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Johnson Gets Gratifying Victory on 'Home' Course
In addition to racking up his second title of the year, the victory at TPC Deere Run was particularly meaningful since it came at a tournament only miles from his Iowa hometown.
"It just feels awesome," he said later. "I mean, I can't really put it into words. This tournament has meant so much to me and my family over the years."
Johnson closed with a 6-under 65 to end up tied with Troy Matteson, who was looking to go for a wire-to-wire win after opening with a 10-under 61. Thanks to a remarkable eagle on the par-5 17th hole, Matteson shot a 69 Sunday to tie Johnson at 20-under.
After the players made a mess of the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, by both carding double-bogeys, they tried it again.
This time - from the very same fairway bunker that led to his travails only minutes before - Johnson hit an incredible sand shot from 194 yards to a foot and a sure birdie. Matteson didn't respond; placing his approach from the fairway 42 feet from the hole. He didn't convert, handing the 2007 Masters champion a title he personally coveted.
Johnson was giddy afterward. Not only did he earn his ninth Tour victory, but this one came in front of family and friends at what he considers his "home" course. Here's what the 36-year-old had to say to reporters.
MODERATOR: Just jump right in. Like to welcome the 2012 John Deere Classic champion, Zach Johnson. I know that's got a good sound to it. It's your ninth PGA Tour win here in the tournament that you've played more than any others. With the win, you pick up 500 FedEx points and move to No. 2 behind Tiger, just trailing by 32 points. Just get some comments on the week. Obviously a tournament that means an incredible amount to you. So I'll leave it at that and turn it over to you.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I have guess you're going to hear a lot of rhetorical's here, a lot of same echoes that I mentioned out here, but it just feels awesome. I mean, I can't really put it into words. This tournament has meant so much to me and my family over the years. Just the experience I gained here I think with sponsor's exemptions in the past. And then, you know, being a part of the board and knowing how they go about their business week to week, day to day giving back, it certainly fits the mold as to what I'm trying to do.
I think they are kind of a model example of that. Feels tremendous, especially to have family and friends here. To do that in front of them just feels great. Having my coach on the bag, that's pretty special, to say the least. I mean, I would like to win it for Damon, too, because he's my buddy. He took a week off, no big deal. Hopefully he played well today. Not sure how he ended up.
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: You got to be kidding me? One shot? He stinks. (Laughter.) That stinks because I know he wanted that. He obviously played great today. He moved up then. He shoot about 1 under? Even?
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Okay, well, I'm going to see him tonight. That's awesome. No, got off to a slow start this week but rallied a bit and remained patient. That's really what it boiled down to.
MODERATOR: Okay, questions.
Q. Seemed like you were intentionally downplaying what this tournament might mean to you; is that accurate?
ZACH JOHNSON: Maybe a little bit of accuracy there. I don't really like making things a bigger deal than what they should be. It means a great deal now that I've done it. It was a hypothetical in previous days because I've never experienced this. It means a great deal. That's the first answer. The second answer would be, you know, I want to embrace the lows, but I don't want to get too caught up in the highs or too caught up in the lows. I think that's what you have to do in sport, and specifically what you have to do in golf. If you get yourself too emotionally tied to the lows or highs, I just don't think, for me, my experience, things don't happen the way they could. I get off kilter. I'm unbalanced. That's really what this boils down to. I like finding little nuances where I can take the pressure off me and just play. I do that via prayer, Scripture, thoughts, talking to my player peers, caddies, etcetera. I'm trying to walk in the park.
Q. Now that you've accomplished it, where would you rank this?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know if you can rank any of them. They're all so ultimately special. I mean, Colonial this year for example with Damon's father passing away was huge. Just emotionally draining. I will add that I moved my mark twice today and moved it back twice today. So, you know, I don't know. Augusta is Augusta. You really can't push anything past that. But I am really going to enjoy this one because this is supremely special. I don't think I've ever won a tournament in front of my sister. My brother has been a part of Augusta. I think that was it. My mom has seen one or two now; dad has seen a few. Yeah, that's pretty cool, too, just for them to witness that. I don't want to say that's the reason, but it feels great because they're my family and they're my support. What was the question? Am I off tangent right now?
Q. What was the iron you hit on the last shot? Was that the best shot of your career?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's one of the best results of my career. When it comes to execution, it's up there. It's probably way up there. I've had some Ryder Cup shots that I would say would be parallel to that, especially in '06 that I've learned from. What did I hit? Is that what you asked me? I hit a Titleist 6 iron.
Q. Talk about 18 in regulation. Looked like if you made a par it was going to be yours, and then there was the eagle on 17. Did you hear the roar? Did you know? Talk about the sequence of events.
ZACH JOHNSON: No, I think - if I'm not mistaken, I was on 18 fairway and I believe I saw a ball on the green on 18 and I assumed it was in two based on where it ended up. I didn't know who it was obviously. You heard the roar and it was an eagle roar. Had no idea it was Stricker or Troy. When I walked up the 18th tee I think I had a one or two shot lead, a two shot lead, so I knew that obviously it was a big putt. I didn't know who it was. I was very, very happy and fortunate to have a birdie putt on 18. But, you know...
Q. You knew before you putted what the score was?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. I saw the leaderboard before I putted.
Q. You hit your second shot first and didn't know before you putted?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's right. No, you know what, I was on the greens when the roar hit me. It was before I hit my approach shot, thank God.
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it was awesome. It was tremendous. Just great support. Feel like I've had that amount of applause and roar when I've missed cuts and played poorly here, too. I think it speaks volumes as to what the community is all about here.
Q. You appeared to be the calmest golfer out there; was that really true?
ZACH JOHNSON: I felt very calm. I was pretty confident going into today. I mean, just going to keep doing what I was doing. I felt good about what how I was striking it. Mike and I put a lot of good work in early in the week. Probably got a little ahead of myself early on in the round. Mike made a phenomenal observation on hole 6. I mean, the tin went in on 6 and my ball was almost in the air. I was ready. I thought. My point is I was a little quick. Then I started to selling down, made a good save there, and then just kind of led into the rest of round.
Brian is a neighbor of mine on St. Simons. He plays fast, and maybe I got a little bit caught up in that sort of thing. I'm not making excuses. But once we were able to settle down and the save on 6 and the birdie on 7 just really kick started us and calmed me down. You know, I felt great. Mike and I were talking about the most random things. But you should, I think. That's the way it should be, just strolling in the park.
Q. Did that equilibrium help you on the first playoff hole?
ZACH JOHNSON: What equilibrium?
Q. In your head.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I felt really good going into the playoff. I felt really good because I went to the restroom right beforehand, so was able to go. Yeah, I felt good. Hit a great tee shot there in regulation. I think the wind died down or switched more right to left. I don't know. Every day there I've hit just a pretty stock, cut shot. That's what it feels like it calls for. The second tee shot I hit really good and it just didn't cut. But I felt great going into every shot for the most part.
Q. Does this feel like your best season on tour?
ZACH JOHNSON: This year seems probably to be the most consistent, or arguably the most consistent thus far. '09 was really good. I think it was '09, or was it '08? I forget. I think it was '09. There was a lot consistency there, too. I'm making a lot cuts and putting myself in a position to be in contention in tournaments. The work did I last year, I mean, last year statistically was actually a bit shocking. It was pretty good with what I had set out to accomplish. Just wasn't showing up on the score cards or in the stats - or excuse me, in the rankings. Stats were good.
It was just a matter of staying the course and really trying to focus on a key element to my game that I needed to improve; I did that in the off season. Really I think the Chevron in December, is that when it was, kind of kick started my 2012. It really did. I played well there, well enough to win, but got second. That then led into 2012. I like the consistency of my game and I feel like I'm improving in all aspects mentally and certainly physically with the team I have there. I feel healthy. So a lot of positives. Once again, I don't want get too caught up in the highs. I'm not content. As a competitor, as a player out here, you can't get lackadaisical. There is too much talent.
Q. (Question about Ryder Cup spot.)
ZACH JOHNSON: I haven't seen the rankings. I don't know where I am now. It's a goal at the beginning of the season, it always is because I've played in two and they're tremendous. In golf, arguably in sport, they're some of the most fun and gut wrenching tournaments you can play in. I love that. Knowing Davis Love is our captain, it's a huge priority. If it happens, great. I don't know where I'm at. I'm assuming this is going to help tremendously. Yeah, I mean, that would be terrific. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. There is a lot of great American golf going on right now.
Q. Another golf tournament this week.
ZACH JOHNSON: That's right. I got a major this week. That's right. That would be my focus starting tomorrow, maybe late tonight. That's going to be my focus. I'm excited about it. I heard the forecast is brutal, but if you have any expectations I guess that's what you should have. Jackson is going to be hot, so... England is supposed to be really wet. That's the way it is. Go tee up and play. I don't mind that.
Q. On the first playoff hole Troy hits it in the water and you hit it in the water. Where were you tried trying to hit that shot? Did you draw it a little too much? What happened?
ZACH JOHNSON: Hit it really straight actually. It was on the proper line in the middle of the full green, maybe even right third. Hit it really thin. I miss-hit it. After I hit it, I'm like, God that's not going to get there. Then I'm thinking, Whoa, that looks like it's going to get there. I thought it was going to go over the green. If it would've landed ina flat spot I couldn't see it. I'm assuming it landed on the bank. If it would probably landed three or four more yards it was probably over the green. But I hit a poor shot. It was not an easy lie. Hit a poor shot. Fortunately I had a great lie the second time around.
Q. Did you hit it in the bunker because you think that's where this tournament has to be won from?
ZACH JOHNSON: I appreciate your sarcasm.
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: When you're playing the mini tours you obviously have an aspiration and a goal to be out here. If you don't, you'll get passed by. I still have friends of mine that are out there that are good enough to play out there's, there's just too much talent in the game. For a mini tour player I had an decent resume otherwise they wouldn't have given me a spot. Granted, I was local. That probably didn't hurt. Those two years I think I played in Atlanta in a tour event, and then that was in '02. First my tour event, trying to think when it was.
'01, Williamsburg. Great golf course. Those four tournaments there, four Tour events, I think I made one cut. But just great experience. It's much like my 2000 season on the Nationwide, or excuse me web.com Tour. I played terrible. I made four of the last five cuts and four out of 19 cuts total, but just great experience. So just being able to play here, gain the experience, play with guys that you see on television for the most part week in, week out, that just - I don't know if you can measure that experience or really even put it into words. It was tremendous.
Q. Do you think you're a little more even keeled golfer out there now?
ZACH JOHNSON: I don't know. I admire a lot of guys that get in that position when you're in contention and come through. There's a number of 'em. Granted, Tiger seems to be the primo as far as examples go. I like it. I guess part of the reason why I like it is that's what I practice for, that's what I've work for, and I feel like I've executed shots when I need to.
The flip side of that is if it doesn't happen I'm going to learn from it. I think that's the perspective you have to have. If you get in those positions, embrace them and play hard. If you don't get through it, learn from it and be better off next time around. That adds, for me, serenity. I don't know why. It's the piece that I can't really explain. I don't want to say I'm an overly spiritual guy, but I'm pretty spiritual. I think prayer has a lot to do with that, too.
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I liked the, what do you call it, a crescendo?
MODERATOR: Uh huh.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you. I liked it. I saw it bounce. Just hoping it would kick left. Saw it hit the green, bounce a little left, and after that I couldn't see it.
Q. You could hear it though.
ZACH JOHNSON: I could hear it. I'm in the middle of the fairway. I could not see my golf ball because of the glare. And I had sunglasses on. (TV commentator David) Feherty said - I'm not going to repeat what he said, but he said, It's close.
Q. Was it a little bit odd to never have to make that shot to take the lead until the playoff where things all of a sudden came back to you and there you are sitting on 18 with the lead?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm sorry, I don't understand your question.
Q. After Matteson's double bogey and you jumped up in the lead...
ZACH JOHNSON: I had no idea he made a double. Honestly, I had whatever, 50 some feet on 17, right, and I saw the leaderboard for the first time. That was my first look. I figured I was one back or tied, give or take, going into 17. I honestly did not know where I stood. So once I saw I had a one shot lead, granted they had 17 and 18, I thought, You know what? Let's get this one in in two and see what happens. I hit two good putts. I had no idea he made double. Where did he make double, 16?
ZACH JOHNSON: 15, okay. That's a hard hole.
Q. Were you watching the leaderboard when you finished on 17?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. On 17, yeah.
Q. When you went down to get you ball out of the cup, it looked like you gave yourself a little fist pump.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah. I knew that was a big one, making 4 there and having one shot, going to two shots. You expect the guys behind me I saw my name on top at 19 and obviously I went to 20. I didn't know who was 18 or if there was multiple guys at 18. I think someone was in at 18, but wasn't sure about that either. So getting that one in the hole was big. I mean, yeah, obviously you feel like you got a two shot lead, but assume you're probably going to be one shot. Then he makes the eagle, bad assumption.
Q. Were you kind of crushed then?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not at all. I had 15 feet for birdie on 18. I was juiced up. Hit a great putt in regulation. That was a misread. Should've asked Mike. He saw it going left; it went left.
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. You know what? I don't care if I say it. I'm assuming he's not going to care. Tom Watson is flying over with us. Tom took Damon here today. Thank you, Tom, for bringing my man to Moline to catch the charter.
Q. How do you explain your loyalty here?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, it's not hard to be loyal here. It's just really not. I mean, I like where it sits in the schedule. It's not easy having the British Open be the next week, but I like this time of year here. I like coming home. I was committed to West Virginia for most of the year at least, and I felt bad. It's the first time in my career I've ever had to I didn't withdraw. I did, if it's even a word, decommit, uncommit well before the deadline of the week of D.C. I needed two weeks. Couple of my kids were sick I and needed to be at home. I needed a break. Looking back on it, it was obviously a great decision, because I don't think I would have been as fresh as I was coming into this week. Just made things a lot easier to tackle this course. What was the question?
Q. The loyalty.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, it's never hard to come here. I've talked to some of the guys that work here and the staff obviously, and I think based on what they talked about they would understand if I took one year off. I don't think that's ever going to happen, but when I keep coming back here I'm going to keep coming back here and try to win every year. That's really what it boils down to. I love it. It's been great. It's strict, though.
Q. Mike said his bucket list was to be on site to see one of his guys win a tournament. How does it feel to have Mike here?
ZACH JOHNSON: All Mike's work was Monday through Wednesday, that's it. So . . . No. (Laughter.) It's awesome. We have great chemistry. Obviously we're very close friends. We have a business relationship, too, but I think certainly our friendship transcends that. I've always trusted him. We've got a great unique trust relationship when it comes to golf. Our priorities are the same. He's a Christian man, a family man, so there are many things that mesh.
You would have to ask him. He saw something early on. We started working in 2000. I don't know what it was, but he was just there from day one. Really reconstructed my golf swing and we've just really honed and ironed in my short game. You know, he knows the specifics of the swing. I just try to go play. He gives me little pieces here and there. The beauty of is it I think we're still learning about each other and the game and how to improve. If there is anybody that I've been associated with more into trying to find ways to improve and ways to just build, I don't know who it would be. He's always trying to do that. Not just me, with his business, with his other clients. You know, that's why I think he's unparalleled.
Q. With your ties to this tournament, was it harder to win here? Did it take more out of you? Did you feel like you had to grind it out more to win this event compared to others?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, not really. Really didn't. I've won it every seems which way. I think this is my second playoff, third playoff. No, I mean, I felt great about it. I think it just comes down to I can accept whatever outcome comes my way. It is an outcome. We're in game. It's sport. I don't try to get caught up in it. It feels great to win. That's why I play. I love being in contention. I love having to hit a tee shot down the middle and hit the shot on the green and try to make a putt. I love that. I have failed miserably many times, but also come through many times. That just keeps driving me. I think the beauty of the game is the shots that I hit coming down the stretch aren't more important than the shots I hit Thursday in the morning. I played the back nine Thursday in the morning terrible. That's just the way it is. That's the beauty of this game.
Q. Early in the round today, you started with six pars.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I mean, you never know. I still felt good about where things were. Felt good about how I was attacking, playing, and swinging. I think, like I said earlier, I was getting too quick and a little bit too in front of myself, both literally and figuratively. I was playing too quick with rhythm and patience, and then I was also missing shots to the right, which means I get out in front of it. Just a little too quick, so...
MODERATOR: Zach, we know you got business. Congratulations.
ZACH JOHNSON: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.