FedExCup event.  That was the second year for the FedExCup, right?  The first FedExCup event?  I didn't qualify for the next one.
I think I had two, three Top-10s going into it, nothing substantial and just needed a revamp.  So I took six weeks off.  My first week back was LaCantera.  I had no expectations that week.  I had negative expectations that week, they were so low that it kind of freaked me out and I played great.  That was a big win as far as just adding some momentum and certainly adding some confidence with some of the polishing and tweaking that I did.

Q.  What was the year that you had just missed a 59, was it that year or the next year?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I cannot remember.  Because those were in about a six month period.

Q.  I think it was the same year you had the playoff.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Once again, that's not going to help me (laughter).
DOUG MILNE:  Driscoll and Goydos?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Sabbatini was up there.  I know I played Driscoll in a playoff.
DOUG MILNE:  Yes.  That was '8.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Okay.  That sounds right.  The first one sounds right.  No, that doesn't sound right.  Maybe it is.  Because I remember I had my parents there and I remember my dad witnessing the 60, or did he witness -- I can't remember.  I honestly don't remember.
You have to go back and look because, like I said, they were in a 6 month period, 5 month, 6 month, 7 month period.  It was in the Fall Series of '08 and then it went into the spring of '09.

Q.  I think it was the second one.  I'm not for sure.
ZACH JOHNSON:  I've shot so many 60s in my career it's hard to keep them in -- (laughter).

Q.  Kind of a general question from a golf sense.
What are you afraid of, whether it be specific shots, types of shots or shots at courses?  How often do guys deal with fear and how do you overcome it?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I get jitters on certain shots, you know, but it's always certain holes and conditions, you know, it's never -- I don't fear situations.  Does that make sense?  Anything, I probably go the other way, I probably get overly excited and anxious.
There's holes, like 18 at Doral.  You got to pucker up there.  That tee shot stinks even if it is downwind.  If I hit -- the shots I fear would be like a 300-yard carry.  I can't do it so I shouldn't fear it.  Enough said about that.

Q.  Is the thought process any different over a daunting shot?
ZACH JOHNSON:  It shouldn't be.  If you just -- I'm working really hard on trying to make each shot the same, you know, each shot is not any more or less important than the next or the previous.
So, just going through my circle and just trying to, you know, good routine, good looks, great rhythm.  That's really all it is.
Yeah, I mean, like I said, you get jitters every now and then and coming down the stretch of a tournament I don't really get fearful if I'm in contention.
Like I said, I get more -- I get excited and anxious.  It's always try to breathe and pay attention to my, I guess my cadence and the way I'm kind of processing things.

Q.  Tremendous year last year.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Thank you.

Q.  I think you started this year winning the Northwestern; is that right?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Northwestern was in 2013 technically, I think.
DOUG MILNE:  Tiger's event.

Q.  You beat him in a playoff.  I mean that give you some nice momentum?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  It led into the next week which was Hyundai which I won.  So, yeah, I mean any win gets you I think -- I think breeds confidence and confidence can breed momentum.
It really for me, it started I'd say the summer of last year at John Deere.  I lost in the playoff that week.  I played really good that week.
Up until that point I think I had maybe one or two Top-10s.  From that point on -- I would have to go back and look -- seven, eight, nine, in a row, something like that.  In contention a number of times.
I never came through and eventually I broke through and won the BMW in Chicago.  It really started in the summer and bled into the fall, obviously into the winter, too.

Q.  How is your game right now?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Feels good.  It's a matter of kind of letting it happen.  I tend to overanalyze at times.  Going to try to play with some freedom and hit shots.  I mean just be athletic and hit shots.  I'm getting a little analytical at times.
I was in there in Doral going into the last 9 holes and then really -- well, you know what down my leg (laughter).  I don't need to clarify that anymore.
I feel good about everything.  The week before that -- I didn't play great last week.  Honda was a great week.  Outside of the 11th hole I'm right in contention.  Lot of positives right now.

Q.  Are you playing next week, too, going into the Masters?

Q.  Is this kind of a tune-up then?
ZACH JOHNSON:  There's never really a tune-up.  There's never --
Q.   Just playing.
ZACH JOHNSON:  How the schedule unfolds, yeah.
DOUG MILNE:  How much is Augusta on your mind?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, at this time of year it does enter.  Trying not to dwell on it too much but I think it's natural.  You got to embrace it and, you know, I will really be focused on Augusta next week in my prep week.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about some of these young guys.  I think Jordan Spieth is here, he's had an incredible start to his career.
What do you think of him and his game and you got to stand the test of time, of course, but he's off to a flying start?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Unfortunately he's really good (laughter).  Fortunately, he's a really good kid.  So, I expect big things out of him for a number of years.
I know Jordan real well.  We played a lot over the last ten months, dualed it out at John Deere and then obviously in the Presidents Cup Team together and I got to know him pretty well.
We've got a teammate, physio guy we both see so I spend sometime with him and he's a kid that's way more mature than his age, both on and off the golf course, specifically on the golf course.
I can't wrap my brain around that at 20 years old, I don't remember, that doesn't compute, you know what he's done and where he's going and what his resume -- I can't understand that.
Granted, I was a junior in college or a sophomore, junior in college trying to break 75 everyday.  It's pretty remarkable.  I don't like to put unnecessary pressure, undue terms on anybody but he's borderline phenom in some regards.
He's very consistent, too, which is -- that's the part.  Maturity and the consistency.  I'm assuming Tiger was a lot like that, probably Phil at that age, maybe Justin Leonard, those type of guys coming out of college.  I can't wrap my brain around that.

Q.  Do you think he has the maturity to handle all this at that age?
ZACH JOHNSON:  I think he has already.  So, yes.

Q.  Can you just kind of talk about what it's like going down Amen Corner last on a Sunday in contention, how it's different than contending at other events, the feel of that?
ZACH JOHNSON:  Yeah.  I mean it's -- well, it's a great feeling.  You know, I didn't necessarily know that I was in contention, I didn't leaderboard watch at that point.  It was too early for me.
I saw it on 3, the 3rd hole and I didn't look at it until 16 tee box.  So -- you can kind of tell just based on the way the crowd is reacting -- excuse me, the patrons are reacting (laughter).
Amen Corner you got to hit quality shots regardless whether it's Thursday or Sunday.  If you're in contention on Sunday you got to execute and the best shot I hit all week was certainly my second shot on 11 that nobody is really going to know about.  I want to forget it.
It was a 3-iron off a right to left lie.  I had to cut it around a tree into a right to left wind.  You know, just hoping it got on the green.  I hit it to like 25, 30 feet.  At that point, you're trying -- I couldn't see the pin.  Whatever.  I will never forget it.
It's a shot that's so random but most people, they don't have any idea the situation at hand and obviously 11 is daunting.  It's daunting regardless of where the pin is.  That was one you just hit in the middle of the green.  I hit it probably 40 feet, two-putted.  13 I made a birdie.
They're all difficult shots and shots that you just got to commit and embrace.

Q.  Any telling roars or anything from the crowd where you could tell somebody has done something?  It was cold then.
ZACH JOHNSON:  It's hard to recollect.  Walking up 14 I knew I was close.  I made a putt on 14 for birdie.  I'm going down 15 and I'm getting ready to hit my 3 shot.  Hit my 3rd shot on 15 into the par 5 and I had to back off because there was this crescendo of a roar on 13.
I didn't see it, obviously, but I knew exactly what happened.  It was Tiger hitting his second shot, landing on the green, rolled down to two, three feet, had a tap-in for eagle.  One of those roars you just know what's going on even though you don't see it.
So, that was the one that stood out.  I obviously made a putt on 16, 15, 20 feet for birdie on 16.  That was really loud directed towards me.  I wasn't accustomed to that at that time.

Q.  After backing off on 15 and after the loud roar on 16 --
ZACH JOHNSON:  I was gathering myself at that point.  Damon and I walked off 15.  I made par on 15.  I walked off 15 and I said, "Damon, I think I need to know where we are, what's going on behind us."  "We got a couple."  I'm like, "Okay.  What the heck does that mean, are we two down, two up?"  "We're two up."
Okay.  Even with Tiger's, I was like, okay, let's keep doing what we're doing.  I hit great shots coming down the stretch.  17 I made a bogey but I hit two great shots and three-putted.

Q.  Zach, want to get your thoughts on the growth of this event in terms of the field that it seems to draw from year to year.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Well, I mean, you know, as far as labeling fields, I'm not a big fan of that, never have been.  They're all good.
I know there's names people want to see here and there that don't necessarily play every week.  One, we can't play every week, two, everybody is really good.
So, I mean I don't know the history of the depth of the fields.  I'm probably not the one to ask in that regard because I think each year every tournament is great and I was talking to some buddies about this probably two, three weeks ago.  There comes a point, especially this time during the spring going into the summer, where it's hard to take weeks off because every tournament is so good.
It's just about scheduling.  It's about managing your off time as much as your on time.  So, you know, I don't think it's a slight towards a tournament or a sponsor or anything like that if the guys aren't playing.  It's just scheduling.
When you have -- especially when you get in the summer, you got four Majors you got to plan around.  It just becomes difficult.  You can't play every week.
I'm assuming based on your question that the field has grown or has gotten better as far as the media takes it, I guess you would say.  I don't know.  I think they're all good.  I don't base my schedule on who is playing and who is not playing, never have, never will.
But if it has grown, that's fantastic.  Doesn't surprise me in the least.

Q.  Having Phil here helps.
ZACH JOHNSON:  Phil is playing?  I had no idea.
DOUG MILNE:  Zach Johnson is playing.  Thanks for your time.
ZACH JOHNSON:  My pleasure.

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