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February 17, 2009

Hunter Mahan


MARK WILLIAMS: Hunter, we would like to welcome you to the Northern Trust Open media center, first interview of the week. Just tell us about your thoughts on the golf course and being out there this morning, and what your expectations are this week.
HUNTER MAHAN: The course is in phenomenal shape right now. The greens are perfect; the best I've ever seen them. The course in great shape. Hopefully this weather roles out of here and we should have a great week.
MARK WILLIAMS: You were 31st here last year, and your start this year has been reasonable, T-11 at the Buick, and last week was a little bit of an adventure with the rain. I wanted to ask you about The Presidents Cup coming up, and I think you're ranked 20th right now. Is that on your mind this early in the year, or is it something that you think about?
HUNTER MAHAN: It's something I want to be a part of, but I'm not really thinking about it. I'm just thinking about this week. Making The Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup Teams are a collection of a lot of events. So I'm just worried about playing well this week.

Q. I know you're thinking about this week, but curious how did last year's Ryder Cup and playing in that experience help you for next week, in terms of match play?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, for match play, yeah, I think we don't play much match play, so any time you can play match play, it's always going to help you. Those competitions are a lot of fun.
Match play is a lot of fun. It's just a different type of game. You're just worried about winning that one hole. You don't care what you shoot. You just want to win the match and that's your only focus. And any time you get to do it, it's always going to help. So any time you play those international matches, you always have great competition, and they are always tough.

Q. I know you have Orange County roots; is that what led you to USC?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, going to USC, I always wanted to go to USC when I was living here, 10,11, 12 years old. I had a lot of USC kind of friends who went there. Moving out from Texas, I kind of lost ties with them a little bit, but when I came back, it was exciting.
It just didn't work out. It wasn't sort of my kind of personality, I guess, being in the middle of L.A. It's not for everybody. It just wasn't the place for me. But it is a tremendous school. I mean, I had a lot of great times there. Just for me, personally, I just kind of wanted to go somewhere a little bit slower pace.
So I completely went opposite and went to Stillwater, Oklahoma where there is nothing around you for a long time, and if you blink, you miss it.
But I had a great time there, but both schools are great and they produced a lot of great players.

Q. Was there an auto accident or something that entered into all of that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I had a car accident but it didn't -- it wasn't the reason I left school, that's for sure. It was just a car accident.

Q. Can you talk about how you're playing right now and how you think your game might be suited to this course?
HUNTER MAHAN: Game feels good right now. Ball-striking, love where that is at right now. This course, being a little wet, you kind of want to get the ball up in the air off the tee on your second shots. I feel like I can just kind of do a lot of good stuff with my driver and irons and be able to work the ball pretty well.
This is an old-style course: Small greens, kind of narrow greens, and it seems like every green is different, which is so nice to see, but all unique. Just got to play it smart out here and be patient. The greens are rolling so fast and had a lot of break to them but the course is in phenomenal shape. I love looking at it, each and every hole out here, so I'm excited to be here.

Q. Can you talk a little about winning the Kiwi Challenge and what maybe that did for your confidence?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it was great. We got to play at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, two beautiful, beautiful locations. New Zealand is a hidden gem for golf. A lot of great courses, beautiful, beautiful place, and a great competition. Adam Scott, Anthony Kim, Brandt Snedeker; it was going to be a tough thing to win that event. Everybody could easily have won.
I felt really good going in. I was excited to play, and I feel like I had a great chance to win, and just didn't get much out of my game for the first, pretty much, 27, 28 holes and then everything kind of came at once. I had a great finish, and kind of wish I could have finished up on 18 on the 36th hole, but I was excited to finish it up on the 37th.
Yeah, it was a big win and I wanted to win. I went there pretty focused on winning and trying to kind of beat those guys. It's always nice to kind of beat your friends like that.

Q. Has there been any talk in the locker room or amongst the players about Tiger coming back and looking forward to it, or hope he stays away a little longer? What's been the feel of you and your peers about him coming back?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think we are all kind of speculating like everybody else. I heard Cookie say he's been playing a lot.
It's good to see him healthy again. I think we all want to go see him play golf. He does it so well; he does it better than anybody else. It's neat that he's going to come back, probably pretty soon, I guess, I don't know, maybe next week. But I think we're all kind of wondering when he's coming back.
But the fact that he's healthy now and swinging free and from what I've heard, swinging well, it's only going to benefit every play in the game of golf.

Q. Are you curious how he looks and do you have any doubt about how he'll play?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know what he's going to bring to the table. No doubt about it. He's going to be good.
I would expect there would be a little bit of rust, because, I mean, that's a long layoff. But if he comes back at the Match Play, seems like a pretty good place to come back.
But I think he'll be fine. I think his game will be fine. And I think this is kind of what -- with the leg and ACL stuff, the surgery is so good nowadays, and he's so strong, I think he's going to be better than ever.

Q. I'm sure you've talked about this, but can you talk about the Ryder Cup experience and again what that did for your confidence and being a part of that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, well, to be selected was a great honour. Playing The Presidents Cup the year before gave me a lot of great experience. I felt really prepared. I would have definitely been a lot more nervous and prepared if I went straight into a Ryder Cup, because it is -- you could feel the tension.
You can feel the tension and the excitement from all of the players, from the fans, but I think that's what made Captain Azinger such a great captain. I never saw any tension or any nervous innocence his face at any point. He felt totally confident in what he was doing with the little pods we had. He felt totally confident in the course setup that he picked.
I think it just kind of oozed through all of us, and we were just kind of like, you know, we're all good enough to be here. That's personally what I felt like. I know I'm a good enough player to be here and I've learned the right to be here, and now I just have to go play and have fun and enjoy it.
To play that well in those type of situations was something that I'll never forget and definitely hold onto and realize that, you know, I'm a good player, and it gives me a lot of confidence to play every week now and to be like, you know, I've got a chance to win.

Q. Were you one of those guys that would have liked to have seen him come back two years from now?
HUNTER MAHAN: You know, I wanted him to do whatever he wanted to do. If he wanted to come back, I would have loved to see him come back. If he didn't want to come back, that's fine with me. I thought to do as good a job as he did, I don't know how it could get better than that. I don't know how it all went down or whatever or whether he really wanted to or not, but he was a great captain for me. He personally gave me a lot of confidence in myself.

Q. Later today, we are going to see a 17-year-old in here, and I wonder if you can look back nine years to when you were 17 and what you were like and what it might be like to be a national sensation.
HUNTER MAHAN: Honestly I didn't know. I never really heard of him, so I didn't know much. I think we saw him playing and saw media 50 media people following him, so he's probably a big deal over there.
17, I mean, I don't know. I probably wouldn't know which tee to go off if I was 17 trying to play on the PGA TOUR. I definitely wasn't mentally prepared for the PGA TOUR or probably wasn't good enough, either.
I remember playing, I was 17 and played Travelers Championship in Hartford and just missed the cut by one. But to do it, to be a pro, I've got no chance at that. I wouldn't know what to do. I would probably have to call my mom and go, "What do I do? I want to eat, what do I do?" (Laughter).
I wasn't mature enough to handle it for sure, but I'm sure he is. I'm sure -- I mean, I've been over to Japan and it's a beautiful, beautiful place. And the people, they are so focused, they work so hard at whatever they do, and they are so good at it usually. I wish him all the best.

Q. Are most of the guys on TOUR high on Riviera, and is it one of the courses you like and look forward to playing?
HUNTER MAHAN: For sure. It's not on 400 acres of golf course and they spread it out all over the place; and it's not eight par 4s already over 400 yards; and they don't have these massive greens. Every hole is unique. Every hole is different. Every green is different.
It's just fun to play. You know, it seems like every day we play it, it's a little different than the day before. You've got a bunker in the middle of one of the greens. I mean, if you did that today, nowadays, people would look at you like cross-eyed and think you were crazy.
It's just a beautiful golf course. Anybody can win here. Mike Weir has won and Phil has won and Charles Howell; I don't think it suits anybody. I think everybody can play it. Anybody can win. I think that's the mark of a great golf course; it doesn't benefit anybody. Just have to go out there and play and play well, or it will penalize you.
I always look forward to coming here. This is just such a unique, unique challenge.
MARK WILLIAMS: We appreciate you coming in today, Hunter, and all the best for the Northern Trust Open this week.

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