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April 9, 2009

Hunter Mahan


CLAUDE NIELSEN: Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to welcome Hunter Mahan back to Augusta National. Hunter recorded five Top-10 finishes in 2008 PGA TOUR events, won the Travelers Championship in 2007. This is his third Masters appearance, and today, he posted a very competitive 6-under 66 in the first round of the 2009 Masters.
Hunter is going to give you some highlights and remarks from today's round after which we'll take questions.
HUNTER MAHAN: Just a beautiful day out here. The weather finally turned right for us. It was a day to be had I think. The pins were accessible. They were still tough but accessible.
I just hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and played pretty smart when I had to and played aggressive when I was there and finally rolled in some putts. I had great pace on the greens, which is, I think, so important out here, you have to have the right pace so you can read the right break. I had a good day. I was in control of myself and my game, so that's always a good thing.

Q. What was it like recovering from 11 and going on a birdie streak? What did you go over in your head after that?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was easy, because I felt like I played 10 perfect holes. If I'm going to win this tournament, I can't make one shot make me too mad. I didn't even miss it by that much. Just one swing.
But the next hole, 12 being 12; I didn't let it affect me at all. I was swinging great and just didn't even worry about it.

Q. It must have been fun to go out and play the course under these conditions. I know they moved some tees up and gave you a chance, some green-light pins out there after the last couple of years where you are just trying to get through the day without actually bleeding somewhat?

Q. Nine birdies.
HUNTER MAHAN: It was a perfect day, perfect day to score. Obviously Chad played a great round. Jim played a great round. So, it was there. I just want to go out there and play one shot at a time. I felt like I was swinging great coming in. I just wanted to play golf and didn't want to make more of a big deal of playing a Major than what it needed to be. I just wanted to play golf and keep it simple.

Q. I know when you're out there, you're into your own game, but were you watching Chad and the birdie runs he was going on?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I thought he was going to get to 10 no problem the way he was playing out there. For sure, when you see 8s and 9s go up there, that's going to get your attention. That's the great thing, you still feel like a fan sometimes watching the leaderboards; at least Thursday, you do. It was neat to see. It's neat to see red numbers like that out here.

Q. Did The Ryder Cup experience help you with confidence going into a Major this year after that happened last year?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think so. Definitely for sure. I definitely feel more confident in my abilities and I feel more confident in where I stand in the game of golf and on the PGA TOUR about who -- about pretty much how I feel playing with guys in tournaments. I feel like I could step up on the tee at any tournament and feel like I should be able to win. I don't see any reason why I can't step on the tee this week and win. And playing in The Ryder Cup and playing in pressure-packed situations like that with all of the fans, it's a great learning experience and great confidence builder and hopefully will play a big role on this weekend.

Q. What does making nine birdies to you mean on a golf course that's been played by as many guys as this track has; that's crazy stuff right there. Looking at record books here.
HUNTER MAHAN: I guess that's for you guys to judge. I don't know. I'm just trying to keep going, you know, just try to keep playing. You know, I'm just trying to literally play one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself or behind myself. As simple a cliché as that sounds, it works. It definitely works for me.

Q. What did you discover last week, and especially that last round that you played, and did that help you coming in this week?
HUNTER MAHAN: Really nothing. I didn't discover anything, because I've been playing pretty good all year. I've just been getting in my own way. I guess I discovered, get the heck out of my way and just play golf. You know, my sport psyche guy is here, Neal Smith, and we just talked about a few things. I know what I need to do to play well. I just have to do it. .
If I do those things, just play golf, play one shot at a time, and like 11 was a perfect example. Don't let that affect you, because you played 10 perfect holes. Then I went on to play a bunch of great holes after that. So, you know, if you're playing great, if you miss a shot, you miss a shot. You don't need to be perfect out here.

Q. Your last couple of tournaments have had some pretty interesting days, some high-highs and some crazy lows. I guess if you throw the double in there, there's a little bit of that; have you ever gone through a period that's been more interesting from a spectator standpoint than the one you've been on for the last couple three weeks?
HUNTER MAHAN: It is interesting. I will give you that. Thinking about it a little bit, but it's just golf I guess. I don't want to make more of a deal than it is.
After like Bay Hill, I was like, you know what, you can go one way or another on this thing, and I'm just like, you know what, it is what it is. Who cares? It happened. Oh, well. We'll move on. And I played pretty good last week, and putted well, and putting well this week.
You just can't let things bother you like that. I know how I'm hitting it. I'm hitting great and getting better in so many areas. Just focus on the positive things that I'm doing and not worry about any of the negative stuff, it's not going to help you.

Q. As low as you all went today, do you cringe at all to think about what may face you the next three days? Will they get even?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think you play here once, a couple of times, you figure out this place. This was about as easy as it's going to get, without question: Weather, greens, they are still soft. Without question, it's going to get harder, and you expect it. That's why you've got to play so "in the shot" and just play one shot at a time-out here. You can't let one shot ruin your whole day or ruin your whole week, because I tell you what, you're going to miss another one; I guarantee it.

Q. The phrase you just uttered about getting in your own way, we hear a lot from athletes. What's an example of that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think if I got angry or upset at 11, if I go, "Golly, what are you doing. There's a ton of room right and get all angry about it, and then you go to 12 and you hit a shot; oh, my God, perfect swing, goes in the bunker. I can't catch a break right now; are you kidding me?"
And then you go to 13, you miss a short putt or something like that. And then you go through that stretch, and you finish -- maybe finish at 2 or 1, that's getting in your own way. Just letting little stuff bother you, or letting one mistake affect everything else, when it's just one swing. What are you going to do.

Q. And Neal Smith has worked with you, one of the turning points in your career?
HUNTER MAHAN: For sure. It's one of those things where you're looking for bad things to happen, when nothing is that bad. It's just not that far off, and it's just not that bad. It's not that big a deal. I mean, if it's bad, then you fix it; you go see a swing teacher and try to fix it. But most of the time, it's really not that bad.

Q. How close are you and Chad Campbell, if at all, and also, your Junior Tournament, isn't that this week? How did that come about, you putting your name on that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think Chad and I have gotten a little bit closer since The Ryder Cup and stuff. I'm moving pretty close to him, actually in Colleyville, so we will probably hang out a little bit more the next few years. Met his wife. Love his wife. I love how people are so opposite; Chad is pretty quiet and Amy is just out there. She's great. I love her. (Laughter).
But we are close, he's a great guy. He's a perfect guy to model when you go out and play golf because you can never tell if he's 8-under or eight over.
Junior tournament, it's in a couple of weeks. It's actually during Zurich, the 24th through the 26th of April. It's at TPC Quaker Ranch, kind of where I practice. I've been out there the last few years and actually been to it two years ago. Just kind of sparked my interest of playing on the AJGA for years, playing in the Justin Leonard Tournament, and it's just so neat to have a pro kind of take the week out and go there and kind of meet the kids and everything.
You feel like you are kind of giving back, I guess, and just seeing the youth of the game and trying to make an impact in a positive way. It's just a lot of fun, brings the fun back into the game. Doing this for a living, you forget going back to those days and just eating hot dogs and cokes at the turns instead of eating granola and all that good stuff.
It's just a lot of fun to be a part of really.

Q. You had Byron when you were growing up.
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it was just the Justin Leonard Tournament was around. His was the team tournament in Dallas.

Q. Growing up, what pro as influential to you?
HUNTER MAHAN: I mean, I saw Justin a little bit. I saw Randy Smith at the time. He's a great model. If you want to follow anyone's career and how they go about their business professionally on the golf course, off the golf course, Justin Leonard doesn't get any better than that.
He's a great tutor and he's a great mentor, and he was great at The Ryder Cup. Partnering with him was the best thing for me. So he's a great guy to model yourself after.
And he's definitely someone I've looked up to for a long time.

Q. And been confused for, at times, too? Didn't some people think that you were Justin?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, all the time. Nowadays, yeah. There's a great picture of me and him, and I'm like a foot shorter than he is, at the Byron, and it's great to be mistaken for him. It's pretty funny.

Q. Did you ever get a phone call or anything from Byron?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't think I did, just because I moved to Texas when I was like 13, so I didn't grow up there. So I kind of came in late. I can't say I had too much contact with him except just for playing the Byron Nelson.
CLAUDE NIELSEN: Hunter, thanks for being with us. Good luck to you.

End of FastScripts

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