July 10, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and get started with someone that certainly needs no introduction, Zach Johnson.
Thanks for joining us for a few minutes prior to the start of the your 17th consecutive John Deere Classic; 2012 winner.
Part of that, seven Top 10 finishes, including a Top 5 finish last year. Obviously a place near and dear to your heart. Just a few comments about being back this week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, probably going to go back and look what I said last year, but I love it. I love everything about it. I love coming back to familiar territory. I love coming back to a tournament that means so much to me, a tournament that gave me some nice fresh starts when I didn't necessarily -- you know, I didn't necessarily earn them.
I had sponsor exemptions and wasn't on tour yet, so now being, you know, a small piece of the puzzle here with the tournament staff, with Clair and his people, it's special.
I love how they do it. Their motivation - the community - their motivation is, well certainly the company and reaching out and helping others in this community.
For one week, this is an easy place for me to be.
THE MODERATOR: Coming into the week how are you feeling? Looking at your record this year and you're trending in the right direction. Couple top 20 finishes, including the 12th place at the U.S. Open. How are you feeling about your game coming in?
ZACH JOHNSON: Feel really good. I think if my caddie was up here he would be more honest. He feels really good. When your caddie feels confident in what you're doing you know you got some stuff going.
I like when I go out to the practice round or putting green and I work on scoring. There is a difference between getting to the range and trying to get the proper ball flight, work on positioning, and all that.
I go out there and I'm trying to work on I guess you would say transferable practice, meaning I'm almost playing games out there so that when I get on the first tee I feel like I am really fresh and ready.
Comes down to execution and comes down to the word I probably can't stand the most, and that's patience. It's good. Hopefully it surfaces this week. If it doesn't, hopefully it's the next week.
I'm very encouraged with, as you alluded to, Doug, the trend or trajectory of my game.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. With that we'll take some questions.
ZACH JOHNSON: Right. Yeah, I mean, I don't know if there are many words to really describe it, other than it's just absolutely fantastic. I think that speaks volumes to how great Midwest communities can rally and support their own. I think it's a testament to the PGA TOUR for making charity and golf a great platform for giving.
I think it's a testament to John Deere and starting at the top with Sam Allen and all of his people of just really wanting to reach out and help their own, you know?
I mean, the amount of -- I don't know what you call it -- arms that are attached to this is just substantial. It's so cool because, you know, golf is an entertainment sport. When you can utilize it for the betterment of whatever community we come into for that week, which is just one week, it's pretty awesome.
Granted, every week is a charity driven, but it just seems to me -- I'm inside on some of the discussions here -- it just seems like that is the forefront of what this tournament is about. Great golf course, great fans, but they want to use it to continue to improve the community.
That's pretty awesome.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, I think there are actually some other tournaments that tried to utilize this sort of the program. Well, why does it work? Because it gets everybody involved. It gets the community involved and trying to chase and watch us, you know, to actually see the birdies happen.
We're on a golf course, too, where there is a lot of birdies. Now, you put us here in September or maybe May, maybe not be as much. The ball goes further this time of year, there is less wind, the greens are a little more receptive because of the humidity, and it just adds to birdies.
Evidently those birdies care. Not to be funny, but it's an awesome program. They're not just supporting one little niche here. They're branching out and trying to spread that out so many of these organizations, charities, can actually benefit.
That's why people help their own. It's just a matter of serving. I personally, and so does my family - my wife in particular - we feel like that's our responsibility. I know Clair and his staff feel like that's their responsibility and they fight for that. They want to keep this dollar sign going up year after year.
It's not easy. I have my own foundation. It's not easy. It's work, but it's good work. I applaud them.
Q. With that in mind, your foundation grew to a new high, over $1.3 million yesterday. That's got to just warm your heart.
ZACH JOHNSON: Uh-huh. That would be one way to describe it, yes. Humbled beyond words. Just completely beside myself as to what transpired. We kind of had an idea just based on some sponsorship sales, but you still don't know. You really never know.
Again, goes back to the people. Goes back to the people who were there day to day. Whether it's the program that we've implemented or whether it's my board, they're there with their sleeves rolled up getting work done. And they have other real jobs, too.
So it's a testament to I think these type of communities. I'm just a small part of it. But it's great. It's for the kids. It's for the families that should have any and all opportunity that I was given as a kid.
Yeah, great number. Phenomenal number. The beauty of where we are is we're not content. We want to continue to grow. With a growth comes a mushrooming, so we have to grow.
I'm confident we'll continue that, so thank you.
Q. In interactions with the kids yesterday that struck you as most notable? There were a lot of them.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, shoot. I mean, a ton. A bunch of hugs. That's what stands out the most. Just walking into a crowd of them with balloons and the hugs were massive. There were a couple that were humbling in a sense that they thought my wife was the star, which she is. Asked what school I go to, that kind of thing. Take that as a compliment.
But Sunday evening was the most humbling when a bunch of those kids got on stage and put together a couple different songs or a collage of songs. I don't think there were many eyes that were dry, so that was pretty cool.
Q. You guys have so much to play for out here week to week. You ever lose track of what your number is, what your qualified for and not qualified for? (Indiscernible.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Right.
ZACH JOHNSON: What does that mean? Just the first week.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, my goodness. I had no idea. There you go. Next question. No, just kidding.
Q. Where are you at right now with what your number is and all that? Are you focusing on Eastlake? Putting all that out of your mind?
ZACH JOHNSON: Probably somewhere in the middle. Yeah, I mean, I haven't been to Eastlake in two years, I think. I don't think I was there two years ago. Doesn't matter. Point is it's been a little while.
You get to Eastlake and you've had a great year. I mean, you're obviously top 30 in the FedExCup. Yeah, I mean, it's not in the forefront of my mind, but it's in there.
I mean, if I want to be brutally honest, the beginning of the year my No. 1 goal was the Ryder Cup team. I feel like if I get on the Ryder Cup team everything else kind of falls into place, you know?
But I do know getting on that Ryder Cup team requires me to be focused and highly competitive each and every week. I think I missed one cut, and I had some issues there that I wasn't aware of.
I feel like I'm getting close to that. You know, it's a matter of -- making cuts is not my goal. Winning golf tournaments is my goal. So everything, like I said, falls into place if you win.
Specifically though, if I'm going to, again, be brutally honest, this is the last year for the World Golf Championships in Akron. Well, a little least for the unforeseeable future. I haven't missed one of those since I've been on tour. I really like that golf course. Played well there either last year or the year before. I can't remember.
But I love everything about that tournament. It's Midwest golf. It's kind of what I grew up playing. I'm right there on the cusp of that with the numbers as you were alluding to.
So, yes, take care of business and see how everything falls.
Q. (Regarding the new schedule. )
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. Is it the sweet spot? You know, if you were to throw all the tournaments in a pile and pick a date would this be the sweet spot? No, it wouldn't be. And I think they would say the same thing.
But the beauty of John Deere is they have embraced that date to a degree I can't measure and basically made it their own. That's the beauty of it. There is an identity here, and they're going to maintain that identity.
Obviously it's high integrity people; it's a family-run tournament with a tremendous sponsor on a great golf course. It some guys want to come, great. If some don't, okay. We'll keep having the tournament, and hopefully you'll come at some point.
They made things easy. They made things fun. You have the Big Dig. You have an unusual amount of white ice cream in player dining.
You know, just making things great for families. Specifically and selfishly for me, I get on a plane at 8:00 and I am at the next venue after I take a sleep. That's pretty cool.
I can tell you this: when the first Olympics came around and the date shifted, wasn't ideal. Again, they have embraced this date. So I don't know what's going to continue to transpire in the future, but I love this date.
Now, I would love to be here in September because the weather is way better and the course kind of goes like this; becomes a lot more difficult. The grass thins out and it's more difficult.
But that doesn't matter. Golf is still fun when you're seeing birdies drop. Yeah, I think it's a great date.
ZACH JOHNSON: I have, yeah.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, yeah, I mean, I was on tour when the PLAYERS was in March. I don't know how many I played there, four or five, five or six. I don't think that's all that bad. I feel like Sawgrass in general, the changes we have made, have kind of been for the May date. I'm probably overanalyzing that a little bit.
Q. Why do you think that?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm talking about the golf course; nothing more than that. Again, I think if there is going to be -- which I'm assuming there is going to be -- overseeded rough, overseeded fairways, overseeded green, that that place is still really hard. It doesn't matter.
So the PLAYERS Championship is a priority, and having it in March is fine. We can have a perfect week and a brutal week with weather. That's fine, too. I haven't hit a 7-iron on 17 since March in 2000 whatever. I've hit all wedge and maybe a 9-iron. I might be hitting a 7-iron.
So things change. I think it's fine. And I applaud the PGA of America, quite honestly, for collaborating with us and really segmenting the big tournaments, if you will. The PLAYERS; obviously you're not going to touch Augusta and that kind of thing.
But really making the end of the year August, I think that's the key. You know, making our end of the year on the FedExCup end in August just flows better. You know, whatever tournaments then go into the fall, they're still big tournaments, still FedExCup points, still a new season, still relevant.
So the relevancy is there and the schedule layout is very, well, proper. You've get a big tournament each month starting in March. That's pretty awesome.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, yes. I mean, if you're going to try to find some things that could be very difficult to tackle, I would say Rochester in May could be difficult, or Hazeltime. Is that already on the schedule, Hazeltime? I don't know.
I want to say we're on Long Island too, in May, right?
JOAQUIN NIEMANN: And that place is long in August, you know. But it's a major and it's going to be fine. Yeah, I mean, you could pick that apart, but those dates have to be set in advance.
Again, the PGA of America is the one that's really biting the bullet. I don't know what you want to say. Making a change. It's not really necessarily us. It's them. I applaud them. I think it's kind of cool that the Open Championship is the last major of the year. That's kind of neat.
I think everybody holds that tournament in the utmost of stature, so I don't think it detracts from the PGA Championship at all. Just think it's a slight massaging. It really does emphasize the fact that the FedExCup is, well, important.
Q. (Regarding playing with Steve Stricker.)
ZACH JOHNSON: It means nothing. You mean the money or that I'm playing with Steve?
Q. Playing with Steve.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, that means everything. Yeah, I love -- sorry. No, I mean, Steve is one of my favorites to be around, to play with, whatever you want to call it. He and his family.
I mean, he's the best. He's a model pro and a model guy. Yeah, I'm excited about that. Very exciting.
ZACH JOHNSON: I was not aware of that.
Q. If you win.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, okay. I'm assuming he's going to make a check, too, so we'll see how this works out.
No, no. It means absolutely nothing.
The nice thing is I've got a little more years out here than he does. I shouldn't say that. He could play here until he's probably 60. That guy could win three tournaments in a row. He's really, really good.
Q. You guys looking for a young guys as another ambassador for this tournament?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't think that's -- I mean, I've not been in any discussions or had any dialog in that regard. I think those kind of things kind of happen naturally. That's the beauty of it. You don't want to force something like that.
Whether it's somebody local, whether it's somebody that, I don't know, is attracted to John Deere equipment, somebody that plays well here, those kind of things -- I mean, Steve is a Midwest guy and he's obviously won here three, four, five times. I don't even know.
Three times? Okay. Three in a row? Thanks. (Laughter.)
So, yeah, that could happen. I mean, there are a lot of Iowa kids playing really, really good golf; there are a lot of Illinois kids playing really, really good golf. Who knows? Is there a search for that? I don't think that's a necessary component.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, the young 45 year old Sean McCarty. He's playing the PGA?
Q. Yeah. He made it here.
ZACH JOHNSON: He made it here?
ZACH JOHNSON: Really? He Mondayed? Sean McCarty Monday qualified yesterday? Seriously? That's so awesome. That guy is a stud.
Q. (Regarding scheduling. )
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, that's a good question. I mean, those that still love this place and have embraced this place, they're still going to come back. The individuals that are qualified for the Open and Memphis, the World Golf Championship, yeah, it's going to be trying, it's going to difficult. I think that's really, really good problem.
You know, it's not all that uncommon. We've seen it, whether it's the Match play, whether it's Mexico or China, these World Golf Championships are massive events, huge money, huge points, huge incentives. But they're not afraid to take them off, either.
I remember -- well, it wasn't even Jordan's rookie year, but it was the year that he -- maybe it was. The year he attained his card and had unlimited starts. Was that '13? Yeah. He took Akron off because he had played like nine out of ten weeks. I'm like, What are you doing?
Well, he's done all right. So my point is, they're going to take this week off or some might take this week or Memphis off. Just the way it is. I'm happy for Memphis. I alluded to Akron. I want to play in Akron really bad. That tournament is going to Memphis essentially. I think Memphis, Hartford, and this week are -- you could even throw Wyndham in there. Greensboro is great. Those four tournament are the four most underrated tournaments I've ever participated in.
Granted, I'm here very year so I'm very biased. And some of the other ones that don't have all the stature get a lot of credit, but I'm glad Memphis -- you know, and it's FedExCup's home, or FedEx. They kind of deserve something like that. Great tournament. Great people over there.
Q. (Regarding the 18th hole. )
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's a great hole. You cannot hit it right. It's a chip-out more times than not. The fairway is generous enough, but you want to kind of cut the corner and have some loft in your hands being the length -- I don't know what it is. 480? I don't know. You have to tell me.
But the elevated tee shot doesn't make it any easier. It just seems harder to judge and monitor the wind at that point because it kind of swirls 16, 17, and 18. Even if you get the ball in the fairway, which I intend to, it's a pretty difficult choice second shot into a green that has a lot of, well, depth and slope.
So it requires every aspect of your game to be on. As a result, it's a great finishing hole.
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