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February 9, 2016

James Hahn

ALEX URBAN: We'd like to thank everyone for calling in for the Northern Trust Open media day call with our defending champion James Hahn. Thanks for joining us. I know you're in Monterey preparing to play this week at Pebble Beach. James won last year in a playoff, a thrilling playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey with a birdie on the third extra hole.
James, it was your first PGA TOUR victory. I know it was a great press conference after the victory talking about your path to your first PGA TOUR win. If you could just open up and talk about what that win meant to you and how it's changed your career.
JAMES HAHN: Yeah, no, winning is a big deal on any level, and that's what we work hard for. That's what we strive for, all the hours that we put in, just having faith, all the support around me, to ultimately get that first victory, you know, it meant a lot to myself just in the career path that I'm going and just excelling on every level, but it also meant a lot to my family and my friends that have supported me throughout the years that have‑‑ and especially my caddie who's helped me, Mark Urbanek, that I have committed with him to ride out the entire year together.
But just more of a personal way of saying thank you to all the people that I have met and that have supported me from age four when I started golf all the way throughout college, on to the mini‑tours and on the PGA TOUR.
It's meant a lot to me just to have everyone be thankful and grateful that someone that they know personally that they've been with through the low times and the high times, that we can all celebrate together. That was huge.
And then also to not have to worry about keeping my card for the following year or even the current year last year because of the two‑year exemption. You know, all the benefits of winning a golf tournament are big, but more so than that, I think the relationships that I've built throughout the years and how we've all been able to just celebrate, celebrate winning, I think that means more to me than anything else.
ALEX URBAN: Would you be able to just run us through what it was like there? It was a bunched leaderboard at the end of the day. Take us through the playoff and how you eventually came to win. What do you remember?
JAMES HAHN: So I remember a lot. It was a tough, tough day. I didn't do too much scoreboard watching, but I knew kind of where I stood. I was playing with Dustin Johnson, and all day we were just trading blows. I was 1‑up, he was 1‑up. The course played really difficult. I remember getting a really good break on hole 12. I hit the ball in the high grass about 30 yards short of the green, kind of told my caddie, if we don't find this ball, we're done. I just can't come back from a double bogey. I can live with a bogey and just be one back, but playing against the best players in the world, if we couldn't find my ball and I had to drop back 260, now you're bringing in double bogey at least, possibly triple bogey.
Luckily he found my ball, and it was in a good enough position to where I could advantage it forward onto the green, two putts, and just minimized the damage. I think at that time I had a one‑stroke lead, so giving up a bogey and falling back to a tie was no big deal. And then just played solid through the rest of the round.
I do remember bogeying 16. 16 was a par‑3. Again, hit a really good shot, and the rain just kind of pushed it right in the bunker, and just short‑sided myself. Didn't have a good opportunity to make par. So I bogeyed that hole. I remember kind of running the math in my head and knowing that I was one behind Dustin, and at that time it really didn't matter what the scoreboard had said because if I can't beat everyone in my group then I'm not going to win. I figured if I could just at least tie Dustin, pick up one stroke on him coming in, we were either going to have a good chance of being in a playoff together or at that time I think Sergio had a few‑stroke lead, at least it would have been my highest finish if Sergio had held on, a tie for second. I felt like that was a pretty good way to end the West Coast Swing.
At that time after I bogeyed 16, going into 17, to me it was just strictly match play. I said, I need to pick up one stroke on DJ, and I just played aggressive. Hit a good wedge shot, didn't make the birdie putt, and unfortunately he had bogeyed from about 100 yards out, so we were tied going into hole 18. We both hit good drives down the middle of the fairway. He hits it on the green, I pushed mine a little bit to the right, get up‑and‑down for par. At that time I was looking at the scoreboard, and as much as a competitor as I am, I'm a fan of the game, and I saw that Sergio had just bogeyed one of the holes‑‑ I think he had just bogeyed 17 to fall one ahead or to have a one‑stroke lead, and I was actually rooting for Dustin to make that last putt. It would have been nice to‑‑ if he would have‑‑ if he'd missed, which he eventually did, we would end up tying for second. But I'm a DJ fan; I think he's great for the game. He hits the ball long and he's worked just as hard as everybody else to be successful on this TOUR.
He had missed that putt, and we were walking into the clubhouse. He was a little disappointed and I was a little bit happy that I had at least tied him, thinking that we were going to share a second‑place finish together.
You know, lo and behold, Sergio bogeys another hole. I think he bogeyed the last hole to fall out of the tie for the lead, and now we're in a three‑way tie, myself, DJ and Paul Casey, and then from there it was just the playoff. I've re‑watched it about 20 times.
I think the biggest shot for me in that playoff, everyone is talking about the flop shot on hole 10, but for me in that playoff, I think the biggest shot for me was the second shot on hole 18 in the first playoff hole. Ball below my feet, coming from the rough. I was about 210 out. DJ was up there I think 100 yards out. I had to draw a 3‑iron uphill, ball below my feet, and I couldn't miss left, and the ball luckily came out pretty good, took a big hop on the front of the green and landed just short of the pin, I think about 30 feet short of the flag. But I was in a good position to either make the putt or two‑putt and force DJ to make his birdie putt.
So I knew if we kept playing 18 over and over and over again that DJ would have the advantage and he would eventually birdie. He would make a 15‑footer or 10‑footer to make birdie, whereas my odds of playing that 18th hole under those conditions, par is a great score for me. So after we had parred the first playoff hole, I knew the odds were more in my favor, now we're going to hole 10. It's reachable for all three of us. I hit a great flop shot. DJ hit probably one of the best shots I've ever seen in my life in terms of flop shots that he hit. It was a lot better than mine because it ended up two and a half, three feet away from the hole, but he had a sharper angle, as well, so I had a little bit more green to work with.
And then we both birdied that hole, moved on to the third playoff hole, and DJ hit 6‑iron, and at this point the rain is coming down a little bit, wind is more into our face, and I had hit‑‑ actually I think he hit 5‑iron. It was either 6‑ or 5‑iron, and I was talking to my caddie that I was in between golf clubs, and hey, is it a 6‑iron, is it a 5‑iron, DJ just hit 6‑iron and I don't know if I can get 6‑iron there because he's about a half full to a full club longer than I am. My caddie, Mark, he said, look, it's a 6‑iron. You hit 6‑iron in regulation. This is the same exact shot. You have a little bit of adrenaline, just hit it solid, you don't have to do anything crazy. Hit one of the best 6‑irons that I've hit in a long time and hit it exactly where I was looking. I knew if you missed left of that flag‑‑ DJ just hit it to about ten feet. If I missed left of that flag, you have a hard chance of getting up‑and‑down for par, so at least I wanted to give myself a chance to make birdie, and if not, force him to make his 10‑footer.
Hit a good shot to 18, 20 feet right of the flag, and then I guess the rest is history. I had putted well all day, and I read that putt correctly. I misread it‑‑ I had the exact same putt a little bit shorter in regulation. I think it was about 12 feet, and I had missed it right, and I remember saying to my caddie, I said, I hit that ball exactly where I was looking. I can't believe that putt doesn't go left. He says, yeah, everything feeds towards one of the holes, I think it was hole 6‑‑ 5 or 6. Everything feeds towards that hole. So I said, okay, well, I'm going to play this a little bit more left, and I'm just going to trust that that's the correct read. Hopefully it wasn't that it had hit a patch of poa annua and it broke right. I jut said, I'm just going to aim it just left of the cup, and I had a spot picked out halfway through, and I said, I'm just going to roll it over this and we'll see what happens. Hit a perfect putt, had perfect speed, and it went in.
And then DJ missed his putt, and now I'm here.
ALEX URBAN: Thanks, James. We'll now open it up for some questions.

Q. You've talked a lot about the maturity issue with you. I mean, it took you a while to mature. Can you talk about that from both a golf standpoint and a non‑golf standpoint? Why did it take you so long, I guess, and what were some of the factors in you maturing as both a person and a player?
JAMES HAHN: Yeah, great question. Ooh, I don't even know where to begin on that one. Maturity as a golfer, I'll start there. So maturity as a golfer, you know, I've played golf‑‑ I started when I was four years old, and it really came natural to me. You give a four‑year old a golf club, he swings it, he's on plane, he doesn't do anything crazy, and basically the club just swings itself. I've played a lot of junior golf tournaments and I won a lot of junior golf tournaments growing up.
I remember playing when I was eight, nine, ten, 11 years old and I would always win a handful of golf tournaments during the summertime, and sometimes I wouldn't practice as hard because my confidence level would allow me to shoot even par, a couple under, a couple over, and still pull out a victory.
When I was growing up, I just felt like winning was easy. Winning was natural. It was almost a given.
The older I got, I started to realize how good some of these junior golfers had become just through hard work and practice. So being able to understand that as a kid was difficult because now you're wondering why kids that you've beat multiple times throughout the last five years, that all of a sudden now they're beating you by four, five, six strokes, and now you're not good enough to win a golf tournament, and I think I hadn't won a golf tournament when I was like 14, 15, 16, so I kind of went on a drought there of not winning and just being a little envious at that time.
As a competitor, you want to win, but realizing that if you've earned the right to win I think was huge. As a kid you don't really understand that. You're just jealous that other kids are winning and you're not.
When I got into college, it kind of carried over a little bit, thinking that now I'm playing for UC Berkeley, I feel good enough to win golf tournaments, but not understanding that there are other collegiate golfers throughout the United States that are working 10 times harder than I was and not going out on the weekends and partying and they're actually putting a lot of hours into their craft.
You know, it really took me until after I had graduated, took me several years to really figure out how to be successful in golf and in life, and realizing that you get what you put into it, and the harder you work, the luckier you got and the more rewards you got out of golf and in life.
Just realizing that and rededicating myself to the game and really growing up and saying, hey, look, it's not easy, it's a very difficult sport, just to be patient, and knowing that I had to make up all those hours that I had given away when I was a kid, and I was a few years behind in all the hours that other kids have put into the game when they were in college and the hours that I had thrown away just partying and sleeping in.
I've made up a lot of time since then, and I feel like I'm ahead of some of the guys that I have competed with, and I feel like the more I continue to keep working hard and putting more hours than the average golfer, I feel that I can and will be successful on the PGA TOUR.
Me as a person, a little different because I didn't have the greatest collegiate career, and I didn't have the support that a kid needed at that time. I can now understand the nature of humans in that they're quick to cling to successful people. Everyone wants to be around successful people just as quick as they are to disregard unsuccessful people. So when I was successful as a junior and had made it on scholarship to UC Berkeley, everyone wanted to be my friend. After the first couple years when I was not playing well and eventually had quit the golf team now, no one really wanted to be associated with me, and it was really difficult for me to go through that having lots of friends and people that had supported me or who I thought had supported me at that time. And then all of a sudden now I felt like I was‑‑ it was the most alone I've ever been in my life.
I've really looked back on that and found happiness in my friends who I still consider the closest friends that I have in my life who have helped me and have stuck with me as a friend, and just kind of helped me through the tough times. And these are the friends that I still keep in touch with today.
It's difficult. You know, life is difficult. Golf is even more difficult. When you mix the two, you know, it's a tough sport that we play, and it doesn't get any easier, but I feel like with the friends and the support system that we have, it makes it a little bit more bearable.

Q. You've talked before about how you were known as the guy that did the Gangnam Style dance and people would always ask you about that from Phoenix a few years ago. Since you've won in this last year, do you find that you get recognized more? Are you still able to fly under the radar? Sort of a case in point, if it hadn't gotten rained out at the San Diego tournament, you would have played with some kids and kind of surprised them and they probably would have known who you were. Just trying to get a feel for what's happened the last year, if you get recognized more, if you still fly under the radar, and what that's been like for you?
JAMES HAHN: I would say I do get recognized more a little bit from the win, but just to give you a little insight on what my life is like, I played in the Waste Management Phoenix Open last week, and I was playing the third round with Danny Lee, and all the way walking up to the tee box, everyone is saying, good luck, Danny; good luck, Danny; good luck, Danny. I'm like, all right, they don't know who I am. This is my hometown. I live in Scottsdale now and I live like 10 minutes from the golf course and guys are calling my Danny. I kind of shrug it off. It's no big deal. I don't really‑‑ it doesn't hurt my feelings one way or another that they don't recognize my face. It is what it is. Danny had a great year last year. He made it on the Presidents Cup team and got a lot of publicity for that. He's higher in the World Golf Ranking than I am. So to be associated with a guy who's very successful in the game is not a bad thing.
I do get called out to dance, and hey, do the Gangnam Style, and I'd be willing to bet that some of those guys don't even know my name.
It is what it is. But to me it doesn't matter one way or another. I'm still trying to work hard and be successful in this game.

Q. Talk about the move to PXG, how you're liking it, how hard or how easy switching was, and I hear you don't have an agent, so how did the talks go with them in terms of getting on board?
JAMES HAHN: Good question. So I've‑‑ there was a chain of events that had happened. I practice at TPC Scottsdale, and one of my good friends, Graham DeLaet, he gets lessons from Gabriel Hjertstedt, who used to play on TOUR, so Gabriel is sponsored by PXG and he teaches out of Scottsdale National. So I had questioned him and we've gotten to know each other very well. I questioned him about the golf clubs and how good they are and actually hit the golf clubs that he had had at the time.
It was good. I liked the equipment, loved the driver, loved the 3‑wood, and then from there I had asked for‑‑ I had asked him who was in charge of the TOUR department and if they were looking to add other guys, and we were just kind of making small talk at the time, and he says, you know what, you should give Matt Rollins a call, he's the TOUR rep for PXG. He used to work for Ping. I've known him for the last couple years when he had worked for Ping, just casual talk and seeing him on the range working with other players.
Gave me his phone number, called him up. We had a great discussion. Ended up having him build me a set of irons to try out, and from there it turned into a more serious business conversation of, you know, are they looking to sign more guys for the following year, and told him that I was interested in possibly doing a deal.
From there it just kind of snowballed into what it is today in that now I'm on staff with PXG. I practice out of Scottsdale National, and it's been a great relationship, and I'm very happy with the decision.
One of the big factors that took place in me switching over to PXG is the fact that they're based in Scottsdale, and I live 15 minutes away from the headquarters, and if I have any problems or would like to try anything new, that I can just drive down to their base and get fitted for a new driver, new 3‑wood, new irons, new wedges, whatever I need to get dialed in with.
I think that's a huge bonus. I don't think most guys live that close to club manufacturers, and they always have to wait until they set back on TOUR to try new equipment and see if it works and then give it a couple weeks before they actually put it in play, whereas now I can‑‑ I have an advantage of just the timing aspect of it. I can get a new driver, new 3‑wood, new set of irons, whatever I need during my off week and already have multiple reps with those new clubs, and then put it in the following weekend at a new golf tournament and feel comfortable doing that.
The people behind the scenes, Mike Nicolette is one of the best in the business, and he's helped me dial in the driver, the 3‑wood and the irons. He just built me a new wedge last week, and I think that just the people that they have behind the scenes have made the transition very easy for me and comfortable enough for me to put new clubs in without blinking an eye.
It's been a great relationship. I feel like the technology that they have is the best in the industry, and I feel like Bob Parsons is a great‑‑ is a genuine person, and he's a great businessman. Once again, another guy that I would love to spend more time with and just kind of pick his brain on things, on business, on life, on how to be successful and things like that, and I feel like the more you associate yourself or connect yourself with successful people that it's just a matter of time until you're also successful.
ALEX URBAN: Before we wrap up if you just want to give your thoughts on coming back next week to the Riviera Country Club to defend and going through that experience for the first time.
JAMES HAHN: Yep. So really excited. A little bit nervous for the event and just kind of the new experiences that I will have next week. I've played on the Canadian Tour, played on the Web.com TOUR and now on the PGA TOUR. I've won on all three levels, but this will be the first time that I've ever had to defend my title. The Canadian Tour I had won in Edmonton and didn't have the opportunity to defend because I was playing on the Web.com TOUR the following year, and the same in Raleigh when I had won the Rex Hospital Open. I had won that golf tournament but had graduated to the PGA TOUR.
This will be the first time that I've had to go back as a defending champion. Really excited for that, and I've already gotten multiple texts from people sending my pictures of my face on the side of buses and at shopping malls and billboards. It'll be interesting. I've never had that happen before, but it definitely keeps me motivated, and it makes me want to go back there and win another one.
Really looking forward to the opportunity, and just anxious to kind of get everything started.
ALEX URBAN: Fantastic. We'd like to thank James for his time, and thanks to all the media for calling in. Best of luck on your defense of the Northern Trust Open next week, James.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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