During his news conference Tuesday, Collin Morikawa smiled when he mentioned Michael Kim.

Even though last year's John Deere Classic champion has struggled since he left TPC Deere Run last July, Kim's impact on those who have followed seems to be clear.

Kim and Morikawa are both California-Berkeley products and in the field. The program has enjoyed a rise in PGA Tour success recently, with Kim's win last year, Max Homa winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May and Morikawa finishing tied for second at last week's 3M Open in his fifth professional start.

To see the Golden Bears have success out on tour adds a little extra for Kim.

"It's great. Cal has had a pretty good program for the last few years now. To see guys from Cal do so well, it's really cool," Kim said. "I think, even in 2012, we had a really young squad and we did really well, got to the semifinals of nationals and we were a top four, five team in the country.

"We knew we'd have a good team that sophomore year, and we've all been working to be out here, and it's fun to see guys like Max, me and (Brandon Hagy) all achieve our goals and stay out here."

Meanwhile, Kim is still enjoying the perks that come with winning on the PGA Tour.

"It's nice to have my own parking spot," he said. "It's good to be back."

Kim is preparing for his first title defense after rolling through last year's tournament. He shot a tournament record 27-under and won by eight strokes, also a tournament record.

"It's more than golf ... it's MAGIC," reads one of the billboards dotting the Quad-Cities this week, adorned with a celebratory image of Kim after winning his first tour event at TPC Deere Run.

"It's been great so far, seeing that billboard and reminiscing on some of the old memories," Kim said. "It's a cool feeling, and hopefully I can do the same thing as last year."

However, once the tournament begins today, Kim's sole focus will be on the week in front of him.

"I'm not trying to pay too much attention to defending it, I'm just trying to have another good week out here," Kim said. "Last year is last year, and this a totally new tournament."

Kim is trying to recapture that magic, which so often can be fleeting and fickle. Ranked 436th in the world, he's missed 17 straight cuts, his only finish this year coming at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he finished tied for 32nd in a 33-man field that didn't feature a weekend cut.

He played the front 9 in Wednesday's Pro-Am and feels like his game is steadily improving.

"It's getting there, just looking for the full swing to click a little bit like it did last year," Kim said. "My short game and putting feel great."

Kim was enduring similar struggles last year entering the John Deere Classic. He had missed six cuts in his seven events coming into the tourney and had just started working with a new swing coach. He entered the tournament ranked 473rd in the world.

But something clicked at TPC Deere Run. He was one shot off the lead after the first round, then held the 36- and 54-hole leads before cruising on Sunday.

"Leading up to that week, I was hitting the golf ball well, I just needed to get off to a good start," Kim said. "The ball started rolling good in the first couple days and I just tried to keep it going."

TPC Deere Run was described by rookie Viktor Hovland as a "second-shot golf course," which Kim thinks can help his game.

"If you can get it in play, the scores are generally pretty low out here," Kim said. "The greens are a little firmer than they were last year, from all the rain they had last year so I don't think you're going to see 27-under this year, maybe 18, 20. You still have to make plenty of birdies out there."

So, more focused on just playing well rather than worrying about defending his championship, Kim has a very simple plan of attack for the week.

"Nothing crazy, you just take it hole by hole, shot by shot and see what you can do," he said. "Getting some momentum, getting a few good swings out there on the first few holes would help. We'll see."

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