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January 10, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jonathan Byrd to the interview room here at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Jonathan, your tenth start in the event, first time since 2014. Won the Web.com Tour Championship, which I believe, with your 2001 win at the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Web.com tour, is the longest gap between wins on that Tour in history.
JONATHAN BYRD: That's a good thing.
THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about being back here on the PGA Tour, back here at the Sony Open.
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah, obviously, I am thrilled to be here. Last off-season, or last two off-seasons, preparing in the off-season to go play on the Web Tour, great opportunities, but it was harder to get up for it. You just kind of -- down deep, you're like a little more uncertainty on what the season was going to be like. Didn't know the courses. Didn't know what the travel was going to be like. Knowing my family wasn't going to be out as much.
This year, starting this year with my family out for two weeks, have a lot of great memories here, not just golf. A lot of great memories just being with other Couples and other people's kids and my kids on that beach and at the hotel and making fun memories.
This is kind of emotional just getting to come make the trip, just not being here since 2014. I've had some incredible highs over here in Hawaii, winning in Maui in 2011. So it was easy to get up for it.
Didn't have a great fall, but excited about this season. Got some good work in this off-season and just really looking forward to the year.
Q. You've played when you didn't have your card for a couple --
JONATHAN BYRD: You have a microphone, and you're eight feet away.
Q. I'm trying to be a team player. You still played a few fall events when you didn't have your card, just from past champion status, I imagine. So this must almost feel like the start of a new beginning, the fact that you have to get on a plane for a really long time against a field like this, I guess, right?
JONATHAN BYRD: Right. I did -- it was really different playing this fall with knowing I had status. The last couple years with past champion status, you're in tournaments, but there's just such urgency. I'm not saying I'm not playing with urgency in the fall or urgency this year because there's reshuffles, there's different -- the categories and all that. There should always be some urgency, but not the same urgency.
So I did have a long flight to think about it. Last year I had long flights going to Bogota and places like that.
Q. When you -- five wins?
JONATHAN BYRD: Five wins.
Q. Five wins on TOUR.
JONATHAN BYRD: Two on the Web.
Q. Was it hard to embrace the opportunity, as you mentioned, of the Web, thinking that you don't necessarily belong here? Was that any type of an attitude adjustment necessary? And secondly, when you're down there, you've already seen how golf is morphing. When you get a firsthand look at what's coming, is that daunting at all? Does that make sense?
JONATHAN BYRD: Exactly. Good points. I -- what was your first question again? I'm sorry.
Q. It's the microphone, I think.
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah, just went blank.
Q. Is there any type of like an attitude adjustment?
JONATHAN BYRD: I had to make a huge attitude adjustment. I felt like it was all attitude. You hear the quote, attitude's everything. For me, it was just more my mindset was everything because I did not want to be kind of a grumpy old TOUR player who's saying the whole time on the Web Tour, complaining about it's not like this on the big TOUR. People don't treat you like this on the big TOUR. Because if you go down that road, it's just endless. You just can't compare the two tours.
There's a lot of great things about that Tour, but like the courses just aren't the same. There's so many reminders every week that you're not where you want to be, and that was the big struggle. That's the big internal struggle is I'm not where I want to be. So am I going to let that -- am I going to embrace the challenge, or I'm going to kind of let it just take me down with it?
And then when you didn't have good weeks, it was just -- you're starting to kind of play that mental game of like I'm measuring this time away from my family. Is it worth it? You start to question how long -- really, after the first year and after the second year, sit down with my wife and like how long am I going to keep doing this? Because I still have status on TOUR, but like I don't want to be out here. And we'd already said that, like after the first year, we said we can do this one more year, playing Web Tour.
And I think my wife would have been up for it again, to do it again, and then I won the last event. So we'd have had to get up for it, though. We'd have had to have been -- a lot of more mindset adjustments.
The second part is I feel privileged to have played the Web Tour the last two years. I feel like in the end it's going to make me a better player. Getting to play with the young guys -- you know, a guy like Keith Mitchell who lives in St. Simons, a guy who's got great energy, great enthusiasm. He's just ready to conquer the PGA Tour and just has great swag, and he hits it 330. It's like, wow, this is what's coming. This is not -- he's a little outside the norm how far he hits it, but there's a lot of guys like that.
So it's just kind of like, man, I've got to -- and I tell this story. Playing with a guy like that and playing with my son who's 11, just the youth, being around youth, it's just invigorating, and it gets you excited to go out and compete. It's either going to wash you up and you're going to retire, or you're going to embrace it and remember what it was like when you were 23, 25 on tour.
Q. Did your son beat you?
JONATHAN BYRD: He shot 66 a couple of weeks ago.
Q. An 11-year-old?
JONATHAN BYRD: He plays the ladies' tees and the senior tees. He kind of does combo. But he hits it out there about 215, 220. He's got an awesome swing. He's good.
Q. You didn't answer the question. Did he beat you?
JONATHAN BYRD: He's not beat me yet. (Laughter). It's going to be a sad day when it happens. I assume it will be one of those days where you're fired up but you're also crushed in the same moment. But he's good.
He went out and played -- we went to Palm Desert on the way here, and we went out to Madison Club, and the pro was nice enough to let Jackson come out. We played with Snedeker and Scott Brown. How many 11-year-olds are getting to go compete? It was Jackson and I against Scott Brown and Snedeker, and they beat us 1 up on the last hole. But we were like 2 down at one point. My son is so embracing it. Like I think there was some tag line he read on a billboard about like legends are born -- or this is where legends are made. I guess that's the line out there at the tournament. He's out there going, this is where legends are made.
And I'm just sitting there, we're just playing a match. But he's like this is his Masters, you know, Ryder Cup. I birdied the last hole. Sneds hit it in there like this and closed us out 1 up.
Q. You've played here quite a bit. When you look at what J.T. was able to do scoring-wise, not just the 59, but scoring the rest of the week, what are your thoughts on that? Did you look at this golf course the first time you played here and thought, yeah, this is a 59?
JONATHAN BYRD: No. I think this course is a little different than when I first came out as a rookie. I don't know if the changes are different from last year, but like around the collars, there's more fringe, around the edges of the collars. And it's all wind dependent, how hard the course plays.
I'm not -- I mean, I remember my first year coming out here, I was just so intimidated by this golf course, hitting fairways and stuff, and now watching on TV last year and watching some of the guys, the lines they're taking, just picking this place apart. Was it 27 under? Won by seven? I was looking at it yesterday. It was a good tournament if he didn't play.
Q. I can't remember the exact number.
JONATHAN BYRD: The next was 20 under. Maybe it was 28. I mean, it's ridiculous. But just thinking that was 27 last year. What's it going to take? Maybe 20 this year. Who knows? But shoot, 5 under on this course every day. It wasn't windy last year, though, right? It was calm. Yeah, that's just ripping it up.
Q. When you were out on the Web, did you have to fight the urge to feel like you had to change your game or do something different because you're watching these young kids just killing it and thinking, oh, I just don't -- I can't do it unless I do something different?
JONATHAN BYRD: Yes. You just start getting irritated, or irritable. When somebody's kind of blowing it by you, you're just like, man. I think it just kind of lights a fire under you, like it can take you down the wrong road of like I've got to just hit it further. But I've seen guys -- I'm not going to say names, but I've watched guys over my career go down that road like just to give up to get distance, and then they lose what they're good at.
I think you always have to try to improve within your strengths, and somebody trying to go gain 15 yards or something like that, it doesn't always help you play better.
I've also watched guys, say like a Zach Johnson, just play within his strengths and know this is what I'm good at. I'm not going to chase that trying to gain distance, and they do really well. But it gets frustrating seeing guys blow it by you on easier golf courses, where you don't get penalized for blowing it 20 yards offline like you do on some TOUR courses.
Q. So what did you rely on? What are your strengths? What do you feel like you still could do?
JONATHAN BYRD: The last tournament, the Web Tour Championship was a good course for me. I didn't drive the ball that well last year. So that was my struggle. My strengths were wedge game, putting, short game, just mentally tough, good strategy, patience, discipline, things like that. And I'm improving my ball striking. Started with a new instructor last year, John Tillery, been working with him all year, and it's getting better.
But me just trying to just bomb it, do stuff like that or hit it further, it's not the recipe for success. Fortunately, I got that last event was a good course for me. It wasn't terribly difficult driving. It was kind of a chipping and putting contest. And I shot 24 under and won by four.
Q. Before I forget my question, I'm trying to think, what was your number going into the Tour Championship?
JONATHAN BYRD: I had to finish sixth or better.
Q. Sixth or better, okay. Congratulations. That's a good win.
Unless I'm misremembering, I kept thinking, when you had a nice start at Seattle a couple years ago, you made a comment about looking at all these young guys and realizing that what you had was still enough. Is that right? Was there ever like a moment on the Web that that came to you?
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah, believing what you have is good enough, that you've got everything you need to be successful. I mean, those are some things I preach to myself a lot.
I think I had a lot of moments on the Web. I didn't feel like the last two years my game was ever really clicking the whole time. So just competing with what I had. I felt like I was doing that the whole time, and I had a lot of moments. I had two -- got in contention, a couple of fifth place finishes in Panama, got in contention here or there on the Web. I had a lot of moments where I just felt like I was playing with a C game, and I was still getting in contention and not driving it well. I had a lot of moments like that.
Portland this year, the last event before the Web finals, I didn't -- I wasn't playing with a whole lot there, and I finished fifth. Just a good putter, manage your game well, and still competitive.
Q. This may be a silly question, but did your family ever come out and watch you play on the Web?
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah. Yeah, it was just --
Q. South Carolina doesn't count. Is there another one?
JONATHAN BYRD: They actually didn't come to that one. They came to the Bahamas, you know, the second event in the Bahamas last year.
Q. The one that got blown away?
JONATHAN BYRD: No, the second one. That one still blew pretty hard. But the first one, I idiotically -- I should have skipped because that was the Clemson National Championship win. So I was there playing in 45 mile an hour winds when I could have been there. But my family came to that one. They came to Nashville this summer, and then we ended up going to three TOUR events right after that. I think they only came to about three or four events. They were at the last one that I won.
There's no childcare, just the towns -- I mean, I'm not knocking the Web Tour. It's just reality. There's no childcare. The towns, the tournaments don't have as much to do for the families. The kids that are on the Web Tour are more like babies. It's just my wife is going to be sitting in the hotel, and what's she going to do with them? It's just not realistic.
Q. You take a tournament like this, and I'm just guessing that you know way more guys here in the field than like Jimmy Walker?
JONATHAN BYRD: Than Jimmy Walker?
Q. Or someone like that.
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah, I know all the Web guys. A lot of these guys are my kind of buddies now. So I feel privileged to build -- you know, I got my TOUR friends from long ago. Seeing Jerry Kelly, he was out here my rookie year, and seeing all the TOUR buddies and then the Web buddies. So I feel like I know a lot more guys. It's a good position to be in.
Q. You're not going to make any introductions for these guys, are you?
JONATHAN BYRD: Sometimes, yeah. Like Zach always -- Zach Johnson, he makes an effort to get to know some of the young guys. He's always asking me, what's this guy's name? I like that guy. And I'll tell him something a little more about them or something. Not that I know all these guys that well, but some of the guys like Keith and Lovelady and some of those guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports