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Byrd Hopes to Soar Again in Vegas


Jonathan Byrd brought the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas to an abrupt end. On the fourth playoff hole - the 204-yard, par-3 17th - at TPC Summerlin, the South Carolinian made a hole-in-one to beat Martin Laird and Cameron Percy for his fourth PGA Tour title.

Though in January's Hyundai Tournament of Champions Byrd added another victory to his career total, his win at Vegas last October was one for the ages. Indeed, Byrd became the first player in Tour history whose ace in a playoff resulted in victory.

Too bad it was so dark that Byrd never saw the ball go into the cup. But he soon learned his day was triumphant when the crowd roared in appreciation of his ace.

Byrd is back in Nevada to defend his title in the $4.4 million event, which starts Thursday. But the 6-iron he used last year isn't. It, along with the cap he wore and the pin flag for the 17th hole are now in the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla.

"I'm flattered," Byrd said of the recognition. "I'm 33 and still in the beginning of my PGA Tour career in a sense, so for the Hall of Fame to call me for something is special. I was happy to donate my club and ball. I'm grateful and I'm excited to see how they put it together."

Byrd is hoping to improve on his performance in last week's Tour Championship, where he put together rounds of 70, 74, 73 and 75 to finish dead last in the 30-player field.

On Tuesday, Byrd sat down with reporters and discussed his chances to retain the Timberlake title and what that one big shot last year meant to him.

MODERATOR: All right. I'd like to welcome our defending champion, Jonathan Byrd. Jonathan, if you want to kind of talk about your thoughts coming back to where you had the magical moment here winning on the playoff hole with the hole-in-one and then we'll take some questions.

JONATHAN BYRD: Yes. Obviously last year was a very, I'd say, magical finish to the tournament for me. A lot of emotions going into that week, but you know, just to get in a playoff in a PGA Tour was a great achievement, and then to stay in the playoff for four holes was exciting I think for everyone, and then a hole-in-one on 17, the hardest hole on the golf course. Definitely the best shot I hit all year. And to go in the hole, it was a shock; it was exciting. It was fun for everybody, and very memorable.

MODERATOR: Okay. I think I remember you saying you didn't see the actual shot or it go in the hole because it was so dark until about three hours later on ESPN. Kind of talk about that and how many times you've seen it since then.

JONATHAN BYRD: Yeah. I saw it on ESPN at the hotel after I'd gone to In-N-Out Burger and showered and was getting ready for my red-eye flight that night, but I got to see it on Youtube as well and couldn't believe how bright it was on TV because it was so much darker in real time. And that was fun to see and just how quick with social media how quick it was on your phone. And it was just fun to watch and got to watch it over and over and talked to people at the airport about it. And there's probably not a day goes by at a tournament day or practice round or wherever that somebody doesn't mention it.

MODERATOR: Okay.

Q. Talk a little bit about what makes this stop on the Tour so unique, and why do you think it has so much success? I know a lot of folks are obviously trying to get in the Top 125.

JONATHAN BYRD: I think that's the big story. You know, being the first tournament in the fall finish. I mean the whole fall finish is about guys, the story of guys trying to keep their job and trying to play well, finish the year off well, like I did last year to keep my job. And I think it's some of the best stories of the year, you know, because there's certain pressures you play under trying to win a golf tournament or trying to move up in the world ranking or things like that, FedEx Cup which is a lot of pressure, but there's no pressure like trying to keep your job. And it brings out a lot of great golf this week, and I think it'll make for great TV. We got a great golf course, a course that lends a lot of opportunities for birdies and a lot of excitement on the par-5s and par-3s now. And this is always an exciting finish.

Q. Did you go to the concert last year?

JONATHAN BYRD: I did not go to the concert last year.

Q. I know some guys talk about how on a typical Tour week that they don't have that Saturday night enjoyment to kind of relax a little bit. They're thinking about their game, but they go to the concert and all of a sudden the game isn't actually on their mind. I just wondered how unique is it to have a concert as part of a tournament?

JONATHAN BYRD: Well, last year I was in the final group, and to have that concert, you know, you can look at it a couple of different ways. You can look at it as a good distraction. We have a few tournaments where we have some concerts on the weekends and things, and it's always fun. And I've never been one not to never do it. Last year I was sick all week. I had bronchitis. So I wasn't about to go to a concert last year. That was more my excuse. But it is fun. It's fun to go see some very talented people like Justin do what they do, and it does get your mind off competition. It gives you some rest from thinking about golf, and then you sleep easy that night and get up and go to work.

Q. I know the course here is real favorable for the scoring. Is it too easy or is that even a possibility?

JONATHAN BYRD: Well, I don't think it's too easy. I think, you know, they changed one par-4 into a par-5. I think guys play well when they hit the ball in the fairway. And I think this year the tournament being a little sooner, I think we'll have more rough, and I think that's going to make the course play more difficult. And we might have more wind than we had last year. So I don't think this golf course is easy. I think there's a lot of opportunities, but I don't think it's easy. If you're not sharp by hitting the ball in the fairway, I think this course can be very difficult. And you'll see guys making a lot of birdies, and it's hard to make birdies if you're not in the fairway. So you have to place them, be strategic and you have to drive the ball well.

Q. The hole-in-one a shot of a lifetime. I read here there was 39 of them hit last year. Is it -- I mean obviously it's difficult, but I mean how -- the probability of hitting one to end a tournament, you were the only guy to do that. How does that help you, I guess, build momentum for this year? How did it help you just with confidence knowing that you could hit that big shot?

JONATHAN BYRD: Well, I think any time you can stick to your process and stick to your routine under pressure and perform well, you know, I'm not a guy who puts a lot of confidence in me. I don't have a lot of -- I don't have real high self-confidence, but I do have a lot of confidence in my routines and my preparation and those things, and I think the better you do at those types of things, the better you are under the gun. You know, we just don't dig deep and find something different when we're under pressure, that we do that helps us under pressure. It's doing the same thing over and over and over, and then once you're under pressure, you just stick to the same thing and you perform well. So this season it's just given me confidence. You know, any time you can make five, six-footers that I've made to stay in a playoff and then hit a great shot on 17, all three times I've played that hole, that just helps you along the way and it's helped me this season when I've gotten in contention.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you, Jonathan.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.