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February 16, 2016
Pacific Palisades, California
ALEX URBAN: We'd like to welcome James Hahn, our defending champion of the Northern Trust Open into the interview room.
James, this was your first PGA TOUR victory last year. You won in a playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in pretty dramatic fashion. Talk a little bit about how your life has changed here in the last year since you won and what it's like to come back and defend your first PGA TOUR event.
JAMES HAHN: It's been great. A lot of things have changed since then. A week after the tournament, we had a daughter. So I think that is the biggest change that I've had in my life; not getting any sleep, for sure, changing more diapers. You know, just not having as much me time and dedicating more to our family time. I think that's become a big priority in my life, to be able to spend those extra hours with my daughter while she grows up, because they grow really fast.
So yeah, other than that, everything else has been the same. My wife and I, we still live in Scottsdale. Have a lot of support from our friends and family back home. And I'm still playing golf. Still healthy and I'm here.
ALEX URBAN: What do you remember coming down the stretch last year? It was a pretty bunched leaderboard. I know there were times you were sitting on the lead, and you dropped back out of the lead, and Sergio was near the lead. Just talk about your memories and thoughts coming down the stretch.
JAMES HAHN: Coming down the stretch. So I do remember Sergio had a lead. It was bouncing back and forth between one and two strokes. Dustin and I were trying to catch him.
And I remember saying to myself, if I can't be the lowest scorer in our group, then there's zero chance of winning. So I knew I had to at least tie or beat Dustin in order to have a chance.
So I had bogeyed 16. Dustin had a 1-up lead on me at the time. He bogeyed 17 from the middle of the fairway from about 110 yards out.
So we're playing 18 together, both trying to birdie, thinking that Sergio had a 1-up lead on us with 17 and 18. So he hit it to 18 feet or so. And I had missed the green, and I remember thinking that -- just to make par. I mean, bogeying the 72nd hole is just not a good feeling, but I knew if I at least made par, it would be a good finish.
And honestly, I'm a big fan of the game, and I was hoping that Dustin would make the putt, just to see one of us in the group have a chance to win the title. You know, I think it's pretty cool to say that had he on gone to make the birdie putt and get into a playoff and win, I had played with the guy that won the Northern Trust Open. I think that's pretty cool as a fan of golf.
As a competitor, of course I wanted him to not make it so that way we could either share prize money or have a chance to win the golf tournament in a playoff. That's eventually what happened; that Sergio had bogeyed 17 and 18.
And then Dustin and I were in a playoff and the whole playoff, I must have seen it 20 or 30 times during the off-season. They sent me a DVD of it. It's definitely good memories. I hit a lot of good shots in the playoff. I think the one that comes to mind is the second shot on 18, 3-iron slice lie, have to draw it to a back left pin location, knowing that Dustin had probably a 9- or an 8-iron and was in good position to make birdie.
Under the conditions, I hit a pretty good shot to middle of the green, 2-putted for par, and just kept on replaying that situation, thinking that if we had to play 18 over and over again, then I would eventually lose in a playoff because you just can't compete with that.
I mean, I'm giving up 50 extra yards against DJ and he's going to make birdie one of those times. You know, by chance, we played 10. Hit a great flop shot on 10 and made birdie and moved onto hole 14 and made a good birdie there.
Just a little riding the momentum, I feel like momentum was on my side. I was making a lot of good par saves during regulation, and it was good to see that carry over to the playoff.
Q. You mentioned watching the playoff, did you watch the DVD of your press conference?
JAMES HAHN: I've seen it a couple times. I apologize, because it's so long, it's like 30 minutes. Yeah, I've seen it a couple times. Yeah, It was nice. I haven't seen too many press conferences where they drink Michelob on the stage. You can see where I'm second-guessing, will they get fined for this? (Smiling) yeah, it was a good press conference.
Q. One of the takeaways from Vaughn's victory Sunday was how as hard as it is to win out here, once you do, there's only so much it gives you, and after that two years or five years, you're kind of back at square one. Do you feel that way or was there something about getting that first victory that does make a difference to you?
JAMES HAHN: Good question. For me, getting the first victory on TOUR, really solidified what I'm doing is the right thing at this point in my life. All the sacrifices that I've made, all the time, the sweat, spending time away from family; the financial investments that I've made in my career, makes it all worth it in the end.
Because until you actually win, there's a sense of not knowing if you will win or will ever win in your career. We've seen a lot of PGA TOUR players have successful careers and never win. This is I think the most brutal sport where you can be a really successful golfer, and live comfortably, fly private and have a nice house, nice car, and never win.
And I feel like, you know, I was born differently. I feel like winning is everything. I feel like I would rather sleep on the streets and be homeless and have had won, and something that I can live with for the rest of my life saying it was all worth it. You know, the monetary gain, you take all that aside. But even if we were playing for donuts, I feel like winning to me means more than any of the extras that I've been given on this tour.
The two-year exemption is nice, but for me, I can see how some people would want to say that if you win on TOUR, your exemption should be longer. You know, I don't feel that way. I feel like just the competitor in me, I don't really want handouts. I've never really been given handouts throughout my career; that if you want to give me a two-year exemption, that's fine. I'm still going to practice just as hard as I did two years ago trying to keep my card as I am trying to win my next tournament. And if I'm not good enough, then so be it.
Q. As a baseball player, you can parlay one great year into a lifetime guaranteed contract?
JAMES HAHN: You know, there are those what ifs. I definitely envy those guys, the football players, the baseball players, that sign three, four, five-year deals, even two-year deals for multi-millions of dollars. That would be awesome if we did that in our sport.
But it's just the nature of the beast. We play a game that we love; that we can play for the next 50 years. So whether or not we get the big eight-figure, nine-figure contracts, I still have the rest of my life to make up for it.
At the end of the day, we play because we love the game, not because we like the money.
Q. On that topic, you've signed a new equipment contract to start off the year. Curious, you didn't have a great first week, but you started to show signs. Do we over rate the impact of a change like you've made with equipment? Is there a mental component to it for you that any player kind of wonders, am I possibly going in a negative direction?
JAMES HAHN: That's a double-edged sword. If I play well, okay, it's because he changed club contracts -- changed clubs. If I don't play well, it's because I've changed clubs.
It's never because, hey, I'm going through a swing issue or I haven't been getting sleep or the last year. There's so many different factors into playing great golf. What solidified it for me was when I put the irons in play late last year, and I played the CIMB Classic, and I hit 38 consecutive greens. It's the most I've ever hit. So more than two rounds worth of hitting every green in regulation.
So that, to me, was a no-brainer. I feel like the irons are awesome. I feel like the woods, the driver, the wedges even, the putter, everything that they have done, is a commitment to being the best on TOUR. And any time that someone commits to being the best, I feel like you can't really go wrong with that. He's 15 -- Bob is 15 minutes away from where I live. The factory is 15 minutes away and I can get dialed in on any golf club I want.
It's nice to see someone commit all the resources that they have to making their company great, but also extending that invitation to me as a player, saying that, hey, anything that you need, please let me know and I'll make that happen for you.
Q. Is it clubs or --
JAMES HAHN: It's a hundred percent clubs, hundred percent. I think every one of you should go grab a set. Guaranteed, more greens in regulation.
It was a combination. Any time you put new clubs into play, you always have that unknowing thought of, you know, is it me, or is it the clubs; is it -- why did that ball hook so much or why am I hitting it so high. But to consistently see the ball doing what I want it to do and go as far as I want it to go, I feel like is definitely a positive.
Q. You had some extenuating circumstances last year with the new baby, but I'm just curious how long the glow of winning lasted. How long before it was back to normal?
JAMES HAHN: Six days. I think our daughter was born on the seventh. I had gone out and I was celebrating with Matt Jones and friends that Saturday, and she was born on the following Sunday and so it was back so reality. I think that's the last time I really took tequila shots. I don't think I'll be taking anymore of those any time soon. (Laughter).
No, I'm all grown up. I can't be crazy anymore. I have responsibilities. I feel old. I'm only 34 years old, but the responsibility is there. I wake up without an alarm clock anymore just because our daughter wakes up and it's like, you're up, what does she need, and you start your day that way.
I think it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I absolutely love every minute that I get to spend with her.
Q. Moving forward, do you look at the win here last year as no matter what happens the rest of my career, I'll always have that win? Or do you feel like, in order for me to feel great about my career, I have to win more and more and more and more?
JAMES HAHN: It's definitely -- winning is definitely addicting. It makes me feel like I can do more, win more. But from where I've come from, I really want to hold on to the memories of that first win. I feel like it means more to me to have won a golf tournament, let alone PGA TOUR, from where I was five years ago, ten years ago.
And I don't ever want to lose that -- I don't want to take things for granted on this TOUR. It's easy to do that with all the money, the fame, the publicity. I feel like that many, you know, as much as I strive hard to be No. 1 in the world, I don't think that's my main focus in life.
I feel like, you know, I'll let Rory and Jordan, they have earned it. They are obviously really good in playing golf, but I feel like if I can go through my life and work hard, keep my head down, stay on the straight and narrow and just try to motivate others and possibly another golfer that's growing up and let him know that no matter how hard the times are, and whether or not they think that they are destined to play golf for a living, that anything is possible. I'm living proof of that.
Q. So a major title is not necessarily a goal on your to-do list?
JAMES HAHN: Not at all. I mean, I definitely do want to win again. It pushes me harder to get the second victory; to play as many years on this tour as possible. But I'm in a position now people recognize my face and I want to use that more as a platform to help others and kind of let the younger generation know that, you know, through hard work, and making the right choices, that anything is possible.
Q. On a completely unrelated note, today is the 20th anniversary of when the Happy Gilmore movie came out. You were 14 when it first came out. What kind of impact did it have on you?
JAMES HAHN: Wow, that's one of my favorite movies. Big impact. I don't know any professional golfer that has not tried the Happy Gilmore swing.
No, it's fun. We joke around on it. My caddie and I, we have punch lines from the movie and all that. 20 years, that's a long time. It makes me feel old.
Q. Favorite line?
JAMES HAHN: Not really favorite lines. I like the caddie that marks his ball with crackers and then picks it up. I don't know, I like things like that (laughing).
Q. As good as you guys are, and there's more guys like you that there are, the scoring record here at Riviera has not been touched for 31 years. Why do you think that is? Do you see anyone shooting 20-under this week?
JAMES HAHN: Because the course is tough (laughs).
Q. What is it about this course? Scoring records at other courses have come down through the years. Why not this one?
JAMES HAHN: I think that's why this makes -- that's the maybe reason why that Riviera is one of the best courses ever built, because with the new technology, how far we hit the ball, for how nice the greens can be cut, for the new grasses nowadays, that eliminate poa annua and all the kikuyugrass.
Riviera will stand the test of time. It won't ever be a course that you can overpower. You have to respect hole 10. You have to respect hole 12. It's long enough to where 50 years from now, people will still be hitting long iron, middle-long iron into hole 12, and they will still be hitting driver and 3-wood into hole 10.
But the green factor, you'll have a 5-footer and worry about how long your second putt is going to be. I don't think there is any other golf course on Tour where you have to think about your second putt. I know how good of a chipper Phil Mickelson is, but I'm sure on a couple of these holes, he's thinking, where is the best place to putt from, where let's say last week, he would be thinking about chipping it in. It's a totally different monster here. The greens are phenomenal. They have done such a great job over the years that they have become smoother and faster.
So with the amount of slope that they have on these greens, you really have to be careful of where you're putting from your approach shots to your chip shots to your second putts.
Q. You missed by 14 slots last year.
JAMES HAHN: I did? What is it the scoring record?
JAMES HAHN: Who shot that?
Q. Lanny Wadkins.
JAMES HAHN: He's good (laughter). Is he in the Hall of Fame? He should be. I think just off of that, he should be (laughter). That's phenomenal.
Q. Do you have that in you this week?
JAMES HAHN: I feel like if the weather is good enough, I feel like high teens is possible. I think 20 is -- I think 20's pushing it. Once again, the golf course is in great shape. So assuming that the weather cooperates with us, you're going to see some good scores out there. I don't think 20-under is going to be touched for a long time, though.
Q. You know how hard it is to win out here. What is your response to people, you look at Players who win once and say, that must have been a fluke, as opposed to for a lot of people, it's their crowning moment.
JAMES HAHN: That's a good one. Fluke is such a -- it's a slap in the face, really. Because we as professional golfers have worked and put in so many hours into our craft that winning once is the biggest thing, the biggest deal for us; is that just winning itself, whether it's one, two, or 50, winning is something that no one can ever take away from us.
So for someone to call that a fluke, I feel like is a slap in the face. We've sacrificed hours and vacations and playing with our friends and parties and everything you could possibly imagine, just to be in a position to play, just to even play on this tour; that even having the opportunity to win, I know a lot of guys are -- a lot of second-place finishes, third-place finishes.
So winning is very special. It's something that you can call it whatever you want, but I'll be sitting in my bed late at night and that's something that no one can ever touch, the feelings that I have of winning this golf tournament. The trophy I have sitting in my living room; those are the things that we have worked so hard for. Whether or not I win another one, that's something that no one will ever take away from me.
Q. Do you think that's one of the things lost in Tiger's greatness, when you can win six, seven, nine times a year, it makes people forget how hard it is to win once?
JAMES HAHN: Absolutely. Tiger's doing it, Rory's doing it, Jordan's doing it, DJ; there's so many great golfers that we have. This era is so competitive, where people are winning every year multiple times a year. It's hard to win on this tour.
If there were more golf tournaments, there would be more opportunities. But there's 30 some-odd golf tournaments a year, and probably a half dozen of them that we don't even qualify for, the WGCs and the majors.
The other golf tournaments, you know, it's hard to play six or seven weeks in a row, so you're going to take a couple weeks off. So out of 26 events, you legitimately have a chance of winning a handful of them. And everyone else is in the same position; that if everyone had won multiple times, it would just be silly.
So just winning once in my career, I feel like is good, but me personally, I don't think it's good enough. I feel like I have a couple more left up my sleeve.
Q. How did you get involved with the Leslie's?
JAMES HAHN: So one of my best friends, he lives in Phoenix and he works for Leslie's. And we had just got to talking, and I've met a couple of the guys on board. I had played Paradise Valley Country Club with him a couple weeks before I had left for Hyundai. And we were just talking about it. That day, I broke the course record, and it was a little -- it was easier to talk about getting a sponsorship when you break course records.
Q. What did you shoot?
JAMES HAHN: I think I shot 8-under with two bogeys. But yeah, it just kind of happened through casual talk. Then had dinner. His name is Larry Hayward and I'm good friends with his son, Chris Hayward. We just started to hang out. There's really no special magical moment. It just happened.
ALEX URBAN: Thank you, James, good luck defending this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports