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Points Back at Pebble with Sidekick Murray


D.A. Points doesn't kid himself that his star is brighter than his amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, actor-comedian Bill Murray. But the spotlight shined on the 35-year-old native of Illinois - just like Murray - last year in the tournament, nailing his first win on the PGA Tour and helping get Murray's first pro-am victory.

Yet Murray is getting most of the ink in advance of the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am; indeed, his picture is on the cover of the official program. "It was funny, I got here and I got the program and I looked at the tickets and I thought, 'Wait a minute, didn't I win?' " Points said Tuesday.

"There are pictures of Bill everywhere. I'm like driving down the highway, I see a billboard. There is Bill. There is Tiger. I'm like, `Where am I?' Honestly, it's a little disheartening because it was my first win and I've been around a while," he added.

"But the celebrities obviously make this a larger-than-life event sometimes. Yeah, I'm a little bummed I didn't get a picture somewhere, but at the same time, Bill also won (the pro-am), but he's been coming here a long time and is a well-deserving champion."

The 2011 win on the Monterey Peninsula propelled Points to his best year on Tour, earning more than $2 million. And thanks to three top-20 finishes in 2012, he's already taken home nearly $490,000 and currently ranks 97th in the world and 14th in the FedEx Cup standings.

Points is excited about returning to Pebble Beach to defend his title, though he noted Tuesday that he's controlling the butterflies better than last year. "This year, in the off season, I worked hard with my sports psychologist and my swing coach and my short game coach to try to figure out what I can do to try to not do that same kind of thing again, to show up, go through my routine, and take the steps that I need to do to have myself as prepared as possible, and then go play," he said.

"Whatever happens, happens. Don't try to force it too much. So far it's worked pretty well to have a couple top-10s. I had never played in Maui before, and I played pretty solid there. So I feel like things are on the right track to start this year."

Here's what else Points told reporters on Tuesday.

MODERATOR: Welcome defending champion D.A. Points to the media center here at the AT&T Pebble Beach national Pro Am. D.A., start us off with some thoughts coming back to the site of your first PGA Tour victory?

D.A. POINTS: Well, to be back at Pebble is just always a treat. It's always a joy to be here. It definitely is a nice feeling to be the defending champ. But whether I won last year or not, I'm going to enjoy coming back here every chance I have. I came back in November for the Callaway Invitational. It's a tournament my wife and I love to come and get away for right before Thanksgiving. I kind of did that premeditated, because I didn't want this to be my very first time back since I won last year. I think I got some of the, oh, my goodness, kind of wow kind of stuff out of my way then when I played at Pebble. And I stood up on the 14th green and thought, how did this thing go in the hole? Then just standing on the 18th green and standing next to the green and remembering looking around and trying to take it all in, which was almost impossible to do. So it was kind of nice to have gotten some of that out of the way. This week I can hopefully try to feel as much like a normal Tour event as possible.

MODERATOR: You've got two Top 10s this year, 14th in the FedEx Cup standings. Just how do you feel your year is going so far?

D.A. POINTS: It's going really solid. I came out. After I won last year my expectations kind of rose. I just really wanted to really climb the ladder. I had all these great opportunities of playing in the Masters and getting in some World Golf events. I just so badly wanted to excel in those events to really boost my world ranking and give myself all these opportunities that I've always wanted to have. I think because I wanted it so bad, I was pushing so hard that I just never let myself enjoy it or play very well. The only week I actually played halfway decent was at the PGA, and I had a Top 10 there, which is always nice. But I still wanted a much bigger thing for me after my win.

This year, in the off season, I worked hard with my sports psychologist and my swing coach and my short game coach to try to figure out what I can do to try to not do that same kind of thing again, to show up, go through my routine, and take the steps that I need to do to have myself as prepared as possible, and then go play. Whatever happens, happens. Don't try to force it too much. So far it's worked pretty well to have a couple Top 10s. I had never played in Maui before, and I played pretty solid there. So I feel like things are on the right track to start this year.

Q. D.A., everybody can play out here, and it's so hard to win. What's that do once you get that first win under your belt? What's that do to your game, your approach, and everything that's involved?

D.A. POINTS: I think, like I said last year, my approach kind of changed. Like I thought okay, I've won now. I know I can do it. I need to put myself in position every week to do that. I didn't necessarily think about how to do that. I just knew that's what I wanted to do and thought, okay, if I think like that, it will happen. And that, obviously, isn't the case. But there are so many crazy things that go into winning. It was funny. My caddie and I were walking around Monterey Peninsula yesterday morning. And my very first hole of the tournament, I got up and hit just the wildest left tee shot almost out of bounds, and I was like oh, great. This is not - I was probably a little nervous and excited to play with Bill.

I almost hit it out of bounds on the first hole. Then somehow we get up there and I've got a clear shot, not a bad lie. I get it on the green, two putt and make par. I settle down and go on to shoot like 7 under or something like that. So things like that have to kind of happen a lot of times to win. It's kind of one of those things that I've learned that no matter what you do or how hard you try to prepare and all this stuff, there are certain things that kind of have to go your way. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. I think if you have that attitude, your life will have a lot better quality at least out here.

Q. But now you know what it takes to win, right?

D.A. POINTS: Yeah, I always knew what it takes to win. I think every guy out here knows what it takes to win. When I finished that week and I won by two, I didn't go, oh, gosh, I just made everything. I hit it on every fairway and hit evergreen. That didn't happen. For sure that didn't happen. But I think what I learned, I guess, and partly in part because of Bill, is that taking a little time off between shots and watching him entertain the crowd and that kind of thing is something that I have to get better at, because that is certainly, without a doubt, made it easier for me and gave me - let me get out of the way of myself to win the tournament.

Q. In that same vein, who is a bigger distraction, Bill Murray or Tiger Woods?

D.A. POINTS: Oh, well, Bill, they're two totally different types of distractions. And I don't think Tiger is a distraction. I think Tiger, again, is one of the best players ever to win. He has been so amazing for golf. I'm really glad he's here. I'm glad for the tournament, the people in the area, everything. I'm glad for Tiger, because like I said, I want Tiger to play all the time. Bill is an entertainer and he knows that. When we're out there I learned quickly that he's there to entertain the people that are watching. Sometimes it's at my expense. Sometimes it's at Harris Barton's expense, sometimes it's Duffy Waldorf's expense, whoever.

But he's not trying to be a distraction. He's like, hey, this is what I'm here for. This is why I've been coming here for so many years. I love to play golf, and I love to have fun with the fans. He even said to me, let's have fun. If it's taking a bite of a donut on the second green after we make a birdie or chest bumping or giving knuckles or whatever it is, it's about having fun. Some other guys might say oh, that's a distraction. It's just having fun.

Q. Forgive me for not looking this up. But have you ever slipped on a five or four hole lead? This is obviously in response to what's happened the last couple weeks on Tour.

D.A. POINTS: Yes, I have. I'm not sure how many times. I know for sure one time I won the Pete Dye West Virginia Classic, and I won 65, 62, 68, so I was leading by four or five going into the last round. It's a kind of a weird feeling, because obviously when you get out there you want to Sticks to your game plan and all that stuff. But at the same time, you're standing there and you're like if I don't try to make birdies, someone else is going to make a bunch of birdies and pass me. If I try to play too aggressive, they're going to be like why are you playing so aggressive, you have a four shot lead.

It's an awkward position to be in. But at the same time, I'll take a four or five shot lead going into Sunday every time I can, because at least you feel like you've got a really good chance. What Kyle Stanley has done over the last two weeks is nothing short of just spectacular. Again, obviously he would love to play the 18th hole all over again at Torrey Pines, but I still don't think he did much wrong. When you're standing there on the fairway and you've got a tough third shot, all you want to do is hit it solid, and he flushed it. He hit it a little too solid. From then on, it was kind of a tough thing to go through. But I talked to him and sent him a text, and a tweet said, hey, man, keep your head up. You didn't do anything wrong. It's just sometimes that's the way it goes. For him to rebound, not just later in the year, but the next week is unbelievable.

Q. Based on what you just said, is it easier to play with the lead or easier to play while coming from behind?

D.A. POINTS: Well, I would say it's circumstantial. I mean, I've won a few events, three or four events coming from behind. Because I can just kind of put my nose down and not look up and not care about what anybody else is doing. When you've got the lead, you kind of have to be cognizant of what's going on around you. I think that's maybe the harder part. Again, I'd like to have the lead and know that I've played well enough to be ahead, and just try to feel like I'm strong enough and secure enough that I could hold that lead.

Q. For those of us who work and live here in the Bay Area, just a few months from now the U.S. Open returns to San Francisco. Maybe a word or two? I know you're focused on this tournament, but still, it's in the back of everybody's mind. Just your thoughts about the Open returning to the Bay Area?

D.A. POINTS: I love the Bay Area. I love San Francisco. My wife and I love Napa, so we like to come up and visit this part of the country a lot. I've never gotten to play - I think it's Olympic. I've heard it's just an amazingly difficult golf course. But any time you can play in your nation's Open Championship, especially in a wonderful city at a great golf course, it's an honor.

Q. Last year it seemed even as you were on your way to winning, you were sort of playing second fiddle to your amateur playing partner, and that's sort of what has made the tournament unique over the years. Can you talk about the whole idea of the celebrity amateur headliners and what that's like for you guys this week?

D.A. POINTS: It was funny, I got here and I got the program and I looked at the tickets and I thought, wait a minute. Didn't I win? And there are pictures of Bill everywhere. I'm like driving down the highway, I see a billboard. There is Bill. There is Tiger. I'm like where am I? Honestly, it's a little disheartening because it's my first win out here and I've been around a while. It's not like I've never been around or anything. But the celebrities obviously make this event a larger than life event sometimes.

Bill, without a doubt is so charismatic, and all these guys, Jeffrey Donovan, I played with Jeffrey a couple years ago. He's great. Every celebrity, Tony Romo, all these guys, it really does not only make it a fun event, but it really gets the fans and everybody really excited. Sometimes that's a sacrifice that I guess we have to make for the greater good of this tournament and the growth of golf. Yeah, I'm a little bummed out that I didn't get a picture somewhere, but at the same time, Bill also won, and he's been coming here a long time and is a well deserving champion.

Q. On that same thing, what is it like to come back and defend your first PGA title?

D.A. POINTS: To be honest, it's no different, besides doing this stuff. My expectations are probably too high. Every day I'm trying to find some way to kind of bring down my expectations so I don't go, okay, I've got to come out and shoot 7 under again on Monterey Peninsula and get off to this great start. It's really another week. Of course I want to win. I wanted to win last week, and I wanted to win the week before that. I'm just going to try to keep doing the same thing that's I've done to get me off to a pretty solid start. Again, hopefully those shots that I hit awry end up with a good lie and good look at the green, and I can maybe put myself in position to win again.

Q. Do you recall what your mindset was coming in last year? Were you playing well when you came here? What is it this year?

D.A. POINTS: I was having a really solid start to my season last year. Very similar to the one this year. I had finished fifth at Torrey. This year I finished eighth. I made the cut at the Bob Hope. I finished 18th in Phoenix, so I had been playing pretty soiled. But when I found out I was playing with Bill, and kind of leading up to this whole expectation thing, I had heard that it was difficult to play with him, and he does a lot of crazy stuff. And the guys were like I talked to Tim Herron, and he was like you should go get drunk before you go play with Bill and all this stuff.

I was like, well, I said to my wife, we've got a really cool opportunity. It's a guy that we've both admired our whole lives and we get the opportunity to at least hang out with him for a few days. Let's not worry about if I shoot 70 or 80. Let's just go have fun and enjoy our time with him. And that's what we tried to do. Lo and behold, I played well and ended up winning. So that's kind of the same. I'm trying to take that same thing. Obviously, there is going to be some extra attention because I won last year and Bill and I won last year. But if we could just have a good time, it will take care of itself.

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