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July 22, 2015

Hunter Mahan


THE MODERATOR: Hunter Mahan, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. A pretty solid year heading into the week. Three top 10, including a top 10 finish at The Masters, and you're making your, I believe, your 11th start here at the RBC Canadian Open with the fourth place finish at Glen Abbey in 2004. I think you might be the only person I know that's made worldwide news for actually not winning a golf tournament. That was certainly here two years ago. Don't need to remind you about that. So welcome back, and on behalf of everybody we hope you make it all the way through this time.

HUNTER MAHAN: Me too. Me too. Excited to be back. Obviously I've had success at this place and at Glen Abbey, and I enjoy playing here. I enjoy playing the RBC Canadian Open. I've been close a few times to winning. So this is a place I do feel like I play well, and this is a place where it's a tournament that I do want to win. So I feel like I've made some good changes the last couple weeks. I'm excited for kind of the rest of the year, and kind of where my game is right now.

Q. Why do you think you play so well here? And can we get it out of the way, your wife's not expecting a child this week?

Q. What is it about the set-up and the good memories? You probably couldn't wait to get back here.
HUNTER MAHAN: It's pretty demanding off the tee here, especially this week with how firm the greens are. Got a lot of good iron shots. I mean, driving, and great iron play is a strength of mine. If you do that this week, you're going to have a lot of putts for birdie and you're going to play pretty well. You know, fairways are going to be rewarded this week. Good iron play, good aggressive iron play, is going to be rewarded, and that is a strength of mine. That's why I think I'm playing here and this is just a great tournament and a great crowd. A place that I just feel comfortable with, I think, every time I step on the tee.

Q. You say demanding: It's a different kind of demanding than St. Andrews or the British Open in general. Are you looking forward to this course where maybe the shots are a little bit more predictable than you get on the course like a links course like the British?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, there you've got a lot of room off the tee so you can kind of spray it all over the place. Driving it great that week doesn't reward you that much. There are only a couple holes where you need to hit really good tee shots. Even then, as long as you don't hit it out of bounds, you'll still be playing your second and still find a way to make par. So you've got to hit it well off the tee here. You've got to put the ball in play. The way the firmness of the greens is playing out of the rough is just not a great option. You're not going to have much control on the shot. So the key elements this week are different definitely than last week. So great driving, great iron play are obviously a necessity this week.

Q. If I recall correctly, you played the Canadian Open soon after turning pro quite a while ago now. When you look at the British and you see all the amateurs who are in that and almost all on the cusp of turning pro. In the decade plus since you did it, is there a change in the level of the players who are coming up who are now 19, 20, 21, 22, from when you were in that same position do you think?
HUNTER MAHAN: There could be. I think they're not as -- you know, I think they're just, they know so much more about the game now than we did 10, 15, 20 years ago. I think the learning curve the process is much faster than it used to be. I think teaching has gotten better throughout the world. There are a lot of great players from all over the world that are coming. I think just the teaching aspect of it has gotten better. But it's still difficult to come out here as a young guy and play well. Jordan Spieth isn't a good example of that. He's beyond that. He's an unbelievable player. But there's been a lot of great, good, young players that have come out. It's not a struggle. It's just it's change and it's a grind, and to play professional golf is a lot different than amateur golf. For some, playing out of college or guys just kind of -- I know Paul Dunne plays at UAB. So it's different to play college and amateur stuff. All of a sudden you're a pro and you're playing every week and doing it every day, it's a different animal. I just think we know so much more about the game now and how to teach it better and psychology point of view, guys are working hard at it, and working out more than they used to. Probably even more before I did when I was in college. It's more specific now. More specific training now than it was even then.

Q. What was, when you made that transition, what was the biggest hurdle for you?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think, well, it's a job. It's a responsibility. There is just so much that goes into playing golf professionally. I think that seems intimidating. You kind of just have to take baby steps, I think, at it and not change too much. You know guys can change where they live and feel like they have to do more and be closer to a teacher. You make big changes that aren't really necessary. You just have to kind of keep going with what you're doing and try to keep getting better and not try to make big leaps that sometimes you feel like you have to. But you just have to keep getting better and chipping away at it, and learning and playing four rounds of golf, and playing from event to event and how much you need to practice, there is a learning curve there because you've never played that much golf consecutively in your life. So it's definitely a change. Kind of a mental aspect too. It's more draining than I think people realize.

Q. Did Brandt Snedeker buy you a great baby gift two years ago?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was a nice baby gift. I don't know what you think it would be, but it was a very nice gift.

Q. Okay. Fair enough. Tell me about the first couple of rounds. Obviously, you had control of the golf course. You seemed to like it.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I played great. I was driving it awesome. I was just pounding it down the fairway and leaving myself short to mid-irons into a lot of the greens. I think it was quite a bit softer than maybe this year. The wind has definitely dried the course out a little bit. But you can be really aggressive and really fly the ball to the holes. And played great. I remember I birdied my last three holes on Friday to get a 2-shot lead. But it was a great two days and had a great -- it was, you know, the one circumstance where it was unfortunate I couldn't finish the deal. But this is a place I've played well, and I enjoy playing here at Glen Abbey.

Q. What time did you get the phone call about the baby coming?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I had lunch with my agent and left, went to the putting green. It was probably 20 minutes after I left him and he came out. Because my wife knew getting ahold of him was going to be a lot easier than getting ahold of me. Yeah, he came out to the range and said you've got great news in a strange circumstance. But, yeah, it was a great kind of phone call. It was unexpected. It wasn't like it was any time now. So that's what kind of was the crazy thing about it. It wasn't like she was due in the next couple days.

Q. How early did he come?
HUNTER MAHAN: Three weeks.

Q. So you're saying that it was soft the last time. How is being firm and fast this year?
HUNTER MAHAN: The course is in perfect shape. The wind, I don't know how long it's been windy here, but yesterday and today where I've been on the golf course, the wind is definitely a big factor. It's definitely making the course tougher, drying the greens out. Just where your approaches are bouncing, it's skidding a little bit. Some of these small greens and tough pins are going to be tough to get to if you're not in the right position. So it should be a great test. The weather looks great this week. So I think anything in double digits is going to be a good score.

Q. What was your reaction that week afterwards? I'm thinking house wives across the world were probably high-fiving your decision that you made. But I'm sure there are armchair quarterbacks at home saying I could win the golf tournament. There is money here and all the rest of it. I could have another baby. What was the reaction you got from players or wives or family members or friends?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I had a ton of people after that were, I guess, proud of the decision that I made and thought I was a stand-up guy and stuff like that. So it's great. It's great to have great public opinion like that. Luckily I was in a position in my life where I've made a good amount of money and didn't have to worry about it. If it was someone's first time getting into contention -- it's a personal decision. There is really not a wrong or right decision, and it's up to you and your family. So if someone doesn't make that decision, I don't think they're a bad father or bad guy or anything. Making a million dollars for your family is not a bad thing. It's just a decision I knew I was going to make. It's unfortunate that it had to happen at the time it did. I was still playing so good, and this is a place that I do want to win at, and be the RBC Canadian Open champion. It's something I want to be, but it is what it is. It's a great moment of my life. I still have great memories here, and hopefully will continue that play into this week.

Q. This is a unique year in terms of the majors because three of the venues are proper links course or a quasi-links course with Chambers Bay and Whistling Straits coming up. As you look ahead to the PGA, do you think you'll be a little better prepared for Whistling Straits because you've played Chambers Bay and St. Andrews leading up to that, or was that such a wild golf course that it's still going to be a lot of guesswork there?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's pretty wild. St. Andrews is very, in a sense, it's very clean in how it is. The fairways, they roll and there are some bunkers, but it's just a very clean links golf course. It's not crazy. There is no craziness to it. Most of the holes run parallel to one another. If you hit it left on the first six holes and the last six holes you're going to be in the fairway because the fairways are huge, and you just avoid the bunkers and you'll be fine. It's just a very clean, simple golf course. The weather is a strong, determining factor on it in how the greens are going to play. Those are the aspects of it. When you try to make a links golf course and a handmade links golf course, it's very, very difficult. You saw that at Chambers Bay. It was kind of a links golf course, but not really. The greens really didn't come out the way they wanted to. Whistling Straits is like links golf on steroids. I mean, the hills are gigantic, and there are bunkers everywhere. I mean, they're everywhere. All the spectators are walking on the bunkers. We know what happened to Dustin. So it's like, it's just a links course on steroids is the best way to describe it, and there is really no preparation for that. It's just like golf. You've got to put the ball in play and hit it on the green. Seeing that course, luckily we've seen it before, which will help a lot because it seems like the more you play it, the more you get comfortable, you understand the nuance of how holes play and when the wind is coming this way, all the little things that come into play during a golf course like that. But it will probably feel somewhat normal to hit it off that kind of turf. Hitting it off numerous times and seeing the ball roll, you'll have a better feel for it. I think that will definitely help on a golf course like that.
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