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July 25, 2018

Mackenzie Hughes

Corey Conners

Oakville, Ontario, Canada

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started here at the RBC Canadian Open with Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes. Corey and Mackenzie are two of the top Canadian players in the field, grew up playing against each other in amateur events and played together at Kent State University and are here together for a press conference.

I'll start with Mackenzie, just a couple opening comments on playing in the Canadian Open, what that means for you as a Canadian.

MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, obviously it's a really cool week for us. You kind of get a glimpse of what it might feel like to be a top-10 player in the world for a week where you feel like you're getting pulled in a lot of different directions but in a good way, obligations and whatnot, which we're not ordinarily accustomed to in the States. But obviously a huge thrill with the fans, and you really feel that when you're on the golf course. If you're playing well, the crowd support can be a really big boost for you.

A lot of fun. It's a busy week but one that I really look forward to every year. I know there's not a fifth major, but it's kind of our fifth major for myself and for most of these Canadians.

THE MODERATOR: Corey, do you feel the same way with the fan support out here?

COREY CONNERS: Yeah, definitely I've had some good experiences here in the past and have been looking forward to coming here basically all season. I knew it would be a really special event, and definitely feel a lot of support from the fans. Definitely lots of positive Canadian energy, so hopefully can harness some of that and put together a good week.

THE MODERATOR: Mackenzie, with the 2019 RBC Canadian Open being played at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, that must mean a lot to you as a native of Hamilton, and also the new date, a lot of fans are excited about that the week before the U.S. Open. Could you speak to that?

MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, obviously next year will be really awesome. I think that there's really two great things going for us with the new date, and then moving around some of the other great courses in the GTA is a bonus, Hamilton being one that's kind of close and personal to me because I played some golf there growing up, and people there have been very supportive of me through my career. Going there next year will be a big thrill, be able to stay 10 minutes away from my childhood home, so that's really cool.

Yeah, I think the date is a big thing for the RBC Canadian Open going forward. I think it's always going to be tough to get all the biggest names to come here, but we certainly have made some strides in the last couple years, and now this field is probably one of the strongest we've had in a little while. It's good to see, and hopefully the fields will get stronger with the new date.

THE MODERATOR: Corey, you currently occupy the 126th spot in the FedExCup rankings. With only five events remaining in the regular season, this must be a good opportunity for you to make a push for the FedExCup Playoffs.

COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it definitely is. Obviously I'd like to be able to be a little bit higher up, but have a lot of confidence and belief in my game. I'm looking forward to having a good week here. Yeah, not really adding any more pressure to myself, but just kind of doing what I've been doing all year and give myself a chance. Yeah, lots of fairways, lots of greens, and hopefully it adds up to a good finish.

Q. At this tournament there's 21 Canadians playing in the Canadian Open. Can you discuss as a Canadian what it feels like to be played at a time when golf is so huge in Canada right now, and can you also comment on the camaraderie that you feel amongst your Canadian golf teammates?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, obviously Canadian obviously is in a great place, I think. I personally give a lot of credit to Golf Canada and their development programs and helping us get to this level, and there's a lot of guys following kind of behind Mackenzie and I who will hopefully add more Canadians to the PGA TOUR in the coming years. It's awesome to have so many Canadians here, and to have all the Canadians on TOUR, we spend a lot of time together. It's nice to be able to support one another and for me have some guys who have a little experience, who are easy to talk to and really willing to help guide me in different things, whatever I need help with. It's pretty awesome to have so many Canadians out here, and it's been a lot of fun for me this year, and I'm sure it'll be continuing in the future.

MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, a lot of similar comments to Corey, but I think what Canada and Golf Canada has done the last 10, 15 years with the guys coming through the Golf Canada programs and the national teams and the junior teams, I was lucky enough and Corey, as well, to be part of those teams, and to think the resources that we have on those teams are second to none in terms of like the quality and what you're getting out of it. I don't think that Corey or I would be here as fast as we got here without their help. So we owe a lot to that for all the Canadians coming through right now and the surge of Canadian talent.

And then with the Canadians now on TOUR and the camaraderie, I think it's awesome because you feel like there's almost strength in numbers, especially when you come to a week like this when you feel like, okay, we've got 20 guys in the field, and you feel like a lot of these guys can contend on a good week and have a chance to win. So it's cool.

But just like Corey and I are good buddies and we play together a lot in practice rounds, and if I can't win a tournament, I hope Corey does, but at the same time I'm trying to kick Corey's butt, too. But it's all healthy, and it's fun. Yeah, it's just good to see all these guys out here and playing well.

Q. Mackenzie, last year, does it have any carryover effect in terms of positivity on this course, this tournament?
MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, I would say that definitely I have some good vibes here. Last year going into the weekend I think I was four back and didn't have a great Saturday, but played well again Sunday, and being low Canadian -- I think it was Graham and I on the weekend that were the only Canadians around, so you really felt like there was almost 10 times the support that there was the first couple days because it felt like they really rallied behind Graham and I a lot more, so they're trying to push us along.

Unfortunately I didn't play well Saturday, but yeah, it's a course that I feel pretty comfortable on, and last year gave me some confidence around this place that I know I can shoot some good scores and play well here. Looking forward to another good week and hopefully can eliminate that one round that kind of keeps you out of the tournament.

Q. With this potentially being the last Open here at Glen Abbey, when you think of this course, are there any memories or shots or holes that stand out when you think of it?
MACKENZIE HUGHES: I'd say when I think of Glen Abbey, I would say the first thing that comes to mind is Tiger's shot on 18 from the bunker, and that's probably the only shot that really sticks out to me. I mean, I've had some shots that were pretty cool, but nothing even compares to that. If I think of Glen Abbey going forward, if the course ends up becoming a bunch of houses, I'll still look back at that shot and be like, yeah, that was pretty good.

COREY CONNERS: Yeah, I knew that was what he was going to say. That kind of came to my mind, as well. But I do have a lot of cool memories as a kid coming here to watch the tournament. There was always a group from Listowel Golf Club that would take a bus down and get to watch, and I remember standing watching the 17th green, such a cool shape. Just trying to get as many golf balls as I could from the pros as they finished the hole.

I remember watching when Mike played well a number of years ago. Yeah, a lot of cool experiences. But definitely the first one that comes to mind, same thing, is Tiger's shot. I think it's -- I don't know, I saw it somewhere on social media this morning, like in case you forgot about that. But I hadn't forgot about it. Pretty cool.

Q. Did you ever attempt it on 18 when you do your practice rounds? Do you stick a ball in that bunker and take a 6-iron out?
COREY CONNERS: I don't know. Well, I did a 6-iron in the water even if I flushed it from there. I think it's a much more difficult shot now. The trees have grown a little bit, and from where he was in the bunker now, you're looking at where he hit it, you can't even be like -- there's no way you can hit that shot. Yeah, I don't know, I think I have in the past, maybe my first time playing here, threw a ball down. I think I tried the 4-iron instead of the 6. But yeah, didn't hit a very good shot. If I'm there in the tournament you'll probably see me playing my third from 90 yards in the middle of the fairway.

Q. And just a quick question, and I know you guys are both alumni of Team Canada. Do you feel like you have a bit of a mentoring role? We have three national team members on the board this week. Do you feel like you have a bit of a mentoring role with these guys coming up, talking Joey and Hugo and Chris that are playing this week?
MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, I think -- I don't know, Corey and I are probably both in a similar position where we don't feel like necessarily we're like maybe their leaders or their mentors, but I think that we can definitely provide them with some good advice, and if they ever had questions for us, we'd be certainly happy to answer them. But I know that -- I don't want to come across as I'm trying to tell them what to do. If they ever had questions for me, that would be great, and I've talked to all of them, and I've told them all that there's no reason why they can't have a great week this week and play well. The golf course doesn't know that they're amateurs and that they're not supposed to win this tournament.

You know, the biggest thing for them is just go out there and -- you want to enjoy it, but at the same time they're all really great players, so there's no reason, again, why they shouldn't play four days and have a great week.

Q. Talking about the 18th hole, what challenges do you have to overcome and match up against your risk-reward when you play that hole?
MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, 18, today I played it, and the wind was kind of down. When you have a little bit of wind at your back, it's a hole that you really need to make a 4 on. You need to kind of take advantage of that hole. The drive can be kind of tricky because it seems like you want to hug the left side there, but if you hit it in those bunkers you're going to be laying up. But again, with a good drive, you're hitting no more than a 5-iron probably. I hit a 6 this morning. Yeah, it's just a hole that you need to take advantage of.

There's certain pins, like when the pin gets back left and if you were to miss the green left, left bunker, you leave yourself a pretty tough shot. So sometimes like you think, oh, I can bail out left and I'll be fine, avoid the water. But that's not necessarily putting you in a good position to make a 4. You really need to think about where the pin is. Certain times missing it on the left fringe or left rough is okay or left bunkers, but you really need to stand up there and hit a good shot. If you hit it in the fairway, you need to just commit to the middle of the green and make a good swing, and if you do that, hopefully you make 4, at least three out of four days, if not four.

COREY CONNERS: Yeah, a lot of similar thoughts there. Our games are really similar, so we'll be trying to play the hole pretty much the same. The drive can be tricky, but it's a hole you really want to get it in the fairway, and you're going to have, like he said, a long iron, potentially a mid iron. I imagine it's a little bit soft from some of the rain, and it'll stay a little soft, so won't be able to chase it down there to wedge distance like they have in the past. But still, got to -- yeah, just stand there and hit a good long iron shot, try to give yourself a chance at 3 but make sure you make a 4. Yeah, you won't lose any shots on the field, I guess, but definitely one you want to be walking away with a 4.

Q. Golf is obviously such an individualistic game, but you guys grew up playing golf together, Golf Canada together, Kent State together, Mack just got married a couple years ago, Corey getting married this year. How nice has it been to have each other to literally bounce everything off golf-wise and life-wise?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it's been really awesome. I guess we've kind of followed fairly similar paths to get here. He's been out here before me, and I was just kind of trying to follow in his footsteps. It's awesome to be out here with him. We've obviously played a ton of golf together, and he's a fun guy to be around and can learn a lot from. It's been, yeah, pretty awesome to kind of follow similar paths and both be out here. Yeah, looking forward to him being in my wedding this fall and had a lot of fun at his wedding a couple years ago. Yeah, we have a great relationship, and it's been a lot of fun to be out here with him.

MACKENZIE HUGHES: Yeah, I mean, I knew when I got out here and Corey was playing the Web that it would only be a matter of time, and obviously he did it really quickly. Yeah, similar paths, and it's been really fun to see his career take off in the last couple years. I mean, he's always played really phenomenal golf, incredibly consistent. Again, he's got a great game for the PGA TOUR, and it's just cool to be able to experience a lot of these things with a close friend. You don't often get to do that. I'm still a little bit bitter about the future links back when I was 13 when he beat me at Listowel Country Club, but I'll led that slide, and eventually I'll get over that. Yeah, just a little bitter. But we've been friends for a while, and yeah, it's been fun.

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