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BALTUSROL BITS (7/27 P.M. EDITION): WEDNESDAY QUICKIE QUOTES | BALTUSROL BIRDIES

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I will be providing daily notebooks of bits, nuggets, thoughts, and information throughout PGA Championship Week here at Baltusrol Golf Club in my hometown of Springfield, New Jersey:

Wednesday’s Quickie Quotes

Sergio Garcia (making 18th PGA appearance): On Baltusrol: “I’ve taken a couple looks. Obviously one last week on Friday and one yesterday. Course looks great. Very, very good shape. Obviously a couple new tees here and there from 2005. The lake on 18, obviously it’s a little bit closer to the fairway than it used to be, but the course looks really, really good. Obviously I like what I see. Hoping to play nicely this week again and have a chance coming on the weekend. There’s a lot of good holes. I think obviously 4, it’s a very, very nice hole. You know, depending where they put the pin, it can be very, very tricky. But you can hit some nice shots there. I like 13. I think it’s a great hole. But you know, fortunately, I think there’s a lot of good holes. The finishing holes are nice that give you some chances. But probably 4 and 13 I like quite a lot.”

Andrew “Beef” Johnston (the England sensation from Open Championship): Advice to kids: “Just be yourself. Obviously when I was growing up, we had like – I was watching Tiger, Sergio, Phil and stuff like that, and I’d go and imitate shots and stuff like that. But as a personality and stuff, just be yourself, man. Because like the more I’ve been myself, the more comfortable I’ve felt out on the golf course. The more I’ve just had fun and be me, the better I’ve played. So you’ve just got to be comfortable in who you are, what you do. Don’t be ashamed to be different or anything, you know, that’s you. And no matter who you are, where you are, where you’re from, people should embrace that, you know. Just feel comfortable and enjoy your golf, man, or whatever you do.”

Fan interaction thus far this week: “They turned up in ginger beards. I said to one of them, I said, “Who got these beards?” And they all pointed at one guy. And I was like, “I hope he’s buying all the drinks you for you lot, because he’s had a shocker there.” But it’s so nice to see. And I love the support and I love trying to give back my time. I actually had a big learning curve yesterday where I played a few holes, and I was signing so much, I probably shouldn’t have done as much on the course and then waited till after. But it was like the first real time where I’ve had that much attention. And I come off the course and I was like, that was crazy. That was mad. It’s just a thing of trying to get the right timing to spend time with all the fans, because I love it. I absolutely love it. And it means so much to me. But at the same time, you’ve got to get your practice in, as well. So yesterday (Tuesday) was a really good day. It was a good learning curve, and I’ve just got to try and get the balance right and keep enjoying it and keep interacting with the fans, because that’s just me. That’s just my personality. If someone walks past in the locker room or anything like that, I’ll have a bit of fun with them or say hello or whatever, even if I don’t know them, so I’m going to keep it that way. Just spending time, spending time with the fans. If they didn’t turn up, we wouldn’t have golf tournaments and things like that. So signing stuff, photos, just having a chat with people. And I’ve had so many nice messages on Twitter saying, like, oh, I haven’t picked up a club in five years, and then I’ve gone out and played this weekend, which means so much to me. I’ve had like people posting videos up of their kids playing and stuff like that. One kid hitting a cheeseburger and I was like, no, no, no, make him hit a golf ball, please (laughing). But that’s really nice, man, and if I can get people playing golf and enjoying it, wanting to get out there, that means the world to me.”

On beard: “I’ve had it, oh, man, about ten, 11 months now. And not enough, by the look of it now. I know I need a haircut. I need a beard trim. I haven’t been able to get down to the barber. It’s been a long stretch, and then I just haven’t had time to get back and get down into London to get it done. But after this week, I should be able to go and get it done and sort it out.”

Jason Day (defending champion with first trip about Baltusol today): On Baltusrol: “Yeah, I haven’t played a practice round. I haven’t seen the course. I don’t know what it looks like. I was with Doug Steffen, the head pro, last night at the champion’s dinner. I went through pretty much every hole with him for about 20, 30 minutes, kind of going over all the holes. I’m going to try and touch them all today, but obviously the prep’s been a little on the lighter side. So I need to come in and try to get a good, solid 18 holes in today so I kind of know where I’m going.”

On Steffen chat: “Well, he said if you can get your drives away – depending on what conditions you have. And once again, I don’t think he kind of knows what kind of game I play or how I feel, because things can change over the course of the week. If you feel not so confident at the start of the week, and you gain more confidence during the week you might take on a few more shots. Just certain shots, making sure that I miss it in the right spots, either right or left, if I’m going to miss a fairway. There’s some greens out here that you can run them up to, if you hit in the rough, making sure – like 4, for instance, the par 3. He said that when the pin location is on the right-hand side, the water kind of cuts in a little bit more. You have to hit it five more yards, and it swales down through there because there’s a chute coming over the mountain here apparently. From what he said, everything breaks away from the mountain just over the clubhouse.
So all that said, I’m going to try and go out there and digest it all, and if that helps, great. I really have to go out there and try and find a game plan that works for me and making sure that on the tough holes, I feel comfortable, and the easy holes, I can take advantage of. And if I can do that, hopefully I’m there by Sunday.

Darren Clarke (European Ryder Cup Captain, who is playing in his 18th PGA): Favorite going into Ryder Cup?: “I knew you were going to ask me that. You guys are the favorite. You have to be the favorite, the Americans. You’ve had a task force. You’ve done everything that you’ve done, and rightly so. Davis (Love III) has gone to great lengths to try and find a winning formula. You know, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Davis. He’s obviously doing a wonderful job, and you know, your guys are all playing very, very well. I’m obviously looking at mine, but I’m keeping an eye on yours, as well, as I’m sure Davis is doing to ours. At the moment, with the teams as we stand right now at the moment, you’d have to say America would be favorites. But that’s always if you’re going to look off World Rankings, etc., invariably, that’s the case. But when you get there, it’s 12 guys against 12 guys in match play, and anything can happen.”

Dustin Johnson (U.S. Open Champion): On game right now: “Yeah, I’m feeling good. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game. I feel like I’ve been playing really consistent all year. I feel like every week I’ve gone out, I’ve had a chance to win. Right now, I feel like everything is going pretty well. I feel like I’m driving it good. I’m hitting my irons good. My wedge game’s really improved. I think that’s probably the biggest difference this year than years past, is my wedge game, it’s a lot sharper. I’ve got a lot more control with my wedges. I think that’s the big difference for me.

On two par 5s at Baltusrol on 17 and 18th holes: “The two par 5s, I mean, it’s obviously different. You’re usually — I don’t know if I’ve ever played a course that had back-to-back par 5s. It’s different, but I’ve played par 70 courses all the time where you only get two par 5s, so it’s nothing new. This golf course, I hit a lot of drivers. It’s par 70, but it’s quite long. I feel like I wear out my 8- and 9-iron on the par 4s. And then the par 3s are fairly long, too. I hit a lot of 5-irons it feels like. Yeah, I really have been driving the ball really well this year. I like this golf course. I think it sets up well for me off the tee. My first time playing Baltusrol was yesterday. And I like the golf course. I think it’s in really good shape. I feel like it sets up well for me. I mean, it’s pretty long. You’ve got to drive it straight. It’s definitely a premium on hitting the fairways. The rough’s pretty deep and thick. But I like the shape to the holes, the big greens with a lot of slope on them. This is a golf course that I like.”

Derek Sprague (PGA of America president): On being at Baltusrol: “PGA of America is very excited to be back here at Baltusrol. We were here in 2005 for Phil Mickelson’s second major victory. That was a very dramatic finish and we are looking for more drama this week, which Kerry and the players will deliver. Baltusrol has been just a wonderful host to The PGA of America. As you can tell, if you were here in 2005, things are more major out there. Bigger, grander, than they were 11 years ago. There’s a person that’s been involved with both of these, and that’s the PGA Director of Golf, Doug Steffen. I had the pleasure of playing with Doug at Media Day a month ago, and to spend four hours with this PGA professional was just remarkable. Seemed like I had about a whole year of history in those four hours, telling me about all the great shots in golf that have been played on all the major championships here at Baltusrol that really defined the great game of golf and major championship golf. Doug is slated to retire at the end of this year. He’s been a consummate PGA professional, not only here at Baltusrol, but his just wonderful career. And Doug is a fine player in his own right. Doug shot a 65 here in 1978 during the New Jersey PGA Section Championship, so he can get it around. And we give him our best regards as he heads into retirement end of this year. I would be remiss if I did not talk about my new section as relocated here from the northeast of New York PGA Section. I’m now a proud member of the New Jersey PGA Section. We’re 500 strong right here in New Jersey and we have about 30 percent of those PGA professionals assisting Kerry and his team this week on the range and the putting green and helping the best players in the world get what they need to week to prepare for the major championship. Speaking of the best players in the world, we have 97 out of the Top-100 players in the official world golf ranking this week competing. Hopefully that number will remain and nobody will get injured between now and the opening tee shot tomorrow. But that really is a testament to the PGA Championship and the strong field that we always seem to attract here. And among those best players in the world, I’m also very proud of the fact that we have 20 of our club professionals that will be participating this week against the finest players in the world. We started out with 4,000 of our 28,000 PGA professionals to try to qualify to get here this week, and that was reduced to 312 that played in our National Championship at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. Our champion of that tournament was Rich Berberian, Jr. from Derry, New Hampshire. His father is also a PGA professional, so it’s nice to see the heritage there and have Rich and the 19 other club professionals competing this week. Got to tell you, last night, part of the tradition here of major championship week of the 98th PGA Championship is our past Champions Dinner. We had quite a few in attendance last evening, and it was so great to hear Jason Day go to the microphone after winning his first major last year at Whistling Straits, and how much winning the PGA Championship has meant to him and to his family personally. He feels he sort of has – what is neat to hear Jason talk about is not that he has the monkey of winning a major off his back. It’s he feels maybe there’s even a little bit more pressure for him. He attained No. 1 in the world, and now living up to that major status performance week-in and week-out. As I sat there last night on the terrace of beautiful Baltusrol clubhouse and looking out over the fourth hole and seeing just the great layout and the infrastructure that Kerry and his team have prepared, it just reminded me what the PGA Championship is all about. It’s about having great past champions, having the strongest field in golf, played at one of the best courses in America, and I think that sums up our week here for the 98th PGA Championship.”

Baltusrol Birdies: Shout out to Paulie H and Johnny P for the great, extended, morning walking around this famed place … To the autograph seekers who waited endless hours to get players’ signatures off the 18th green, I hope your markers lasted, I hope you got to have a brief encounter with your favorite players… but get to know the players that signed your flag. Sure you scream out names of Jordan, Bubba, Phil, and Rickie, but there are 152 other players who have earned their right to be here, get to know those guys too. You will not be disappointed. … The Golf Channel LIVE shows, both in the morning, afternoon and evening hours the past three days, is the best show on TV, PERIOD, for broadcasting after each day of the event. The analysis, the inside look at the players, and the breakdown of the course has been incredible. And not just for this tournament but when a major championship happens, it’s a must-watch! … First tee-times Thursday: Mark Brown, Patton Kizzire, Bradley Dredge (7 a.m., 1st hole); Chris Kirk, Wyatt Worthington II, Freddie Jacobson (7 a.m., 10th hole). … Welcome to my hometown of Springfield!

Follow me on Twitter: @loumonaco, @doublegsports

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