Professional golfer Zach Johnson, who competes on the PGA tour, is most known for winning the 2007 Masters Tournament in Augusta, defeating Tiger Woods, Reteif Goosen and Rory Saabbatini. His score of 289 (+1) tied Sam Snead (1954) and Jack Burke Jr. (1956) for the highest winning score at the Masters. Zach’s victory took him from #56 to #15 in the world rankings. Zach was the first outside the top 50 in the world rankings to win the Masters in the history of the ranking.
Zach took up golf at the age of 10 and continued playing through high school and college. He says, “I just kept getting better every year.” With his Masters win and several other major wins, we believe him.
His nine other PGA Tour wins include: the Bell South Classic (2004), AT&T Classic (2007), Valero Texas Open (2008), Sony Open In Hawaii (2009), Valero Texas Open (2009), Crowne Plaza Invitational (2010), Crowne Plaza Invitational (2012), John Deere Classic (2012), BMW Championship (2013), Northwestern Mutual World Challenge (2013).
Zach and his wife, Kim, have two sons, Will and Wyatt as well as a newborn daughter, Abby Jane. All together they reside in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Read further for an in-depth interview with Zach:
Oakley: You’ve always worn Oakley eyewear informally during your golf career, but now you’re officially going to be a part of the Oakley eyewear team. What has the importance of eyewear been to you in both your career and your personal life?
Zach Johnson: The eyewear was really where it started for me. On a side note, I used to have an aunt that worked here [Oakley] and my uncle had a huge fascination for Oakley and that’s kind of where it all started and it kind of bled into me.
But the eyewear is where it first started. As far as equipment for me on the golf course, to me there is nothing better. I’ve seen the tests, I’ve gone through everything that goes on downstairs here and I’ve seen all that happens and how they exhaust their capabilities; they take everything to the extreme. And I appreciate that.
I’ve had Lasik surgery and therefore I HAVE to have something on my eyes when I play golf. I used to just use them when I was practicing and on the tournament situation I flipped for about a year and I got the point where I was like, “Why am I doing this?” And I just kept them on. Now, I cannot play a competitive round without them. I just cannot play without them. I read the grass better, I read the greens better, I can just see better and I’m protected.
For longevity; eye protection, it’s a no-brainer. Headaches; it eliminates a lot of that stuff too. So, even if I didn’t have a formal relationship with Oakley, that would still exist.
Oakley: The conditions in golf are ever-changing too. On sunny days you’re wearing dark lenses and on cloudier days, you have the ability to wear lighter lenses to combat the low light. Can you talk about the importance of that to your game?
Zach Johnson: Absolutely! That’s what I love about it. It depends on where you are, you know, the environment, the climate. On days when there’s not a cloud in the sky, it can be very bright and if you’re in the desert, it’s even brighter; so I’ll wear a darker lens. And then those days when its kind of hazy, sun is in and out sort of day, there are lenses for those days as well. And like I said, I cannot play without them, so dusk, dawn, rain, any sort of inclement weather; I’m wearing them. I’ve got brighter lenses that brighten the day up. I can tell you stories and stories and stories about that. I’m talking specific rounds, specific shots. And I’m not just trying to boost it. I really could.
I remember walking down the 18th fairway with Tiger at Bayhill when he won in the dark. He made a putt in the dark to win. And I’m wearing my glasses. He was like, “Dude, what are you wearing those for?” And I said, “Put them on!” And he was like, “Whoa!” It just brightens the sky. It does, that’s just why I wear them. In the rain, its even better. I don’t get the moisture in my eyes. In the wind, it’s probably the best because I don’t get any sort of watery eyes. So, any condition; there’s a lens for them.
Oakley: You’re going to be wearing Oakley apparel this year as well. What does that mean to you?
Zach Johnson: I’m excited about it! I’ve got some peers that have worn it in the past and some that currently wear it. I like the way it looks. I was telling some of the other guys [Oakley employees] that what I appreciate about it is that if you see a guy wearing Oakley golf wear, you see him from a distance, you can tell that’s definitely Oakley golf apparel. It has classic lines to it. And then you get up close and say, “Wait a minute. That’s golf wear, but it’s kind of got an edge to it.” It’s Oakley. They push it just a little bit, yet it remains true to what the culture is at Oakley. So, I love that. Its athletic, its modern, but yet its still got class to it. Its still got the traditional golf lines to it, with extreme technology.
My apparel, and it’s been like this with every other company, its my equipment. So I’m not going to wear 100% cottons and wools every day. I just can’t do that because of the extremes I’m putting my body thorough. So this is a very natural transition.
Outside of that, like I said; I’ve had a great relationship with [Oakley] and this has just added to it. This has just enhanced the foundation that Al [Janc] and Louis [Wellen] (Oakley Sports Marketing Managers – Golf) and I have already established.
Oakley: Let’s switch gears and talk about your career. The Masters win in 2007 is obviously a big one. You have nine PGA Tour wins. What are your personal highlights?
Zach Johnson: Obviously if people are going to write something about it, they’re going to start with The Masters. I’m not trying to get prideful, but that’s something that stands out for me too. Without a doubt. It’s a major!
A couple of other things that stand out for me and the most important thing to me would be the consistency. I’m going into my tenth year on tour. I’ve won nine times, but more than that, I don’t miss many cuts. Last year I only missed one. I’m putting myself in contention. I’ve got a number of top five’s that I could have won. I mean, I’ve won some tournaments I probably shouldn’t have won too, but lost some I probably could have won. So, it evens out.
I say all that, but what’s really encouraging is that I’m still hungry and still excited about the future. Those are the big things; the consistency and the drive to continue to improve.
If you want to get more specific than that; three Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups; those were highlights for me. The Ryder Cup is like nothing we have in the sport, or any sport as far as I’m concerned. I’m a sports junky and if I’m not on the Ryder Cup team, I’m going to be watching, just because its so cool.
Oakley: Yes, let’s talk about that. The Ryder Cup this year was huge. 2012 was a huge year for you in general. Like you said, you only missed one cut, you won two times, six top ten’s. How do you plan to top that in 2013?
Zach Johnson: That’s why I have a team behind me. If there’s one thing I’d like to get across, its this: Yeah, I am the one inside the ropes, and certainly you see me and Damon, my caddy, going about it. But yet, I’ve got the hamsters pedaling the wheels behind me. And that starts with the two guys that are here with me today. Certainly my wife is the head of that, but more than that it’s my swing coach Mike Bender. Its Morris Pickens, my mental coach. Its Troy, my physio guy. I’ve got a trainer in Chris Noss. My manager supports me. So all these guys have really just come along side of me and trust me and I trust them. We have an end of the year meeting. We collaborate together There’s constant communication going on with all of those entities. Because there’s the common goal of always trying to improve and always trying to get better. So I think 2013 can be better than 2012 and so-forth.
There’s a lot of work, a lot of self-motivation to be done too though. I’ve got three kids now, so its budgeting time; its getting the most out of what you’re dealt; but I’m excited about it. There’s no reason why I can’t continue to improve and get better.
Oakley: How about long-term, career-wise? Have you thought about that? What is the ultimate goal? How do you want to be looked at in the sport of golf?
Zach Johnson: I think more than anything, my foundation of how my wife and I approach our lives is that golf is my job. I give it 100 and some odd percent every day when I’m playing it. But if someone were to say, “Talk about Zach Johnson,” I hope their going to say, “He was a great Christian man, a good family guy, a guy that thought highly of others and gave and served. Oh and it just so happens he plays golf.” When you talk about individuals in this day and age, you’re talking about their character and their integrity they carry, rather than what they do.
I love the game of golf. I don’t like to play it all the time, because it’s my job. I love the competition. So if you’re going to get specific into the golf game; a fierce competitor. He wasn’t dominant in a lot of senses but he got a lot out of hard work, perseverance and patience. And a guy who was appreciative of what he had.
Oakley: One last question on the Oakley side of things: We like to consider ourselves more of a family here than a company and you walk through the halls and see the pictures of all of our athletes ranging from action sports stars to motor sports stars. You’re now officially becoming a part of that family and we stand behind our team of athletes. Is this an exciting day for you to officially join that family?
Zach Johnson: It is! It’s been a very natural, organic type of relationship because 1. I’ve been with Oakley just with the lenses and the relationships I’ve had there. Louis and Al have helped my foundation out in the past. So there’s been this mutual respect and a mutual kind of team already. And now we’re just enhancing that. And that’s what I appreciate.
Like you said, you walk through the halls here and its one big family. Whether you work here or you represent the company, you’re all in the same boat, and I love that. Every relationship I’ve had corporately, sponsorship-wise, has the business side of things. You’ve got to take care of that. Fortunately I have management and don’t have to deal with it [laughs]. But what’s involved is this family. And that’s what I love.
Every company I’ve been associated with, they’ve kind of naturally evolved into that. It speaks to the volume of Oakley and how they go about their business. You’re keeping the core the core; product and lenses in particular. But you’re keeping the core the core and outside of that, you’re able to combat tough times because of how you guys go about business. Its one big family. The turn over is small. I’ve talked to people who have been here for 18, 12 and 22 years and their not old guys! That speaks volumes. And that’s what excites me. We’re just starting now and hopefully it will continue to grow.