What they said: Zach Johnson

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December 03, 2009
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Chevron World Challenge transcript archive

DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Zach Johnson in to join us for a few minutes here at the 2009 Chevron World Golf Challenge. Thanks for taking a few minutes with us. Just start off with kind of a little bit of a recap of a great year in 2009, another great year. You won in Hawai'i right out of the gate, and then your third round 60 in Texas, obviously some big feathers in your cap there. Just talk a little bit about the year. You really finished strong. You had a strong finish to the '09 season, which has kind of got to put you in a good frame of mind heading into the off-season. If you could just build off of those comments a little bit.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, frankly you said it. '08 was not great. The end of the year was fine. I mean, I managed to get a win in there. But for the most part it wasn't great. Coming into the '09 season this year was -- we had some pretty lofty goals if you want to call them goals, and it just required a lot of focused practice, and that focused practice fortunately went onto the golf course during competition, and I think that's really what took me to another level. Statistically it was probably my best year. However, statistically it can improve, and I think that's encouraging.

I'm excited for '10 and beyond. There's still a lot of room for improvement and still a lot of things that I want to get done. But things are going the right direction. I've got a great ensemble of coaches and support, so I'm looking forward to the future.

DOUG MILNE: You didn't finish out of the top 20 in your last four events. That being said, how important is an event like this to kind to continue to gauge on how you're playing?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, what I like about these events -- well, this one in particular, but even these so-called -- do they even call them "silly season" events anymore? I don't know. I mean, really, I'm being honest here when you say they're so good as far as the talent that's playing in these and just the quality of the field and the quality of the conditions and the competition that if you have the advantage or the luxury of playing in these things, it's great going into the next year.

I took some time after The Presidents Cup. I played Disney -- I have a three-year-old so I played Disney, and then if I'm able to play in something like this, especially in December, because I think it really kind of -- I don't know if it's catapult, but takes you into the next year from a competitive mode quite well. I mean, I like -- you need to take time off. You've got to schedule time off, there's no question about that. But I like staying in that competitive mode or getting into that competitive mode before the next FedEx starts, if you will.

Q. Can I get your reaction to Tiger's statement that he released last night/early this morning admitting, using his words, transgressions??

ZACH JOHNSON: My reaction? I thought it was unfortunate. I think it comes -- the first thing that comes to my mind now is it's certainly a private matter. I think it's a matter that the Woods family just needs their time together and allow them to get through it. I can't relate, can't speak -- I've never been in that situation, but I think the one thing that comes to my mind at a time like this is that I think -- my belief system is it's a time for forgiveness and a time for putting things aside and trying to become better people. That's what I think myself.

I try to put myself in that situation and say, you know what, he's a friend of mine, I forgive him, I hope they get through it, and if I can be of any support, I'm here.

Q. What do you think about his ability to bounce back image-wise because he's had such a controlled image throughout his entire career, and do you think it's taken a hit??

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I think his image is very, very, very good. I think he does a great job at what -- what he has to go through on a week-to-week basis, day-to-day basis, and I think if his image is like his golf game, his golf game never ceases to amaze me.

Q. Can you talk about, first of all, your original reaction when you heard -- I heard that he was in serious condition and it scared the heck out of me.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, you know, I never got to that point fortunately. I heard the next thing, that he was released on his own. That's what I heard first because I was in -- Thanksgiving I was with my in-laws in Po-dunk, Florida, OK, so I didn't have a whole lot of service going on. We were watching football, and the first thing I saw was the ticker, I guess it would have been -- was it Friday? Yeah, Friday. So it was one of the things where it was kind of jaw-dropping, but at the same time the first thing I read was that he's fine. And that was the first thing that I heard, and also, granted, that was the first thing I felt. I'm like, I'm just glad he's okay. I'm glad he's okay for himself, for his family, and certainly for the game of golf.

Q. My follow-up to that was are you concerned at all that this is going to affect the game of golf and the image that it has??

ZACH JOHNSON: No, I think our product is -- I think it speaks for itself. I think it's a game of -- we're able to showcase great talent out here. I mean, it just so happens that the best, most recognized athlete in the world plays our game, and I think that's a positive. And I think the other individuals that you see on Sundays are in that light, as well.

I don't foresee it being a detriment. Like I said, I think it's an opportunity for forgiveness and an opportunity to realize that we're all human and we all make mistakes. You know, it's just something you've got to get through.

I want the man to play golf. I mean, I want to play against the best, and he is the best. Yeah, I look forward to many bouts, hopefully late on Sunday.

Q. Even if we were to agree this was a private matter for Tiger, I mean, is this sort of -- as someone in the public eye, for all the players on the PGA TOUR, is this sort of a reminder of what's at stake in terms of how you carry yourself in the public eye??

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I mean, it's a private matter. My belief is, you know what, my behavior and my attitude on the golf course can affect other people's opinions about myself or maybe even golf in general. So I'm always trying to keep that in the forefront of my mind any time I mess up. I make mistakes, there's no question about it. I've done some things and said some things on the golf course that I wish I would not have done.

Most people think I'm pretty stoic out there, which I can see that, I can understand that. At the same time there's a lot of fire in me, and I make mistakes out there, too. So much of what we do is magnified under a fine microscope, and that's just the way it is. I've come to terms with that.

You know, I think -- especially this game has grown so much, and when you're talking about growing, you're talking about kids. Yeah, I try to hold that in high regard. I realize that my actions and certainly my attitude out there can speak even more than what I say. You know, that's the beauty of golf, though, too. It's such a high integrity, gentlemen's game.

Did I answer your question?

Q. Can you talk about what you have done or what you will do to get ready for next year with the new grooves, and how much of a difference do you think it'll make next year??

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. Right after The Presidents Cup I put them in the bag. I just figured -- my 9-iron through whatever on up -- or on down, to my long irons, have been conforming anyway. I play Titleist equipment, and they've been conforming. My wedges were not conforming, so after The Presidents Cup I put the new grooves in play. There's differences. It probably rolls up the face a little bit more.

I played them at Disney, which was a good test, I think. I actually played pretty well there, I hit it really good. I didn't have many shots where it was that evident. I think where it's going to become evident or significant is intermediate cut and rough, especially inside like 50, 60 yards. I didn't have many of those shots. I don't want to say it's going to be easier because it's not going to be easier. There's going to be less control involved.

However, the one thing that we had in '09 and previous, prior, with the square grooves, you'd get these certain lies in the intermediate cut or the rough whether it's questionable whether it was going to jump. Now it's not questionable; you know it's going to jump, it's just a matter of how much it's going to jump. I mean, it's not an advantage, it's just the way it is.

30, 40 yards kind of flop pitch shots are where you're not going to have any control -- or as much control, minimal control. But it puts more of a luxury and more of an emphasis on hitting the fairways.

Q. You're talking about a rough that's like this, and it's already been talked about at Augusta. What kind of impact do you think it'll have there, and would it surprise you if the course shrunk a little bit? If it becomes the factor that it might be, like you said, that the course might shrink a little bit more over the next couple of years?

ZACH JOHNSON: Shrink as in distance? I hope it does. I can say that about any course, though.

I mean, the grooves at Augusta, it's not really rough, it's an intermediate cut, right? We'll all agree with that? The difficult thing at Augusta, every shot you have, whether it's 30 yards off the green or 230 yards off the green, you're always hitting into the grain. Your ball is sitting -- even if it's in the fairway, you're hitting into the grain. There's no bounce off the turf, it's more of a dig. And when you're in the intermediate cut, what it's going to do is it's probably going to roll up the face even easier, which is going to make it a little bit harder to judge.

I mean, I don't think the grooves are going to be any more or any less significant at Augusta in the rough. Now, on the greens you're going to have less spin, and it's going to release more on hard greens. But that's -- Augusta doesn't always have the hardest greens every year. There's courses like Colonial, Augusta, U.S. Open, where the greens are firm, and you're playing shots that typically don't release much, and now they're releasing forever -- excuse me, that already released, and they're going to release even more.

But yes, I would like to see it shortened.

DOUG MILNE: Zach, as always, we appreciate your time.

ZACH JOHNSON: My pleasure.

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