Greenbrier Classic interview: Johnson Wagner

July 06, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Greenbrier Classic transcript archive

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Johnson Wagner into the interview room. Johnson, you're the 54-hole leader at The Greenbrier Classic. You just shot a 64, you've got to be feeling pretty good I would think.

JOHNSON WAGNER: Feeling very good. It's always nice to birdie the last as well especially after having a bunch of good chances on the back nine that didn't drop. But the par putt I made on 13 sure seemed like an eagle when it went in. But I had a great day, drove the ball really nicely, felt really comfortable all day. Was nervous early, but I settled down with a couple birdies early and hit a lot of good golf shots today. I'm taking a lot of confidence out of some of the shots I hit, especially on the back nine knowing I had the lead. The shot I hit into 15 may have been the best shot I've ever hit, and then coming into 18 cut in a little 8-iron into the wind, just shots I didn't have two weeks ago that give me a lot of confidence.

MODERATOR: Let's take some questions.

Q. Tell me about your birdie putt on No. 9. I didn't see the ball, but it looked like from your reaction initially you didn't think it was going to go in?

JOHNSON WAGNER: It was a little bit of a right-to-left breaker. I think I pulled it a little bit and it hung in straight and caught the left edge and went in, and I was very excited that putt went in. I was kind of in a nasty divot in the fairway and I always love making birdies out of a divot. It's kind of a little challenge I have with myself not to get upset that the ball went into a divot, so I was excited to make that putt.

Q. How important was it to do that after that bogey?

JOHNSON WAGNER: It was important and I hit a really nice shot into 8 and left it short. I was kind of disappointed I didn't bounce back immediately with a birdie, but it was nice to recover from that one bogey going into the back nine.

Q. You said the other day that your confidence canturn quickly. Have you ever had it turn around quite this fast?

JOHNSON WAGNER: Probably not, but I think realizing that I'm a three-time TOUR winner and realizing that I can play really good golf, sometimes when you're playing bad, you kind of forget who you are and you get down on yourself. The last couple weeks I've just been trying to be positive and remember that I've won three times out here. It was my goal when I was a kid just to playout here, now I'm a three-time winner and I have nothing to lose. I've achieved pretty much everything I've ever wanted to in the game of golf other than maybe a major and the Ryder Cup, but I'm a little more comfortable with myself right now.

Q. Johnson, I ran into a Hokie fan out there who said he met you on Tuesday, I guess you signed a ball for his son, said, "I'm going to win this week." One, is that a true story, and two, if it is, did you really feel that way? Did you feel that confident coming in?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I don't remember saying that. It doesn't surprise me if I did. I think I may have told a couple people that. Yeah, I just have a good feeling here and the way I'm swinging right now, I know there will be a lot of nerves tomorrow, but I've got a really clear picture of what I'm trying to doon every swing. I don't know if that story was true or not though. I usually don't signautographs, so I don't know why.

Q. Johnson, do you feel more comfortable being over here at the Greenbrier? You went to Tech, you probably played over here a little bit. Do you feel pretty comfortable in the surroundings here?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I do. I've had a great week. My wife's parents are in town and her brother and his wife came in last night. It's not my family, but it's a close second. It's been real nice, we've been hanging out at our cottage here at the Greenbrier and it's great seeing a bunch of maroon and orange in the crowd.

Q. Johnson, after a string of pars yesterday, did you go after the course a little bit different today? Were there any minor adjustments you can make from day two to day three, anything like that?

JOHNSON WAGNER: My goal in the first round, I think I had made two birdies in my previous two tournaments at Hartford and AT&T, one birdie in each tournament in four rounds of golf. Wednesday I was just telling my caddie, all I want to do this week is make a bunch of birdies, I know I can make a bunch. That was my goal Thursday. I think Friday I really wanted to back up that 62 with another low round and just wanted them a little too bad, maybe was a little tentative with the putter. My goal starting today was just make as many birdies as I can.

Q. You answered this question in part, but you and Brendon love this place and love the course. How fortunate is it that it popped up in the schedule in the middle of all your struggles?

JOHNSON WAGNER: Very fortunate. I've kind of had this little three-week stretch pinpointed for a while as a place that I can turn my year around. Unfortunately my game wasn't in any position in Hartford, and I really liked playing at Congressional last week as well, it's a fun tournament. I'm happy to be playing well here. This has been a three-week stretch I've definitely had pinpointed for a couple months.

Q. Looks like you're going into tomorrow with a two-stroke lead. Aggressive, safe? Will you keep an eye on the leaderboard?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I tried not to look at it today, but there's so many of them out there it's hard not to see them. I peak every once in a while. I'll try not to look for nine holes tomorrow. You always know when you're playing pretty good, there tends to be more cameras on you if you're in the lead. I think we had three sets of them out there today for a while so I pretty much knew where I was. I'm going to try to be aggressive. If it's really windy, it may change not going at some pins, but I'm just going to try to make as many birdies as I can. The greens firmed up a little bit today, the golf course firmed up, which I love. This golf course when it's firm and fast may be one of my favorite places we play on TOUR.

Q. Johnson, you've obviously proven you can win out here. In the past how have your nerves been on the final day? I know at Tech you constantly were one of the lower scorers in the final round?

JOHNSON WAGNER: In Houston when I won in 2008 I was really nervous, I don't know how I managed to close that one out. I was shaking, felt sick all morning. It got a little easier at Mayakoba when I won in 2011, still very nervous. At Sony it was a weird feeling, I felt pretty comfortable after the first few holes. Hopefully -- I mean, last group on Sunday you're always going to be nervous, but I'm sure I'll be okay.

Q. Johnson, looking into the previous winners of this young tournament, what did you see that they were doing on the last day or have you even looked at that to help guide you through tomorrow?

JOHNSON WAGNER: I think the golf course has played so differently every year. I really like Scott Stallings' game, I like Appleby's game, I never played with Ted Potter. They're all good players obviously, but I don't think any of them play particularly similar to me so I probably can't learn too much from that.

Q. Can you talk first of all about your pairing with Jimmy Walker tomorrow?

JOHNSON WAGNER: Jimmy and I played together on the Nationwide Tour, I think he was No. 1 on the money list in '04 which was my second year out there. I've known Jimmy for a while, 10 years. Jimmy's a great guy, I really like his caddie, Andy Sanders. My caddie Matt and Andy and Jimmy, we all get along well, so I think it's a very comfortable pairing for both of us. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Number two, we asked you on Thursday about the mustache, if things work out right, does it stay gone?

JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, I don't like to deal in absolutes. I'm sure I'll grow it back at some point.

Q. Let's talk about your birdies if we can. Also,you talked about 13 being an important hole and 15 a great shot?

JOHNSON WAGNER: 1, I hit the fairway for the first time in the week, had a nice angle to the left pin. I honestly don't really like birdieing the 1st hole very often, I usually call it the 1st hole birdie blues, but I was adamant after I made that putt to not fall into that.

Then hit a beautiful 5 iron, one of the best shots I hit all week, into 3 back right flag on the Biarritz hole, made a nice little putt. 5, hit a nice wedge into seven, eight feet, made it. 9, like I said I was in a divot, I was just trying to fly it behind the hole and spin it as much as I could. It was probably about a 20-, 25-footer downhill. 10, hit a beautiful shot out of the left rough to about seven, eight feet. 12, went for the green from a little too far away, hit it just short of the green in a nice position, chipped it up to 10 feet and made it. 18, hit a really nice 8 iron, kind of a high cut into the wind and made a nice 12-, 15-foot putt.

Q. Talk about 13 and 15, you referenced both of those holes.

JOHNSON WAGNER: 13, the only shot I've hit like that all week. I guess I hit that tee shot off 1 yesterday but just kind of got stuck inside and blocked it out right.

Never looked like it was going out of bounds but it hit pretty high up on the hill and kicked down across the path to give me a shot to the green, hit it up there in the left rough. Not particularly a hard chip but it was kind of a squirrely lie and chipping out of squirrely lies is not my strong suit. I left it 20, 25 feet short and just nailed it up the hill. When I'm playing really well I don't like to give up on pars, so I just said never give up on a par and I made it. 15, the par 3, just hit a sky high cutting 7 iron right. at the flag. My caddie wanted me -- Matt wanted me to hit it left of the hole and I kind of gave him a look like, "You've got to be kidding me, this is a perfect pin, perfect club." So I hit it right at it, probably took a look at the hole when it bounced by, wanted to make that putt but it didn't go in.

Q. When you arrived at Tech, it wasn't a golf power by any stretch. You helped make it better. Did you ever imagine when you showed up there that you someday would be playing in front of legions of Hokie fans that want you to win a pro tournament?

JOHNSON WAGNER: No, never. I always dreamed of playing the TOUR, but Tech was really the only place that recruited me to play golf. We were Atlantic 10 my first two years. We were awful for two straight years and then Brendon came in my sophomore year and we started getting pretty good that year. Then the last two years we just took off. We had a great team, same starting five pretty much every week for two years. Those are some of the best times of my life, I love those guys and we had a ball there.

MODERATOR: Johnson, we appreciate your time. Thanks.