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JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MEDIA DAY
May 20, 2019
CLAIR PETERSON: I don't know if you heard when we walked in, very nice round of applause. Thank you very much. Michael says, "I didn't know you were so famous, Clair." And I'm not.
I have a long history of talking over other people's comments, so I'm not going to do that this time, right off the bat, maybe later.
Our success revolves around all of our volunteers and our volunteer chair this year is Sean McGuire, so I'd like to let Sean come up to the podium and welcome everyone.
SEAN McGUIRE: Thanks, Clair. Good morning, everyone. On behalf of the volunteers, the board of directors, the tournament staff, we thank you for joining us today as we begin the run-up to the 2019 John Deere Classic. We are less than 50 days and counting. We want to begin today by giving a proper thank you to John Deere and the John Deere Foundation. The Quad Cities is fortunate to have John Deere as such an integral part of the community and we're honored to be able to call them our title sponsor.
Michael, it's great to have you with us today. The demands on your time are significant, and for you to take the time to join us today is greatly appreciated. Happy to welcome you back, and wish you all the best as you defend your title this July.
We have a vital mission that we look to fulfill each and every year: To contribute positively to life in the Quad Cities, to invite annual contributions to charity, promote volunteerism and to provide a positive impact to the community. We fulfill this mission in a number of ways.
We continue to be identified by the PGA TOUR for our many successes. In 2018 we were awarded the best title sponsor integration award. This award is especially gratifying as it recognizes the close relationship between the John Deere Classic and John Deere. Through the Birdies For Charity program, we've raised $13.4 million in 2018, which included an 8.2 percent match to over 500 contributing charities.
This part of our total charitable giving to the Birdies For Charity program is over $107 million since the inception of the program. We continue to be the No. 1 tournament on the TOUR in per capita giving and No. 3 in total charitable giving. Each year the John Deere Classic provides an estimated $54 million positive economic impact to the Quad Cities, which would not be possible without the help of many, many people.
It takes over 2,000 dedicated volunteers who put in countless hours, arriving early, staying late, in about every weather condition imaginable. The tournament would not be possible without them. It takes committed board of directors and committee chairs who work all year long to make the tournament a success. It takes our incredible staff and tournament director Clair Peterson, continuously improving and adding fresh new ideas. It would also not be possible without the TPC Deere Run, which provides an amazing backdrop every July. The clubhouse staff and agronomy team have high expectations and consistently live up to them.
It takes the support of our community and the many sponsors who partner with us each and every year. It takes the John Deere Foundation for their partnership. Their financial support is vital to the success of the Birdies For Charity program. All of these factors are so important to our continued success as we celebrate our 49th tournament this year.
Thank you to all of you in the media who are here today. We look forward to hosting you when you return in July. We know it'll be a great week, and we appreciate your support. Have a great day, everyone, and remember, it's more than golf, it's magic. Thank you, and I'll turn it back over to Clair.
CLAIR PETERSON: That was great. So I've got a little bio here that I'm going to read about Michael, but if you haven't heard yet, we're so privileged and lucky to have Michael here. Pretty much everything was going against him yesterday. He got into a car accident, not a serious one, in New York. A lady run into the back of his courtesy car. He had to pull off the side of the road and wait for an hour for that to get resolved. He went to the airport, promising -- and this doesn't happen at every PGA TOUR event, by the way, that the defending champion comes back for media day, but he had promised he was going to be here. His flight was delayed dramatically to the point where he wasn't going to get into Chicago until about 10:30 at night, therefore missing his connection to Moline.
We scrambled a little bit, and we got him a ride from Chicago when he got off the plane, but he had no luggage. His luggage is now on its way to Quad City International Airport, and at 10:40 hopefully it's going to arrive.
But that's the kind of young man he is. His agent, who was obviously involved, as well, explained that Michael, when he found out that this wasn't going to be as smooth as we had hoped and he was going to kind of be stuck in Chicago, volunteered to get a rental car and drive. He got in last night at 2:00 a.m., into the Quad Cities, thanks to Act 2 transportation, but he's going to drive. So just a terrific young guy.
If you need to know anything more, that's the story that describes our champion, Michael Kim. We couldn't be more proud of him, and obviously happy he's here, and he had no golf clothes. So this is out of the pro shop. You might want to get this outfit. We haven't stepped forward and given him endorsement money for Deere Run yet, even though that is proudly on his shirt. But just fantastic that he's here.
So I'll read the prepared comments because there are a lot of things here that are terrific that I might forget.
It was a record-setting year last year, like Sean said. We did $13.4 million, and Michael, 27-under par, winning by eight strokes. Unbelievable. One of the guys he beat, Francesco Molinari, got on the same jet that Michael got on and won the Open and then starred in the Ryder Cup and other things. So it was a heck of a field we had last year.
That broke Steve Stricker's 26-under par total as lowest score shot in tournament history. Michael was born in Seoul, South Korea, grew up in San Diego. He attended Cal Berkeley, where he was the National Player of the Year, and received the prestigious Jack Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award. Over the next month or so, you'll see collegiate players getting these awards. This is the highest honor a collegiate player can get.
He played on the 2013 Walker Cup and Palmer Cup teams, turned pro and made his way through the Web.com TOUR and on to the PGA TOUR. With his breakthrough last year here winning, he earned the final exemption into the British Open, where he finished 35th at Carnoustie, which is crazy tough.
Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of Michael's final round here last year was the surprise appearance -- I remember being on the 18th green or behind it looking at the Jumbotron, and Michael's parents and brother had flown in from California, and Michael really didn't know, I don't think, that they were here. They showed them on the Jumbotron. I think he had like a 60-foot putt or something like that that he needed to two-putt to set the record. But I do remember the emotion, that you could certainly see it's such a tight family, and it meant so much for him to have his family here, and then they got on the jet and went over to the Open, as well.
So without any further ado, our guy, Michael Kim.
MICHAEL KIM: Hi, guys. I just want to thank everybody for coming out here. Very excited to come back to TPC Deere Run and Moline, since my first victory out here last year. It's quite cold. I've never been around here when it was this cold. But I remember watching on Instagram how it snows out here, too, which is kind of crazy to me.
But you know, just super excited to come back. I was just driving through the driveway to the golf course, kind of rekindled old memories walking down 9 and 10, and also kind of weird to see with no sponsor tents and John Deere tents around here. But just super excited to come back for this media day. I just remember, on a quick side note, I remember walking up 18 once I -- on the final round, once I finally got to 18, I was finally relaxed for the first time in probably four or five days, really relaxed, knowing I had clinched the victory, and then I see my parents, and all of a sudden I'm super nervous again, and I kind of was dazed. Yeah, it was just an awesome day for me and my family, and it's great to be here.
Q. What do you think of the Bobblehead?
MICHAEL KIM: It's great. I love it actually. They've got all the details down, nailed. I never thought I would have my own Bobblehead. But quite a unique perk being the winner here. I mean, it's pretty cool, yeah.
Q. Talk about last week and what that golf course played like.
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, I mean, I think the winning score was 8-under. Yeah, it was a brutal golf course. It was long. It's a fairly simple golf course strategically. You just hit driver and pray you hit it in the fairway and hope you can manage something on the green. But the course was so long that if you missed the fairway you really didn't have a chance to get on the green. I felt like there were about four or five birdie holes, and if you didn't birdie any of those holes, then you're just playing defense the entire time.
I remember the 63 that Brooks shot the first day, I was blown away. I didn't even know that was out there. But it was a great test, and I enjoyed it for the most part.
Q. Players that have won here in the past sometimes get their first win and sometimes they'll get some more prominent pairings going forward. Has that happened to you, and have you had a chance to play with Brooks, Rory, any of those guys that people notice a lot?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, the way the TOUR does their pairings, there's certain -- there's about three or four categories that they match up, and luckily after the win I get into the winner's category. I have still yet to play with Brooks or DJ or any of those guys, but definitely it's -- no offense to the Monday qualifiers, but it's nicer to play with past champions than the Monday qualifiers.
Yeah, I remember, top of my head, just a unique pairing I remember was like the first practice round on Tuesday at the British Open, right after kind of a whirlwind 24 hours. I remember I asked Zach Johnson, past champion, asked if I could play with him in practice round at Carnoustie. He's always been great to me. I was going to play nine holes with them. Then Ryan Moore decided to join us on that front nine. I remember someone saying, oh, you've got three John Deere champions out there, and that's kind of when it like really hit me, like oh, my gosh, I actually won the tournament last week. It hadn't really sunk in until then.
But it was just -- it's just a cool feeling, yeah.
Q. Your win at John Deere obviously got you in the Masters; what was that like?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, obviously the Masters is a tournament that every kid dreams about playing, and I think before the Arnold Palmer in March, I went up there to check it out for the first time, and driving down Magnolia Lane, I remember I was kind of freaking out there in the moment driving down that road. It's an incredible feeling.
The first tee shot jitters were very real. I don't know if I -- I somehow made contact, which was nice, and the course is as perfect as you might hope and think, and the entire experience was definitely incredible, yeah.
Q. (On the state of his game.)
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, I actually feel like my game is definitely turning around. I had switched swing coaches about a month before the tournament, kind of called it the honeymoon phase, and the win allows me to kind of make changes that we felt that were needed. There are definitely some growing pains, but I feel like I turned the corner with my game, and really looking forward to this second half of the season.
Q. (On Brooks Koepka.)
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, I mean, what he's been doing is incredible. He obviously steps up big for the majors. You know, I'm kind of in awe every time I see him play just because it's such a different game than the one I play. But yeah, he looked incredible out there. I think it's like his fourth major in however many starts, in eight starts. That's incredible.
You know, I don't know if it's really fair or not to compare to Tiger after four majors, but it's definitely reminiscent of what he used to do, and yeah, he's been playing just unreal golf.
Q. At the tournament last year, what kind of zone were you in?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, I wish I had a perfect answer for you, but I remember coming into the week I had missed a couple cuts coming in, but my game felt good. It was turning around. I hit it fairly well weeks before at D.C. and at the Greenbrier. Just didn't make anything those two weeks.
But I'm a good putter. I always feel like I'm one putt away from everything starting to get in with my putts. I just remember I came into the week feeling pretty good. Obviously didn't think I was going to shoot 27 under, but I got off to a good start on Thursday and just kept it going until Sunday, and somehow, some way I shot 27-under.
Q. What was the plane ride to the British like?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, the plane ride to the British, kind of hectic, tried to get through all the media stuff after the tournament. I remember after the initial press conference and whatnot, I remember I took a shower in the locker room, kind of had a turkey sandwich and was able to relax for about five minutes before I left for the airport. I just remember that. And then obviously my family being here, getting on the ride. But I was so tired, I just remember sleeping most of the way there. I think I got like three or four hours of sleep on Saturday and Sunday. So wasn't -- I was just excited to finally relax and get some sleep. And then I got to Carnoustie, it's already like Monday afternoon, trying to deal with jet lag, and I definitely remember trying to not get too complacent. It's a major, I want to do well, and I had -- I felt like I definitely could have done better than 35th because I was playing great. Just made a couple rookie mistakes at the British Open towards the end.
But it was a great experience for sure.
Q. Will your parents be here this year?
MICHAEL KIM: Probably not. I think, yeah, my brother who's graduating getting his MBA, his graduation is right around then in Paris, so they're going to be over there. So I'll just be solo for the week, I think.
Q. What will your mindset be as defending champion?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, I think the only time I've ever been really defending champion is at a college event. It was obviously on a different scale. But you keep things normal. You treat it like any other week. I'm just -- yeah, I'll just keep to my routine, probably do the same thing I did last year since it worked so well, and just try to take it as another week.
Q. How has it been for you on TOUR? Have your expectations for yourself, have those changed after your win?
MICHAEL KIM: Yes and no. Like I said before, the win gives you a two-year exemption, and it allows you to play a little more free. But like I said, with the swing changes, more so than expectations I was really trying to hone in on the changes that I was trying to make with my swing coach, John Tillery, and yeah, I've been really focused on getting my game to where I want and need. You know, to have more weeks like I did at the Deere more consistently. I've really just been trying to hone if on my swing, more so than the results per se. But yeah, I've been more focused on my game than the expectations or something like that.
Q. (On the swing changes.)
MICHAEL KIM: Right. You know, I'm -- it's taken a little longer than I had hoped or wished, but it's kind of the ultimate one step back to go two steps forward. I'm content with finding where my game is starting to head and I'm excited for the second half. Obviously I'd like to play better. Everyone wants to play better. But looking at the later half of this year and also the upcoming year, I'm excited to see where my game will be.
Q. With the changes you're making in your swing, are you relying on your swing coach, but do you use much modern technology?
MICHAEL KIM: For whatever reason, I haven't been too into the TrackMan. I have a TrackMan. I use it mainly just for yardages on my wedges and stuff like that. Probably the most advanced I get is just my iPhone and just using that to record my swing. You know, John and I have worked pretty diligently on that. But nothing too crazy for us, yeah.
Q. Clair said that you broke Steve Stricker's record here. Have you heard from Stricker about that?
MICHAEL KIM: No. He's playing a lot on the Champions Tour these days. I haven't been able to see him. But he hasn't mentioned it so far. But I would say he might come back and try to break mine, so maybe we'll just leave it at that. But no, he hasn't really mentioned it at all.
Q. (On leaving prior swing coach.)
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, you know, I still have a great relationship with James, my old swing coach. He's truly still one of my best friends, and it was definitely a bittersweet moment. I had worked with him for over eight years. He's the one that helped me get to where I am and to win a month after the change it was kind of a weird mix of emotions there. But he came with me to Augusta this year. I still hang with him a bunch when I'm back in California. It's definitely a relationship that I'll continue to have going forward.
Q. Do you flash back mentally to this week last year, trying to unlock those feelings that you had for four days?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, it's obviously the best golf I've ever played for a week, and once in a while a friend or -- I'll just go on YouTube just to remember that it actually happened, the highlights, and it's kind of unique and fun to see. But you know, I definitely remember trying to see what I was doing with my putting when I was there that week and just see if anything was different than how I'm putting now. But at the end of the day, it doesn't really help too much. But it's just cool to see, cool to see that, yeah.
Q. (Thoughts on the JDC as a tournament.)
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, this is kind of unlike any other tournament. It's such a tight-knit community. You can definitely really tell how everyone in the community really backs the tournament. It's such a strong showing with the spectators and the crowds, so yeah, I'm excited to come back as the defending champion and see what that experience is going to be like, and yeah, just -- almost a year already, which is kind of crazy. But definitely excited to come back.
Q. Is there something about this golf course that suits your eye or your game?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah. If you look at the past champions, the players that have done really well here, the Zach Johnsons, the Steve Strickers, Ryan Moore, Brian Harmon, those guys don't hit it a crazy distance. It's more about just getting it in play and then let your wedges and putting do most of the work, and that's I feel like -- where I feel like the strength of my game is, and I think the course definitely reflects on that for sure.
Q. Do you wish there were more courses on the TOUR like that?
MICHAEL KIM: Absolutely. I wish we played every tournament out here now. But people always ask me during pro-ams, one of the most questions I get asked is what's your favorite golf course, and now I have a perfect answer, TPC Deere Run, whereas before I was like, I like Riv, I like all the California courses, but now it's definitely this one here.
Q. How much have you played Pebble Beach, and what do you think about how the USGA might set that up for the U.S. Open?
MICHAEL KIM: Yeah, so kind of interesting, I guess. This year was the first time I've played Pebble at all, even though I went to school at Cal. Played the Pebble Beach pro-am for the first time, and absolutely loved it. It was freezing. It was like 45 degrees, rain, wind. Yeah, kind of like how it is out here right now.
But I loved the golf course. The views are always spectacular. I felt like the golf course suits me well. Hopefully I'll be able to qualify in the upcoming sectional qualifier.
I loved it. It was awesome. All the golf courses in that area are pretty special.
CLAIR PETERSON: Such a great ambassador for the John Deere Classic. As we always do, Michael is going to be available for one-on-one interviews for the next hour or so. Barry is kind of the gatekeeper for that. I can't help but look at that Bobblehead and thank Michael for one more thing: The final putt gesture is just the best. It's just pure joy, and that's the way we're presenting ourselves this year. We're just as joyous as we could possibly be going into the 2019 event.
Barry, I'll let you kind of decide an order, but thanks very much for being here. Those of you that are playing golf, it's a little wet out there I know, but I think you'll see a golf course, like Michael says, it's one of the best on the PGA TOUR, so enjoy it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports