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September 24, 2008

Hunter Mahan


CHRIS REIMER: I want to thank Hunter for joining us here in the media center. Obviously a good season capped off by a great week last week. Just talk about the road here, and then also what it was like last week.
HUNTER MAHAN: The road here. Um, I played pretty good. Played all right most of the year. The FedEx format actually made it interesting to get here, trying to look at the points and everything, trying to figure out how to get here.
I didn't play exceptional, but I had moments of really good golf, and then I played pretty good in St. Louis. Game is definitely in pretty good order, and I'm excited to be here.
CHRIS REIMER: And then carried that through to last week, too.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, last week was some kind of experience. It was great. It was amazing being in that circumstance and those surroundings, and to play like we did was great to see. Finally got the Cup back, which was the most important thing.

Q. I think there's nine or ten of you from the U.S. Team here. Do you sense any difficulty in sort of getting back up again this week after how grueling last week is and the celebration, I'm sure, and now kind of having to go back at it again?
HUNTER MAHAN: It is different. I mean, it's weird kind of going through that and then having to come to such a big event like this. I mean, it is what it is. We get a couple days to kind of fall back down to earth and just get back to the grind a little bit, so it should be good.
I mean, it's a great field, good golf course, great tournament we're playing for. I don't know, it may take a round or two to actually get back into the flow of playing tournament golf again.

Q. Not to try to belabor this point, but could you sort of recap your thoughts and feelings and what you thought the Ryder Cup was going to be beforehand and then what it ultimately ended up being? I think Johnny Miller said on the air maybe it would be better to take a bite of the sandwich before you talk about the sandwich first, because it was sort of the event of a lifetime for you and it blew up all your preconceived notions.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, for sure. You watch it on TV and you see kind of what goes on and how exciting it is and the pressure and stuff that guys feel, and you can see it in their faces. You can see it in the way they play sometimes.
Obviously it's a long, hard week. It really is. You get there Tuesday -- actually you get there Monday and you don't play until Friday, so you're in it for a long time. I mean, you go play the course quite a few times. You're just out there a lot.
It's a little different from any other week you have, ever, really. I mean, it is pretty grueling. But once Friday comes around, I mean, you are so excited you can't wait to get out on the course.
For me, I played five matches, so I played 36, then 36, then 18. So that was difficult. It really was, because you were emotionally charged. You're trying to stay pretty calm until something good happened, and then you're trying to be positive and you're trying to get the crowd involved, engage the crowd, as Azinger would say.
But he was an exceptional captain. I don't have any experience with other captains (laughter), but he was -- I don't know how he could have been better. I really don't. He took all the pressure off of us and just let us go out there and play and put us in good situations with our partners and just let us go out there and be us and just play golf and just play to win the Ryder Cup. That's it.

Q. Chad and Anthony both said that it's much easier to be loose and have fun the way you guys were when you have a lead. Could you talk about that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think we took the underdog role and reveled in it. Guys like Boo and Anthony, we were there to win, but we were there to win by a lot, if we could. I thought we really outplayed them in the team competition. I thought we really could have had a big lead going into Sunday.
If we could have played 18 a little bit better -- I didn't play 18 that well. Some other guys had chances. It just didn't work out for us. But I thought we played really well. And to know that we were playing that well -- and we just really engaged the whole situation, the crowd.
We felt the pressure, but we didn't make it a bad thing. We made it a good thing because we were close to winning the Cup, and that's why we were there. We definitely rode with the people and the excitement of trying to win the Cup, and it was great.
I never felt like -- until I got done playing and trying to watch guys, I never felt like there was nervous pressure, it was always excited pressure.

Q. You mentioned earlier that having watched on TV the event, you obviously had preconceived ideas of the Ryder Cup. What was the toughest thing for you to handle last week? And if there was one thing that Zinger said to you that you will carry forward, what would that be?
HUNTER MAHAN: The toughest thing is probably getting there so early and waiting until Friday to play. I was talking to Phil, and he usually gets to tournaments Tuesday night, plays Wednesday, and then tees it up. He was there Monday, had to play Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then play on Friday. It's just really different, and you can't overplay it.
You want to get to know the greens really well because putting is everything in that thing, but you can't overdo it. You can't work so hard and then be dead on Saturday morning. You know, you've got to be ready on Friday so you have something left in the singles.
What Azinger said, I mean, so many things he said. I think he made it -- he just made it feel like it was just going to be a great week. He engaged the crowd, and he said that all the time. Just engage the crowd, because I think he knew that would almost relax us. It would make us realize where we are and make us realize that all these people want to see us succeed.
They were truly for us and with us on every shot. Playing with Justin helped a lot. I think, for me, I think what Azinger's message was, just be yourself all week. Don't try to be anything else, because our good golf, the way we played, was good enough. We did not have to try to be anybody else or try to raise our game to some extraordinary level, because we were good enough to win that thing.

Q. Speaking of be yourself, who was the guy celebrating on the 17th green on Sunday? Have you seen the video of that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I have. I have seen it.

Q. Some good moves. I don't know who that guy was.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I have seen video. If you ever watch me play Madden '08 or '09, you would have seen that guy, too. It's definitely in me. When you go out and play golf four days -- I'm trying my best to conserve every amount of energy I have so Sunday on the back nine I've got a lot left.
But that's definitely inside of me, and I think it's -- personally I was waiting for a moment like that. Anybody who plays golf wants to be in that Ryder Cup situation where you have a huge moment like that.

Q. Like Stricker.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. Like you watch Striker and Jimmy Furyk really comes out of his shell, I think, that week. Even Phil. You see Phil celebrating and getting excited. I mean, it was -- it's just a week that is different from every other week. It really is.
I think everybody acts, I don't want to say differently, but brings a side of them that they usually don't bring out.

Q. Do you think in the team room there would be a consensus of opinion, that if Azinger was to come back that would be well-received, or that you guys would even be out front and maybe trying to make that happen? It seems like there's been a ground swell. You worked magic once. I don't know that the same plan works again or what, but why-change-what's-working kind of theory?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think what he brought to the team and everything, I mean, he worked two years on this thing. And being that we had kind of home court advantage, he worked really hard with the course, the superintendent there in every aspect to get it the way he wanted to.
He wouldn't have to do that, so I don't think he'd have to put in as much effort in this year as he did last year. So I think it would be a little easier for him.
But I was interested because we've had so much success at the Presidents Cup. Pretty much Jack just goes, Who do you want to play with? Very relaxed. We just go out there and do it.
Azinger just had a pretty specific role he wanted everyone to play in. I don't know if it was scientific, but it was definitely thought very long and hard of. He really broke it down to getting everybody who was together that should be together. I think he would do the same thing again just because it worked so well.
Yeah, we were definitely chanting "Zinger for '10" after it was all over in the team room and stuff. It was great. He loves the Ryder Cup just so much, so much, that you love to see that passion in your captain. I never felt like he was nervous. I thought he was just always excited all week.

Q. Did he give you any indication whether he's thinking about it?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, absolutely --

Q. Or whether he needs some time off?
HUNTER MAHAN: Honestly, absolutely none. We got nothing from him. He spent two years on this thing. To get the result that we did -- you know, I learned a lot about him. I had no idea. I didn't know Paul Azinger before that week. I had a preconceived notion of him, and it was completely different from what I saw.
Even meeting him before that week he was different that week, because I think he knew that he had to be loose. He was really the captain, and he -- you feed a lot off, I think, someone like that. The energy we got from him was relaxed, cool, confident, and he was so excited for us that we were there.

Q. We did ask him about it Sunday night, about doing it again, and he dismissed it pretty quickly. I'm just curious, was any of the discussion among the players and him, was it just good-natured or was it serious? Were you really trying to tell him, Hey, you need to do this again, or was it just more in a fun sort of joking way?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it was pretty much fun. I don't know if it was joking, because I think we would love to see him do it again. But it was definitely in good nature, because after that week you're not thinking very clearly (laughter). I mean, you're not. You really don't know what's going on. You're just happy to be alive and happy to be there.
I mean, he was a great captain. He really was.

Q. Vijay is about to win obviously the FedExCup. He's 45; he's won 22 times since he's turned 40. You're a young guy. What kind of impressions do you have about what he's been able to accomplish kind of this late in his golfing career?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think Vijay is quite a story. I mean, he is relentless in his pursuit to be the best player that he can be. Where he came from, I mean, the Fiji Islands, hitting balls on the beach and stuff like that, he's had -- the way he works he's had to do that, because I don't think he's as talented as a lot of guys out here. He's so focused on just one way of just going out there and grinding it and being the best player that he can be every day, every second.
It's quite amazing. He keeps his body in unbelievable shape. He works works so hard on every aspect of the game of golf that it's amazing to see someone that focused for such a long time. I don't know how -- I can't tell you when he turned pro or how long he's been doing it, but I know he's been on every Tour all over the world.
He doesn't want to lose this game. I think he thinks he can still win majors, and he can. I think he thinks he's still got a lot of good golf left in him. He's had a pretty solid year up to the FedExCup, and then he comes out and just dominates. He played unbelievable at Bridgestone and couldn't -- I played with him at the British Open and he couldn't have made it in the ocean. He couldn't have putted in the ocean (laughter).
But then he comes back and starts telling everybody he's the greatest putter in the world. It sounded funny at the time, but it's -- I mean, you read any kind of psych book, and you can talk your way into anything. He really did.
He hit it unbelievable in New Jersey and made enough putts and made a 20-footer to tie, and then he played great the next week. There's no one, I mean, ball-striking, it's pretty much consistent, and it's pretty scary at times. When he gets the putter rolling it's pretty scary.

Q. Can you imagine winning 22 times after you turn 40?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, I couldn't imagine playing after I'm 40 (laughter). Being on TOUR, it's been five and a half years I've been a pro already and it feels like a lifetime. I'm like, man, when does my pension start rolling in (laughter)?
You just don't know. I can't say what the heck I'm going to do after 40. There's a lot of things I want to do in my life. To win 22 times, that's crazy. That's crazy to me. I don't know if anyone is ever going to do that.

Q. Just curious, no Tiger on the TOUR for the past three months. Is it bittersweet? Do you miss him, but also glad he's gone?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I mean, Tiger, he's the reason we're playing for so much money. He's the reason we have the FedExCup. He's the reason golf has grown in leaps and bounds since he's turned pro. He's the reason for a lot of things.
It's been interesting not to have him on TOUR, yet he's still in the news. He's still in the press just because he is Tiger Woods. I think we're all -- it is a little weird, but we're all kind of used to it now, not seeing him and not seeing him on the leaderboard, not seeing him in the Ryder Cup. I don't think his name came up once between all of us. It really didn't. It was just like we were there just -- we didn't think about like not having Tiger there. We really didn't.
It's definitely a little strange, but I don't know, golf is so -- you're so focused on yourself out here it's hard to worry about anybody else. But when he comes back it's going to be a big bang. It really is, because not seeing him for six months or for however long is pretty unusual.

Q. Having had a taste now of both The Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, how would you compare the intensity of competition in both?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's -- well, I remember just walking through an airport going to the Ryder Cup. People were saying, "Good luck. Hope you guys do it." And then sitting in the airport, Louisville airport, after people, signing autographs, people saying, "Great job. Thanks a lot."
That didn't happen at the Presidents Cup. Presidents Cup is a great event, great experience. The International Team is ridiculously good. I mean, every guy, it seems like you have to be Top 10 in the world to be on that team. But it's not even close to the intensity and what you're playing for compared to the Ryder Cup. It really isn't.
There's so much history at that Ryder Cup, and the fact that we've been looked on -- I looked at it, and, you know, since '85 they won seven out of ten times. Since '85. I mean, this isn't a new trend. It wasn't like the last three years they beat us; they've been doing it for a while.
The International guys, we see them every week. We live next door to them. But the European guys, they're over there in Europe and they're playing on the European Tour. They come over here and play, but there's definitely kind of a line drawn between us, I think. It's a good thing because it brings out -- like you saw, it brings out great golf, competition. It brings out fans. It brings out so much in everybody that's good that it makes the event just incredible.

Q. Just a FedExCup question. Are you okay with the idea that one guy basically has it all locked up already, or do you have any thoughts on how they could get it so that there's basically two years in a row where they don't have it coming down to the final nine like they would like here?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, when the TOUR did this they took on -- they maybe bit off more than they could chew on this. Because, I mean, the scenario sounds great to have a few guys coming down in the end. But, I mean, it's pretty tough to get the scenario they're looking for. It really is, because this year is set up for guys to make a lot of moves, and we saw that early on.
Kevin Streelman came from nowhere to be -- if he would have won he would be leading the FedExCup, and then all of a sudden it's flipped around where it's clinched up by Vijay pretty much because he's played great for two weeks and then didn't really play that great in St. Louis. I don't know what he finished there, but...
I just don't know what you could do to make it competitive if someone gets hot. I don't think -- last year I don't think it was fair that Tiger had dominated the whole regular season, and then FedExCup he didn't have a big lead. But then he ended up winning anyway, so there you go (laughter).
I don't know what they could do, because it's -- I just don't know how they can get it to where -- unless you make a win really not that big a deal. I think that's the only way you can do it is really bunch the points up to where a win is 10,000 points and a second is 9,000 and break it down from there.
I think during the year should count, and it should count for a lot, and then they should probably cut the field down a little bit and go from there. Or you could just have a match-play format, make this one 24 guys, 36 guys, whatever you want to do, and just do a match play thing. That would be pretty neat if you had four days of match play and then you had an eventual champion, and there he is, a guy left standing.

Q. That would make Sunday definitely meaningful.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, and then you kind of would have a finale sort of. I don't know, it's hard. There's a lot of situations, a lot of things to do. But they took on quite an endeavor to kind of put the whole eight months into four weeks and one day. To do that is hard.
I don't know what they can do. You can't blame Vijay for winning and say there's something wrong with the system. He played great. I mean, he deserves to win. I don't know what there is to do, though. That's pretty tough.

Q. I know you haven't hardly had a chance to breathe and stayed up all Sunday night and pretty much rolled into ATL the next day, but have you seen any of the reports about what the European media is saying about Faldo, and did you get kind of a sense about what a huge, huge deal it is over there? Because he's getting absolutely slaughtered right now.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think that gives you an indication how big the Ryder Cup is, actually, going over there and seeing their press. I heard before, and they said that -- a headline was, "If you don't win, don't come back."

Q. No pressure (laughter).
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. I mean, and that's coming from -- that's going toward Nick Faldo, who's a Ryder Cup legend, won more points on the European side than anybody, and they're crucifying him right now. That's pretty tough, pretty tough.
I think someone said, This kills everything he's ever done in his career. I think that's a bit much for a guy who's won six majors, was No. 1 in the world for a long time. That's pretty tough.
But he was bold in his picks and he was bold in his selections. Sitting out Westwood and Sergio was shocking definitely to us to see that. But, I mean, you can see how much it means to them, to the European side, and to us, to play and to win that. But that's pretty tough. That's tough for him to go back to. You definitely feel for him, because he definitely doesn't deserve all that.

Q. I'm curious, since you are at the ripe old age of 26, can you talk about the youngster Anthony Kim and just how impressive he has been this season?
HUNTER MAHAN: Anthony is just crazy talented. The thing I take from him is just his confidence in himself. I don't think it's arrogance, I think it's just he believes that he is the best player when he steps on there.
For anybody who knows anything about psychology, he talks his mind into playing great. He may not hit it great, but he'll talk his mind into playing good. That's hard to do. That's not easy. Not many people can do that.
I mean, he showed it on Sunday. When we saw our pairing our side was definitely excited to see him against Sergio, because that's kind of putting the same player against one another.
But Anthony, with the crowd and everything, he was definitely going to get them revved up. We knew if he got off to a good start, good lead, I thought it was going to be over, because he wanted to pound on him and kill him.
I heard him say he went 5 & 4, but he was going to the next tee to try to win 6 & 3. That's a perfect example of Anthony Kim right now. His attitude about everything is just funny. It's refreshing. It's so not kind of like TOUR life, which is interesting. But in a good way, because he just brings energy and he brings fun.
But when it comes down to playing good, man, he knows how to play. He's really talented.

Q. Just a quick follow-up, he said yesterday he doesn't even watch golf. He doesn't know anything about the history of golf. He says that if he wants to go to sleep he turns on golf and goes to sleep. He doesn't watch it on TV.
HUNTER MAHAN: That's kind of the same way I am. I don't watch it. I will watch some stuff, but very, very little. Just because we're doing it so much. I wouldn't do that because I want to get my head kind of away from it.
Yeah, that's Anthony. Watching it on TV is definitely not the most exciting thing you've ever seen.

Q. Careful.
HUNTER MAHAN: Except for the Ryder Cup, obviously, and the TOUR Championship, obviously (laughter).
For fans to come out -- to watch it is great. That's a lot of fun, to come out and watch it. But what fans have to go through nowadays to watch golf is amazing. It's great that they do it, because, you know, bus rides and go 30 minutes to the parking, it's fantastic that people come out and watch us. It really is amazing to me.
But, I mean, golf is -- it's a grind. It's a mental grind. That's what makes it so challenging and tough, because anybody can hit a golf ball. You really can. I believe that. But to play it is not easy.

Q. Had you heard the orangutan story before?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I've heard -- yeah, there's some different versions to it, but we got the real version, I think, when we were there. A couple times. It was funny every time.
But you have to hear Boo say it, because Boo, with his language, makes it even better. But it was great to see Boo right there in that situation. He played so good. He played so good.

Q. Were you guys just cracking up when he told the story?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, most of us kind of heard of it and knew it. But, oh, it's so funny. It's so funny. The story is funny itself, but when Boo tells you it, it goes to another level. It really does (laughter). It really does. But that's Boo. It could only happen to Boo, really, to get in a fight with an orangutan.
CHRIS REIMER: Thanks, Hunter. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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