An Interview With: ZACH JOHNSON
September 20, 2006
SCOTT CROCKETT: Zach, thank you for waiting. Thanks for joining us.
ZACH JOHNSON: My pleasure.
SCOTT CROCKETT: We had the words of David Toms, a veteran on the Ryder Cup, and now yourself making your debut. A lot of people have talked to you about it. Is it living up to your expectations and are the feelings starting to get a bit excited now that we're getting near?
ZACH JOHNSON: Absolutely. The expectations were there's a lot of stuff on your plate Monday through Sunday, both well, especially off the golf course. That really holds true. A lot of commitments, all good, positive stuff, just a lot of stuff. So you have to plan accordingly and rest when you can.
Then I think the other expectation so far this week is, man, I want Friday to come quick. I want to get out there and start competing.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I heard your game was in good form, wedge to the 1st. How is the rest of it?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think I hit one good shot. It was good. It was great. It was great to get out there on the golf course in these conditions. I don't know necessarily if we'll be in these conditions come tournament time, but you never know. It was good. The course, considering the rain and whatnot, has really held up well. The greens have actually gotten faster since yesterday.
The best thing was all of us guys were out there together and we all took kind of a group tally and I think we all wanted to go together, and that's what we did.
Q. A lot is made of the fact that you have four rookies. How have the rookies communicated and how have you fit in so far?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think very well. We're definitely rookies to the Ryder Cup, certainly not rookies on the Tour. I mean, J.J.'s been around for six or seven years, I'm not sure. Vaughn and I have been out here for three, and I think Brett probably about that same number off and on.
But we all get along well together. Vaughn and I have known each other since I think 2000 and we've played. Our progression has been pretty much the same step by step from Nationwide all the way down to the Hooters Tour. A lot of parallels there.
And with the other guys, the veterans on the team, it's been great. If you want advice, you've got to ask and sometimes you just listen in and you may not even know they are saying something, but it's very useful. At the same time, they want us all to play well. I feel like my outlook, and I talked to Tom about it, was all of us are American players on the PGA TOUR and on the same team, and we're going to play hard.
Q. How well did you know Tiger and how much did you know of Tiger, about him and personal things prior to the trip you took here a couple weeks ago, and time in the team room this week and what are maybe some revelations that maybe you didn't know about, his personality and whatnot?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I certainly don't know him all that well. He leads a life, you know, of a superior celebrity. Alongside of that, I think two things, two things that I've learned. One is that he is about as normal of a guy as anybody you're going to meet and he loves the game of golf. He's very driven, but he's also very, very normal, very, very down to earth, especially off the golf course.
Second, and what was pleasant to hear, was that anybody, whether a golf fan, media, whoever said he doesn't care about the Ryder Cup, really could not be further from the truth. I mean, he's passionate about it. There's absolutely no question.
Q. Are there any examples you could say that gave you that revelation?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, there's a lot of examples, I think examples that are pretty obvious. He took us rookies out to eat. He came over on the plane with us that week when he had, I heard, a number of different commitments at the Deutsche Bank that he got out of, I think he got out of, he did get out of, because his foundation is part of that tournament. He cut his schedule for the team and took us rookies out to dinner, the Friday of the tournament, a pretty big tournament. I think that's pretty much all you can say about that.
Q. I wanted to ask about that dinner. What sort of advice did he give you when he took you out?
ZACH JOHNSON: It was a lot of good stuff, insightful stuff pertaining to this week, in the sense of just a lot of stuff off the golf course that takes place. I mean, you have a schedule and you know what's going on, but, you know, things pop up. Whether it's weather, obviously, you have to fit your schedule around that. If you want to practise, you've got to do this, pictures, media, galas, a lot of events. You've got to rest. That was his biggest thing. Once you have time to rest, go to your room, take a nap, take a half hour nap, just be rested.
I think the second thing was especially the opening ceremony and beyond, the rest of the week, rather, once you hear the national anthem and you understand how really big this event is, it kind of hits you and you get pretty juiced, you get very amped, very excited, which is natural, because you want to start competing. But, you've got to stay in the present. You've got to stay calm and stay in the present, and you know, I thought that was very, very useful. I'm sure it's going to happen. I mean, I want to play now, but I'm sure I'm going to be even more anxious as time goes on.
Q. Have you gotten a chance to see or spend any time with your investors back home from Iowa, have you seen them back here on the course? And being a rookie, even Tom Lehman, a rookie captain obviously, admitted to a little bit of a misstep today not having you guys tee off on 1. What kind of little missteps or questions have you had as a rookie so far this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: The first part of your question, my investors, I've got maybe a handful coming, and I think they have arrived here yesterday or today. They have not been out here yet. I think they are actually going to play golf today. Good luck on that one.
The second part of the question, the misstep, what was Tom's misstep? I'm not sure I understood that.
Q. Leaving all the fans waiting on the first tee when you teed off. What kind of mistakes or questions have you had this week?
ZACH JOHNSON: Mistakes or questions, missteps that I've had? Man, I'm not so sure I have. I'm pretty much, I don't want to say I'm not a leader, but I'm certainly a follower this week being a rookie. So I've pretty much gone with the flow.
If anything, it's pretty corny, is that we've got a nice team room in the hotel, and it's pretty easy there's a lot of stuff going on there that you can do, ping pong to whatever. And I tend to like to do that kind of stuff. I may have done too much of it, could have taken a little half hour, hour rest instead, but it's all right, I'm hanging out with the boys and our wives; it's good. Other than that, I can't think of anything.
Q. You've always been a really confident guy and believed in yourself a lot, but when I was looking at that scene of all of you guys on the 13th, for example, and just cutting up and joking around with one another, giving each other the business, on that par 3 I mean, was it hard not to pinch yourself a little bit and say, this is really something to remember, something really special?
ZACH JOHNSON: Is it hard to say that?
Q. Did you feel that way at all?
ZACH JOHNSON: Maybe a few times. There's occasions where I've maybe thought about that. You know, what puts things in perspective is, you know, where I came from obviously, working my way up here; that's pretty gratifying. And now I'm playing with the best players in the world and being on the team and playing against the best players in the world.
But also, just the fact that I mean, every one of those guys, and you guys have kind of met them on some occasions, are just normal guys. They are just in the limelight a lot more, and you know, their names are well known. That's really what it comes down to. A lot of these guys are going to be some of my best friends for years. I enjoy that. I just love the team atmosphere. I'm big into team sports, and golf is such an individual game. This is a unique format and this is a special tournament, with the team atmosphere and then chemistry, I don't know, I don't want to say I relish it, but I really, really, really like it.
Q. Just watching the way you played on the Nationwide Tour and the way you've played out here, even though you're a rookie, you seem like the kind of guy who wouldn't mind having the ball in his hands taking the last shot. Would you mind being the anchor guy on Sunday or playing one of those pivotal roles?
ZACH JOHNSON: You sure seem like you know me pretty well. I'd have to say yes. It's funny you say that, because I actually read a couple things, I've been quoted as saying and I have said it; I feel like we're on the team and I'm sitting on the bench and so many odd seconds to go, put me in, I want the ball. That's the way I've always been, as a kid, as a competitor, in any sport, free throw, or a four foot putt, I want to be the one to hit it. I think going into it, you can't worry about the outcome, you just have to he execute the shot; that would be my approach. I haven't been in that situation, but I would love to be in that situation. I can take whatever comes, I feel.
Q. Is there anything about this week that has so far been different from your expectations, and the second part, because there are four rookies this year, have you talked amongst yourselves, is there any camaraderie with that many guys, you have to step up to the plate, you can't hide and have to contribute, and have you talked about how many points you have to come up with?
ZACH JOHNSON: Last question, points, I don't think we've thought about it. I don't even think it's been mentioned.
What was the first part of the question?
Q. Is there anything different from your expectations?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not really well, the weather. I knew it could be bad, but this is like the end of a hurricane here. I didn't realise they came this far north.
You know, I've been to Ireland one other occasion, technically two other occasions, but for another tournament, two years ago. This is just one of those things I really didn't expect because the thing is, the Ryder Cup, we're playing in Europe, but the fans out here, looking back on it, it makes sense because I remember what it looked like two years ago because they were so warm and so genuinely they just love golf.
I know they are pulling for Europe, of course, and that's the way you want it to be; we are on their turf. But we hit a good shot, they clap, and they want autographs and they want to shake our hands. That's just I think that's the Irish people in general are just really, really, really nice people. You know, I've got friends that are Irish, and I mean, I see it now. It's in their blood and it's very pleasant. It's fun to be around.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Zach, that's a nice place to end. Thank you very much.
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