What they said: Zach Johnson

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October 06, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: McGladrey Classic transcript archive

JOHN BUSH: Zach Johnson joins us here in the interview room at the McGladrey Classic. Zach, you know, it's been a whirlwind week for you, but you're here at a special place. If we can just get your comments, first and foremost, about being here at this first-year event.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I'm very, very, very excited to be here. It's very strange. I flew in yesterday, landed about 6:00, and I'm driving down the road right over here by the airport, as you guys have seen, and I'm like, there's goes James Nitties and there goes Aaron Baddeley. It's just strange seeing those individuals in my hometown.

But it's great. I mean it's great for a number of reasons. Obviously for me personally it's my backyard. It's a place that my wife and I have decided to root, a place where we've been here for almost two years. And it's probably been one of the best decisions we've ever made together, just because of the people, because of the area, because of what it offers. And we just see ourselves being here for a long time.

Based on the fact that you have this event here, which is, you know, it's part of my family, McGladrey. First brought them down here almost two years ago, I guess, and they just started to fall in love with the area, just did some entertaining with some of their clients and some of their executives, and they just -- I mean as you guys have witnessed, those of you who have not been here, it's a pretty special place. So they wanted to showcase their brand at a very unique facility. And you know, that with the addition of certainly Davis Love and his foundation and all that he does for golf and has done for golf and will do for golf just makes it an even better situation.

So I'm kind of rambling, but I got a lot to say. Despite the jet lag, I am extremely, extremely excited to be here, and excited to play tomorrow. I mean today for sure, but tomorrow I got a pretty awesome group. So I think this is -- you know, this is the inaugural year, but I think the buzz has started and will continue to spread, and this place, this tournament and St. Simons will get -- it's just going to be a great week.

JOHN BUSH: Zach, before we open it up for questions, this past week, one that anyone associated with golf will not soon forget. Just comment a little bit about the experience.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, anytime you can experience the Cup, anytime you're associated with a time like that, you want to be associated with it to a degree every year. And fortunately I've been on some teams now, and this one was just as special as the other ones. Granted, it's a little more fresh right now on my mind.

So it was an honor and privilege to obviously represent our country, but also to be led by Corey Pavin, I mean a friend of mine, a guy that I have the utmost respect for, both professionally and personally, you know, I think he did a terrific job, and so did everybody else associated -- we call them vice captains, Paul Goydos, Tom Lehman, obviously, the assistant captain and certainly Davis and those guys, and their wives for that matter, did a great job.

Getting us over there they did their part, and you know, our team, all 12 of us fought really, really hard. We went into it as a team. You know, we won some matches as a team and we lost some matches as a team. And you know, unfortunately for us the Europeans played just a little bit better, and that's really what it boiled down to.

JOHN BUSH: Okay. Questions.

Q. Zach, win or lose, the matches you played at the spot in the singles lineup that you played in and then knowing what happened afterwards when that thing was coming down to one point, I was just wondering, win or lose, was it still a thrill to be a part of the emotion at the time and everything and is that something??

ZACH JOHNSON: Uh-huh.

Q. You know, you really wouldn't trade for anything at this point??

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, you know, trade.

Q. Except for the victory.

ZACH JOHNSON: With the exception of the obvious, yes. I mean it was great drama. It was great sport. It was a great competition, and to be associated with it was, you know, pretty special. I can tell you specifically with my match -- was it second-to-last? Second-to-last off, right? 11?

Q. Right.

ZACH JOHNSON: So obviously I got off to a good start and I played really well yesterday, or whatever day that was, Monday. And honestly, I was just trying to get off the golf course so I could go watch. I mean that sounds ridiculous. I'm telling myself stay in my match, stay in my match, stay in my match.

But I missed a short putt on 14 and I three-putted 15 and whatever. But yeah, the drama coming down and the way it unfolded and seeing some of -- you know, just seeing the board change so much during the day was just unbelievable. It was blue, and then it was kind of red and really blue, and then it went to really, really red. So it was just, you know, we told ourselves, you know, the previous night, don't get caught up on the board because -- don't get caught up on the roars, especially, because they're never as big as they seem, which is true. I mean every time you hear a lot of roar, I look at the board and I'm like, well, it can't be that big of a deal.

Granted, they won some matches, but bottom line is we hung in there and fought hard and just came up, like you said, a half point short.

Q. You know Hunter.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah.

Q. How do you think he's going to bounce back from, you know, the scrutiny that he received over the last closing holes, and obviously, you know, the chip that everybody focusing on and how is he going to bounce back from that in your eyes??

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I hope he hasn't received any scrutiny. If he has, I think it's completely ridiculous because I think he played like a champ.

One, he wanted to be there, which I think Stewart probably put it the best, he polled the TOUR or both Tours for that matter, 50 percent -- maybe 50 percent said they would want to be there and less than 10 percent would actually mean it.

To aim for that position is a feat in itself. I mean he was down in that match and he came back strong. So my point being he deserves no scrutiny. At that point you got so much on you. Essentially hit one bad shot as far as I'm concerned, and you know, it's one shot. So it's irrelevant.

But he gained a point with me in one match, and frankly he carried me that first match. So he deserves no scrutiny.

How do I think he'll respond from that? I think he'll be fine. As I told some of the rookies before and after, these Cups just seem to -- you know, regardless of the outcome, or what the outcome shows, you're going to be better from it, regardless if you hit quality shots or execute -- or won matches, you're going to be better from it just because you're called on demand to execute at all points in time.

And I don't know which one of the Europeans said it, but it's essentially like you're hitting -- you're in contention in a major every shot, to an extent. That's kind of what it feels like. So I think Hunter's going to respond well. I mean he's one of the most talented players on the PGA TOUR, one of the most talented players I've ever played with. And just because he's been in that situation, you know, whether -- you know, win or lose, I think he's going to be better off because you can't replace that experience with anything. You learn from your mistakes. You learn from your successes. I think you learn more from your mistakes, and I'm not saying he messed up because he didn't. But you learn more from your trials. Let's put it that way. And he was tried, hard.

But you know, as a team we wanted him there because he's Hunter Mahan. You know, he is a thoroughbred on the golf course typically.

Q. Zach, after everything happened last week and all that pressure, coming back home to this event, is it almost going to be like a vacation this week? I mean is it going to be really some pressure-free golf that you can play knowing you're staying in your own bed and all?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, in that regard, yes, definitely. I mean I want to focus. I mean I want to win. There's no question about that. But yes, I mean I'm going to approach this week as if it's any other, but the nice thing, as you mentioned, is it's a home week. I'm sleeping in my own bed. I've got both my children here at a tournament for the first time in my life, so that's pretty special.

And there's a lot of friendly faces, family that are coming in. So it's going to be a great week. I think just the fact that I've been with McGladrey now for just over four years, and just seeing how their golf platform has kind of morphed into this, I never would have dreamt it. I mean it's pretty cool.

So I'm happy to be associated with St. Simons. I'm really happy to be associated with the McGladrey Classic, and just ecstatic that I'm able to sleep in my own bed and play golf.

JOHN BUSH: Let's recap your year for us. 18th on the Money List. You won at Colonial. Just comment a little bit about your season up to this point.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. 2010 was very good, certainly more positives than anything.

You know, to compare it to '09, you know, there's probably some statistical numbers there that, you know, you're not seeing as far as Top 10s. I probably wasn't quite in contention as much as I was last year, but for the most part I felt like this year was almost as good. I didn't miss many cuts. I'm not sure what the total was. A couple maybe.

I put myself in place to get in contention on the weekend, which is really what's important. That's really what I'm trying to do out here. And I feel like my golf game's getting better.

So obviously getting the win at Colonial was huge. It came after -- I think I had an off-week, but the week before that was down in San Antonio, and I played terrible. So you know, I just kind of reevaluated, and since that week I've really played solid golf. I don't think I've missed a cut, and you know, just getting myself in contention in a couple of cases. And specifically Whistling Straits, I had a chance there. So you know, a lot of positives, and I'm encouraged obviously for this week, but more so for the off season and 2011.

Q. Zach, what are you going to work on in the off season? What areas do you feel like not so much improvement because, you know, but just enhancing things a little bit better? I know you're never really truly happy with your putting unless their all going in.

ZACH JOHNSON: Uh-huh.

Q. But do you want more distance? Do you want to hit more fairways? What's going to be a priority in off season?

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. Yes and yes. Okay. I mean I'm never content with anything. I mean statistically I'd rather hit the fairway, but I want to get more accurate, and I certainly want to hit the ball further. There's no question about that.

I mean hitting the golf ball further, it's my understanding and my knowledge, based on my coaches and the guys I trust, it's going to come from -- I've gotta increase my speed and I've gotta increase my strength. Obviously technology won't hurt.

So you know, it's a combination of factors there, but it's not going to be much. I mean we're talking about a couple yards here, a couple yards there. So that's not going to be an emphasis.

I think for me to get better it's going to be polishing the areas that are good, but polishing the areas that kind of need it, specifically my scrambling and my chipping and putting and that sort of thing. My putting has always been pretty solid. My ball striking for the most part kept me going early on in the year and my putting was lagging, and then it's surfaced. When both are on, I can compete obviously.

So my emphasis is and always will be a short game. I mean we evaluate at the end of the year in the fall, my coaches, we have a summit, if you will, and really break numbers down to see where I can make improvement and for me to get to the next level and consistently get to that next level, what do I need to work on, and it seems to boil down to wedges and putting.

Q. What part of your game plays well at Seaside??

ZACH JOHNSON: Wow. You know, I played here two weeks ago, I guess it was, just to get kind of -- see the cut lines and get a little more acclimated with the course. Quite honestly, I haven't played this course more than probably a handful of times. Just seems like my off week, I'm practicing and not playing.

But this golf course specifically, there's some rough out there now when the ball drops. So I think my driver is going to be important, or tee shots in general. And then, you know, kind of knowing where to miss the shots, too, because these greens are fairly undulated, and there's not a whole lot of rain in the forecast, thus it's going to be dry and fast. So you know, it's being opportunistic with getting the ball in the fairway and getting on the appropriate side of the green.

They're a little bit green, but they're perfect speed wise. So I'm not too worried. I mean they're going to be fine. I mean just give myself opportunities on the green, I think I can do some damage.

JOHN BUSH: All right. Zach, thanks for coming by. Play well this week.

ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.

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