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September 17, 2019

Cameron Champ

Jackson, Mississippi

DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the defending champion of the Sanderson Farms Championship, Cameron Champ. Cameron, thank for joining us for a few minutes. Last time you were sitting in this chair was a pretty special time for you, having won an event in just your second start as a rookie on the PGA TOUR, and you did it in quite convincing fashion. If we could just take you back to last year's event, just a few comments on kind of what all clicked and fell into place for you.

CAMERON CHAMP: Yeah, you know, all week I was hitting it very well, mainly the driver. I really took advantage of the par-5s that week. If I go back, I played them at least 12- or 13-under, so that's kind of where I got most of my birdies. But through there, just -- I got up-and-down when I needed to. I got a few lucky breaks. I remember the chip-in on 12 the third day, short-sided myself, and I would have rather have left it short and tried to chip it on, possibly go in the water and ended up chipping it in for par.

Just kind of got a few things to go my way, and like you said, towards the end, I gave it all back, but I knew I was playing well all week. I was putting really well, so I knew if I just kept hitting it like I was, I'd give myself some chances, and then obviously at the end I couldn't tell you how I birdied the last four to five holes, but I just kept pushing along and just stuck with the process really.

DOUG MILNE: If I recall, I think Sunday morning you cracked your driver head; how big of a shock to the system was that? That obviously didn't impact you too adversely.

CAMERON CHAMP: Yeah, I mean, it was five minutes before I teed off, so I knew I had a backup, but I was hoping I didn't leave it in the hotel room. But luckily my dad found it in the backseat of the car, of our rental. It was a little bit different. I mean, I didn't hit the driver that well that day, but no excuse to it. Yeah, I mean, it wasn't a huge shock. It wasn't like, oh, my gosh, what am I going to do. But obviously knowing that I had a second driver was definitely a little more satisfying.

DOUG MILNE: Looking back on the season, after you win you finished in the top 10 in two of your next three starts, made it all the way through the BMW Championship in the FedExCup Playoffs. Just kind of a report card on your season and kind of how that's transitioning into this new season?

CAMERON CHAMP: Yeah, I obviously had an extremely hot start to the fall, just playing solid, really wasn't worrying about much. And then obviously being in future pairings, it all led to other things. It didn't really personally -- at first I didn't feel like it affected me. But on the inside I think it did. I had expectations, kind of putting extra pressure, kind of worrying about things I wasn't worrying about all last year and in the beginning of the fall. But for me it was a good learning experience. I had a lot of ups and downs. I had some injuries mid-season that kind of halted me for a while. I tried to play through those.

But yeah, I mean, I think as a rookie season, if you would have told me I would have won and made it to the BMW, I think I would have took it and signed the paper then.

Q. Having a season like you did last year with the hot start, you touched on the things you had to deal with and then kind of learn. What can you draw from that experience going forward now that you've had a month off going into this season?
CAMERON CHAMP: I think it's just a maturity factor. I think everyone is different. You know, I wish -- knowing what I went through, I wish now I know kind of how I could have handled it better because over time it just builds up and builds up, and usually you don't want to get too frustrated on the course. If I do, I just keep it inside until I'm done with the shot, but throughout the year it just kept blowing over and over, and I'd get mad over things I usually wouldn't get mad over. So that's kind of where I can start to tell, mid-season, it was right before I think Arnold Palmer, it was right around that time because I got hurt there, and I tried to play THE PLAYERS. I wasn't going to back out of THE PLAYERS. I had to withdraw there. Then was feeling good the next few weeks, just tried to keep it healthy. But then on top of that, the expectations and next thing getting frustrated, and it kind of boiled over a little bit.

For me, I'm kind of happy it happened, happened now. It's something I can -- something I've really sat back and looked at, what I did for those two months, whether that's practicing, how I showed up to the course, if I showed up on time, what I was eating, if it affected my mood. There's a lot of things that go into it.

Q. Do you kind of feel rejuvenated coming back to this place having won here last year?
CAMERON CHAMP: Yes, I mean, it's definitely a comfortable factor. Obviously I really like this course. I've played really well on it. You know, I'm just going to play, and I'm really not worried about repeating or any of that stuff. If it happens, it happens. That's kind of how I was thinking all last year on the Web and again in the fall, and then when I started thinking of kind of the future, trying to predict the future when we can't, that's when things started falling out of place for me.

As cliché as it sounds, just try and focus on what's in front of me just as much as possible and to kind of keep the future, whatever is going to happen, just let it be sort of thing.

Q. How do you define or describe situations -- even involving your experience last year and the success you've had on this course, do you feel like (indiscernible)?
CAMERON CHAMP: Yeah, I mean, obviously I've had situations where I've hit a few bad shots in pressure situations, but the majority of the time, I like it. I like being in those situations because usually when you are you're playing good or you're up there on the leaderboard. You know, and it's just at that point, that's the way the chips fall. Whether I hit, whatever my stat was, 54 percent or a little bit less of my fairways, so it's kind of a thing -- you said play your percentages, and it's the same thing versus in the fairway. I hit cuts, and my tendency is to put a push cut. 50 percent of the time I'm going to hit that shot if I'm not under pressure. That's kind of how I'm just trying to simplify things and just play to my percentages, play to my misses. For me it just makes things a lot easier, just makes it more consistent for me.

Q. The level of competition this year compared to last year, any insight?
CAMERON CHAMP: As far as what?

Q. The level of competition, the golfers coming in for this tournament this year as opposed to last year.
CAMERON CHAMP: Oh, yeah, it's a lot of guys I grew up playing with, Scottie Scheffler, amazing player, Robby Shelton, who I grew up playing -- obviously Collin and Matt. There's a lot of young guys, my roommate Chandler is playing this week. It's kind of nice to see, kind of have everyone out here now, since last year I feel like it was me and Sam Burns kind of the whole year kind of around our age group of guys kind of around our class.

Yeah, like I said, it's cool to see them have success and root for them. But then it's also cool just for us to be out here and kind of mess around like we used to or whatever it may be.

Q. You say you don't want to think about it too much in terms of you won this thing last year, but is there any added pressure going into a tournament you've already won once?
CAMERON CHAMP: No, not anymore. If you would have told me that about five months ago, I probably would have said yes. But at this point it's just -- like I said, I've learned a lot.

Q. The perception, what's at stake, the Masters and all that, that coupled with the conditions we're going to have this week, how big a change will it be having all those factors?
CAMERON CHAMP: Yeah, last year it was wet, rainy, cold for the first two days. I know the first day for sure. But yeah, I think as far as scoring, it may be the same, may be a little bit lower. The greens are in amazing shape. They seem probably faster than last year. So you know, if it dries out, obviously it would be -- I feel like a lot of birdies can be made on this course. But then also with the greens, how fast they are, and if they firm them out, it can kind of balance it out a little bit. You know, it will be really interesting to see, but like I said, I'm excited about how the course fits me really well. If I can drive it decent off the tee, take advantage of the par-5s and just kind of go from there.

Q. Where is your game at? Anything you worked on during the break? Where do you feel like you're at? Is there anything that's better from last season?
CAMERON CHAMP: I mean, there's always things to work on, and I only had two weeks off. It's just a work in progress for me is always wedges. I really look at a DJ factor, I always really keep an eye on his stats and everything he does. For his first few years on TOUR to where he is now, he's in a similar situation I'm in. He's someone I really look up to in that aspect as far as where he's gotten his short game and wedges. Obviously he rose to the top immediately. That's kind of how I'm looking at it. Like I said, it's always a work in progress. It doesn't just show up. If I just keep working at it, like you said, wedges and putter, that's really all I'm really focused on.

Q. How is the rough this year compared to last year?
CAMERON CHAMP: I would say it's around the same. You can get lucky and it can sit on top or just drop straight down. I feel like the majority of the time, though, if you're kind of bouncing into the rough, it's probably going to sit down, but you might get lucky sometimes where it might sit up, but I think it's long enough to where it's probably at least a ball and a half higher than the actual ball, maybe even two, so the majority of the time I feel like it will sit down. It will be playing really tough.

Q. What was it about last year and coming back this year that made you feel comfortable?
CAMERON CHAMP: I just see the lines really well off the tees. You know, a lot of the par-5s where I have to land it, I have to squeeze it in between bunkers sometimes. But generally, I mean, the fairways aren't very large. I mean, I think 3 is pretty wide for the most part, where I have to land it on -- is it 5? 5 is pretty narrow for me. I've got to squeeze it just right of the left bunker and then carry the first bunker on the right.

I'm trying to think, 11 is a pretty narrow fairway. Like you said, it's just some courses fit you better. Sometimes you see lines better. Again, I have a few courses throughout the year that I kind of really saw that, so it's just everyone's preference.

Q. For quite a few guys in the field, this is the first time they've ever seen this course. Do you think that kind of gives you some advantage, your experience here?
CAMERON CHAMP: Yes and no. Honestly, no, everyone -- we're on the PGA TOUR, so any of these guys nowadays are good enough to win any week. As far as the comfortability and knowing you've had success here, knowing you like everything about this place, yeah, I feel like it kind of helps in that aspect, but as far as physical skill, really no.

DOUG MILNE: Just to comment on this year, the Sanderson Farms Championship this year is its own standalone event, full FedExCup point, invite to the Masters, PLAYERS, so forth. Just a few comments as a winner of that event how special it is for the tournament.

CAMERON CHAMP: No, it's huge. It brings a lot more players, and obviously guys that -- again, obviously it's changed from last year to this year, but to be able to get you into those tournaments and to have some more opportunities to play the bigger events, to have -- again, a two-year exemption after you win, it's big. I think over the next few years they'll get bigger and bigger players, depending on the schedule. I think it was a huge boost for the tournament going forward.

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