Johnson, 31, ground out a Sunday round of 69 to slay a field of the world's best golfers and take home this year's green jacket, arguably the most unexpected Masters winner since Larry Mize triumphed at Augusta National in 1987. Johnson only made one cut out of last year's four majors, and his best finish in a major before this year was a tie for 17th in the 2005 PGA.
Johnson's safe playdown the stretch, and a few timely birdies, was good enough, as the rest of the field, notably the world's No. 1, struggled all day to catch up. Woods, who at one point on Sunday held the lead, missed crucial shots at clutch time, including a must-make birdie putt on No. 16 that all but locked in Johnson's win. Woods settled for a three-way tie for 2nd with Rory Sabbatini and Retief Goosen.
Here is what Johnson had to say about his victory.
Q. Can you just comment about what's going through your mind when you back off your shot on 15, you hear the roars for the eagle that Tiger made and you obviously have to execute.
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I backed off the shot, maybe partially because of the roars. I assumed it was Tiger making an eagle. That was just an assumption. (Laughter) I didn't really look at the board. But I can tell you I really backed off because I had that same shot, I think it was Friday, and I hit it long. I wanted to make sure that I had the right number with the right club and that's the only reason I backed off. And the wind was swirling, too. It was just a matter of judging the proper shot in time.
I hit an okay shot, nothing great, but I was able to give myself a chance at birdie.
Q. Just as a follow, this win is significant in its own right, but to do it when you're holding him (Tiger) off, when he's in your direct wake, how difficult is that, and how rewarding is it to pull it off?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if I've ever beat him -- well, I haven't beat him many times, period. But on this stage, certainly never. You know, I didn't look at the board. So I guess, you know, I really didn't know what was going on. I knew if I just kept doing what I was doing, staying in the present and putting well, I had a chance. My caddie, Damon Green, was the one looking at the board and keeping his eye on things. From the fans I could kind of tell that I was close to the lead, if not in the lead. I didn't know where I stood even after 14, but after 15 he said, "We've got a couple-shot lead." And I was able to still execute. You know, I guess ignorance is bliss sometimes. I really felt like I just tried to maintain my focus, maintain may game plan, and fortunately it came out that way.
Q. Two questions please. In retrospect, are you glad that the chip didn't go in Wednesday on the Par 3 to give you the par 3 jinx, because I think you would have won the Par 3.
ZACH JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. (Laughing) Ha-ha. That's good. (Laughter). My brother was caddying for me. I was like, you know what, it's never happened before, but I was kind of thinking, I have a better chance of winning the par 3 than I do the tournament and giving this a run. You know, it's got to happen at some point, so let's try to win both. It was a long chip -- I'm sorry.
Q. Just the point. Would you relate to us the 2001 story that you kind of talked about on television, coming here for the first time.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I was playing mini-tours at the time. I was on the Hooters Tour, a breeding ground, if you will. And Vaughn Taylor, actually, a local guy, a really good friend of mine, he was able to scrounge up some tickets for me and some of my buddies and we decided to take advantage of it. I told myself I would never come here unless I played. I had the opportunity, so it's like I'm going to come, there's no question.
We came out on Monday and I walked the golf course; I didn't really watch much play. I remember a few shots here and there, but for the most part I just walked it. My mouth was agape. I was in Augusta. You don't see that on mini-tours.
Q. You were 11-under on the par 5s; did you not go for any green in two? Was that your plan during the week and you stuck to it? You never went for any green in two?
ZACH JOHNSON: I did not go for any green in two this week. I had my limitations, if you will, on what clubs I had to have in. I felt like 8, I could not get home. 2, I could get home if I hit a good drive, but I never really had the opportunity to. 13, I had an opportunity to get there fairly easily, but I didn't have the proper club. I wanted a 4-iron or less and just couldn't draw it around the corner enough so I laid up. 15, I really never had the opportunity. So I had good lay-up numbers. I had good game plan, I know how to approach every pin, and I think that's what's most important on the par 5s. I don't have many wedges into many of these holes out here and I was fortunate to get some good numbers with the wedges on the par 5s and I took advantage of them.
Q. Rewind a little bit when you're coming out of Drake. I think you were not the top player of the team at the time and you were trying to get the money and people are buying stock in you; can you talk about what it feels like to be here after starting your career that way?
ZACH JOHNSON: Surreal, very surreal, very privileged, very honored, just in awe of all of the support I had. Like you said, I graduated from college in 1998 and I didn't have much -- I didn't have any money. So I had to find financial backing, and a bunch of gentlemen and their wives and whatnot backed me and that was for mini-tours and off I went. I got better and better every year, and you know, looking back on it, it's amazing where I came from.
Q. Do you think they are going to be looking for some of the return off of the (investment)?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, they started as a business, kind of just guys that were financing me, and then it turned into a business family; so it turned into and it's remained. I don't foresee that happening. They are unbelievable, unbelievable women and the whole town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for that matter, Elm Crest Country Club, that's where it all began and that's where it's at.
Q. You got Augusta-sized on Friday; how did you persevere? What did you say to yourself on Saturday and what do you call it today?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I guess I got my redemption. 16 had the best of me every day. I 3-putted it every day, until today and I made birdie. You know, when I 3-putted on Friday, I felt like I had good reads, I hit good putts; I'll be honest with you, I felt like the wind took my ball. I barely had a back stroke on that first putt, and the second putt I felt like I hit a spike mark. You know, I wasn't getting down. I still felt comfortable in my putter and confident in what I was doing.
Q. How old is your baby boy, and can you talk a little about the moments afterward on the 18th green with him and your wife?
ZACH JOHNSON: Whew, my boy is 14 weeks. It was an amazing experience. At the same time, you know, after the round, emotionally I'm drained. Physically, mentally, I'm fatigued, drained. But obviously seeing my family, seeing my wife and my boy and my father and brother and whatnot, it was just an emotional -- I was just an emotional wreck. I was a slob. (Laughter). I was trying to stay in the present still and realizing, you know what, it's not over. I've still got -- there's still chances for guys to make birdie and go into a playoff. That's where I was trying to keep my mind in that sort of frame. My caddie made that very apparent right after I signed my score card.
Q. After the round, Vaughn Taylor said, "If you're not Superman, you're Superman's brother." Tiger and Retief had 14 majors combined and you held them off; who are you?
ZACH JOHNSON:I'm Zach Johnson and I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Laughter) That's about it. I'm a normal guy.
Q. You talked about the struggles making it here. You're about the same age as Tiger Woods. He's got a different type of road than you've had, because it's been more of a struggle for you, because you have not attained on the PGA TOUR much until now, one other victory, what does this all mean to you right now?
ZACH JOHNSON:As far as the struggle goes, comparing me to Tiger, obviously I've struggled. However, I mean, I feel like I've been pretty secure out here on the PGA TOUR and to say that's a struggle, it's maybe a little misleading I think.
I felt like -- I feel like professionally, I'm where I need to be. I'm playing a game for a living; more importantly, and you know, comparing myself to the -- arguably the most phenomenal athlete, especially in golf, that the world has ever seen, is, you know, I don't know, maybe a little bit misleading. At the same time, you know, I felt like I've been blessed and I'm good enough to, you know, take home a green jacket, and that's what I was trying to tell myself the entire time and fortunately it went in my favor.
Q. Has it sunk in your head yet that you get to play in this tournament until you're an old man?
ZACH JOHNSON:There's a lot of things have not sunk in yet. No, it hasn't. That's just mind-boggling. Mr. Player has played 50, I think he's going to play next year, and that's just mind-boggling. I hope I'm in as good shape -- well, I hope I get to his age and I'm in that good of shape.
Q. Going back to 2002, standing victorious on the 18th green, being presented a trophy by a Hooters girl, would you ever have imagined being in this position today?
ZACH JOHNSON:No. (Laughter) Not even in the slightest. I thought those were the best days of my life right there. (Laughter) Chicken wings and everything.
But that's how I got better. Those mini-tours, a lot of good players have come through the ranks there. I feel very fortunate to have played in those tours, too.
Q. You are not the first golfer from Iowa to win a major championship; what do you know about Jack Black and what do you know about him?
ZACH JOHNSON:If you're looking at comparisons -- what, he won the U.S. Open, in the '50s?
ZACH JOHNSON:That sounds right. I do not know much about his career. But I do know he is the name in Iowa as far as golf goes, and obviously beating Mr. Ben Hogan is a feat; that's a guy that we even looked to for swing fundamentals with my instructor. That's pretty special putting my name up next to his.
Q. In this venue and the conditions that you had to deal with all week, the names that were behind you all week, the back nine, was it a matter of you just got hot, or was there something that you think, "I can do that and stare down the guns"?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think my mind frame was very clear the entire week, especially today, even on the back nine. I was hitting solid shots and I felt like if I give myself opportunities to make birdies, the way I was reading greens, the way my caddie was reading greens as well, I felt like we could make some putts. It seems to me that this tournament, throughout the years, it's very apparent that this tournament is won on the back nine on Sunday.
Like I said, I didn't look at the boards. I really didn't know what was going on, which was a good thing. I was able to maintain my focus and maintain an even keel and, you know, I stuck to my guns. I played my own game.
Q. Did you use any routines or techniques to kind of calm and center yourself either when you went home at night this week or on the course in such a pressure situation?
ZACH JOHNSON:You know, I have little things that I tell myself about my round, about my day. Really, nothing changes from week-to-week. It could be a Thursday at a random tournament, it could be a Sunday obviously at Augusta. I say the same things to myself, just how to approach each shot, how to approach each hole.
Today, the only thing different was the fact that it was Easter. I felt like regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God and hopefully He thinks I did.
Q. Does Vaughn call you "back-to-back-to-back Zach" and can you tell us how your friendship developed and what that might have done for you today?
ZACH JOHNSON:I don't think he calls me that, and I don't think anybody does as far as my peers. Someone coined that back on the Hooters Tour, and it's kind of stuck, which is fine.
Yeah, Vaughn and I, we met back in 2000 on the Nationwide; then, the BUY.COM. We've been friends since. He's a very mellow guy and I feel like I'm pretty mellow as well and that's probably how we click. We're the same age and some of the same interests. We enjoy each other's company. So, you know, we'll be friends forever. He's a great guy and I think at some point he'll be in this position, and you're not going to forget Vaughn Taylor for sure.
Q. Did that help you separate yourself from this being the Masters and maybe just playing with a buddy?
ZACH JOHNSON:Possibly. Possibly. I was actually aching for him at times because I felt he played pretty darned good. He obviously played well. I thought he played better than what he shot. I know he knows that and he learned from it and he'll be better in the end. Having a buddy next to you certainly doesn't hurt. He said some really nice, kind things and gave me support as well. In that respect, sure
Q. Coming out of Drake as a pretty good golfer, what made you think that you were good enough to be out here and play with these guys?
ZACH JOHNSON:Well, I didn't know if I was personally. I was backed by a lot of people. I was persuaded to give it a shot. You know, I really didn't want to go back to school. You know, I really didn't want to get a job. The one thing that I kind of clinged to was the fact that every year, as a junior, in high school, and then in college, I improved and I felt like, you know, if I can get the necessary finances down, I'm going to give this a shot for two or three years and see where things go. And if I keep improving, then we'll see how far it takes me. So I worked hard.
Q. Could you go back to the shot, to the tee shot on 16, and talk about that and given the fact that your caddie had just told you where you stand and you had a couple-shot lead, when you made the birdie there, at any point after that, did it go through your mind, "I've got a chance to win the Masters"?
ZACH JOHNSON: What went through my mind, you know, after Thursday's round, I shot 1-under on Thursday. I'm like, well, you can shoot yourself out of it, but you can't win on Thursday.
In that scenario, in that situation on 16, if I get a good read on this putt, if I make this putt, I'm going to be tough to beat. We had a great read on it and fortunately I executed pretty well.
Q. What size is the green jacket?
ZACH JOHNSON: I think it's a 40-reg. It's so surreal, I don't recall.
Q. Am I correct, you work with a sports psychologist and what does that do for and you what has it done for you? How has it changed?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I started working with Morris Pickens. He's out at Sea Island, St. Simons. Halfway through the year last year 2006. You know, we don't get after every shot. We don't break down every shot or every scenario. He kind of encompasses everything both during my round, my practice, and often golf course. You know, it's a -- a lot of it is just confidence and understanding how Zach Johnson plays and, you know, not trying to do too much, but yet, you know, just playing golf the way I know how to play. He's helped me a lot. We practiced down there this past weekend prior to coming up here. That was time well spent. We practiced a lot of different scenarios, a lot of wedges on the par 5s. And those situational practices, I think, certainly has helped me get to where I'm at right now.
Q. How much more playable was the golf course today than when you saw the greens were a little more receptive, did you try and attack any holes?
ZACH JOHNSON: A couple shots. Not many. The first hole, I hit a mediocre drive and I had to hit 4-iron in and I hit it perfect. That's kind of like laying 5 on there right in the middle of the green and it landed six on and rolled back. I'm like, well, they are softer. You could tell, that was very evident on the first hole. Since that point, I was able -- I felt like I was able to fly the ball a little further and maintain some spin on the ball and keep it on the putting surface. I'm hitting a lot longer irons into these holes than most of the guys. At the same time, if I hit a solid drive, it can roll down there pretty good. It was definitely a little softer today, but yet still very difficult.
Q. Do you think what you did -- this is the first time Tiger has given up the lead on a Sunday in a major; do you think what you did and what he did -- people on the Tour hope he's human?
ZACH JOHNSON:Did he have the lead going into today -- well, I don't know. They say a giant has to fall at some point and maybe that's the case. You know, it's still very surreal in that respect. You can't -- I was sitting in the locker room waiting for Tiger to hit his second shot on 18. Before he hit it, I'm like, "He's done stranger things." The guy's a phenom. (Laughter). The next person to come along like him, who knows how long it's going to be. It makes it that much more gratifying knowing that I beat Tiger Woods, there's no question about it.
Q. Feel like David?
ZACH JOHNSON:Absolutely. Absolutely. That's a good comparison.
Q. Cedar Rapids had a Super Bowl MVP from your high school, now a Masters Champion; what is it about that place?
ZACH JOHNSON: (Sighing) I don't know. It's home. That's where I started and, whew -- told myself I wouldn't get emotional.
You know, my mom is there now, so I just -- I thank everybody back in Cedar Rapids.
Q. Tell us about life on the Prairie Tour and the places you played.
ZACH JOHNSON: One of the first places I played? Some of the places, my first event was in Lincoln, Nebraska. I don't remember where the second one was, but I played in Bellevue, Nebraska; I played in Kansas; Lawrence, Kansas. Geez, where else have I played -- all over the Midwest, down into Missouri. The Prairie Tour, that's good. You know, I remember the first check, my parents still have it in my room at home. First place was $2,500 I think, maybe $3,000 something like that.
Q. You didn't cash it?
ZACH JOHNSON: Big ol' board. I'm not Happy Gilmore. (Laughter).
Q. You said earlier that you were not going to change. Professionally your life would change, but personally you're a Midwest guy from Iowa, but what does that mean to you?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm very normal. I'm as normal as they come. I love to play a game for a living. I love to play this game for what it is, golf. I appreciate it. You know, I feel honored to play golf as my living.
I'm a competitor and it just so happens I'm from the Midwest. It's not exactly the golf breeding ground. So I've always loved sports and being in competition and I think, you know, growing up there, sports was a huge part of my life. My parents put me in everything. I played every sport you can imagine, and I probably liked some other sports maybe even better at times. I'd probably prefer to ski more than anything. You know, Cedar Rapids is a pretty quiet place when it gets down to it, now that I've moved from there, but it's pretty special.
No. 1, I hit a mediocre drive and hit a pretty solid 4-iron right in the middle of the green and, like I said, thought if it rolled up onto the middle of the green I thought I would have a good chance of 2-putting. I hit a poor chip, and an okay first par putt, but missed it and tapped in for bogey.
No. 2, an okay drive again and nothing great. Scooted a 7-iron down to a good number and I could have lob wedged in there to about five feet, made the putt, spun it back toward the hole.
No. 3, I hit a good drive -- mediocre drive, I should say, down the right side and hit a great second shot to that right pin. It kind of hit it down the left and probably hit 20 feet and had a good read on it and made it. I don't know how that one went in.
No. 4, I was between a 2-iron and a 3-wood. I didn't really know what to hit. Pin was back left so I just -- with the wind and based on the shots I was hitting in the practice rounds, I hit kind of a punch 3-wood and it landed right in the middle left third of the green and rolled on to the back fringe and I had a pretty easy 2-putt from 20 feet, 25 feet.
No. 5, I hit a really poor drive, a pretty good second shot. In the previous days it would have bounced up there, but it stayed below and I three putted. I missed about an 8-footer for par. That was one of the worst putts I hit all day -- probably the worst putt I hit all day, my par putt.
Np. 6, I hit a 6-iron, comfortable 6-iron. Hits the bank, roles down, and I hit a mediocre lag up there probably 40 feet from the hole and I hit it probably five, six feet by and made a good par putt coming back.
No. 7, I hit a good drive and wedge in there to about ten feet and I thought it was slick, and I left it short; evidently it wasn't a very good putt and tapped in for par.
No. 8, I hit a 3-wood off the tee, kind of downwind off the left, and I thought I could probably hit my driver in that trap and was just the last place I wanted to be. If I wanted to smash my driver, I don't know if I could have gotten home in two. So I hit 3-wood, 3-wood. I hit a lob-wedge when I probably should have hit sand wedge, spun it off the green, and I was a little upset with the club selection there, but I'm not calling names. And then I chipped in. I had a good read, a good read on the chip and managed to get it rolling on the line and it went in.
No. 9, I hit a good drive. I hit wedge in there and hit a good shot to probably 16, 17 feet, and I hit that putt probably 20 times. I thought it would break further towards Rae's Creek. Unfortunately it didn't. But I managed to 2-putt.
No. 10, I hit a good drive and then hit a 7-iron in there, I don't know how far, seven, eight feet from the hole. A lot of shadows with the trees and I misread it, but I hit a good putt. Tapped in for par.
No. 11, I hit a pretty poor drive, but the wind was able to catch it and it kicked back down in the fairway and I hit a great shot. That shot kind of got me going. I hit a cut 3-iron into the wind, landed on the right side of the green, and it trickled up there probably 35, 40 feet. I actually thought I might have made the first putt, but I knocked it up there to about two feet.
No. 12, I hit an 8-iron. My target there on Sunday is right over on the middle of the bunker and the wind caught it, took it left and I had another 25-plus footer to the hole and thought that was all I needed and managed to 2-putt from there.
No. 13, I hit a good drive and that's where it got questionable. I had 200 to the front and certainly could have gotten to the green, but we had prepared to lay up in most cases and laid up with a 7-iron and hit a good sand wedge 8- to ten feet below the hole and knocked it right in.
Q. What was your number on the third? Did you even get one?
ZACH JOHNSON:Yeah, I had 80 yards to the hole. That was a comfortable yardage. I anticipated the shot to fly a little further and spin back towards the hole but there must have been a little more winds than I judged.
No. 14, I hit a good drive and it was between a 7-iron and an 8-iron. I hit a little cut 7-iron and landed it on top and released to six, seven feet probably, I don't know how far it was and that putt quite a bit towards Rae's Creek but I knocked it right in.
No. 15, I hit a good drive. I had like 235 front into the wind and I had to hammer to get over the water so I laid up. I hit a 7-iron in there and gap wedge, that was an okay shot, it was not very solid, about 20 feet behind the hole which was fine. I hit a good putt. I thought that was going to break more than it did left it on the high side and tapped in.
No. 16, I hit a 6-iron, had like 178 hole, and that was just perfect. I could hit it as hard as I want and I just hit a solid 6-iron down there to about probably eight feet, I don't have any idea; eight feet, and once again, it broke towards the creek, to the left, pretty good, a couple cups outside the edge.
No. 17, I hit a pretty decent drive. I thought we had a good number. I had 169 to the front playing and I thought, man, just a perfect 7-iron, land it on the front and release up there because that green usually get pretty firm. Windy; the greens are a little softer, fairways are a little softer. Hit it right on the front edge and it stayed there. I probably should have hit a 6-iron but hit the right club. Had a good read on my first putt but hit it a little high, the effect of Rae's Creek got me about four feet right of the hole for par. I pulled that putt. That was -- I think I pulled it, I don't know. I thought it was a pretty straight putt, maybe right-center but started left and went left; whatever.
Then No. 18, hit a good drive, very, very mediocre second shot. I was kind of in a divot/just a dry spot on 18 and couldn't get on it. I just couldn't get down on it enough for the 6-iron, and very fortunate to have it end up where it stopped.
You know, wasn't the easiest chips under those circumstances, but all in all it really wasn't that difficult. I just had to get it over the edge and let it feed towards the hole. I had a good read on it and fortunately got it down there to a few inches.
Q. Were you happy to see that you were not in the bunker on 18?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yes. At the same time to miss it right of that pin in the bunker is probably not the worst position. I didn't anticipate missing the green to be honest with you. I was hitting my irons very well and thought I had a good number. The lie was strange. Really, where my ball was sitting was very flat yet my feet were uphill. I just hit it a little skinny.
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April 9, 2007
Coming off his thrilling British Open victory over Sergio Garcia in 2007, Padraig Harrington sat down to discuss his game and his chances at the 2008 U.S. Open. "I have spent my last 10 years trying to adapt my swing to play U.S. Open golf," Harrington said. "I'd say the last two years, that and the Masters have attracted my attention more than anything else."
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