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August 26, 2015

Hunter Mahan

Edison, New Jersey

ALEX URBAN: We'd like to welcome Hunter Mahan to the interview room.

Hunter, you're the defending champion here at The Barclays, playing in the event for the 11th time. You have the distinction of being the only player on the PGA TOUR to start in all 32 FedExCup Playoff events since its inception in 2007.

Talk a little about defending. I know it's a different golf course, but you've played Plainfield before. Talk about winning last year and defending this year.

HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's always great to come back to an event, no matter where it is, that you are the defending champion. It has great vibes and great energy. The fact that this event is always in the New York, New Jersey area, is always nice because we get to play some great golf courses.

I'm excited about this week and kind of where my game is, and excited to start, really, the FedExCup Playoffs and hopefully make a great charge.

Q. Being in the unique position of having played all of these, you're a sports fan, you're a Cowboys guy. Does it feel like the Playoffs when you're actually playing in them because of the way it plays out?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it does feel -- for sure. You saw last week a lot of guys trying to play to get in. Martin Kaymer and Tiger were both trying to play some good golf to get into the Playoffs. Because you know when you do get in the Playoffs, everyone has got a legitimate chance to win. Takes one good week to propel you up the board, and you can change the whole kind of, you know, schematic of the whole thing.

You can have an okay season and all of a sudden you play good at the right time and be a FedExCup Champion. It's a great honor that every player wants to have. I know I do, so it is -- it does feel like a late season push here, and things can be -- you can kind of forget where you have been and you can really be right here because you know good play right now means a lot. It means a lot more than maybe a couple months ago when you were just kind of playing maybe preparing for a major.

Right now, if I play great, a lot of great things can happen.

Q. How would you grade your season right now and how you feel about your game coming in right now?
HUNTER MAHAN: I feel good. I feel very happy with the direction I'm going. I felt like some parts of the year, I didn't really have a direction; I was just kind of spinning in circles and trying to putt Band-Aids on things instead of taking a moment to stop, think about where I am and focus on where my game is and how I'm going to have to change it.

It's easy to start the season and you just start running and you just kind of don't know which direction you're going. But you know you're moving and you feel like you don't have time to stop and say, you know what, I have to make some changes right now. Maybe short term they are not great, but long term I know they are good. I felt like I've done that.

And I've kind of taken -- I've stopped and I've got to figure out how to get better, and not necessarily in the next month or two but a year down the road I think I'll be in a better place than I am right now. That's really the important thing, not trying to just put a Band-Aid on a big gash.

Q. Were there any specific things that you were putting Band-Aids on?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was kind of just a little bit of everything. My swing wasn't great. Nothing was great. We just didn't have direction, I felt like, in my game and what I'm doing with the swing, putting, short game. It just was kind of -- you know, sometimes you play so long that you get so used to just this routine and you just assume things are going to come out of it.

But when you're kind of missing obvious stuff -- and you know, life happens, too. I had my second child which is great news. But it happened kind of start of the year, and I just didn't prepare for the season as well as I needed to. I guess I just got a little bit lost in who I am and how I play.

It's my 12th or 13th year on Tour, so I've played a lot of golf for a long time. I kind of just needed to stop and think about how I play, what's the best way for me to play, what's wrong and how do I fix it. And not really over-complicate things but just be direct in my goals and in my outlook.

Q. Do you have a preference for the type of course that you excel on, and your thoughts on playing a classic course like Plainfield.
HUNTER MAHAN: I like the classic golf courses. They are so much fun to play. It's amazing that they have stood the test of time for so long. This is a really unique golf course. There's a lot of really dramatic undulations on the greens and on fairways. I enjoy that.

It is just playing golf and it is just hitting shots into -- the shot where you want to hit it and going from there. But I enjoy playing golf -- they don't make golf courses like this, so I do enjoy this classical type of golf course.

Q. For people in The Presidents Cup, there is literally no off-season this year. So when you get back to talking about stopping, reassessing, taking a break, fixing your swing, in other sports, that's what they have an off-season for to fix what is broken or how to get better. How do you manage that when is there no break, no built-in break for you guys anymore?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it is -- it can be difficult because changing, when you do change, it can require some time and some kind of hard knocks and not great results.

But you have to see the big picture and you have to see this game as a career, and it's a long time. I mean, I'm only 33 and I've been on TOUR for 12 years, and I've got a lot of golf still to be played.

And it does take some courage to change and say, I think I'm better than this. I don't want to continue on this okay path. I want to get better and see how great I can become, so it does take courage to do that and it's not an easy thing. You just have to make the effort and to make the choice to do it, and know that the results may take a little bit.

But it does seem -- I know it does seem daunting to do that when you feel like the season never stops and that every week is important. But you know, you have to trust yourself and the people around you that you are making the right decisions. I think it comes down to just making a point to do it and saying, I think it's worth it to get better a year from now. It's big picture outlook I guess.

Q. When you look at Martin Kaymer's situation, he made a decision that he was going to take the first two months off this year because he thought he had played himself into it the ground after he won his first major. And we saw what happened last week, short-term, it's seemingly hurt him. When you look at that, does it give you pause when you try to figure out how to balance all of this?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't think so. I don't think in Martin Kaymer's career this is going to be a point where we say, wow, this is a big dip in his career or anything.

Q. It does hurt him next year, though.
HUNTER MAHAN: For sure. And I don't know the ramifications; I don't know if he can get his status back for next year. I'm not quite sure of the situation.

But I think those two months off he thought were going to allow him to play good this year. I don't think it's a decision that he can go back on and say it was a bad decision. It was the right decision for him at the time because you don't get much time off in this game. And we don't realize the impact playing a lot of golf physically and mentally can do to you.

So I think -- I don't know if it was the right -- I think he made the right decision because he made it and thought, this is what's best for me. No matter the outcome -- the outcome is irrelevant. It's like a trade in a baseball game or whatever. You make the trade to help your team. If the guy gets hurt a week later, it wasn't a bad trade. It was just bad luck. Maybe he just didn't play as well as he wanted to do this year.

But I don't think taking time off knowing that you were tired -- and he's played this game a long time, too. Playing himself into the ground after a major, that's pretty common. I don't think that the outcome is something to look back on and say, well, that was a bad decision now.

Q. What does 32 Playoff events, playing in every one, where does that rank would you? You've had a lot of success but I'm curious where you would put that.
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm proud of that fact. I think everybody wants to get to THE TOUR Championship because you were the 30 best players that year and now it has even more significance, because two bad weeks, and you can be ousted.

So it's a combo of playing good all year and then playing good kind of at the right time. I take great pride in that and I think it's a great accomplishment because it's through a long period of time. It's not like a six-month stretch of great golf. You know, it's eight years of great golf. I take great pride in that, and I'm going to try to work well this week and next week and hopefully the next two and continue my streak.

Q. Do you feel any added pressure to make it to THE TOUR Championship?
HUNTER MAHAN: Not really. If I was like 29 or 30 or 31 or 40, when you're kind of right on the cusp and you just need to play okay to make it; I feel like it's pretty clear I just have to play really good golf. And I don't think I'm far away from that.

It's a great opportunity and it's a great challenge for me to not worry about the result and just worry about the process of what I'm doing, knowing that it is the right steps to get me where I want to go.

Q. What inspired you to get involved with military-related charities?
HUNTER MAHAN: There's so many great charities out there, so many great people doing amazing things. It's just an incredible sacrifice that they make and they say, this is how much I love America and this is what -- I mean, it's an incredible ideal to believe in.

The mental and physical harm that those guys go through and they try to come back and just kind of jump back in the side, it's very difficult. You can see when you meet them, and it's a hard thing and it's a hard thing not to get involved with. And luckily for me, there's so many great people and organizations doing great things, that I think almost every sports organization is doing something. PGA TOUR has the Birdies For the Brave and they are doing a lot.

It's just powerful to see those guys and see what they go through and to see how they come back to normal society and how difficult it is for them to adjust. It's just easy to get behind them and just try to help them as much as we can. I don't know, I think the Patriot Cup, what they do -- I don't know, there's so many great things. I just enjoy -- you can see you helping people in such a plain way that it's just fun. It's fun to be a part of that and helping these guys in saying thank you.

It's great, I see it more and more nowadays. They go through airports and people just stopping them, and you see it down the street. It's just I think we're all just thankful to them for what they do for us.

ALEX URBAN: Just quickly for the room, we have a large cartoon version of you sitting behind us. Explain a little bit about the my Mahan program from your perspective.

HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's kind of a social media initiative and this is one of the great things about social media and how we can kind of interact with our fans in a sense. It's pretty neat that my kind of MyMahan campaign started a little bit ago. They did a great job cartooning me and getting it very real-life I guess. I don't know how red I am.

But it's just been kind of a fun initiative that people have been allowed to kind of take part in and show the MyMahan, kind of take him wherever they want to take him. And he's kind of been all over the world and it's been a lot of fun to see.

We have a partnership with Barclays being the defending champion here. They wanted to -- we had some fun in New York with the media tour and stuff like that. So hashtag #MyMahan and you can kind of take him to anywhere you want to go. So it's been pretty fun.

ALEX URBAN: Thanks, Hunter. Play well this week.

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