Planet Golf — 25 May 2012 by GW staff and news services
Johnson on his 64 to lead Colonial

DOUG MILNE: Zach Johnson off to a great start in round 1 of the 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. A bogey free 6-under 64 today. Four straight birdies. And I was looking a little bit up before you came in and in your 6 previous starts you never missed a cut here. You were past champion here. You finished fourth last year. And looking at your year long stats, you’ve made 12 starts this year, you’ve yet to miss a cut this year.

ZACH JOHNSON: You can be keep it quiet now.

DOUG MILNE: And finished runner-up in two of your last three starts on Tour. So with that being said you are obviously off to a fantastic year, and just some comments for the round and how you are feeling.

ZACH JOHNSON: Yes, I feel good. Health-wise is good. I have had some guys that have done some nice work with me from a physical standpoint. I am breaking down. I am 36, right? I’m not saying I practice a ton, I don’t have kids, but I practice a lot and as a result my body breaks down. So I give that enough emphasis. Today was gate great. I got off to a good start. I just hit quality shots. I didn’t put myself ever in a position that was too worrisome. I drove the ball fine. I just kept the golf course in front of me. I attacked when I could attack. I had a couple of nice saves when I needed it. I think I missed the shortest — the putt I had for birdie that was the shortest I think I missed. But then I made my share, too. So it probably did even out in the end. I felt like I could have had some more. I made a couple of bombs, too. I’ve got zero complaints. I controlled my trajectory in the wind nice.

DOUG MILNE: With that we will take a few questions.

Q. Obviously, you have an affinity for this golf course, are there certain tee shots of certain holes that when you step up, could you give me some examples of that work?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, first, there is some that I love. But then there is some — it depends on the wind, too. The holes that slope and go right-to-left like 3, the wind is in off the right. That’s fantastic. There is a trap out there. I just got to peel it off or turn it off the trap and hit it. 2 is kind of down off the left and it’s a left to right par 4. So you can fade it and just ride the wind. 5 today was nice. When that wind is left-to-right on 5, I just hit it down the left side and left it fall right. I do draw the ball typically, but off the tee I don’t mind cutting it, and when the wind is left-to-right, I enjoy that on a left-to-right hole. So I use it to my advantage. At least I try to. Some tee shots you got to pucker up on. 17 for some reason is just not easy. It feels like the tee is aiming one way and the hole goes a different way. Grant it, I hit a lot of 4-irons off the tee there. Today it was a 5-wood into the wind. I don’t particularly love that tee shot. I don’t love 15 either. A right to left wind, a straight right to left wind with a right to left fairway and a dogleg right. But other than that I made a birdie. I think that’s the beauty of this golf course. It’s got left-to-right, right-to-left, ups and downs, long, short. You got to hit it both directions, and I really think this golf course does separate the field; meaning if you are hitting it well and, obviously putting it well, you do rise somewhat to the top and vice versa. It will mangle you and tear you apart if you are a little bit off.

Q. You were just touching on this, can you give me some more specifics about how holes are playing differently today because it is a strong wind, something we haven’t seen in a while?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I was asked that up above. I think the nice thing was yesterday I played late and it was really windy. So I was able to kind of grasp what the wind was going to do, how much it was going to take it both directions, up, down, that sort of thing. So I heard last night, some of the guys saying, that it’s going to blow today. It’s blowing now. It wasn’t a whole lot different. I hope it doesn’t calm down. It’s what you anticipate. It’s Texas. There is nothing stopping the wind. The Colonial, with receptive greens at this heat, they have to keep them somewhat saturated, you needed a defense and the wind is the defense right now. That’s just the way it should be. If I recall right, 2010, it did not blow a bit. I think Sunday was maybe a half club wind, maybe. Today was 2 clubs essentially every shot into the wind or downwind. So you just never know the week, and you never know what’s going to happen and with the heat, the ball obviously goes a little bit further, too. I just think it’s a beautiful golf course.

Q. Zach, given your track record here, especially the last few years, do you say that all of the courses on Tour, this one you might feel the most comfortable on?

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I don’t know about that. I will tell you for some reason this time of year, this week in particular I’ve played well. I mean last year I played great. I probably played just as well as last year as I did the year I won. But obviously David played tremendous and what have you. I just played well this week. If I was playing average to poorly here, I think I have, maybe my rookie year or what not, I think it could tear me apart. If you are a little bit off, I think it could tear you apart. Yes, I do enjoy it. I do like it a lot. It suits my eye. But you still have to hit it good and you still have to putt it well. So for some reason, right around Charlotte, TPC I started to see my game go like this over the last two or three of four years. Hopefully I can keep it going that direction and don’t let it stop. There is a lot of courses out here that do not fit my eye. I love Hilton Head. I love Sawgrass. I love the TPC Deere Run. I’ve played there the most. I enjoy it. Memphis, I think Memphis is probably the most underrated golf course we play all year. Some I just enjoy looking at.

Q. You were talking about your saves just a minute ago. 2 in particular, I want to ask you about is No. 4, you hit it off the back, it looked like you didn’t like the chip up you hit?

ZACH JOHNSON: I can explain that. I hit a really good tee shot. It was a between club. I hit a 5-wood, 3-iron, I can’t carry the front, I don’t think. I landed it too short of the pin and obviously it rolled off the back collar. The ball was sitting where there is a lot of grass right behind it and it rolled up my face, but then caught the edge of the fringe and released. So I got lucky in that regard. But at the time same time on No. 12, I hit a great sand shot and it looked like it didn’t bounce, it just rolled and it hit the collar, and rolled passed it, so it evened up. So I got lucky. That’s my answer.

Q. 7, in that bunker, I was on the backside of the green, that shot right there, just talk about that.

ZACH JOHNSON: Well, the sand here, I was talking to Chuck, the tournament chairman, a member here at Colonial, and I think the only somewhat change, or addition has been some sand this year. I think they had some sand, whatever the consistency last year wasn’t what they wanted, so they added a little bit more sand, and it’s perfect. It looks like vanilla bean ice cream. It looks good and it reacts good. It wasn’t an easy shot because it wasn’t a short sand shot. I had plenty of green to work with and sitting perfect. There is some tough sand shots, I’m not going to deny that, and it can plug because there is a little bit more sand this year. But if you get a quality lie, it’s good.

Q. Zach, talk about the first hole you played No. 10, across the green, I think it was a 40-footer you made, is that just like a dream start because you road the momentum of the putter; is that even better than starting out maybe hitting it three feet?

ZACH JOHNSON: No, I’d rather hit it three feet. But it was a nightmare at first and then it became a dream because I hit that putt a little firm, downwind, down grain. It probably would have been about five or six feet by. But it did manage to go in. But that does help. It just adds a little bit of confidence, I think. And obviously sometimes confidence can breed momentum. I will tell you, that putt was a little lucky, it was 40 feet. You don’t expect to make those. The par save on 12 was good, I made about a 10-footer there. I hit a quality putt. And then it lead into the next hole and next hole. I made some nice birdie putts. The par save at 12 was probably is big putt that got me going.

Q. Zach, you shot 64 and you didn’t birdie either of the par 5s. Is that something, that’s fine, I shot 64, I’m not going to worry about any of that. Or do you look at that — I don’t know how close you got to birdie chances?

ZACH JOHNSON: I didn’t have very good birdie opportunities. That’s a bit bizarre. One there is only two of them. I don’t want to put a whole lot of emphasis on them. I hit some good shots. I hit a really, really good tee shot on one. I didn’t cut it enough and it just trickled into the bunker. I would have hit a 5-wood in if it was 3 yards to the front. It’s not the most ideal tee shot with a right-to-left wind for me. So I hit a good sand shot out of there, and a very poor wedge shot, misjudged the wind and had 30 feet. I actually had to get up and down on 11. It’s not that big of a deal. It would have to be straight downwind on 11 for me to get home in two, I think. Obviously 1, I can get home if I had a good tee shot. I’m not going to put a whole lot into that. There is only 2 of them. I’m just glad, and I’m sure my dad is that I didn’t make a 6.

Q. Zach, this question isn’t about your round. It’s about the state of the Tour in general. It does seem that despite all of these great names on this Tour it’s still have centric around two names. Do PGA (Tour) members ever get tired of the fact if Tiger isn’t on a Tour at this particular event, or Phil is not at that particular event, it doesn’t seem to get quite as big, do you guys get sick of that?

ZACH JOHNSON: No. No. I don’t think so it is Tiger and Phil centric anymore. If it is, I’m not saying you guys specifically, but I think it’s media driven. I don’t think it’s tournament driven and I don’t think it’s fan driven. I think it’s media driven. It just seems to me as of late the media in particular has really, really grabbed hold of who is playing out here and what’s going on. Namely the young guys, the quality of talent that we have coming up. So I don’t see that anymore. Grant it, they do add a lot to what we have when they play. You can’t deny that. But there is so much good talent here, that’s winning now, or in contention a lot. So I probably would have to disagree with that personally.

Q. Zach, in regard to your round today, with so much wind out there, the importance of avoiding bogey, once you got something, birdies in the bag, you didn’t go back the other way, you mentioned 12. What were some other key saves for you and the significance of not going backwards?

ZACH JOHNSON: No, you are right. You got the momentum, you want to keep it going. With wind like this, you get the ball in play obviously and just give yourself opportunities. If it’s 20 feet, that’s an opportunity. I hit some really, really good approach shots that ended up being 25 or 30 feet. But I hit them well, or the wind switched or gust, or whatever the case may be. A couple of other saves today, well, 4, we talked about 4, that was a great save and obviously 7, that was a good save too. But other than that I really put myself in position to make some putts. I was in the rough on 9 my last hole and played it smart. I didn’t know if it was going to jump, or come out fluffy, so I accepted the 30- or 35-foot putt, whatever it was. And I hit a couple of other good shots like that out of the rough, too. I’m trying to think of some saves. Outside of the putt on 12, I made about a 10-footer on 12 for par, I think that was by far and away the longest par putt I had. I probably hit it three feet on four and that was it. I just kept the hole in front of knee.

Q. Talk about media driven, do we in the media make too much kind of clustering all of these types of golf courses together, Colonial, Riviera and Hilton Head, shot makers courses, or is there really something that much difference in them?

ZACH JOHNSON: No, I don’t think you do at all. I think it’s legitimate. The three you just mentioned right there, they haven’t been built in the last 10 years. They have an old cliche in a name. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. They face lifted Colonial 3 or 4 years ago maybe. They didn’t do much and they didn’t need to and it’s fantastic. Riviera, subtle changes, tremendous. Hilton Head, minimal changes, still awesome. They are ball strikers golf courses. They are. Like you said, they are quality golf courses that don’t need a whole lot. That’s why they are voted usually — I think there is a vote somehow by my peers, some of the best on TOUR. I just think if it’s fun golf, that’s the way golf should be and it separates the field the way it should. I never played really well at Riviera. I don’t know why. I played well at Hilton Head once. But I enjoy it. I will go back. I just love it.

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