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October 21, 2009

Hunter Mahan

Q. Hunter, I basically just want to know how much you're looking forward to this, as last year's winner, and obviously it's a little bit different this year, as a 36-hole stroke play tournament, it will be a little bit different from your normal 72-hole. Wondered if you would talk about that, and if it actually makes any difference to your preparation and game plan.
HUNTER MAHAN: First, I'm extremely excited to go back to New Zealand. I had an incredible time last year. The Robertsons are gracious and wonderful hosts, and they treated us so well.
I was lucky enough to have some success last year and very proud to repeat and defend my title. So I'm very, very excited to come back down to New Zealand.
Being that it is one golf course and 36 holes, you know, I think you need to be so patient. You can't get too aggressive on this type of golf course, you can make some bogeys and doubles quickly. The last nine, 12, 13 holes you'll have to start paying attention to where you are and if you need to be more aggressive, you have to change your game plan a little bit to be more aggressive.
I'm playing against three great players, and other than the fact that they are young, they are great players and it's going to be a challenge.

Q. You played in The Presidents Cup with the three other players who are coming over. How is your form compared to the others?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I think it's good. I got to play against Camilo, which is always a lot of fun because a great player. He's a great match-play player, too. He just never gives up and he's very tenacious.
You know, Sean was in good form. He didn't play great in the first match but I know he was playing well. I think he was just a little jacked up for it really. Didn't quite get off to the start that we both hoped for, but he ended up playing really well, and they did play great during the whole match.
I know all of their games are going to be sharp, and luckily I feel good about where my game is and where it will be in a few weeks.

Q. Having spoken to you last year, I'm the local boy, it was a case of how you drive, but how you arrive last year, you were I think of the four golfers, the person who came in first and obviously did your homework around the course. Considering that it's going to be two rounds on the course this year, when do you expect to come in, and how much pressure are you likely to be under from Anthony Kim who looks recently much leaner and meaner than he did last year?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I'm going to get there Sunday. I'm probably going to get to the course in the afternoon on Sunday. I'm going to give myself some time to get acclimated to the weather and to the conditions and time change and everything. And also allow -- just in case my clubs don't make it, allow a little bit of time for my baggage to catch up to me if need to be.
And then I'm going to do my work after that, try to get used to the course how it's playing and kind of check the weather and see how it's going to play for the week and just kind of go from there.
You know, I've got three guys I have to play against, so I'm not too worried about one person because all three of them are capable of winning, and I'm going to go out there and play golf and enjoy the experience and enjoy the competition.
Pressure; there's no pressure on anybody when you step out against three great players, and you're going to learn a lot about yourself. To me, it's exciting. It's not going to be nerve-racking. It's going to be exciting to play against guys like that, and on a course where I've had success, I'm going to feel pretty good about what my chances are.
CRAIG SMITH: Are you flying commercial, and did your clubs not make it last year?
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm flying commercial. They made it fine last year, but they didn't make to the British. I got there on Monday and my clubs didn't make it until Wednesday. This event, I think it's as important as any event we play all year and I'm going to make sure I have everything on my side and give anything that can happen like that a chance to kind of recover.

Q. What enticed you to come last year, and how does it compare to other courses on the PGA TOUR?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I just heard about the event. I heard about where we were playing, and I talked to people about who the Robertsons were and the type of courses they had there and everything I heard about it was that it was beautiful and amazing, and they were totally right.
The fact that you have to play against 36 holes against three of the best players in the world was very enticing and hard to say no to. The course is fantastic. It's kind of a links-style type of golf course that we don't get to see a whole lot of in the States, and it can change every day with the wind.
It's one of the better courses, better designs that I've seen in a long time, especially being a course that was built, you know, somewhat recently, the way that people are designing courses nowadays. It's hard to find a course like it.

Q. A lot of very positive comments have been said and written about Cape Kidnappers, and what a distinctive golf course it is. How much of an advantage is it for you having played there last year and played so well on the back nine, how much of an advantage and benefit is it for you coming back this year?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I think definitely Anthony and I have a little more advantage over the other two guys because we have seen it before. We have seen it in competition, and any time you can play a course, the more and more times you play it, the more familiar you get with it and more comfortable you get with it.
Any time the weather changes, you understand it more. The more you study, the more you're going to know, so I think Anthony and I are definitely going to have maybe a little bit more advantage than the other three guys.

Q. Over the last couple of years, we have seen relative unknowns winning majors, and I'm thinking Lucas Glover and people like that who are not unknown. I guess what I'm trying to say is I've seen people who are not Tiger and really long-established members of the Top-10 in the world, been open to winning majors. What's the reason for that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think the depth of players is getting better and better every year really. I think you look at Y.E. Yang and Lucas are both very, very good players. They are games got hot at the right time, and both of those guys were not intimidated by the situation.
They are not intimidated by Tiger anymore or Phil anymore. They believe in themselves maybe a lot more than they used to. They believe that when they get up in that type of situation that they can do it, and they can play well, and Lucas and Y.E. Yang proved that totally, Y.E. going against Tiger.

Q. There's a lot of people who think that it will be a long time before we see a run of majors as Tiger has put together or as Nicklaus put together because of that. Do you agree with that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, you look at this year, winners of majors in general, I think it makes Tiger's run even more impressive. I think Phil Mickelson is one of the best players we have seen in a long time and he's won three. Jim Furyk is an incredible player and he's won one.
It's not easy to win majors. With the depth of tour nowadays, especially all over the world, all of the great players all over the world, it's becoming harder and harder. But if you honestly look at year-in and year-out the top guys in majors, it's pretty consistent.
Some of the guys may win, but Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Retief, Angel, guys like that, they are always up there. The winners may change, but the competitors seem to stay the same.

Q. How do you think Kidnappers stands up against other major courses?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yardage-wise, it plays a little shorter than most major courses. It needs to be lengthened up a little bit to be considered a major type of course, but I think the setup is there. You get the right conditions, it's going to be like a British Open type of golf course. With the wind coming off the ocean there, it played very difficult.
It's a course that has that kind of potential and can definitely hold a major event in the future for sure.

Q. Last year when you came here, your caddie, John Wood, was very instrumental. He came out, I remember seeing him be all wet and with a little sort of notebook with all of the notes he took for you. The fact that you are coming back for the second time, obviously familiar with the course, how much time are you likely to relax this time and enjoy taking in the breathtaking views of Hawkes Bay?
HUNTER MAHAN: We are definitely going to take time and try to enjoy it as much as we can, but we are also going to get our work done. John Wood is a great caddie and good person, and he takes a lot of pride in his job. So as soon as we get off the plane, he'll go there, he'll get his work done, so he'll make sure that the course is -- that if any changes have been made, he's going to write it down and write notes and make sure that we have all that information.
We will get our work done and then we will go enjoy New Zealand as much as we can, because it is a beautiful place, and it's not every day that you get to go over there and check out Cape Kidnappers and Hawkes Bay and everything around it.

Q. What other tournaments are on at the moment that you're looking at going to instead of possibly this one and how does the prize money stack up?
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm playing in the ADT Skills Challenge which is kind of a skills challenge, made-for-TV thing next week. And then I'm going to go play the Nedbank in South Africa, which used to be the Sun City, which I've heard is an incredible tournament, never been.
But the prize money that the Robertsons put up is incredible. It's very, very impressive and you know, when you have a golf course like that and you treat people that way, and the bonus of having a great purse like that, it's going to draw a lot of great players like it has this year.

Q. Just getting back to the majors for a moment, Tiger is sitting on 14 majors at the moment, so he needs another five to surpass Nicklaus's record of 18. Do you go along with the theory that it's a given; that as long as he stays fit and healthy he'll get those?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, nothing is a given. It's too hard to think it's a given, but the problem is he's really talented and he works really hard. So those two things make it very difficult to think that he's not going to do it. Especially since I don't know the last time he finished outside of the Top-10, let alone the top five. So if kind of go in there and not be very sharp and stumble, in he can take it. It's not a given, but the fact that the work he puts into it, it's hard to say he's not going to do it.

Q. Is the intimidation factor there with Tiger when he's leading after three rounds in a major, or a shot or two out of the lead after three rounds; do the rest of you guys kind of accept that you're playing for second place?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, not anymore. With Y.E. Yang stepping up there and playing as great as he did you know, you just have to -- I guess you have to make it as simple as you can when you play Tiger. You just have to put the ball in play, and you have to somehow put the pressure on him to make the shots. If you make them, you make them, and if he doesn't, and you have to be there in position to take advantage of it. I think guys have had their chances. They just haven't taken advantage of it and last year Y.E. did. He took advantage of the opportunities that Tiger gave him and hit some great shots.
CRAIG SMITH: Of the guys playing with you, maybe if you can just talk about your relationship, specifically I'm talking about Sean, you and he have a pretty good friendship, you go back pretty far.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yes, we have known each other since I think we were 11 or 12 years old. That's why it's so much fun for us to play together last week at The Presidents Cup, or two weeks ago. Since we have a personal friendship, I look up to him quite a bit. I've seen him go from a kid to a man and have kids and be a great husband and father.
It's special for me to see his maturation process. And Camilo, I've known for a long time, too. I've known him since we were about 17 years old. Played college golf with him and we were on the TOUR together and played against each other on The Presidents Cup. It's been pretty neat to see us kind of do the same thing and to see where we are now, pretty awesome.
Anthony I've known for a few years now, great player, tough competitor. He makes the game fun, makes it interesting, and yes, he makes you play better.

Q. How did your friendship with Sean begin?
HUNTER MAHAN: Just playing an the AJGA. I couldn't tell you the exact moment we met, but it's just playing junior golf and we just hit it off immediately. You know, we just have a great connection really.

Q. I notice yourself and Anthony Kim at the moment wouldn't get into the Olympic field whereas Sean and Camilo would. I just wondered what your thoughts were on that, and what would you rate as the greater prize, an Olympic gold medal or any one of the four majors?
HUNTER MAHAN: I would put all four of the majors ahead of the Olympics. The Olympics, it's brand new and the majors have been around for a long, long time, and they have had a great run of champions. I think those are the tournaments everyone wants to win.
The Olympics is interesting, just because I didn't grow up dreaming about winning a gold medal. I grew up dreaming about trying to win a major. It's different in that aspect, but the fact that you have an opportunity to win a gold medal for your country, it's kind of mind blowing really, and it's seven away, so it's kind of hard to fathom who it will mean to us, being so far away.
But I'm sure when it comes around, I think Anthony and I and Sean and Camilo, we are all going to be at our peak golf-wise, so I think we will be really excited about it when it rolls around. I don't see any reason why winning a gold medal is not going to feel pretty darned good.

Q. What kind of shots will you have to hit at the Cape?
HUNTER MAHAN: Definitely some knock-down shots and try to keep the ball down. It's a linksy-type of course, and you can run the ball up a little bit. I'll be working on stuff like that. The greens are very big, so I'll have to work on my kind of distance putting, stuff like that, to get my speed right.
And going from there, just try to work on the short game and everything and get all of that tight and just kind of visualize some of the holes.

Q. Totally off the beaten track, when I spoke to you last year, it hardly mattered to you whether Barack or John McCain ended up in the White House, and you were going to ask them why on earth you would want to be President of the United States.
HUNTER MAHAN: No, Barack Obama, he was not at The Presidents Cup. It's such a task being Presidents Cup of the United States; it seems like no matter what you do, you can't do anything right. So I just hope Barack can do our country proud and do the right things and make us better in four years or eight years, whatever his reign ends.

Q. I see in The Presidents Cup you did have a quick chat with Bill Clinton.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, just on the range there, he said high to everybody.

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