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Byrd Relives Dramatic Ace in Vegas
Defending champion Jonathan Byrd was on hand Tuesday to relive perhaps the most dramatic ending to a tournament last year. On the fourth playoff hole at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, Byrd ended the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals Childrens Open with a hole-in-one to beat Martin Laird and Scott Percy.
Because the sun had already set, Byrd wasn't sure what the commotion was on the green as the remaining crowd cheered his ace. Byrd met with reporters to rehash his heroics. Here's his retelling of the unlikely ending and victory. Also on hand was Charley Hoffman, who played collegiate golf at UNLV.
MODERATOR: Let's get to our two combatants here, and we'll see if Jonathan feels lucky with the right word, I know that's a tough act to follow. First of all to my direct left, I think everyone knows, our defending champion, Jonathan Byrd, there could not have been a more dramatic end to any PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas because there's never been more dramatic end on any PGA Tour stop last year. Jonathan made an ace on the fourth playoff hole on No. 17, a three-way playoff, and we want to get to him about that. First, let's welcome Jonathan Byrd. And next to him of course, one of Las Vegas's favorite sons, former UNLV Rebel but probably once a Rebel, always a Rebel. Charley has been well know to Las Vegas golf fans for some time and in 2009 started the Charley Hoffman Foundation, so let's welcome Charley Hoffman. Jonathan, good memories driving up to the TPC at Summerlin today? If you like Gary's description of lucky, but first of all, you know, what do you remember about the week, what do you remember about the final round and what do you remember about last year's playoff.
JONATHAN BYRD: Well, I was fortunate, I think we are fortunate, lucky, I don't know, you can pick a lot of words, getting into a playoff on the PGA Tour, to get a chance to win, it's not, as Charley would say, it's not easy to do. We like to be there every week, choose when we play well but don't get to make that choice and we just keep working hard and see when it happens and for me last year it came very late. I struggled most of the season, and came into the Fall Series fighting just to keep my job, and to have an opportunity to play the next year with full status, and I had one good week in the first Fall Series event, came into this tournament with my game very sharp, playing well, but still uncertainty of how it would turn out that week. Played well the first three days, was very confident in my game, was in the final group, and did not -- was not playing that sharp today. It was -- just not making the putts and everyone was going right past me. Was able to kind of pull it together and birdie three out of the last four, and Webb Simpson, who won yesterday, which I'm very happy for, made a mistake coming in, hit it in the water on 17 which kind of opened the door for me to kind of get in there and was able to make about a 6-footer on the last to get in a playoff.
And then, just kind of kept hanging in there and kept hanging in there, first three holes, nobody made any birdies. And as you know, walked up to 17 in the dark, not sure if we would have been able to finish. I was up first, jumped on the tee, hit the shot on the range twice before o went to the 1st tee and was thinking about how I knew I was going to have to hit that shot, before the round started. Don't usually do that, but I was on the range and thinking the last couple of holes, because I've hit it in the water a bunch on 17 and 18, so they were kind of weighing on me. And I knew the pin was going to be on the left side and was probably going to be a 6-iron and probably going to have to hit a really good 6-iron and practiced that shot and made two good swings. So then in regulation, I made birdie, hit a good shot, first playoff hole, so by the time the fourth playoff hole, I hit that shot in my mind, you know, four times already, and what I wanted to do, got up there and did it, got drawing into the left center of the green and it goes in the hole.
MODERATOR: It's a good point, though, because the three of you had a decision to make coming off 18 on the third hole. Was it left to you guys to decide to play 17 because of the darkness?
JONATHAN BYRD: It was. I had a lot of friends who commented that they asked us what we wanted to do and I was -- I knew Martin had a flight that night, and all I thought was he's got a flight. So you know, I'm just happy to be in a playoff. I'll stay for a week, you know. If y'all want to finish this next weekend, I'll do it. So I said whatever you guys want to do I don't really care. I just made about an 8-footer to stay in the playoff. Like you said, I felt lucky to even be there. Martin asked the question, if we get on the green and we can't see, can we stop and the officials said yes. In my mind, I've seen Tiger finish off tournaments in darkness and it's just made great TV. We are out here to promote the best product for the TOUR and Shriners, so I said, let's keep going, and Martin said let's keep going. And then jump on the tee, and like you said, I didn't see it go in but I saw the ball drawing towards the flag, thought it was a good shot.
MODERATOR: No idea you made history after, never a playoff that ended with a hole-in-one.
JONATHAN BYRD: Didn't really think of it that way. I was just in shock. As all my friends continue to remind me, and ESPN, that's one of the greatest shots in golf history, worst reaction in golf history (laughter). Because I didn't jump around the tee box, I didn't -- like I should have. And internally that was happening, but really internally, I was just -- I'd had a struggle of a year, and things were very not coming easy that year. And then I make a hole-in-one to win the golf tournament after I've been leading, I'm in the final group. I could have just gone out there and shot 67 and won, but it came through after all that and a hole-in-one, and I'm in shock, like how does it end this way. And then I was first to hit those other three guys.
MODERATOR: Carry that over into this year, your next start, you won the Tournament of Champions in Hawai'i. Correlation between those two? Did coming out of Las Vegas give you confidence, that being currently 13th in the FedEx Cup standings, did Las Vegas serve as a springboard for you?
JONATHAN BYRD: Absolutely. Charley would agree, when you have a good week, you don't want to stop, you want to keep going. You just have confidence and confidence is something that it kind of goes. And it's the greatest feeling in golf coming to a tournament. And I went into Hyundai, I felt like I really had the approach, but my game wasn't really quite as sharp as it was maybe the week of the tournament last year -- the previous year when I went into Hawai'i but I felt in the back of my mind like even though it's not as sharp as I wanted it to be, it's still good enough. And that's just confidence in knowing that the game doesn't have to be perfect, you can just go compete each week, even when it's not perfect, you are just going to go out there and get it done. And that's the way I felt going into that first tournament of the year and I played well all week. I went into that first round, not knowing exactly where my game was, and I was 5-under through nine holes, and then I holed out on 10 for eagle, I looked at my caddie, we high-fived and said, this is nice, you know. Momentum, straight from Vegas and was leading the golf tournament right off the bat, had a hole-out and was able to win in a playoff there with Robert Garrigus. Huge confidence boost and it's carried me this season. I've missed nine cuts this year, I've had my struggles and missed the cut in all four majors. Even if you're having the best year -- you still have periods where you struggle but it's been a great year.
MODERATOR: Charley, let's get to you, talk about your season. You're currently 32nd in the FedEx Cup standings, an interesting place to be, heading into BMW in a couple of weeks. Your year so far, are you pleased with it?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I wouldn't say I'm really too pleased. I really have not contended in that many tournaments. Really only contended San Antonio, where I finished second and had a chance win there. I really, throughout the year I usually contends four or five times that's really the only tournament I've contended in. Players Championship, I sort of had chance coming down the stretch and dumped it in the water twice on the famous island green, that brought me back, but I think I was one or back going into that hole. That said, no, I'm not real happy with that. On the other side, I've had a lot of mid-30 finishes which I guess better than making the cut and finishing 50th. It's just been a tough year for putting four real good rounds together. I would say the putter has been cold this year and usually every year, surprisingly enough, my putter is probably my best stat, making four putts than I have this year and I was -- if you don't make those ones when you hit it close, it doesn't matter how close you hit it. It's been a struggle, last week the putter got going one round, played good one round, but you've got to play a good four rounds. I'm sure if you watched the tournament yesterday, Chez made a lot of putts coming down the stretch and Webb made even more. Those guys that win every week, there's not anybody that's not making putts out there.
So if I get the putter going the next few weeks, I can turn an average year into a good year real fast. So looking forward to the end of FedEx Cup. I've moved up a little bit the last two weeks, got a Top-10 and a 30th or something like that. So outside looking in, a few years ago, I dropped out. I know I'm in control of my own destiny. I don't have to have a great tournament, I finish somewhere in the pop 20 I probably move on to the Tour Championship which always is a goal to get to the Tour Championship, which is always a goal. And I guess that said, with the year I've had, I control my own destiny and I have to play good golf the next two weeks but it's definitely still a chance.
MODERATOR: Will you be thinking about where you stand in those points going into the weekend or starting on Thursday? Jonathan is shaking his head up and down.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: You could say, the FedEx Cup, it is what it is. The players sort of know what's going on now. And you can make some big jumps and leaps. Chez last week finished second and he went from not even being in this next week to pretty much he's guaranteed in the Tour Championship; a guy that had -- only reason why he didn't win in Vegas, he would not even be in an event this week or in the Vegas event, if he wasn't just coming off major medical. So one good week, he didn't even win and now he's in all four majors and he's in some World Golf events. Top-30 is a big number on the PGA Tour, and I'm definitely wanting to get back to that year where I got into all four majors, and definitely you get to plan your year a lot better if you're in those majors, and that's what you want to do. Your career is based off major championships and when you're not in them, you can't better your major record. So winning PGA Tour events is obviously very special, but when you look back, you go, how many majors did you win and how did you play in those majors.
MODERATOR: Will you go anything different in the next two weeks different? Are you practicing more?
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: I mean, I'm not really working on much. If I was working on something in my game I would be practicing more, but everything feels pretty good. Just go back to working on some putting stuff that, yeah, again, hit some putts -- but I've been working on that all year, so I'm just hoping that it will click. Like I said, all you need is one week, get that putter hot, and goes from very average year to maybe a chance to win ten million.
MODERATOR: Jonathan, you're in 13th, you want to move up, do you go at it aggressively in two weeks at Cherry Hills?
JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah, I think we have tried to approach every week the same, you know, trying to have a chance on Sunday. So when I go to a tournament and I'm trying to -- I mean, this sounds great, but I don't always do it well, but if I'm trying to go into a tournament, like coming into Vegas, trying to play well that week, but also trying to play well for another week -- it's almost like I have put more pressure on myself and I don't play as well. I think you have to approach each week as just that week and just play the best you can. It's hard not to think about it. Fortunately, I was -- last year was like Charley, was the first year I was in all four majors, and I'm in the Tour Championship, for sure. So I have that kind of checked off, which is nice. But still, you still want to play well. You still want to keep moving up, and just take every opportunity you can to play well. When you have an opportunity to get in contention, you want to take advantage of that.
MODERATOR: Jonathan, he came into Las Vegas, a Tour card not a certainty, a number of players hit the Fall Series with that, and so the competition is brutal. I mean, there's just a different kind of pressure than maybe you start out the season when you get to the Fall Series. Can you both talk about what that means to a player and the mind-set if you are one of those guys coming in?
JONATHAN BYRD: That's one of the things that's great about the Fall Series. I think in a sense, it's some of the best TV you can find. The average golfer, the general golfer, loves watching guys win regular season events or FedEx Cup but more people can relate to the guy keeping his job. I have to make this putt to stay in the top 125 or make the cut. My father-in-law loves that part of game, and sometimes he find greater joy when I'm struggling and getting out -- like last year in Vegas, I hit it right off 18 behind a tree and stuff. He loved that part of it. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: He likes you, right?
JONATHAN BYRD: That's not what -- I'm to hit it in the fairway, and he's like, "No, no, I can relate to that. I'm always in the trees." And -- but I mean, fall is awesome watching guys try to keep jobs, and that's more pressure. It's a different pressure like -- it's a different pressure than trying to win on a Sunday. And I think it makes great TV. It made great TV last year. We had an awesome fall, had all five had great finishes. And then like for me this year, if I'm not in that position, I'm playing to try to win but I'm paying close attention to my buddies who are around that number who are trying to keep their job, and I'm just trying to encourage those guys and root them on. So there's a lot more going on out here week-to-week than just a guy trying to win. There's other guys who are trying to get confidence and other guys trying to keep their job and you know we are trying to be there for our friends, too.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: You look at the Fall Series, I mean, Vegas has had some great champions. You look at Martin Laird, I wouldn't say he was a nobody when he won here, but he hadn't really proven himself and has gone to the Tour Championship the last couple of years, and the top -- I want to say 25, definitely 50 player in the world, he supports this tournament. And you have guys like Jonathan has obviously had a lot of success, struggled last year and now it was a springboard. It's not like the guys coming out here are schmoes. You have some really good players going through here and playing. They just happen to be struggling a little bit throughout the year. I wouldn't say that they have to play in this event, but most of the guys playing this event, have to play in this event to keep their card. But most of them are very good players. I mean, it's not -- because they might have had a bad year doesn't mean they can't play golfs. You have some great champions out here in Vegas, and all of the fall events. You look at -- I mean, you had Jonathan, you had Rocco, you had -- I can't remember, who else Heath Slocum, good champions, Garrigus, proven players that can play good golf. And guys like Webb Simpson that played last year that had a chance to win. Most likely with the year he's had, he probably could have won five times. I don't know, I would assume he's not coming back, but hey, you guys missed him last year if you didn't come out and see him play. You have great players coming through this he strength and hopefully that's why we want to move this event into the FedEx Cup. Vegas likes winners, but guys coming through playing are winners and have proven to be winners on the PGA Tour.
JONATHAN BYRD: Having a great year -- and then, last year, not that big a difference. The guys that are playing this week here might be like Webb, he's No. 1 on the Money List, No. 1 in the FedEx.
MODERATOR: Or Jonathan Byrd. But we talked about being a springboard. Charley, you hope to not only do well here, but you also hope to do good. That's in the form of your contribution with the Charley Hoffman Foundation, you and your wife, Stacy, started in 2009. You have a Pro-Am every Monday. Talk about the foundation if you would and how it came to be and what you're looking to accomplish this week at Shriners.
CHARLEY HOFFMAN: It's nice. Our foundation and a few boards members a few years back we sat down and were just talking how can we make the foundation better. We had our event in San Diego and I went why live in Las Vegas, I went to college in Las Vegas, and we sat there and I go, do we want to venture off from golf do we want to venture off into something else. And I said, well, I don't think the Timberlake tournament has a Monday Pro-Am and all of these other events have Monday Pro-Ams. I go, why don't we approach Adam, see if we can have a Pro-Am in on honor our foundation, support the local Las Vegas community on Monday. And we talk to Adam and he's like yeah, let's do it. Without his support, I don't know what we would be doing. But last year, it was late, we got it going. We did great, obviously set high goals and probably didn't do as good as we wanted to but gave over $16,000 to five charities which was great. And this year obviously with everybody knows the economy the way it is, it's tough to get groups to play. We are doing good. There's still a few spots left to purchase but what we have added this year, last year we sort of did a dinner after the Pro-Am up at the Hill. And it was great, it was by MGM and a bunch of their restaurants. The chair of Morton's is one of the sponsors of a PGA Tour this year, and they do a celebrity dinner idea, I guess you would call it. Jim Furyk did one during Tiger's event in Philadelphia, and I went and attended and wasn't sure if it was going to be the right idea for our tournament, or our foundation, and I really -- was really a great event. Morton's did a great job.
And so I called Adam and our foundation and I go, what do you guys think about adding a dinner afterwards at Morton's, and so we did. We added a dinner at Morton's afterwards. If you play in the Pro-Am, you get to go to the dinner. And we are going to have a PGA Tour pro, hopefully ten of us out there serving you guys appetizers and serving you drinks and steaks. It's a really unique experience. It's rare that -- unless you're a major sponsor of me or Jonathan or somebody to get to go to dinner with us, and it's sort of a cool experience. If you play in the Pro-Am or even if you want to buy a ticket to go to Morton's, to be able to hang out with us, talk to us, pick our brains off the golf course, which I think is better than trying to get to know us on the golf course. Probably a lot of people know what we do on the golf course. I know for me, I'd much rather talk about something else than golf off the golf course. It's fun to get to know us in a little different light. You'll have that ability if you go to the dinner, and I think it's going to be great. My whole deal, Adam's whole deal, is get the community in Vegas behind this event. And golf, we know the golf course is great. We have proven that and we have a good golf tournament and we have good Pro-Ams. But how do we make the community involved? Not everybody plays golf.
So we do a dinner and we do a nightlife afterwards. We are just trying to get the community behind us as much as we can, and you don't have to like golf to come to a dinner and enjoy a steak at Morton's and have some wine. So we get a bunch of people involved in the community to come out to the Pro-Am and enjoy it. We have George Lopez playing his event, he called me, and he's going to play my event on Monday. And there will be a few celebrities, hopefully get a couple other guys to come and some great pros signed up to play in the Wednesday Pro-Am, and we have got some great pros signed up to do some dinner. I know I have some confirmation from the UNLV guys, Chad Campbell is going to play the Pro-Am, and a few other tentatives, Rickie Barnes and Chez who finished last week has committed to do the dinner at Morton's that night. So we have some commitments from great players to have some fun with on Monday of an event. I know Monday for me is a little bit easier day, so during the week, it's hard to have a couple of glasses of wine. But I know on Monday night, I'm sure the guys out there serving will have some fun and you'll see n them in a different light than a normal Monday on the golf course.
MODERATOR: I think Charley was being modest. That was 16,0500 individually, over $75,000 and it all stays right here. So two opportunities with the Monday Pro-Am, few spots available, and a little bit looser as Charley said, a Morton's steak dinner with some of the Tour pros serving and a great night, and we appreciate what you do for the Las Vegas community. Jonathan, after you hit that shot, the 6-iron went to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Hard to give up that club? Do you have to give them that club?
JONATHAN BYRD: I gave them that club. I thought about keeping the actual real one and having it in my office and pulling a little switcheroo on them, but I ended up sending it to them. Thought it was a cool opportunity, and they are doing an exhibit with Paul Goydos's 59 and my hole-in-one. To ever think I would be in the World Golf Hall of Fame for one shot like that, take advantage of the opportunity. I think it's good for golf and it's good for this tournament. So, it's pretty neat.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.