Featured Golf News
Wagner Gets Third Win on Tour
The pro golfer with the two last names closed with a 3-under 67 to win the Sony Open. Johnson Wagner finished at 13-under 267, two strokes ahead of Carl Pettersson, Sean O'Hair, Harrizon Frazar and Charles Howell III. Three of those players shot 67 as well; the only exception was Howell, who had a 69.
The victory, worth $990,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points, was the third of Wagner's career. His earlier wins came in the 2008 Shell Houston Open and the Mayakoba Golf Classic last year.
After two bogeys and a birdie in his first six holes at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Wagner settled down, carding four birdies in his next nine holes.
The 30-year-old, whose full name is Montford Johnson Wagner, came into 2012 with a new look. Through workouts in the off-season he lost 20 pounds and grew a mustache. He's also exuding confidence.
"I was definitely telling people to expect something early this year, which is a nice feeling," he said. "Usually, my confidence is low. I'm kind of shy in a little shell. And for some reason, I just had way more energy and confidence going into this year.
"I love being out here. There's so many great players," he added. "But why are they any better? Why are the people in the top 50 better than me? I've always struggled a little bit with believing in myself." (See below for Wagner's full post-round interview.)
The victory assures Wagner of a spot for the second straight year in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a cherished berth in the 2012 Masters.
Carl Pettersson also underwent changes in the off-season. The native of Sweden who attended North Carolina State and has since settled in Raleigh has become a U.S. citizen. "My first top 10 as an American," the 34-year-old quipped after his tie for second.
Third-round co-leaders Jeff Maggert and Matt Every slipped down the leaderboard after disappointing final rounds. Every went 4-over through six holes but came back for a 72 and tied for sixth at 10-under 270. Maggert had 31 putts en route to four bogeys and a 74. The 46-year-old, whose last win came in 2006 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, ended up tied for 13th at 272.
"Really bummed about my start, because I wasn't that nervous, and I actually felt really good," Every said. "I had a great warm-up, and, you know, just missed a few putts early and it snowballed."
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/r/leaderboard/.
After accepting the winner's hardware and pay check, Wagner met with reporters for the following interview.
MODERATOR: Congratulations to our 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii winner, Johnson Wagner. Great day today and great tournament all week. If you could, start with talking about what this win, not only means just as being your third PGA Tour win but, how it sets you up for the rest of this year.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I worked really hard this off season and had set a lot of goals: Getting back into the Masters, getting back into the majors, get my World Ranking up to the Top 50 where I think I belong and hopefully having a chance to qualify for the Ryder Cup Team. I've won twice and learned from both of these experiences that you think they just come so easy after that. So hopefully I can settle down a bit and then not think that winning is easy, because it is not, and it's hard. I've worked very hard this off season, like I said, and it's just really nice to see it pay off so early.
Q. It was so cluttered there, I think were probably six guys in the lead at some point, did you have a number in mind when you made the turn?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I think I caught a glimpse somewhere around the turn that the guys that were 12 had backed up a little bit. And I saw that 11 under was leading, maybe on the 8th green. I figured maybe if I could make a birdie on 9, I would be tied for the lead. And luckily I birdied 9 and 10 and just quit looking at the leaderboard for a bit. I tried to look at it at the right times but not get too focused on it.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I don't think I made a bogey on the back nine all week. All week, I played the back nine - I shot 5 under on my first nine holes on Thursday. And when I started planning my interview sitting in here for the 59 I was going to shoot (laughter), I then made four bogeys in a row or something on the front nine and kind of brought me back down to earth a little bit. But I played the back nine great all week, and I knew if I could get through that front nine under par then I would have a good chance to win.
Q. Is there something particular about the back nine and this week for you?
JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, the tee shots set up a little better for me on the back nine. I don't think in five Sony Opens, I can honestly say, I don't think I've ever hit the first fairway. So I just can't find the fairways on the front nine like I can on the back. And I drove it really well all week on the back nine and left myself a lot of birdie putts, and really I didn't have too many opportunities to even make birdie. So it was just really solid, and my caddie and I would always talk or he always tells me about those last four holes, last five holes. It's kind of an important thing to play well every day on the back nine or the last four or five holes.
Q. You missed four cuts in a row here; what was different this time?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I played well here my rookie year in 2007 and the conditions of the course were very similar. It was firm and fast and the greens were fast. The rough was up a little bit kind of like this, and last year, you remember we had just terrible rain on maybe Tuesday, Wednesday. I know the Pro Am got cancelled. And I don't play soft golf courses particularly well. But when we have weather like this at Waialae, I think it's one of the best golf courses that I could play at. I'm a huge Seth Raynor fan, and I know he designed this place and I just always have good feelings on his golf courses.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I did. I was excited I got in Monday night late from Maui and saw some caddies that had been out to the course on Monday and they said it was playing firm and fast and from that moment on, I was excited to play this week.
Q. Four part question if I could: The origin of the mustache; the first thing a player said to you when you got to Kapalua; the most complimentary thing you've heard about it, if any; and the future of it.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I was with my wife's family in Richmond for Thanksgiving and I just didn't shave the entire week. When I got home, I thought - I had never had facial hair. So I thought it was - I thought it was too much growth to just let it go to waste. I shaved everything but the mustache, and it kind of went from there. My wife really hated it at the beginning, which made me want to grow it even more. And then actually I played in a little tournament the first of December down in Naples and saw Carl Pettersson and George McNeill, and they were both just like: "You've got to keep it until Hawaii. We have to see this thing in a month."
So I had a lot of motivation to keep it. I had grown quite a thick skin because my friends back home have just ridden me about how awful it was. But I'm excited about it, and then - (laughter). And then I guess when I got to Maui I don't know if that's part three or part four of your question. But when I got to Maui, Harrison Frazar - did he finish second by the way? He just looked at me and I probably got 'Magnum P.I.' in Maui a hundred times, and I had never really watched the show. So I Googled images of Tom Selleck, and I took it as a compliment. (Laughter) I don't know if that he thought that was like a remark on me, but Tom Selleck is a stud so if I can look anything like him I'm very excited.
Kind of made a deal with myself in December that if I was to get into the Masters, then I was going to keep the mustache for at least this year. I kind of kept telling people, everybody said, "Oh, is it a November mustache? Well, it's December time to shave it." I said, "Look, this is not a one month mustache. This is potentially a 10 year mustache." So I think it's going to be around for a while. Now if the summer heat gets to me, I may shave it off. But I'm going to try to make it as long as I can.
Q. How much weight have you lost?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Probably I don't know, I haven't been on the scale really, 10 to 15 pounds but I'm a couple inches down on my waist and a belt loop or two in on all of my belts. So feeling pretty good.
Q. Away from your weight and mustache, how was the transition from Maui over to here, because two totally different courses, etc.
JOHNSON WAGNER: It is. I played here five times with limited success in the past. But Maui is so wonderful, it's very laid back. There's not much to do city wise but I really relaxed and enjoyed Maui. And coming over staying down in Waikiki, great restaurants and walking around every night. Any time you're in Hawaii, it's an easy transition. It's so beautiful over here and it's really nice to be able to come back next year for both events. It was an easy transition. The golf courses are different but we play different golf courses every week so it's not too challenging to adjust; at least the grasses are the same. Now going next week to Palm Springs, that's going to be an adjustment playing on different grasses and different weather.
Q. At what point did you feel like you had taken control?
JOHNSON WAGNER: When I birdied 9 and 10, really when I birdied 9, I made a really nice up and down out of the bunker and pretty much a tap in. But I guess on Sundays, nothing is really a tap in and the nerves get out there. But I birdied 9. Knew I was tied for the lead and I just figured I had played the back nine so well, and I kind of figured it was at least mine and Charles Howell's too lose because we were pretty neck and neck there on the front, and I felt like it was going to come down to us.
Q. What is it about firm and fast that you like?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Well, I'm not very long, so the firmer it gets, the longer I hit it. I drive it pretty straight. This week is tough to drive it straight on but you know, I drive it straight. I have really good control of my irons coming into the greens. So even out of the rough, I just feel like my distance control is great, so when the course conditions get harder, I personally feel like I played better. So the more difficult, the more I like it. Now, I shot 84 at Oakmont in the U.S. Open and that was a little hard, but I like the harder, the better.
Q. What do you think the difference is going to be in terms of Masters anticipation between having no time to think about it and having three months to think about it?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Yeah, it's going to be great. I play Quail Hollow in Charlotte where we have a bunch of members that are members at Augusta. Johnny Harris, who is kind of the czar, if you will, of Quail Hollow, he told me the night before I left for Maui, I said, "If I get into the Masters, are you going to sponsor my brother and I in a foursome down there for a couple of days?" He was like, "You go do it and I've got you, partner." (Speaking in Southern accent). So I'll be going down to Augusta a few times, maybe bring my caddie he's sitting back there. He kind of skanks it around. I don't know if he can play Augusta. He hits a fade and you need to hit a draw there.
Q. What made you think you were going to win so early this year?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I worked hard. I'm not saying I worked harder than anybody because guys work incredibly hard out here. But I worked harder this off season, me personally than I've ever even dreamed of. I was working out three days a week at home, made three trips to Florida to go see my coach and we just had incredible weather in Charlotte. I love golf, I love playing, I golf competing and trying to win tournaments. So I worked really hard this off season.
JOHNSON WAGNER: I like to play golf. And I worked out, I worked out three days a week, and I have not worked out my entire life until last April. It's made a difference in, I think more than anything, my confidence level. I think that's what the mustache has done, too, just given me this confidence level that I've never had before. (Laughter).
Q. Did you tell some people that you were going to win early this season?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Yeah, I did. I told my wife that I was going to win early. I told my parents and my brother and my trainer who is going to be there next week; I tried to get him to fly out here this week but he had to drive out to Palm Springs. But yeah, I was definitely telling people to expect something early this year, which is a nice feeling. Usually I'm kind of - usually my confidence is low. I'm kind of shy in a little shell, and I for some reason just had way more energy and confidence going into this year.
Q. Can you talk about the influence of Bobby Heintz, how much it helps having a player with a lot of great playing experience.
JOHNSON WAGNER: Definitely Bobby is one of my best friends up in New York when I was in high school. Bobby Heintz, first assistant at Old Oaks Country Club in New York in Purchase. Bobby and I kind of have been working together for ten years and the last year and a half or so, he's brilliant, he's very - he's a one of a kind person but he's brilliant. He has a lot of incredible golf knowledge and the last year and a half I've really just tried to absorb as much of it as I can, as opposed to kind of ignoring him and thinking I can do it on my own. I really matured in the last year and a half, and a lot of that has to do with just listening to what he's saying.
Q. When you were telling all of these people that you were going to win early, there's a school of thought that you don't want to give voice to that because then it creates expectations and maybe extra pressure. But what was your thinking in actually articulating what you believed?
JOHNSON WAGNER: It was not like I was calling the Golf Channel and saying, I'm going to win early this year. I was telling the people that were really close to me, my closest friends and family, I was telling them that. It was not like I was shouting it from on top of the mountains. But yeah, it felt good to say it. Even out there today, your mind wanders so much in this game; you look ahead, and I'm sure I looked over on the 14th hole and saw a lady in a Masters shirt and I was like, ooh, I'd better not look at that, because I didn't want to think of the Masters. It's okay to think it and say it. You just have to when you're out there playing, you just have to focus on what you're doing and not get ahead of this receive.
Q. Did something pre empt this? Did someone ask you or did you just walk around telling everybody that?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I just really had it was the start of December, the mustache was young. I was working out hard. I was really - my dad thought I was on speed or something. I just had all of this energy from working out and I guess that's what it was. I just had a couple really good sessions with my coach, Bobby, down in Florida and the whole month of December, I was playing great at home. I was striking it well. Went back to an old putter that I had used before and just everything seemed to click.
I remember having a conversation with my brother in mid December and I was on fire. I felt like could I have gone and won anywhere in the world that week and I looked at him and I said, when I've gotten to this point in my career, I wanted to just maintain where I'm at, and I looked at him and I said, that's where I always fall and start down on a bad path. I said, I want to continually get better, every day. There's no flat lining in golf. If you're not - it's so cliche, but if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. Hogan hit balls every day until his hands bled trying to get better every day. Just really, even from this point, I'm on top of - this is the greatest moment in my golf life, but I want to get better from here, and that's where I need to mentally find myself.
Q. What inspired you to inaudible.
JOHNSON WAGNER: The speed maybe (laughter). I started keeping - I never carry a yardage book but when I played in the Masters in 2008, they gave me this beautiful green, leather yardage book cover with Augusta and my name on it. So I put a little notepad in there and just started making notes when I was on the golf course about swing feels that felt good and goals, and I just started putting thing down on paper so I could have something to go back to, and just reading and reading and writing new stuff and it rewriting it and just really, it just - everything became very clear.
Q. When did you . . .
JOHNSON WAGNER: Early December.
Q. You mentioned that you looked at the leaderboard very selectively on the back nine. Were you thinking in your mind, birdie or better on every hole on the back nine, or what was your mind set?
JOHNSON WAGNER: There's not many eagle opportunities on the back, but I was definitely wanting to have putts at birdie on every hole. I was not by any means in any position to just kind of lay down and start trying to make pars, because that's an easy way to start making bogeys. But yeah, I was just feeling really good with my game and I was hitting a lot of fairways and when you hit fairways out here, you can be a little more aggressive. If you hit it to 20 feet to any of these pins, you can make putts; the greens were so good. I was just trying to hit greens and give myself opportunities.
Q. You've won twice before out here and it sounds like when you did win, that was the pinnacle and maybe you kind of took it a little easy after that. Now you're talking about this whole idea of wanting to go further and beyond; so how do you approach now after this win for the rest of the season?
JOHNSON WAGNER: You know, I've got a nice flight tonight to Palm Springs. I'm going to have some good chats with my caddie and talk about that kind of stuff. Talk to my coach, Bobby. Talk to the people that - I've got so much help. I've got so many people supporting me. Talk to my parents and everybody that's close and see what I feel like I'm doing the right things, so if I just continue to do the right things and try to get better my short game is awful. I putted out of the rough today on 12. I can always get better. I think that's when I'm going to become a really good player is when my short game gets tight.
It's weird, I feel incredible right now. I'm so excited to win but it has - it feels different this time. It feels like this is kind of just the beginning, like there's better things coming. I'm not saying I'm going to go win the Masters or anything, but I've got a chance now; I'm in the tournament. I'm just going to try to get better every day. It's a terrible cliché but I'm just going to try to get better and keep working out and keep doing the things I'm doing. My body is not perfect, that's for sure. I've got a lot of room to get fitter.
Q. You missed four straight cuts, and you think you're going to come out here and do real well . . .
JOHNSON WAGNER: I've always liked golf course. It's a tough place to start the year. I remember when I played in 2009 I had come off Kapalua and finished 10th and was like, golf is easy, I'm going to blow this field away and I missed the cut by a while. You have to check yourself every day out here, because guys are good and it's tough. But you know, this is my sixth year on Tour now and I feel like I'm grown up. I feel a different level of maturity and knowledge and I've got an incredible caddie, Matt Hauser is the man. I have become so much more consistent at making cuts and finishing Top 25, and now our next step is a lot more Top 10s, multiple wins. We have got a lot of goals that we have kind of set for ourselves. It's going to be - I have - how old is Steve Stricker, 42? 44? I have 12 more years out here hopefully, at least. I'm just really, really excited.
Q. Do you need any coffee right now, or you are you okay?
JOHNSON WAGNER: Do you see why my dad thinks I'm on speed.
Q. What iron did you hit on 15?
JOHNSON WAGNER: 9 iron.
Q. And at what point did you think you belonged or should be in the Top 50 in the world?
JOHNSON WAGNER: I've thought it for a while. When I first got out here it was so great to get out here and then I won the next year, and I just -there's so many good guys out here. I love being out here, there's so many great players, but why are they any better? Why are people in the Top 50 any better than me? I think once I believe in myself a little more; I've always struggled a little bit with believing in myself. Once I started believing in myself a little bit, why stop at top 50? Why can't I be in the Top 10 in the world? I drive it good. I play good golf. I think I just want to be the best I can be.
MODERATOR: Congratulations on the victory and we look forward to the self help book. Congratulations.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.