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August 25, 2007

Hunter Mahan


NELSON SILVERIO: Hunter Mahan, thanks for coming in and spending a couple of minutes with us. Course-tying record 62 today.
HUNTER MAHAN: I feel like I played pretty good first two days. I just didn't get much out of my game. I just went out there and just played golf. Felt like I was swinging great, so went out there and just tried to keep playing good and give myself a ton of opportunities and made some.

Q. Talking to your caddie out there while you were getting the third degree from the TV people and he was saying, maybe this isn't a hot streak anymore; maybe this is how good you are. Starting to believe it?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I felt like I was a good player. I just didn't think that -- you know, I think some guys get on hot streaks and they just kind of go away. I don't think there's any reason for that. I think if you're a good player, you're a good player. Look at all of the top players, they just keep playing good and they are not on hot streaks; they are just good.
I feel like my game is capable of stuff like that, so I'm just trying to do that, just play like that.

Q. Have you played in this tournament before this week? Was this on your schedule?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I've played the last few years, I think.

Q. Obviously the greens are very soft, great round of golf; how much easier is it this week than years past when the greens were a little firmer and it was just a little tougher to get it close?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I don't have a ton of experience here. But it's much easier to play golf when the greens are soft, especially the way they were today because they were not spinning off the greens, like Thursday and Friday. So you could be aggressive. Ball is just going to hit below the hole and stop and you don't have to worry about it spinning off the front or off a slope or something, so that was nice. I just took advantage of that.

Q. So much history and it's a difficult golf course, but to tie the course record, what does that feel like?
HUNTER MAHAN: It feels great. I really like this golf course. This is a course we don't get to see much on TOUR nowadays, old-style like this. There's a ton of different ways to play holes. You know, they don't make golf courses like this anymore, so any time you come to a place like this, it's a lot of fun.

Q. What impact, being picked for the Presidents Cup, what impact positively or negatively does it have on your mind-set when you're playing these weeks leading up to it?
HUNTER MAHAN: None really. I haven't really thought about that too much.
You know, I pretty much put that in the back of my head because I've got another five weeks until the Presidents Cup. So you know, obviously I want to play good and let people know that I'm a good player and that there's a reason you picked me for sure.

Q. Some guys, this might not apply to you, but some guys have talked about grinding so hard and putting pressure on themselves to make the team and once they are on the team it frees them up a little bit.
HUNTER MAHAN: I was so far out of it coming in that I didn't really worry about it. (Laughter).
Guys who are in it for a long time, I can see it kind of wearing down on them, not trying to lose their spot for sure. I was coming from the outside in and I just was playing golf. I feel like I still had to keep playing good just to give myself a chance to make the team, so I didn't really worry about that at all.

Q. What was your focus on the FedExCup at start of the year and how has that changed as you've moved up the points list this summer?
HUNTER MAHAN: Just haven't given it too much thought, I mean, because it's -- obviously you want to play all four of these events. They are great events on great golf courses. You know, it's just kind of -- and it's so new to everybody. It's hard to think about what it is and how it's changing the game and everything. Because it starts over -- it starts over this week, so we are all figuring out, okay, if you finish here, where does that put you in the points for next week.
It's a lot to think about for four weeks. (Laughter) I think we are all just -- we are all just trying to see where we end up. I'm just trying to play golf this week, see where I end up and it will be interesting to see where I end up no matter what. It's just a lot to think about.

Q. Can you talk about the challenge of following the 62? Last time you shot 62 things fell apart the next day with the 74.
HUNTER MAHAN: I feel like it's going to be a little different tomorrow because I have a chance to win the tournament. That was a little different and I had three rounds left. Tomorrow I have a whole different focus of trying to win. So I'm going to try to put that 62 behind me and just take all of the confidence that I gain today and just put that into tomorrow and try to win the tournament since it's nice to follow a 62, going into the final round and having a whole new focus and whole new game plan pretty much.

Q. How many course records do you have now, and what did playing pretty darned good in the Open and then winning in Hartford do in particular to get you started on this streak here.
HUNTER MAHAN: Course records, I guess, I don't know, maybe three or four, something like that. I can't think for sure. I think I've had maybe three or four this year. So, I don't know how many I've had, about maybe five or six, maybe something like that.
And yeah, I mean, it's nice to know you're a good player is one thing, but to see it and to win a tournament, play good in a major is really nice. It just gives you so much confidence in your ability. I feel like I've been trying to carry that on ever since. I feel like I know what I need to do to be a good player now. That's kind of nice to know and I know my recipe for success. Just trying to keep doing that every single week and still learn from my mistakes and try to be a better player.

Q. There's an anecdote about Neale (Smith) giving you a talking-to at the U.S. Open qualifier, you went 73-63; can you just talk about, were you hard on yourself? What was your mind-set then compared to where you are right now?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I was extremely negative and I just beat myself up usually after every single shot whether it's good or bad and just felt like whatever I did, a bad thing was going to happen because of it. Even if I didn't make a good swing or hit a good shot, I just felt like I had such a negative attitude about my game and about myself; there's just no way to succeed. You have to think that you're going to hit a good shot this time, and no matter what happens, I'm going to find a way to get the ball in the hole.
The more you think like that, good things are going to happen, no matter how you swing it. If you believe in yourself and what you can do, good things are going to happen.

Q. How have you played 7 and 10 this week? Have you gone for those greens at all?
HUNTER MAHAN: 7, I don't know, you really can't hit the green anymore. I think the fun is kind of taken out of that hole since you can't hit it anymore. Now you just lay up to the right and try to hit a wedge shot and try to keep it on the green. That's what I've tried to do.
Just try to hit it down on right somewhere and have a pretty good wedge shot in.
And 10, yeah, I've hit driver every day. I think I made three birdies on it. Got a bounce on the front edge today.

Q. Coming down the stretch, were you aware of the course record, and if so, what were you thinking about, were you just worried about getting a good score?
HUNTER MAHAN: I had no idea. I didn't know what it would be at. I was just trying to play good. I had a couple birdie holes to finish. I was just trying to shoot as low as I could.

Q. When you come out of college with the pedigree that you had and get your teeth kicked in for a little while out here, is that instructional or at all positive to take those lumps? Obviously it puts you in that framework of mind that you were talking about earlier, but in a weird way, does it make you better?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, it can and it can also beat you down to where you never really get out of it. It depends on the person I guess.
But definitely, I definitely thought I was more ready for the TOUR than I actually was for sure. You know, you either learn to fix it or you just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I finally learned how to fix it and to stop doing the same things over and over again and just improve from them.

Q. Talking about your mind-set, guys spend their whole career trying to go from negative to positive and you did it over lunch in a U.S. Open qualifier. (Laughter) How do you maintain that and have you worked with a psychologist since then?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, well, it wasn't over lunch, that's for sure.

Q. What was the tone of the conversation?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was like --

Q. Was it this? (Finger pointing)
HUNTER MAHAN: He's a good friend of mine and I trust him in a lot of different things, aspects of life. It was out of like frustration and it was like, I was talking to myself pretty much. Because you know what you're doing right. You know it's not good for you, and it just came out of love.
He's a really good friend of mine. He's someone I trust completely and he knows what he's talking about. I trust him, what he says, and so it was definitely a -- it was like a waking-up conversation. This is not how to play golf; this is ridiculous, and it was, it was totally ridiculous. It was no way to play golf, no way to be a professional golfer, no way to act on the golf course or anything like that.
It was a long time coming, and it just -- you know, next round was just a huge, huge round, because I could have gone back to where I was, but I just allowed it to be what it was and hit a couple good shots. After every shot, good shot, he made me -- I either pumped my fist and said, hey, that's a good shot; to actually say something positive on the golf course, since 90 percent of the things we say on the golf course are usually so bad or so negative.

Q. He was there with you or caddying?
HUNTER MAHAN: He was caddying.

Q. John said he wasn't there but he didn't tell us who your caddie was.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, and it was a perfect opportunity for him to caddie and I asked him to caddie and it was great because he saw it firsthand.

Q. Got a little too close there on the first 18, huh.
HUNTER MAHAN: No, not at all, it was what I needed for sure.

Q. Is it completely sunk in or is it a work-in-progress?
HUNTER MAHAN: There's definitely a lot of things I say to myself I wish I didn't say. Most of it I don't mean but I still say it.
You know, there's usually a point somewhere in the round where if you go one way, and luckily I've made things go the other way in a positive direction and say, you know what, you're going to make a good shot, trust what you're doing and just be easy on yourself. You're not trying to make bad swings out there, you're trying to make good things. You've got to allow yourself to do that.

Q. Just to follow up, when you talk about that was no way to act on the golf course, what was the extreme example of that where your attitude was counterproductive?
HUNTER MAHAN: Slamming clubs, stuff like that, just all negative reactions to the stuff that aren't even that bad. You know, it's like seeing a ball bounce the wrong way in the rough or something like that and you go, "Of course it bounces that way." It's just like, it's not some force out there kicking the ball in the rough because it doesn't like you. It is what it is.
You just look at it and say, you know, that's okay, I'll get that one, that's not a big deal. There's no one better at it than Tiger. He doesn't bring his best stuff to the course every day but he knows how to think his way around the golf course. He thinks -- you can always tell, he thinks he's going to hit a good shot. Even if he hits it way in the trees, he knows he's going to hit it around the green and get it up-and-down.

Q. Can you pinpoint the tournament or the round where it was the worst?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, probably that first round at the qualifier. It was just a symbolic round of the first part of my year, a 68 that I turned into a 73. I made a couple good swings there and didn't make a couple putts, got a little frustrated, hit a bad shot and made a bogey, just bad stuff after bad stuff.
After the round, I guarantee I didn't hit it much better the second 18. I just was way more calm and confident and was like, you know what, it's all right, you're a good player, you can figure it out, you're going to hit a good shot and you're going to make a good putt. If you think you're going to miss putts, you're going to miss a lot of putts. If you believe you're going to hit good shots, trust yourself that you're going to do it, you'd be surprised how many good things can happen to you, just watch it bounce in the fairway.

Q. What did winning the Travelers -- you had to match shots with Jay all day long; what did that do for you between the ears?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was just an amazing day. I played so good all day. I felt so ready to win that day. I felt so confident in my abilities and like -- I felt like today is the day.

Q. How long had it been since you felt like that?
HUNTER MAHAN: A long time. You know, I truly felt I knew exactly what I had to do to play good that day and it's been a long time since I've felt like that.
I played so good all day, and that's what I kept telling myself after 16, 17, I said, I haven't done anything wrong, just two bogeys, I've been playing so good all day. It would be a shame to throw away this round after I've played 15 of them so well.
Jay, I wasn't worried about him, I was just giving myself a chance to birdie. My caddie told me, just worry about making birdie, and he was right. Both those shots felt exactly the same. It felt so perfect. Swing felt just awesome. And the shots just came out straight, two of the straightest shots like I've ever hit.
To know that I've done that in the past makes me feel very good about myself and confident about my abilities.

Q. What did you think when you came out here? What kind of expectations and what in particular irked you that maybe you were not able to attain until maybe the last few weeks even?
HUNTER MAHAN: Is there an air conditioner? Here? (Laughter) Geez, Louise.
What was the question again, FedExCup?

Q. You said you had not basically lived up to what you were hoping for the last few years --
HUNTER MAHAN: Wow, I hope you guys weren't in here long. (Air conditioner comes on.)

Q. What bothered you the most that you were not able to obtain in the first couple of years?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I just thought I was just ready. I thought I was ready to go. I thought I learned all I could from college and Coach Holder and stuff like that, and I came out here and it's just a whole different game. These are adults out here and you're 21 years old trying to make a living and it's a whole new thing.
I remember playing with Glen Day at the Honda in a practice round and I hit it great and I'm thinking, how does this guy make a living? I think I missed the cut last week and he got like a Top-20 or Top-10 and I said, I've got a lot to learn. There's a reason the guy's been out here 20 years.
They just have no memory. They just forget stuff so fast. They just play golf and they know exactly what they need to do to get most out of themselves. I didn't know much, I'll tell you that. I really didn't know much. I had a lot to learn. I still do.
I definitely thought I was going to come out here and play pretty good right off the bat and have a chance to win tournaments. But I mean, it's quite a difference from college, that's for sure.

Q. I was going to say, what were the two or three biggest shock factors? I guess that's one of them there.
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, coming out here and playing and not looking at these guys as a fan. It's a big thing to look at Tiger Woods and Ernie Els and play with these guys as a competitor and stuff than watching them on TV.
Once I got over that and just was playing golf, it felt like I was an equal to these guys, it made it a lot easier.
And just the grind. I mean, 30 tournaments a year, man, it's a lot. It's a lot, four days and practice rounds and stuff like that, really getting the routine week-in and week-out; it's a lot to handle. Some guys handle it a lot better than others, that's for sure.

Q. Just looking at this year, has anything changed physically or equipment-wise with your swing or your sticks?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I got the swing instructor I started with the end of last year, Marius Filmalter, I've used him for about a year and a half or. So he's been great. He's been awesome.
We communicate and work so well with one another. We bounce ideas off of each other. He's such a credit to coaching and teaching and it's been a lot of fun and it's been good.

Q. What's changed in your swing?
HUNTER MAHAN: I guess, gosh, a lot of things I guess. I guess pretty much at the top of the swing, I was a little loose, left arm wasn't quite and just falling this way, toward the target and leaning forward. Make sure I keep the width at the top of my swing and have pretty much a lag coming down to the shot. It's helped my shot pattern so much. I'm not nearly as wild as I used to be. I'm much more consistent. I think my driving has been awesome this year. I think my irons have been pretty good, too, this year. He's had a lot to do with that.
Swing feels really, really good right now. Worked on something last week just to get my hips more involved in the swing, not so much my hands. Pretty much take the hand out of the swing and get a lot more body in the swing so a lot more consistent.

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