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My Favorite Course: Zach Johnson

At age 38, professional golfer Zach Johnson is best known for winning the Masters in 2007. He has 11 wins on the PGA Tour, including the Hyundai Tournament of Champions earlier this year. Johnson is currently ranked 15th in the world, and 11th in the FedEx Cup with 1552 points.

Johnson went pro 16 years ago, hitting greens on second-tier tours like the (Nationwide) Tour and Hooters Tour. With close to half a million in winnings in 2003, he made the jump to the PGA Tour. The Iowa native managed his first Tour win three years later at the Bell South Classic and captured his first Major three years after that, besting Tiger Woods at Augusta. He has since won the Valero Texas Open and the Crowne Plaza Invitational both twice, among other tournaments.

CBS Local Sports sat down with Zach Johnson to discuss his favorite golf course and hole and what it's like to win The Masters.

Watch Fan Essentials: My Favorite Course.

CBS Local Sports: What is your favorite course to play, and second part, what is your favorite golf hole?

Johnson: My favorite golf course to play... I've been fortunate enough, I think three or four times, to play Pine Valley outside of Philadelphia. I know this sounds pretty ridiculous, it is the number one-rated course in the world. However, it’s the number one-rated course in the world for a reason. It’s so unique, it is so different. You've got sand dunes in the middle of New Jersey with Pines, and one hole is not remotely like the next. It is its own little utopia of golf, and I love that.

My favorite golf hole…, wow, that’s a tough one. I like -- I want- something that certainly challenges you. I don’t want something that’s just, you know… hit it down there and hit it again. I know it’s short, I know it doesn't require the longest club in my bag, but I’d have to say probably 12 at Augusta. That’d be way up on my list. It's one of those things, you don’t have to make it long to make it good. Cause you’ll tighten up every time you get to that tee box regardless of the pin, regardless of the wind. It is brutal.

CBS Local Sports: Pregame rituals?

Johnson: I’m not superstitious when it comes to my golf. However, I am very routine oriented. So I have to get to the golf course about two hours and 15 or 20 (minutes) before my tee time, get in the gym, warm up, do some dynamic stretching, get the blood going, maybe do a little cardio. (I) have to do that. That’s just something I can’t live without. My body doesn't function without that. Then I’m gonna go eat, preferably something light... whether it’s breakfast or lunch, just something to get my body going.

And then I’m on the range, the putting range rather, 10 minutes to my tee time, getting my caddy, getting things situated. Balls, etc. and I’m warming up an hour before my tee time, so you know, there’s not really a ritual there outside of making sure that I’m just sticking to my time and budgeting (time). It just seems to work. I mean, there’s certain elements and things you can’t predict, you have to be flexible with it, Mother Nature in particular, but I really try to stick to that plan.

CBS Local Sports: Why is that process to you so important?

Johnson: I think the best part about that is, like I said, it’s pretty regiment. It’s two hours and 20 minutes before my tee time. The best part about that is, that happens on a Thursday in a random week, that happens on a Sunday when I’m in contention, it doesn't make any one day bigger or better than the next. Everyday is important. I don’t want to get cliché, but every round’s important, every hole’s important, every shot’s important. Therefore, why deviate just because it’s a “more important day” or the first day? That’s irrelevant. Everyday is that important.

CBS Local Sports: Being ranked one of the top golfers in the world, what do you credit your amazing career and success to?

Johnson: I've been fortunate to climb up the ranks I’d guess you’d say with golf. And I’m one of those guys that attribute a lot of my success, if not all of my success, to my team. I am the one hitting the shots, I know. You see my caddy who’s obviously instrumental he’s part of that team. There’s no doubt about that. We've been together for 11 years, so he’s definitely an integral part of that team. But I would say, more than not, you’re talking about my wife first and then my coaches. Swing coach, Mike Bender, mental coach, Morris Pickens, my trainers Troy and Chris, my manager Brad keeping things together and then obviously my sponsors off the golf course too that allow me to do what I do and give me the freedom to do so.

So a great team that just allows me, puts me, in a place and a posture to go out and work and do something I love to do... A phenomenal team of individuals that trust me and I trust them. Always healthy conversation. But a group of individuals, both on and off the course. They really just allow me to go do what I love to do and that’s play golf for a living.

CBS Local Sports: When and how did you first start playing golf?

Johnson: I started in the game when I was fairly young. I played all sports. I mean golf wasn't the first sport, and it certainly wasn't my first love. But my folks joined a small little club back in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Elmcrest Country Club, where it all started. And Larry Gladson, the head pro there, kind of got me going with the game. He’s still the head pro there, he sits at my foundation board, one of the guys that I owe a lot and a phenomenal family man. So I was probably nine or 10 when that really started going, and I didn't really take it that serious probably until my young teenage years. I think the other sports kind of passed me by from a speed standpoint, a power kind of standpoint so, golf kind of picked me and I just kind of rode with it.

CBS Local Sports: What was it like to win the 2007 Masters?

Johnson: Winning the 2007 Masters was horrible... Yeah, winning the 2007 Masters was ultimately a dream fulfilled. A dream realized, a dream come true...

Every time April comes around back in my home state of Iowa, that was the beginning of golf and that was Augusta National. That was the Masters. So having the opportunity to go win it on that Sunday certainly felt just strange, kind of out-of-body experience. A surreal experience, if you will. You know it was one of those wins that, I can’t put this lightly, I felt like I teed off on Thursday and I tapped in on Sunday... Culminating on Easter Sunday with my family, very special, being a Christian man, I mean, that was just one of those things. You couldn't write it any better. I know it was only my second win, but it was a win that really helped me the remainder of my career and still will.

Check out other entries from My Favorite Course.

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