What they said: Johnson Wagner

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January 17, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Humana Challenge transcript archive DAVE SENKO: We would like to welcome Johnson Wagner to the interview room. Johnson won last week's Sony Open in Hawaii. That was his third PGA TOUR victory. With that, Johnson, maybe just reflect back on last Sunday and with your third win.

JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, first of all, I'm really excited to be here in the desert. This has been one of my favorite stops to come forever. I played two Q Schools here and this will be my fifth Bob Hope I guess I should say Humana Challenge.

The Bob Hope Classic has been such a special event, it's nice with the Clinton Foundation, the new sponsorship, it's really exciting to be here. I love the new format.

And last week was obviously real special for me and I don't think it's quite sunk in. And I'm, I got back to work today and am looking forward to a good week and a lot of celebration when I get home next week.

DAVE SENKO: Just, obviously, things have taken off with the mustache. Maybe just talk a little bit about that. It's taken on a life of its own in the last couple days.

JOHNSON WAGNER: I have, unfortunately, I kind of wanted to see some of the Golf Channel coverage, everybody's been telling me it's been pretty good, but I've been pretty busy the last couple days catching up with family and stuff.

It's amazing that an awful mustache like this could garner so much attention. It's pretty funny. All the trouble I've been getting for it for the entire winter and now I'm, now it's kind of defining me, but it's cool and I'm excited for the attention.

Q. Do you regret growing the mustache??

JOHNSON WAGNER: Not at all. I, honestly, it's weird to say this, but I don't know, who knows how it would have played out, maybe I would have won Kapalua, but I obviously don't think I would have had as much confidence as I have had for the last couple weeks if it weren't for the mustache.

Q. Obviously the goal every week when you tee it up is go win a golf tournament. But what is winning so early in a year do to maybe change your focus or expectations for the next nine and a half months??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I'm in the Masters now three months ahead of time which is incredible. I can't wait to I think my brother's already planning trips for us down there. We fortunately know a couple people that are members there. So we're planning those trips already to go get some practice rounds.

I'm in the PGA, I'm in Firestone, I'm in a lot more events that you can kind of hope to be in. I think it set me up into a position to actually achieve some of my long shot goals for this year. Like playing on the Ryder Cup team and stuff like that.

I think I was on Morning Drive this morning and I said something like I'm so proud to be an American and I can't think of any better way to show, I just can think of anything better than to play for my country on a Ryder Cup team for me personally. I guess the Olympics would be cool, but the Ryder Cup is where it's at. And that's a good focus and now attainable for me.

Q. The commute from Honolulu to here is not easy. Can you go through the travel schedule from Sunday evening on??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I had some stuff to do media room and some volunteer stuff and members at Waialae and had fun and maybe had a couple glasses of wine, maybe a beer or two as well.

And then we my caddie and I hopped they gave us a car, we hopped into a car, went back to the hotel, got our stuff and basically just bolted right for the airport. Didn't sleep much on the red eye, it was a 9:30 flight to get here. And we drove from L.A. over.

It was, he drove, we both were kind of falling asleep at the wheel the whole time, but we got here. And I crashed yesterday morning and slept for three or four hours and got up and went and played nine at La Quinta Country Club. So it was not the exact celebration that you would like, but it was fun and I think I'm more prepared to be here now.

Q. You mentioned you've enjoyed playing here. This is your fifth time here. The last two years though you missed the cut. You mentioned the format. What about the changes in the format from five to four days from four courses to three??

JOHNSON WAGNER: Coming from Honolulu, I remember it was always tough to start on Wednesday. Especially my rookie year which was, which I played great here. I finished 12th.

But you come in and you get in Monday, you're basic dead all day and you got three courses to learn in a day and a half or four courses. It's very challenging.

And I like playing with amateurs, I like pro ams, they're fun to me. But for four straight days, getting three new amateur partners every day, it's very tough to get to know people.

And I like the format now with another pro, fortunately I got a great pairing this week with someone I look forward to spending three days with and that we can have fun with, Robert Garrigus. And we can, we can have fun with the two amateurs every day, get to know those two guys, the two guys the next day.

I think it's better for the amateurs, I think it's better for the pros, hopefully pace of play will be better. And five rounds is a lot of golf. So I think that four rounds is going to be a great great change for the tournament this year.

Q. You were talking about trying to make the Ryder Cup team. Are you planning to play in Europe at all??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I've had one opportunity in the last couple years to play in Europe and that was the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October and went over there with another American guy, J.J. Henry and a couple American amateurs invited us over to go play. And it was I'm proud to be an American, but the European Tour does a lot of things really well. I had so much fun.

We stayed in St. Andrews, the people were incredible. The golf courses were I'll never complain about tight fairways again after playing St. Andrews. Those things are like playing off a cart path. It was a different kind of golf. I would love to play in Europe. I've always wanted to, I just haven't had the opportunity to.

I guess I could write for exemptions and stuff, but trying to keep your card over here kind of keeps you stuck in the U.S. Not that that's a bad thing.

Q. Have you ever played in the British Open??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I never played the British. I tried to qualify over here the last couple years, didn't get to last year because my wife was having a baby two days before, so I didn't try to qualify last year. But I tried to qualify for it three or four times, I'm just not very good at 36 hole one day qualifiers.

Q. Can you talk about how hard it might be to build on the momentum or how easy??

JOHNSON WAGNER: When I won previous tournaments I've celebrated hard and had definitely a lull for awhile. And I feel like I've got much better perspective, I can celebrate when I get home next week, that's why I'm taking a week off and had planned on it the whole time.

And I'm just excited to work hard this week, I got a short game instructor here that we had planned on getting together this week about two months ago, he's here, so we have worked hard the last couple days and we'll work hard again tomorrow.

I'm just excited. It's fun. I'm in a position that I've never been in and I'm excited to get better and hopefully now that the pressure's off a little bit, maybe I can perform better on a more consistent basis.

Q. Your mustache. What's been the funniest reaction??

JOHNSON WAGNER: It's pretty easy. On Sunday at the Sony I didn't really hear anybody say anything until we got to 17 green and I heard a couple saying, "Fear the stash" or something which was kind of creeping me out a little bit. But I liked it at the same time.

But then we were on the 18th tee box I was getting ready to hit and someone said, I wasn't over the ball or anything and someone said, "The 1960's called, they want their mustache back." And I looked over at my caddie Matt and we just started chuckling and it lightened the mood considerably with the tournament on the line on the 18th hole. It was pretty funny.

Q. In your previous four appearances here did you ever play with a celebrity??

JOHNSON WAGNER: No, never. Well I played couple holes with Samuel L. Jackson in a practice round. Alice Cooper a couple holes. But not during the tournament.

Q. Would you like to??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I think I would. I think I would. It would be it's different. I'm, a lot of people come and say, oh you can just have fun for a week, but I'm at a golf tournament, I'm here to work and I'm here to try to play as good as I can. And it seems like sometimes the celebrity rotation kind of it's more about the celebrities than the golfers, which is great. But I would, if the opportunity presented itself, I would love to be in that rotation.

Q. With the kids here could you talk about how you got started in the game and what advice you got when you were a young kid starting to play the game that maybe you could pass along to them. They're all from the First Tee here.

JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, first of all, I do a little bit with the First Tee back in Charlotte back home and I think it's just one of the most fabulous organization in the world. They give kids the opportunity to play golf, which has given me so much and taught me to become the person that I am.

Golf is such a gentleman's game, it teaches you how to act right, it teaches you how to treat other people and be respectful. And so I have tremendous respect for the First Tee and what they do.

And my, I grew up playing golf with my brother. We played in Texas, we lived there and played at a country club. We lived in Nashville and played at public golf courses. And I've been to private clubs, public clubs, and it's just having someone to go out and spend that time with, like my brother, and I think it was our parents' baby sitter growing up.

I just loved going to play golf and I've never been like a real teacher or mechanical oriented guy and I think the best thing is just to have fun and play golf.

Q. How does it feel to play on a real golf course??

JOHNSON WAGNER: On a real golf course? It feels incredible. You walk out on these fairways here at PGA West and not a blade of grass is out of place and the greens are fast and everything's perfectly manicured and it's, we get very spoiled playing on the PGA TOUR because every week is perfect. The conditions are great. We're treated like royalty.

I remember the first time I played on just a beautiful golf course, it was, it almost took my breath away.

Q. Do you feel confident playing here??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I do like playing here. I've played I've had some really good rounds here in the past and the golf courses are so good and it's generally no wind, so it really gives you a good opportunity to work on your golf game and not worry about outside elements too much.

I love the winter time here in Palm Springs, La Quinta, I don't think there's a better place in the country, except maybe Maui or Honolulu.

(Laughter.)

Q. Why did you throw the golf ball over the tent when you were in Hawaii??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I had thrown it in there earlier in the week on Friday. And I had chipped in and made eagle and I threw it into the same side of the tent and I was trying throw it up higher in the grand stand and I think I was a little fired up after making an eagle there and it just got away from me.

Someone said today that there was no receivers open so I just threw it away, I was making a conscious quarterback decision. Even though I under armed it.

Q. How does it feel to win??

JOHNSON WAGNER: There's no matter what stage if it's a junior tournament or an amateur, college or professional on any sort of level, there is no greater feeling and I don't know about other sports so much, individual sports, but for golf, there's nothing like winning. It's indescribable.

Q. Have you ever got a hole in one??

JOHNSON WAGNER: I have. Never in a PGA TOUR event, but I had a couple in some practice rounds. I think I have seven or eight right now. Seven maybe. I showed know that.

Q. How many hours do you practice on a daily basis??

JOHNSON WAGNER: It depends. I like to play. So if I can play golf in two and a half hours with a 30 minute warm up, then three hours. But if I'm just going to go out and hit balls maybe for an hour and a half or two. I think if you start to practice for too long it becomes unproductive. For me anyway.

Q. How long was the longest you've ever practiced before??

JOHNSON WAGNER: Without playing? Maybe I hit balls and chipped and putted for a total of five or six hours straight. Four or five hours maybe. Not that long. There's I think Vijay can go for 10 or 12 hours, it's not quite my style. But I have played 54 holes in a day many times, so that's a long day.

DAVE SENKO: All right. Thanks, Johnson.

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