MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS Championship transcript archive
JOHN BUSH: Zach Johnson joins us here in the interview room at THE PLAYERS Championship after a 6-under par 66. Zach, great playing out there. If we can just get some comments on your round.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, thank you. It was pretty solid. I got off to a good start, which certainly kind of gives you a little bit of confidence, a little bit of momentum, especially with my putter. I never really gave the golf course much; in other words, I kept it where you need to keep it. My misses were proper. I was aggressive when I could be aggressive. And I caught a couple nice saves in there, too.
But when you shoot that kind of score around this golf course any day in the year, or any week, you're putting well. Clearly that's what I've been doing the best.
JOHN BUSH: Take us through that back nine. Great playing, just one bogey there on the last.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I hit a good tee shot on 10, hit a 9-iron on 10 to-- that was a pretty big putt. That had to be at least 15 feet, probably closer to 18 feet.
Hit two really good shots on the next hole, driver, 5-wood, and I had probably-- I was in the back middle of the green, I don't know, 40 feet for eagle, -ish, and two-putted.
12, I thought I made it on 12, too. I walked it and it lipped out.
13, I hit a 6-iron, cut a 6-iron and it landed into the slope and released down there to a tap-in range. So that was a bit fortuitous.
The next hole hit a good tee shot and hit a 7-iron to about three feet probably, landed it four paces into the green, and it stops about three feet. That was a nice break there.
16, I hit a good tee shot. I hit a cut 3-iron to about 15 to 18 feet for eagle. Didn't hit a very good putt there. I hit it solid, but it was a misread. And then made birdie.
Yeah, and then 18 I missed about a-- I don't know what it was, five- to seven-footer for par. Hit a good putt, though.
Q. Have you always been of the belief that your skill set fits this course, and what do you think has been maybe any stumbling blocks to you performing better here in the past than you have??
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I've had a couple decent finishes here. I remember the year, actually I played with Fred Funk on Thursday and Friday the year he won it, and we both played well. I think I shot 5-under and he shot 9, and I played 17 and 18 probably-- I don't know what it was, but it was like 6- or 7-over, 7- or 8-over. It was ridiculous.
I feel like the golf course is good for my game. I think it requires-- some of the young guys that haven't played here ask me what's the key here, and anyway, you've got to putt well. That's a given. But I think the key here is getting the ball in the fairway. The greens are small, the fairways are narrow, so you've got to get the ball in the fairway to control your spin into these greens because they're so firm.
Fairways are typically one of my stronger aspects of my game. I tend to hit quite a bit of fairways. So given that, I like that premium. I like knowing that I have to get the ball in the fairway, and everybody else does, too.
I don't think I've played great here for four straight days. I played really well last year on the weekend. I probably finished right around 9th to 12th last year.
Q. Thursday was your tough day last year.
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't remember. You know better than I do. Did I shoot a high score?
Q. Well, you were doing good until you got to 17 and 18.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's right. I hit a good shot on 17-- I hit a wedge like 155 yards. Yeah, I like what this golf course requires, and I think it does suit my eye. You've got to hit it both ways. It requires-- I think it separates the field as good as any course.
Q. Since Texas, you have been consistently making cuts left and right, left and right, but you haven't won. Why have you been so consistent since Texas? Basically from the last two years--
ZACH JOHNSON: So you're talking since 2010, yeah.
Q. You have been making cuts left and right. What has been consistent in your game to get you to that point but not break through and get that win??
ZACH JOHNSON: I think my first answer is everybody is really good, and that kind of sounds stupid, but they're really good. The young guys are really, really good. The medium aged guys, which I consider myself, are really, really good, the Tigers and all the 30-somethings. And then the veterans are playing well, too. I can't really give you a better answer.
I haven't been in contention since 2010 a ton, probably a handful to 10 times if you want to-- I don't know what your definition of contention is, but having a chance going into the back nine I'd say maybe 10 times since then. But I just haven't followed through with it.
I think if you're going to look at one aspect of my game, my putter has just really become more consistent. I know it seems like everybody says I'm a good putter and I appreciate that, but I feel like it's really made progress even since 2010. I putted really, really, really well at Colonial, but I hit it really well, too. You have to do both out here, there's no question.
But yeah, the consistency I'm really proud of. That's what my coaches and I strive for. We're trying to stay in the moment and continue just to work to get even more consistent. And I've made a lot of cuts as a result.
You can't climb the board unless you make the cut on the weekend. I don't know how many I've made, but I don't think I missed one this year.
Q. In the last three years it's been less than 10.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, so there's a lot-- there's certainly positives in that regard.
Q. Is it frustrating, though, to be that consistent yet not get a win or a top 10 more consistently??
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not necessarily. I mean, because I know winning is so difficult, that and the fact that I won six times in '07 to '10. I know what I did then, and I putted really, really well. So it's not that frustrating because these guys are really, really good, and I wasn't sharp enough.
If anything it's a positive. I know what you're getting at, but the fact is I haven't won because my game hasn't been overly sharp, and I know that. But I've had chances.
If I can continue to give myself chances, the more and more you put me in that position, I think the better I'll become. I guess I hate-- I'm trying to be-- this may not sound -- I've played in every arena. I've seen everything. I've got some experience, so I feel like I can do it if I'm in that position. I love being in those positions. I love being in position coming down the stretch to have to make the cut. I don't dislike that. But I certainly like being in contention on the back nine.
Q. You told us a little bit about what you like about this golf course. What do you dislike about this golf course??
ZACH JOHNSON: Whoa. I don't overly like shots you have to hit left to right. I tend to draw the ball naturally, so my straight shot might fall a little bit left. But with any sort of wind and firm conditions, you can't be overly aggressive, therefore you have to be able to hit it both ways.
That's the first thing that comes to my mind. I prefer to just hit a standard draw every shot, but you just can't do it. I think that's the sign of a great golf course frankly. You have to hit every shot. Anything else I don't like? Wow, that's hard right there.
Q. Any tee shots, any holes??
ZACH JOHNSON: There's a couple tee shots that are a bit scary. I don't like the tee shot on 1. I don't know what the fairway percentage is there for guys, but it's hard. The fairway kind of slopes right to left, and you feel like you've got to hit a cut because it kind of goes at an angle. So I've never really liked that one. I hit a weak cut today there but managed to catch the fairway.
Particular tee shots? I don't like the tee shot on 8, the par-3. I feel like it's almost like a dogleg right par-3. You've got a tree that overhangs on the right, and that's why I don't like it. I mean, it's a perfect draw shot, depending on where the pin is, but if I start it too far to the right or hit it a little high, I'm going to hit a tree.
I've got very, very, very few dislikes. And I will say it's in the best condition I've ever seen it, no question about it, especially the greens.
Q. Would winning this tournament be a bigger deal to someone who already has a major as opposed to somebody who hasn't won a major, or do you think it would be equally important or welcomed by a guy in your case or somebody who hasn't won a--
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if I can answer the second part. I don't mean to be arrogant, but I have won a major. I don't know about the guy that hasn't. I'll tell you this: I think this tournament is huge. I mean, I think-- I know who's won here the last so many odd years. Maybe not in a row. But my point is if you ask me who won a random tournament on TOUR the last ten years, I don't think I can tell you, but I can tell you who's won here, and it's because-- it should be a major almost. I think it is. I mean, it is in my mind. It's one of my favorite tournaments, and I think the TOUR and certainly all of us players hold it in high regard. I know you all do, too.
Maybe time and history will prove it, but I think this tournament is as good as it gets.
Q. You basically said that a lot of the young people have been coming up to you, young golfers, what do you need to do here, keep it in the fairway. Somebody like Rory who struggled out there; last week, phenomenal, this week, going home. Somebody like that, is it just as simple as keeping it in the fairway for somebody who really hasn't played here that much??
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I do think this course-- it's not like Augusta, but in some regards it is like Augusta because it's a huge tournament. We play Augusta every year. We don't play the same U.S. Open venue or Open venue or PGA Championship. We play these two venues every year, so the more and more you play it, the more experience you have here, the better off you'll become, knowing just where not to hit shots, knowing where to land shots.
I'm not saying this has anything to do with Rory. I will tell you right now that Rory is arguably the most-- well, the youngest phenom I've seen since-- Tiger is not young because he's my age. As far as all-around game, the kid is phenomenal, so I can't say that.
But yeah, I just think the more and more you play this place, the more and more you appreciate it and respect it, and once again, knowing where not to hit it.
JOHN BUSH: Zach, we appreciate your time. Play well this weekend.