Featured Golf News
Johnson Humbled by Champion Golfer of the Year Tag
Zach Johnson is a modest Christian from Iowa who just so happens to be a fine golfer. The 39-year-old proved that once again, when in a rare Monday finish he tied Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in regulation and then beat both of them in a four-hole playoff to win the Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
The victory, his overall 12th on the PGA Tour and second major following his win at the 2007 Masters, took Johnson to No. 12 in the latest World Golf Ranking. It also prevented Jordan Spieth, who finished a stroke out of the aggregate-score playoff following a bogey-par finish, from winning the third straight major of the year, derailing the Texan's quest for a Grand Slam.
Johnson, who closed with a stellar, final-round 6-under 66 to reach 15-under 273 and then birdied the first two extra holes to build a lead that proved insurmountable, told reporters after he had accepted the Claret Jug that his triumph in the 144th Open Championship was a "humbling" experience.
"These are the things you dream about," said the Iowa City native. "These are the things you've worked to get to. I'm humbled because there's a lot of individuals that have put me in this position that trust in me, and I trust in them.
"I'm humbled by, I think, the talent that I've been given, and I'm humbled right now because of what's in my lap and the names that are etched on this piece of metal that is very special. It's the who's who in the game. It's the guys that paved the way. It's the individuals that are historic in sports. I've said it in '07. I'm humbled, I'm honored, and it's still beyond surreal. I guess when you have a great team, great things can happen."
Johnson added that despite his relatively diminutive size, his work ethic is a big factor in his success. "I feel like God gave me the ability to play a game. I try to take it very seriously. I realize it's just a game. I'm just a guy from Iowa that has been blessed with a talent, and this game provides great opportunity. The more opportunities -- I think if you mentally look at it that way, it kind of takes the pressure off.
"I don't want to make it any bigger than what it should be," added Johnson, who was teary-eyed after he parred the 18th hole to secure the win and received an emotional embrace from his wife Kim. The couple has three children, which puts things in perspective for Johnson. "This isn't going to define me or my career, at least I hope it doesn't. It's not my legacy. Granted, as a professional athlete and as a golfer I'm going to relish this. I'm going to savor this. I'm humbled by this. But my legacy should be my kids, my family, that kind of thing.
"I'm not the most charismatic, maybe emotional, fun-packed individual on the golf course; I get that."
Here's what Johnson, who earned $1,794,690 and 600 FedEx Cup points with the victory, had to tell reporters during his press conference Monday night.
MODERATOR: I'm delighted to welcome the 2015 Champion Golfer of the Year, Zach Johnson, to the interview room. Zach, first of all, congratulations on a tremendous victory. You're obviously going to hold onto the Claret Jug very closely. Can you tell us what was the key for you getting through the playoff there? Obviously very close and dramatic finish.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, well, I don't know if there was one or two things. There was a lot of things. I felt like 1 and 2 were the ones that certainly you've got to get after. I mean, 18, I know it's a short hole, but at the same time it's a tough pin. I hit two good putts on 1 and 2. I hit four good shots on 1 and 2. I really hit one errant shot in the playoff, and that clearly was my second shot on 17, just not quality there.
Outside of that, you know, I made a good 5. Felt like a par-5 anyway. The key, you know, certainly for the week is patience and perseverance, without question, and I think in the playoff in particular, it was truly about just making the best of opportunities, because you know the other two guys are not going to let it slide, specifically Louis; he played tremendous. Both of those guys could be sitting here right now, too.
Q. There were a lot of emotions after you made that putt on the 72nd hole. How did you get your mind back into thinking there might be a playoff and preparing for that?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, there was emotion there. Clearly because it was the 72nd hole and I had a good round going; that was part of it. I missed one on 18 last week, which was frustrating because I hit a good putt, and you know, the emotion was there briefly because I knew mentally I had to get my emotions in check because I had to get ready for obviously what happened. Clearly I guess I could have won it in 72 holes and I could have lost in 72 holes. I'm just trying to stay in the moment, and at that point get to the range and just warm up and see where things go. I didn't have any expectations. I did all I can do, and obviously fortunately it went my way.
Q. How much more special does it make it that there were so many guys playing really well today? You started off any one of 10 had a great chance, and to beat that many players, and you didn't have a walk in the park; it was a battle right from the start.
ZACH JOHNSON: It was. It was a test starting Thursday certainly. The elements -- I mean, I can go on and on about this. I think I probably got the better end of the wave. I didn't hit a golf shot on the golf course on Saturday. I had a nice day off to relax, work out, et cetera, and then I didn't get off to a good start on the third round on Sunday, but I managed to make some birdies coming in, which was crucial, just to get my round under par. Like you said, it was bunched going into today.
I felt like if I can get a little bit of momentum early on in the day, then who knows what's going to happen, and I'm 7-under through 12 holes or whatever it was. I didn't think it would be quite that significant. But I hit good shots. I had opportunities. I mean, I actually made some putts, I couldn't deny that. I made one on 2 that really kick started my day from probably 25 feet.
Made one off the green on 4, but I missed a lot of 12-to-15-footer for eagle on the 5th hole and missed another 12-footer on the 6th hole. I played really solid and put myself in a position to make birdies and make a run. I knew the guys in front of me, like you said, those names, they're well accomplished. They're champions. They're not going to back down. I clearly had to be somewhat aggressive early on in the day because those outward holes are the ones you've got to kind of take advantage of.
Q. You said earlier in the week you quite often feel under the radar mid-tournament. Did you still feel that today and how do you feel now in terms of under the radar?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I guess that radar is going bonkers right now. You know, I don't know. I don't mind being in that position, you know. I don't know, I did say that, and when my game is good, certainly I surface on the radar. I don't know if it's ever really beeping on me. But you know, I said it back in 2007; I mean, I feel like God gave me the ability to play a game. I try to take it very seriously. I realize it's just a game. I'm just a guy from Iowa that has been blessed with a talent, and this game provides great opportunity. The more opportunities -- I think if you mentally look at it that way, it kind of takes the pressure off.
I don't want to make it any bigger than what it should be. This isn't going to define me or my career, at least I hope it doesn't. It's not my legacy. Granted, as a professional athlete and as a golfer I'm going to relish this. I'm going to savor this. I'm humbled by this. But my legacy should be my kids, my family, that kind of thing.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the magnitude of what Jordan was trying to accomplish today, and as a second part to that question, he was one of the first to congratulate you. What did that mean to you, and can you share what he might have said?
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, he said congratulations and that he was proud. I mean, he's a -- he is a peer of mine. He's an acquaintance of mine. He is a really good friend of mine. Granted, he's 18 years my age, younger, which is perspective. I can't describe the magnitude as to what he was going through because I've never been in that position certainly. We haven't really seen that with the exception of Tiger, right? I mean, truthfully he could be sitting here. You know what I mean? Someone said he had a double out there today.
I mean, he could be sitting here. Now he's made his share of putts over the last odd months, but to have a champion like Jordan take the time on 18 to wish -- give me best wishes, and certainly Mike, his caddie, speaks volumes as to what he is. He's a phenomenal talent, and I'm telling you right now, a lot of you guys know him, he's a better person than he is golfer.
Q. I was listening to some BBC guys on the radio driving up here today, and they were celebrating the fact that Ollie Schniederjans doesn't have any cap, doesn't have any shades, and you are the sort of picture of in the zone, and I just wonder if golf and golfers could do a little bit more -- I hope you don't mind me saying this, but you're quite an expressive guy without the hat and the shades on, nice smile. Could golfers do a wee bit more to let the public and TV cameras in?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, if you're referring to the fact -- one, I've got a bald spot, so I'm going to keep my head -- (laughter) I know there wasn't much sun out there, but I've got to be cautious of that. Two, when it comes to my sunglasses, I know they're sunglasses, but I wear a lens by Oakley that in conditions like this, if anything it enhances light, and it's better. I wear them at dusk, dawn. I see the greens better. I see the reads better in my opinion, and I mean, I had surgery on my eyes, so from a protection standpoint, I can play without them, but it's very uncomfortable. I'm not the most charismatic, maybe emotional, fun-packed individual on the golf course; I get that.
But I'm just -- I'm so into what I'm trying to do, and my game plan is as such, and I just try to go at it. I mean, I'm going to get the crowd going occasionally. I appreciate them and I appreciate -- we play a great sport, a fun sport, one that provides a lot of drama, and there's an entertainment value there, as to what you're getting at, I think. Fortunately we've got a lot of great personalities in this game and a lot of tremendous talent. You know, more of it? I don't know. I'm not here to say that there needs to be more. I think our game and the players that are playing it are in a great state.
Q. Will you be a poster boy for The Open next year?
ZACH JOHNSON: That's one phrase I've never heard coined with me.
Q. What was going through your mind when Louis lipped out there? You just kind of looked shocked.
ZACH JOHNSON: Well, I was standing there. Honestly, I was reciting some scripture that I have in my book just to keep me in the moment. I was doing it all day, all week, and I was getting prepared for a tee shot on 18. I've got to be honest with you. It wasn't one of those, if he misses or if he makes. I was essentially trying to process if he made it and get ready for 18.
You know, you're talking about a guy that -- he's obviously carried this Jug before. Good chance he could do it again because his game is suited to this, and many more majors. He's younger than I am, too. You never want to see a tournament or a championship, specifically The Open, end on a miss. I don't particularly care to see that, either, as a spectator, but fortunately I made a few prior to that that put me in that position, so I feel blessed.
Q. Congratulations. You used the word humble a few times. Can you describe the why and how you are truly humbled by this more than ever before, and if we told you 15 years ago a Green Jacket and a Claret Jug --
ZACH JOHNSON: I mean, I would have said, whose am I trying on, and whose am I touching? It takes me back to when I turned professional. You could even go back further than that when I was playing as a youngster. These are the things you dream about. These are the things you've worked to get to. I'm humbled because there's a lot of individuals that have put me in this position that trust in me, and I trust in them.
I'm humbled by, I think, the talent that I've been given, and I'm humbled right now because of what's in my lap and the names that are etched on this piece of metal that is very special. It's the who's who in the game. It's the guys that paved the way. It's the individuals that are historic in sports. I've said it in '07. I'm humbled, I'm honored, and it's still beyond surreal. I guess when you have a great team, great things can happen.
Q. Can you talk us through a spike mark incident that was highlighted on the TV, I think it was the 15th?
ZACH JOHNSON: I've got to think about this one; hold on. 18?
ZACH JOHNSON: I'm not familiar. 15. Did I make par there? I don't remember. I've got to think about -- I can't remember a spike mark. I'm sorry.
Q. Augusta National, the Old Course at St. Andrews, can you just give your feelings on winning on two of the greatest venues, and is there any other golf course where you really want to win on now?
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, no, I said it in '07, and I continue to say it now with The Open Championship: It's a feat to be invited and an honor to be invited to those tournaments, and to win at Augusta and to win The Open Championship at St. Andrews, it's hard to put it into words, as a golfer, as an athlete, as a guy -- I'm not rich in history, I can tell you that. I'm not a great historian. I know the little things that probably most know, but I do know that this is the birthplace of a great game and a place that has fantastic fans. The venue is just -- for those that love the game, this needs to be on their bucket list and I love playing it.
I've said it many, many, many times: This championship, now it may sound corny because look what I'm holding, but it's probably my most fun golf tournament inside the ropes. Ryder Cup is the Ryder Cup, Augusta is Augusta, I get that. But I just respect and appreciate what this tournament is all about and I could go on and on about that. It's the best. Sorry, the second part of your question. I'm kind of a classic guy. I like the classic ones. I don't need anything that's 8,000 yards; how about that?
Q. Could you tell us a little bit more about the scripture you said you were reciting on the way around, and secondly, how is your hand after high-fiving the crowd?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's good. I could do more if I had to. There was a lot of people out there. That was tremendous. For them to stick around -- there's a lot of people in Louis's corner, obviously, because he's an Open Champion and a phenomenal guy. But for them to stick around was really gracious. What was the first part of your question? Oh, right. I had Psalms 24:17, which was, "Wait for the Lord" -- now you're quizzing me. "Be patient, wait for the Lord. Be courageous, be brave. Yes, wait for the Lord."
Q. (No microphone.)
ZACH JOHNSON: Sure. It's Psalms 24:17, and it's "Be patient, wait for the Lord. Be courageous and brave. Yes, be patient, wait for the Lord." Just little things that help along the way. Gets me down to my priorities.
Q. Congratulations on your fantastic win. Obviously it comes years after what's now your first major win. As the years wore on, did you ever think maybe that's the one major I know might not come, but did you always feel that if you just kept doing what you were doing you would win another major some day?
ZACH JOHNSON: You know, I never really thought I'd win one. Then you get one, and certainly you feel like you can win more, and you want to win more. It drives you, motivates you to practice and get better. I feel like I'm a better player now than I was then. I don't want to sit here and say that I expect to because that couldn't be further from the truth, especially with the individuals -- going back to a one of the questions earlier -- who are playing this game and playing at a high level, but it's a dream realized.
I am a little bit in shock. I think at some point it'll settle in as to what was done. I can tell you the team I have around me has instilled a belief in me that this could happen, and I put myself in position in other major championships to win. Putting yourself in position to win a major championship is hard. It's just -- then when you actually do it, certainly you've got to have a bounce go your way or something, and it went my way, certainly, this week. You've got one guy who wasn't here, unfortunate.
There's not a person that anybody would rather have here than Rory. He's certainly taken the game to newer heights as of late. That's really unfortunate. We all want him back and back healthy more than anything, but the list of guys that are playing at a high level going into it, going into today, you know, I'm very, very pleased.
Q. You talked about the importance of this win, the value of your family in your life. What's it going to mean to you to share that trophy and this victory with your family?
ZACH JOHNSON: It's going to be very special. Very, very special. There's a number of individuals, I wouldn't even know where to start and end, who have been there and allowed me to compete. I really do love golf. There's times when I like it. Certainly there's moments I do love it, but as I've gotten older, I've enjoyed practicing more. I've enjoyed working out more fortunately. I know it doesn't look like it, but I do. I enjoy the gym. And giving me the opportunity to go out and work when the time is right, my kids, my wife, and the rest of my family and friends, you know, I'm very appreciative of that because this isn't by happenstance or luck.
I think quality hard work creates luck certainly. I'm not saying I'm lucky. But yeah, I mean, the support I have back home, the support I have this week from friends and family was tremendous, whether it was a text or a video from my kids or whatever. You know, this is certainly a sharing moment, and fortunately we get to have it for at least a year. I'm ecstatic to share it with them.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
|Print this Story|