An Interview With: ZACH JOHNSON and JASON DUFNER
Q. At one point, Zach, it was all Europe. They had the lead. What was going through your mind at that moment?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I noticed the board; I'm not going to lie to you. The one thing I did notice, though, it was very early in the match. This is not a sprint by any means, and it's a marathon. You've just got to stick to your routine, stick to your process. The difficult thing for me out there is really just kind of keeping nice and calm. Not to be sarcastic, but yeah.
Q. Jason, I was talking to the assistant captain Scott Verplank. He said you were playing beautifully.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I really like this format, this environment. For me I feel like there's a little bit less pressure. I'm not trying to post a score, I'm just trying to play golf and enjoy the day and be with a teammate and try to get a point for the team. You know, I'm just caught up in each hole being a point and win points for the team, so that takes a lot of stress out for me.
(Below is inside the Media Center)
KELLY ELBIN: Americans Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup. Zach and Jason teamed for a 3 & 2 victory this morning in foursomes over Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood of Europe. Zach and Jason, congratulations. Zach, open up with comments on the win, please.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think today was a day that when it comes to foursomes, we did exactly what you should do, and that was never really take yourself out of the hole, put yourself in a position to make putts and stay and just keep fighting and staying in the moment.
We got down obviously in the first but then rallied in the second. At one point I think the whole board was blue. It was a matter of just really just going about our plan. We played every practice round together. We know how to approach it. You know, we talked a little bit here and there, but for the most part we're just hitting shots.
I think Jason said it best: We're not trying to put a score up there, we're just trying to hit shots and make some putts if possible. It was a tough match, no denying that, but once again, I think we just stayed in the moment really well.
KELLY ELBIN: Jason, what was it like to stand on the first tee and hit the first shot of your team and also to ultimately gain the victory?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it was a nice way to start my first Ryder Cup, to be the guy to tee off on that first hole, hear the crowd being behind us and get the matches started. Really happy with how we played as a team today. Both of us played pretty good. Both of us hit some shots in certain situations that were much needed at that moment in time, so it was a good match, and happy to be on the end of making a point for the team.
Q. This partnership of yours, what's the back story? How did this develop? Was it after you sort of dueled each other at the Colonial?
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, well, yes. I mean, I don't know when we first started talking about it, but it was probably pre FedEx I would say. And then we were so close in the FedExCup race, we played a lot of golf together. We played a lot over the last so many odd years, too, but I don't know if I said it first or if he said it, but it was like as if we were both thinking the same thing.
And I can't recall exactly when it was first said, but all along, Davis was kind of picking everybody's brains as to who we thought we wanted to play with, and he was going to add his opinion to it. But he loved it, and so it's kind of just been a natural ... it's been a natural tandem, I guess you'd say. Nothing more than that.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, like Zach said, we've played a lot of golf, especially this year. We have very similar games, similar demeanors. I thought we could match up well, especially in the alternate shot format, and even in the best ball format.
I think we're just a good match. Games are similar. One good thing is we play a golf ball that's very similar, not the exact golf ball, but for alternate shot it's not an issue for either one of us to use the other's golf ball out there. That could be a bit of a factor.
I just felt comfortable pairing up in these matches with Zach. Like he said, we played practice rounds together all of this week, and we'd been playing together a lot lately. So we kind of know where each other's games are, what we do well, what we need to stay away from, stuff like that. So it's been a good pairing for these matches so far.
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm just glad I didn't have to move my mark.
JASON DUFNER: I'd remind you this time (laughing).
Q. You mentioned looking at the board there was a lot of blue on the board really early in the day, but you also had a match that there was a lot of fire works going on in that match in front of you and a lot of noise. I was wondering how much the Keegan and Phil match was able to kind of give you guys momentum or whether you were just kind of shutting that out and playing your own game?
ZACH JOHNSON: They were right in front of us? Keegan and Phil were right in front of us? Is that what you're saying? Yeah, I guess I had to ask that because I wasn't familiar with who was in front of us. I didn't know. But there was roars. You could kind of hear where they were coming from.
But there was an occasional, kind of Europe applause, I guess, a small applause, too. It was hard to tell. I saw the boards on 5 or 6 I think it was, and after that I don't know if I saw the boards. I was getting updates from some of the assistant captains, but I really didn't see much. Not that I needed to; I knew where we were standing.
I think the middle of our match was pivotal. We were 1 down and all of a sudden we went to 1 up pretty quick, and we held it pretty quick. Actually had opportunities to go even more up.
Those roars are good to hear, I'm not going to deny that. There's some bass to them. But I think we both kind of just kept playing our game. The only thing we could control was the next shot.
Q. Zach, Larry Gladstone was in your gallery, the man that got you started in golf as a 10 year old. Can you put into perspective where you've come from being a 10 year old at Elm Crest to what the atmosphere was today?
ZACH JOHNSON: You're kind of making me all sentimental here. Yeah, it's hard. There's times when it kind of hits you that you dream about it as a kid, whatever sport that is that you want to be a professional or even excelling at the highest of levels. When it comes to golf, there's just nothing better than this.
Larry would say ... he knows this: When I grew up playing sports, I played together, and team sports were more prevalent. But as I've said before, golf picked me, and it was my outlet to compete, and Larry saw something and started to establish a foundation for me that I could build from. That's really all it is. It's just been a massive process.
It's just been, I think, a compilation of just people surrounding me and supporting me and pushing me, and certainly he's one of those key instruments in doing that. It's nice having him here and supporting me. I think he was with me in '06, as well. I know he was. And now he serves in my foundation board. Larry means a lot.
Q. There are a lot of ebb and flow in these matches, big leads disappointed, no leads became bigger leads. Was there a defining moment or a defining shot in your match, whether it was for a win or a halve or whatever that kind of pulled things in your direction a little bit?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, there was a couple moments out there. You know, Zach put me in a good spot on the 9th hole. The European Team had putted one maybe about 10 feet by. We had a good read on the putt. I felt like I hit a really nice putt and it just looked like it was going to hang on the edge.
And to be honest with you, I almost felt like the roar of the crowd and the anticipation of the putt missing actually willed that ball into the hole because it felt like the crowd's cheer came from the right and the ball kind of fell into the hole. So that was a pretty good moment there.
You know, Zach hit a great pitch on No. 12. We were underneath the tree, almost dead. He pitches it in there to a foot and a half. Those types of moments can swing the match either way. I feel like the start of the ... the end of the front nine, start of the back nine there really put us in a good position to get a point today.
Q. Jason, were you as nervous as you've ever been today before hitting the first shot that you hit? And how did the two of you decide who was going to go first this morning?
JASON DUFNER: We both talked about how the course sets up strategy wise through our practice rounds this week. We both kind of concluded that I should start on the odd holes and Zach would obviously play the even holes, just from a strategy point.
And then as far as being nervous, I didn't really feel nervous at all today. I felt very comfortable. I like this atmosphere, I like this environment, I like to be able to showcase my talents; the team's talents in front of these teams; compete against some other guys that are really good, top players in the world.
I think the fact that you're not trying to post scores, there's no consequences, really, in certain situations. You can be more aggressive. You don't have to worry about if you have an eight footer or a three footer for a comeback, and you don't have to post four scores each day and try to win this thing. You have a teammate out there that can help you. And there's a lot of situational play, I guess you would call it, where it deems to be aggressive or in certain cases passive.
So I think just the whole environment and strategy of the match play and the different formats, I just feel very, very comfortable. There weren't too many nerves out there today.
I was just really confident with my game. The last putt I had, obviously that's to close out the match. You want to get that done with and get out of there, so that was probably the most nervous of the day. But I was able to do it. I felt really good out there today.
Q. There's a contrast; when Mickelson and Bradley close out their match, the celebration was sort of borderline end zone dance, and when you guys ended your match, it's sort of like mission accomplished kind of reaction, a little more subdued than that. Is there a lot more bubbling under the surface for each of you in that circumstance than maybe we see on the outside? And then for Zach, you said you've played so many rounds with Jason, can you look at him and see when he's really pumped up and tell a difference in him?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I'll answer the first part of the question first. I think it's situational as far as our reaction and their reaction. Keegan made a 35 footer up the hill to win a match. That's pretty dramatic. I mean, at one point, we had two feet to win our match, right, but before that, they had a birdie putt to win the hole. So it's situational.
But yeah, I mean, going back to it, maybe Keegan and Phil are a little more boisterous than us. You know, I mean, you're never really going to know and this goes into the second part of your question; you're never really going to know how much fire he has, Jason has, because he looks to you guys, I am sure, and even frankly to me, he looks the same.
And really, I said it after we just got done, he is so much in the present and in the moment of playing golf that the past and certainly the future, the outcomes and what's happened the outcomes ahead of you and the outcomes behind you are not relevant. That's why he's good at what he does and that's why he's really good in this format.
I don't think it's anything more than that. I just think some guys show emotion more than others. I mean, I'm going to clutch my fist or make a pump if I make a big putt or what have you, but I don't need to be riding the horse around, if you will.
It's one of those things, I think I think what you see Keegan's reaction, that fist pump, you've seen it many times. Granted, we've seen it many times in two years is all, year and a half. And what you see with us is what you get.
My point is it's very genuine. We're not going to fake when it comes to making shots or hitting shots, making putts and making key crucial shots, what you see is pretty genuine. There's nothing forced there. It's just if there's emotion that comes out, it comes out. If sometimes it's a little more noticeable than others that's why you have a team with different personalities and different means of showing their emotion. I said it before we even played this week, that if Jason and I play together, it's great, because our mentalities and our demeanors are very similar.
KELLY ELBIN: Jason, concluding remarks, based on lack of excitement versus what we may see on the surface?
JASON DUFNER: Well, I feel like this is the way I've been since I've played professional golf. Just because I am playing in the Ryder Cup I don't feel it's necessary to change. You see guys react to things differently. My approach this week is to be the same that I am on the PGA TOUR: To go out there, play good golf, help my teammate and make points for this team.
You know, there will be certain situations, I had a couple fist pumps which I generally never do on the PGA TOUR out there because of just feeding off the crowd. I acknowledge the fans and I appreciate all their support.
But like Zach said, I'm in the moment. As soon as that birdie putt goes in, I'm on to the next shot. I'm thinking about strategy for the next hole. That's how I've always approached the game, and I don't see that changing just because we're playing in the Ryder Cup.
KELLY ELBIN: A winning team this morning, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, thanks for your time.
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