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June 6, 2011

Tom Knoll

Hunter Mahan

Don Padgett

DON PADGETT: Thank you for joining us on this special day today. I'm Don Padgett, the Executive Director of the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational.
I'd like to acknowledge a few people here today. First and foremost, our 2010 World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational Champion, Hunter Mahan.
So, Hunter, thanks for being here. I'd also like to acknowledge our host, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some people were kind of scratching their heads a little bit doing a golf tournament media day at the Rock Hall.
But we reached out to them. They embraced it. And we're really excited to be here today. Have a fun program in store for you here.
Appreciate all the Rock Hall's hospitality, Terry Stewart, Todd Mesek. And we really feel like it's bringing together two of Northeast Ohio's premier assets in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the Bridgestone Invitational.
On a side note, the Rock Hall does tie into golf as well. On October 3rd, they'll be having a Celebrity Golf Classic at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. Hunter's old neck of the woods there.
So they're looking forward to that. It's to raise money for this not-for-profit museum. That's a great place here in Northeast Ohio, as well as education initiatives that teach kids skills through rock and roll. So they're excited for that. And if you have an interest, you can talk to the Rock Hall people here as well.
Also here today representing Bridgestone America is our title sponsor is Dave Dumas. Thanks for being here. We have Rob Granger from Cadillac, our new World Golf Championship sponsor. Thanks for being here.
And I'd also like to acknowledge Tom Knoll. Tom is our 2011 Bridgestone Invitational Honorary Chairman. We'll hear from Tom in a little bit. And I'd like to acknowledge our World Golf Championship sponsors Accenture and HSBC, as well as other corporate supporters here today.
Believe it or not, we're only 57 days away from the Bridgestone Invitational. Everybody people thinks it's at the end of the summer, we're far away. But we're knocking on the door here and excited for another great event. We've had a good year here so far with hospitality and ticket support. It's that support that the community puts in that we're able to give back substantial charity dollars.
Last year we gave 835,000 to local not for profits throughout the area. And I'd like to thank everybody for their efforts there.
I'd also like to thank our 1,000 volunteers that help us operate the event, the time that they take away from their jobs, from their families. It's really what enables us to put on this PGA TOUR event, and they also helped us with this day today. They were up bright and early, the drive up from Akron and thank all of them from being here today.
I'd like to now call up and introduce Tom Knoll, our 2011 Honorary Chairman.
TOM KNOLL: I'd like to welcome you to our normal weather here for Northeast Ohio, sun shining, blue skies. For those who live here, you know I'm not telling you the truth. We've had a tough spring. But it's really turned out beautiful and our golf courses are just great now.
I want to echo Don's comment and thank you for taking the time to be here with us this morning. And also special thanks to Hunter for taking the time to join us after a somewhat extended weekend.
I know you're all here to listen and talk with Hunter. I want to take a few minutes and refresh your memories about the importance of the Bridgestone Invitational to our Northeastern Ohio region.
I've been very fortunate to be involved in professional golf at Firestone Country Club for believe it for 45 years. I remember Julius Boros and Arnold Palmer and that vintage playing there. And those were certainly great times, as today's are even greater.
I know that's more time than probably many of you have been alive, including Hunter, of course, but it's been a great pleasure for me and a great part of my life. I was privileged to serve as chairman of the 1976 American Golf Classic World Series of Golf. And I'm truly honored to be here with you this morning as this year's honorary chairman for the event.
Over the course of my years of association with the tournament, what I'm really most proud of, and we'll see a little evidence of that this morning, is the impact that the various professional golf events at Firestone have had on the lives of so many of our fellow residents of Northeastern Ohio and on the economic viability and growth of our region.
For example, do you know that tournament golf at Firestone has produced well in excess of $20 million, which has directly benefited over 200 charities in our Northeastern Ohio region.
We are pleased to have representatives of some of these charities here with us today, the First Tee, and we see some of the First Tee participants out there. Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. Boys and Girls Club, Berea Children's Home and the Red Cross.
I wonder, could we take a minute and have these representatives stand and acknowledge them, would you please. (Applause).
And as you should know, this is just a few of the many, many charities which have benefited over the course of years from people like Hunter and his predecessors who come to Firestone to play and raise those charitable dollars.
Beyond the charitable impact, the Bridgestone Invitational helps our region in many other ways. During the week of the tournament, Northeastern Ohio is a showcase for people throughout 220 countries through the global telecasting of the event at the club.
Additionally, the direct economic impact to the region exceeds $30 million on an annual basis. Truly a very, very impressive number. So certainly all of these things combine to establish the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational as one of the crown jewels of the Cleveland and Akron, Northeastern Ohio area. We're proud of it and proud of all the people who have participated in it.
So, again, thanks to you, the media, for joining us this morning. Thanks for all the representatives of the charities and particularly for your support and coverage of this very important event. And thanks again to Hunter for taking the time to be with us today. I'm looking forward to seeing you the week of August 7th. We're going to have a great tournament, and it will be great fun. So thank you all.
DON PADGETT: Thanks, Tom. The south course at Firestone is in tremendous shape. It will be a great test again for the world's best players. We're looking forward to August 3 through 7, our tournament dates. Before we talk about the 2011 tournament let's take a look back on a video on last year's event.
DON PADGETT: Come on up.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Don. It's good to hear you can learn life skills through rock and roll. I've been telling my parents that my whole life. It's good to hear I can let them go back and know.
As we saw in the video, exciting tournament. You get a good idea of the world-class field that comes to Firestone Country Club every year for the Bridgestone Invitational.
Hunter Mahan, last year, ran off five birdies on the front nine. Made up a four-shot deficit, tremendous Sunday, and then delivered three clutch pars down the stretch for his first-ever World Golf Championship victory.
At the age of 29, Hunter's list of accomplishments already rival some of those that spent decades in the game. Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim, Sean O'Hair, the four players from the U.S., who have three or more PGA TOUR victories. Mahan's played on two Presidents Cup teams, two Ryder Cup teams.
It's my pleasure to bring up Hunter Mahan, our defending champion. If you'll come forward, have a seat with us, we'll get started with a little Q&A.
Before we start talking about your victory last year at the Firestone and the win at the World Golf Championship, what it meant to you, before we get into that, if we can just bring up the image of Hunter on the screen here behind us. Here they come. They're working on it.
We've gotten some good feedback on the outfit you wore on the set of the Golf Channel, the PLAYERS Championship. If you could, talk a little about the style of player, what you bring to the game as you head back to Akron.
HUNTER MAHAN: I doubt it. This is not golf course attire, obviously. But it's off-course attire. This is for the Golf Channel. And wanted to do something -- I didn't want to wear a blue blazer and khaki pants, didn't want to blend in with all the other guys.
I feel like this one could break at any moment. I'd hate to not be able to play the Bridgestone this year from a faulty chair.
This is a different side people don't see. They see me in golf clothes and Underarmor shirts all the time. As much as I love Underarmor, I can't wear it every day.
I like doing different things, and I thought that was a good thing. And the fact that we're talking about it now, I think it seems to be a good thing. Don't want to blend in with everybody else and just kind of be another person.
DON PADGETT: I'm one of the many thousand folks that follow you on Twitter, and you're well versed in social media, it's a great way for you to connect to fans.
Could you talk about Twitter, and how you use it to get to know your fans better and give them a glimpse inside the life of Hunter Mahan.
HUNTER MAHAN: Twitter's a social networking tool. And it's just to give fans access to my life a little bit, and it allows me to share things that I want to share with them.
And like this morning, I twittered I'm going to the WGC Bridgestone at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is pretty neat. I've never been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and so it's awesome to be here. And just kind of chronicles a day in the life of myself and kind of just shows people what I am off the golf course. And I think that's important.
I want to show people how I am and what I look like on or off the golf course, and it's a nice tool for us athletes to show our fans who we are.
THE MODERATOR: Last one before we open it up, just start maybe a little bit about what it was like winning Bridgestone last year, what you remember from the victory and what it means to you.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, obviously playing Bridgestone, Firestone Country Club, is an awesome track. It's a track that you could pull all 70 players in it and 70 are going to say they love to play it. It's a great track. Extremely fair.
It can take any kind of winner. A guy hits hit it short, guy hits it long. It's a golf course we al love to play.
It's an incredible field. Incredible staff who work the event. Bridgestone is a tremendous sponsor. It's just, it's something everybody looks forward to every year.
To win a tournament like that with a Major like field, it's a big milestone for my career and definitely proud to be a champion. And it was kind of an up and down week a little bit. Struggled in the first round. And my short game saved me, kept me in the tournament.
It's a golf course where, as long as you don't shoot over par, if you're on even or in the 60s, you have a chance to win.
And I gave myself a chance on Sunday where everything kind of came together and put a good run together. And it was a great win. I was very proud of how I played and definitely handled the situations out there.

Q. What's your favorite band? What's in your iPod?
HUNTER MAHAN: Linkin Park. I know one of the -- I know the bass player from Linkin Park, he's a good friend of mine. I liked them way before I got to meet him.
It was incredible to meet a group you've idolized and actually meeting them in Dallas, got to meet them and they're a great group of guys. So that was kind of surreal and kind of neat at the same time.
But been Loving Mumford and Sons and The Machine lately. So kind of -- I like rock, too. So all over the place too a little bit.

Q. What's your favorite course to play at?
HUNTER MAHAN: Firestone.

Q. What's the hardest situation you've ever had in a golf tournament?
HUNTER MAHAN: Hardest situation in a golf tournament? Boy. I think there's all kinds of situations that are tough. I think sometimes the toughest especially playing on TOUR is when you're maybe at the end of the year. You're kind of running borderline of keeping your card, which I've been a couple of times early in my career. And you're tired. You're mentally exhausted. Physically tired.
And you feel like you've got a lot to play for and you're just trying to grind it out. And a lot of that is realizing how tired you are and how you need to be, when you get tired usually you get frustrated easier and you get, everything seems to bother you.
And those are the times you gotta tough it out. Those are times you gotta realize the situation you're in and gotta keep a cool head on your shoulders.
And just keep playing golf and trusting your abilities. And never really, never try to panic, and just trust your game, trust yourself. And I think you always have to believe in yourself in situations like that. If you believe in yourself, you trust yourself in what you can do, you know you can get through anything.

Q. The First Tee of Cleveland promote core values. And is there one value that keeps you centered on the golf course?
HUNTER MAHAN: There's so many things, you know, to think about when you go out there and play. I think you just -- I mean there's, gosh, there's 100 things I can think of.
But I think one just -- you always have to be your best friend when you go out there and play. You always have to be your biggest cheerleader. You never want to get down on yourself and get negative.
You see us on the golf course. We get upset and we get angry. We hit it in the trees. We're not going to be too happy but I don't feel like we ever get down on ourselves. We never start doubting ourselves on what we can do.
You always want to believe if you hit a batch out in the trees, well, the next shot is an opportunity. And it's an opportunity to hit a great shot. Some of the best shots in the world have been made after some of the worst shots.
You just have to remember that. Anytime something bad happens, it's an opportunity. It's not a failure or anything like that. It's an opportunity to succeed in a situation that might be tough. And that's how you have to treat it. It's not a bad thing you hit a bad shot, it's an opportunity to get up there and hit a good one.

Q. I'm just curious, when you found out this was going to be here, were you pumped? Have you ever come close to coming here before?
HUNTER MAHAN: I thought it was great. We get to go to a lot of places during the year. Seems like most of the team we're working, we don't have an opportunity to go see the sights, see some cool things. I was totally excited and jacked to be able to come to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hopefully get to go on a tour later. I think it will be incredible.
It's tough about some sites, you go play some cool places, you don't have time. I'm excited to be here and have an opportunity to talk to you folks and go check the sights around here. Seems like an amazing place.

Q. What's it like to play in the Ryder Cup and what do the Americans have to do to bring one home?
HUNTER MAHAN: To make the Ryder Cup team is a two-year process. It ends after the Ryder Cup and it begins pretty much, feels like, the next week, because you're kind of in prep mode for two years to make the team. And it's not an easy task to make the team.
It's a tough team to make. You just look at the list of all the guys who made the team. And it's not easy. And it's a great list. And I'm proud to have been on that list.
And we've got, coming back home, which is going to be great, I feel like the Ryder Cup has taken on a whole new, almost a whole new face the last few years.
The fans have really become a part of it and they play a big part, because I think when you have -- I mean, I can't even imagine 100,000 people there wishing, wanting, I mean, yearning for that ball to go in the cup. I'd be lying to you if that didn't play a big factor.
I know it played a big factor at Valhalla for us and it was a big factor for them over there. So it's truly, it's nothing like I've ever seen in golf or felt. Because in golf there are no really home courts. We're just at a neutral site every week, and that is a home court advantage there. And it's awesome.
It's awesome to have so many people cheering for you and cheering against you. It's really neat. It's one of the great honors in golf to be a part of a team like that.

Q. Not sure if you're playing this week, but what are your preparation plans for the U.S. Open and Congressional in two weeks?
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm not playing this week. Going to go home, try to get a little bit of rest. I played Congressional probably a month or so ago. It's not usual in the Majors to be playing a golf course numerous times before but we have for Tiger's event. So I know the course. I know all the shots. There's some new tee boxes, which I saw. So I got some little different lines off the tees. But it's basically the same golf course.
So the good thing it's not something that I have to learn like Whistling Straits last year or Atlanta, this year.
So I'll go there. I think I'll leave Saturday, probably have a good practice round on Sunday, because the course does get very crowded and practice rounds get very slow during the week starting on Monday.
So be able to get a really good day of a practice round on Sunday and really see the golf course, and really figure out those greens and figure out all my lines and figure out what shots I'm going to play and just continue to work on that throughout the week.
By Thursday I don't want to be overworked. I want to be very fresh, mentally, physically, and probably go to battle, because the U.S. Open is a battle. And it is probably the longest four days of the year.

Q. What's your favorite Major?
HUNTER MAHAN: I love going to Augusta. If anyone's been there, I mean, it's like sacred ground. It's kind of amazing the feeling I always get when I get to come there, because it's just, I feel like a kid again.
I feel like all of a sudden I have this energy burst of loving the game of golf, because it's just like you see all you do is you see memories of great shots, great players walking through there. And it's an awesome place and I always get excited when I come there. I just love golf even more.

Q. Could you talk about your take-away from this past week down at Jack's place and what the positives were coming out of there for you?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. I felt like I found a few things that in the game that I liked that I've been working on, kind of changing very close to having a really, really good week.
Just missed a few shots in key situations. But I feel like I'm right on track for the U.S. Open in two weeks. And so I'm close. I've been pretty consistent this year, which is nice. I was pretty inconsistent last year.
But the game's not far away from kind of, I don't know, just kind of bursting and just making a ton of birdies but getting rid of the bogeys and getting some momentum of shooting low scores.
I feel close to that. And I feel like in any situation I know what to do. I know what to do with my golf swing. I know what to do with my putting, I know what to do with my short game. It's a comforting feeling not to have to search for anything.

Q. For the First Tee kids here, could you talk about the importance of practicing and being focused in your practice as you work on your game?
HUNTER MAHAN: No question you've got to put the time in. But other than that, you've got to put the right amount of time in, and you've got to practice to get better. And it's not the hours you put in, but it's the right amount of hours. And it's the right focus you have.
You need to focus more on your practice than you do almost when you go out there and play. Because I know as a kid in high school and college, how many hours I wasted hitting balls, hitting balls, and nothing came of it. I look back at that practice session and didn't do anything. I didn't learn anything. That's what you're trying to do when you go out and practice is learn something.
And that's what you do in tournaments, is you really learn about what you need to work on. And practice is preparation to go out there and play well, and play well.
So you've got to think about how certain situations of the golf course that you may struggle in, you've got to work on that, and I focused on trying to get better every day in some sort of area in your game, whether that's mental or physical or driving or putting, take a specific purpose and grind it out.

Q. In a nutshell, what was the crux of what you've been working on that you thought you were close? And, excuse me, I may be wrong at this hour, but I think you played really well at Congressional not that long ago at AT&T.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I played -- I think I played AT&T twice or three times and played pretty well. Then had a good last round. Played -- had a good tournament two years ago, and sat 52 in the final round, finished second behind Tiger. So, like I said, I know the golf course.
I liked it a lot. I mean, it's very straightforward. Old style golf course. It's fun to play. Actually I don't think it favors anybody. I think there's a number of guys who can go out there and win.
It's going to be a test. And it's a lot of little things when it comes to where I want to get to, where I feel I'm at. It's razor thin. But it's all just little stuff.
When it comes to winning tournaments and finishing top 10, it's a putt here or there, or a shot here or there. Just little things with my putting.
Kind of just been pacing my stroke, is in a good place right now. My speed is good, which is important. Greens are getting very hard and very fast. You don't want to throw away shots making 3-putts. It's kind of a waste there.
Get rid of my 3-putts and just playing golf a little more efficiently. And when pars are at a premium, like they are at a U.S. Open, it's important not to waste any shots.

Q. When did you start playing golf?
HUNTER MAHAN: When I was like nine.

Q. They say one thing that you should always practice, if you practice anything, you practice your short game, what do you practice the most?
HUNTER MAHAN: Short game. I remember my sports psychology coach, Neil Smith, he played on -- he won Q-School like in '92 and played on TOUR for a year and played Canadian TOUR, Nationwide, Asia, played all over the place, and he wrote on a hat back in '93 or '94 that I still have today that says "Good luck on your career. Have the best short game in the world." It's odd he's my sports psychologist now.
I actually knew him back in the mid-90s and stuff and it's true to this day. Can't tell you how many times you go out there and you just don't have your ball strike and don't have your swing. And it happens to everybody.
But short game, putting, it can save you. And it's amazing how it does. For example, number one player in the world Luke Donald, he's got the best putting, chipping, sand play.
And he's middle of the pack, bottom of the pack in driving and total driving and ball-striking. And it's just incredible to see a guy like that, given that we're playing with all the bombers we have and all the guys who can kill it. But Luke Donald doesn't really hit it that far or straight. Number one player in the world. That should tell you everything right there.

Q. If you could, we can finish up here and maybe just talk about the World Golf Championship as a series and what you like about the event with the Accenture Match Play Championship, Cadillac Championship, HSBC, and of course here at the Bridgestone Invitational, and what makes it special when you tee it up at those events?
HUNTER MAHAN: They bring out the best, they bring out the best in a tournament and a golf course. The places we get to go to.
I mean, it's just -- you look at the fields, amazing fields, amazing list of champions. And it's just great, exciting golf to have a match play event. Arizona is awesome. We don't get to play much match play. So it's pretty neat to be a part of that.
Doral is a classic golf course. So many great players that played through there and won through there. And Firestone, World Series of Golf, has a lot of history.
So they're all just -- you know, introducing China into the mix, it's a hotbed for a lot of golf right there. Golf courses about every second. And great players are coming out of Asia. And it's great to be a part of that, to be part of those events.
You know you're playing the best competition in the world and you're playing the best tournaments in the world from people who are running them, from great sponsors, from Cadillac, from Bridgestone, and HSBC.
Those are the places you want to play. As a player, I know that when I joined the TOUR I was like I want to play against the best and I want to be in the best, and I know playing WGCA events that's where you want to be in and that's what it's all about. And being a champion of an event like that I think says a lot about the type of player you are.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. This concludes our presentation today. I want to say big thanks to the Rock Hall for the use of the facilities. I hope everybody here gets to tour the Rock Hall today. If not today, in the future.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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