MODERATOR: Zach Johnson joins us here after a 4 under, 68 round. Zach, you closed out that round in style.
Comment on the day as whole and also the eagle on 18.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, the day was good. I mean, today wasn't easy. I didn't think this was in the forecast. I thought this was kind of comparable to Thursday; yesterday was probably a little bit easier.
It's windy. I got off to a pretty shaky start, but made some nice saves and then had a lot of opportunities. 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, those were all birdie opportunities. Didn't make any of those.
Then I got going. Had to put it into neutral on 16 and 17, but ended on a pretty what did you say? Stylish?
MODERATOR: I don't even remember.
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't either. I think we'll go stylish.
MODERATOR: And you're making sure Chevron does their part this week as well.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, that's right. It's pretty bold of them to do that. It's very honorable to, one, obviously to be the title sponsor, but to donate even more to charity, that's pretty awesome.
Q: I don't think you need to be asking about stylish.
ZACH JOHNSON: Ouch. Ouch.
Q: I know you don't want to think about 16, 17, the way you closed on 18, but everyone seems to be struggling with those holes coming down the stretch. Was it just the wind or something more?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it's just the wind more than anything. No wind and it's a very benign hole. The long hitters are probably hitting anywhere from a 2 iron to a 3 wood.
Into the wind like that, I mean, I figure if I hit a driver it's an easier 3 shot hole. I hit a poor, poor tee shot today. Hit a good one yesterday; I hit a poor one today and I paid the price.
I had a shot on my second shot. Just came out of it. It was not a good shot. But, you know, I might have wrote some notes in my yardage book after that again.
There's water on every shot. Gotta pucker up a little bit, so...
Q: Just wondering, what was going through your mind on the last shot there? Specifically, to know that you're taking the lead.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I didn't know I was taking the lead. I had no idea where I stood. I mean, I assumed I was near the lead. I saw the board after either 15 or 16, right in there. I think I was tied or one back.
I assumed Tiger was going to, you know, maybe make another birdie. So I assumed I would have jumped up near the lead.
But what was going through my mind? I hit a good shot. I mean, won of those, when it left my club I thought it was pretty good.
Wind was coming in out of the right; the wind grabbed it and took it left obviously towards the hole.
I was just hoping to get on top, because I knew if it went a little bit long it would come back and I would have a birdie opportunity. That's all you're looking for.
Q: What club?
ZACH JOHNSON: 7 iron.
Q: How long?
ZACH JOHNSON: 163. So it's one of those I mean, I'm not trying to make twos. I'm trying to have opportunities to make pars, if not a birdie, especially on that hole.
Q: Did you feel like with the way Tiger has been playing, the way he's been hitting it, and the way he's been talking about how good he's feeling about his game, did you feel like he might run away with this?
ZACH JOHNSON: I never really thought about that, to be honest with you. The guy never ceases to amaze me, so you kind of always assume he's going to play well. That's a pretty safe assumption based on history, his resume.
I watched the Presidents Cup from my couch unfortunately but, yeah, fortunately, and noticed that he looks pretty good. You know, I think it's health. If he's healthy and feels good about his health...
And his mechanics look great. I'm not a swing coach, but to me they look good. I think they look really good.
So he's never going to shock me on the golf course because he's certainly the best player I've ever played with. So, you know, I've glad I'm playing this week and I have the opportunity to, you know, go into Sunday with at least a chance.
Q: You mentioned the early opportunities for birdie. Obviously you want those opportunities; you would like to see yourself convert them. How do you look at this round then? Lost opportunity? Is it you're still in the lead obviously and in good position, but...
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it all leveled out today. I think I played well enough to shoot under. I mean, I three putted 17. That was terrible. So there's one shot there easily, and obviously the bogey on 16.
I had a couple good saves: 2 was awful, and, I mean, I hit a good wedge shot in there to four feet and made par.
Next hole was even worse, and I hit another good pitch there, four, five feet.
So, you know, I lipped out a couple times for birdie after that. I mean, you're going to do that. I essentially missed two putts that I probably could have made today: One for par and one for birdie.
Overall I'm putting pretty well; speed has been pretty good. I'm encouraged about, you know, the future. To me, this is one of the best events of the year. You can argue you can argue it's the best but it's one of the best events of the year because you're playing in a select field, you're playing with a number of things at stake; obviously a fantastic purse and Chevron stepping up there.
More than that, a great field on a good golf course, no cut. (Laughter.) You know, the best thing about it for me is that I'm playing in December competitively. That gets you going for 2012.
So I just like being able to play in December at some point. The Shark Shootout is next week, but I can't play. Anyway, you have that ability. I think it's nice to take advantage of one of those at least.
Q: Given Tiger's history that you alluded to, and also that he won a U.S. Open on a broken leg, how surprised are you that he's gone 26 events without a win?
ZACH JOHNSON: Not really surprised. He's been hurt I mean, I don't care who you are. I mean, I'm assuming you probably all have written it, but we all at one point thought he was Superman. Who didn't? Or some super hero strength. He still might for all I know.
Doesn't surprise me. If you're not healthy out here, the depth and the parity and the quality of the talent out here, I mean, if you're not healthy it's hard to win.
That and he's undergoing swing changes. Those are the things that come to my mind. Every time he goes through some swing changes, it takes a little while. Then he gets into it, and it's, Oh, boy, here we go.
Q: It's sort of a follow that between your BellSouth win and the Masters win so between your first win and the Masters win you went through a stretch where you had an a lot of close finishes but didn't win.
ZACH JOHNSON: Right.
Q: What happens with that? Do you lose confidence at all? Do you start to doubt that you can close out a tournament?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's a great question. No, I mean, I don't think I ever doubted. I was more frustrated. I just felt like everything was pretty good and it just wasn't coming together when in contention, quite frankly.
So I felt like my game was good, but I needed a little bit of polishing, ironing out some aspects of my game. That would have been the summer of '06 is when I hired Dr. Morris Pickens, my sports psychologist.
Some of the work that we did together, compound that with what I've done with my swing coach and Mike Bender and then all of my other the other coaches, for that matter it seemed to elevate my game.
Certainly Augusta was the pinnacle of that. For the most part, I've been riding on a similar plane since then, I guess you would say.
Yeah, I just want to be in contention and hopefully have the ability to win coming down the stretch. I love that. That's why I play. If I mess up, you know, whatever. I'm going to mess up a lot, but I still want to be in it.
Q: With all you said about Tiger and the guy's respect, et cetera, any day you pick up five or six shots in a round on Tiger Woods has to be a good day, doesn't it?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think any day I pick up five or six shots on anybody in this field is a good day. I mean, it doesn't matter who you are.
But, yeah. When he's out front he's tough to beat. I'm very happy with today, no doubt about it.
Q: You just talked about being in contention. Now you are in contention. What changes your mindset from the first three days to tomorrow?
ZACH JOHNSON: Honestly, I would have to correct that. I don't think I am in contention. I think I have the ability to get in contention. I'm not out of it.
To me, contention is like the last hour of the tournament, last three, four holes, whatever it is. That's being in contention. I mean, there is so much golf ahead. Anything can happen.
Unfortunately, bad, but fortunately good. So, I mean, you got to look at it as you have the ability to get in contention and the opportunity to get in contention.
That's kind of my approach.
Q: You played well here in the past. I think runner up one year; T5 another year.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah.
Q: How do you view this, as sort of the end of 2011 or a tune up for '12?
ZACH JOHNSON: Combination of the two. I mean, exactly that. It's a great way to end your year if the opportunities presents itself.
Then it's a great way to, you know, catapult into 2012. We were talking about it the other day Furyk win here two years ago?
Q: (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: McDowell won last year. We'll go with Furyk. Furyk played really well. He won the tournament, and I don't think he won in '09. So there you go. That's my example. Stick to it.
Q: Obviously the wind has been the story this week. The par 5s have generally been a place where most of you guys have been able to take advantage in this tournament.
ZACH JOHNSON: Right.
Q: That hasn't been the case this week. Is it strictly the wind?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's definitely the wind. I think there is a couple things, the wind being the first and foremost thing.
Second would be undershots, right, because assuming a lot guys are hitting the hazard and whatnot. It's the wind while putting, plays havoc.
I don't know what those guys say, but it seems like every other green, nearly every green, there are shadows around the hole and I cannot read the putt. I mean, it's hard. You have to feel it with your feet because the shadows play such havoc in reading greens.
I would like to see what other guys are saying about that, because it is so frustrating. But that's the way it is.
Q: Have you had that same problem in past years?
ZACH JOHNSON: Shadows? Yeah, I hate putting with shadows. Just really occurred to me this week. I mean, I just try to feel it, commit it, and hit it. I don't think I've made one outside of like three feet when there's been shadows.
I hit one today on 10. I had four feet for birdie. I hit it straight, it went right, and I had three feet coming back and it went right.
So, whatever. It's frustrating. But it's part of the game.
Q: To go back to the 54 hole lead, do you maybe not give that as much credence because some guys seem to have such a difficult time playing with that going into Sunday?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I mean, like I said, being in the lead or near the lead going into Sunday is just the opportunity to be in contention the latter part of tomorrow. That's really all it is.
If I was 3 over, I probably wouldn't have that potential or opportunity. If I had a six shot lead, you know, obviously I would prefer that, but you're still not in contention.
That's just my opinion. Just depends how you define it. I look at being in contention as having the ability to win coming down the stretch of the golf tournament.
MODERATOR: Anything else?
Zach, thank you, sir. Good luck tomorrow.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thanks.