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October 7, 2009

Zach Johnson

Justin Leonard

Hunter Mahan

Sean O'Hair


DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome the next four participants in the American side of the 2009 Presidents Cup. We are joined by Sean O'Hair, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard. If we could start with Sean, just a couple of comments on, we are just a day away now, and minutes away from picks being made. Just your enthusiasm level, first time for you, a few comments on where you are kind of adrenaline-wise right now.
SEAN O'HAIR: Obviously just a fantastic week so far. Playing with Jordan, playing with these guys, playing with Couples and the team time that we are having in the team room at the end of the day; guys are having fun, and we are just really enjoying each other's company.
For me, this is a huge deal for me, Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, this is what I've dreamt about as a kid. And the fact that it's here is very exciting for me, and another thing I think that's very special for me is H and I have known each other for quite some time and I think it's pretty cool that we are playing on the same team. We played a lot of junior golf together.
There's so many different factors. You're playing with -- is he giving me crap down there? (Laughter).
But playing with MJ Monday, and I've lost a lot of money to him the last couple days. I'm probably the only player in this history of golf that it has actually cost money to play in this event. (Laughter).
But it's been a good time. And it's only going to get better for us I think.
ZACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, not playing in the Cup last year and having the experience the previous two years, once you get associated with these teams, as I've mentioned before, you want to be a part of it every year. So I watched a lot of these guys -- well, these two individuals right here play last year in Kentucky and it kind of fueled me. Sat on my couch and watched nearly the entire Ryder Cup. It was good motivation for me to try to work on my game and get to this point this week.
So I'm excited for the week. San Francisco has been great. Fantastic hospitality all around. Having Fred Couples, easy going Freddie, and a guy that's just easy to be around, easy to talk to, yet at the heart of it, he's a competitor; having him lead us is fantastic.
Jay Haas, you don't need to say much more than that. Just one of the best guys around. And obviously adding the element of number 23 makes it even that much more special.
So I love incorporating team golf -- or excuse me, "team", into golf. And I'm excited for Harding Park. It's going to be a great venue. It's one of those weeks where Thursday cannot come any faster. I'm looking forward to it.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, feel very fortunate, lucky to be here. You know, you're surrounded by 13, 14 great guys, having a great time, great players. It's fun to be around them in a much more relaxed setting. It's great to have so much knowledge and you're able to learn a lot this week and still have a lot of fun.
It's a very, very special week. We have got a great challenge ahead of us, and it's nice to have such a great, big event on the West Coast. I've got a lot of friends and family here, so I'm going to have a lot of fun starting Thursday, and I tell you, it's nice to have such great people in the team room and to have MJ here, it's really incredible. And it's going to be a lot of fun. We are already having a ton of fun, so I can't wait until we get this thing started.
JUSTIN LEONARD: I don't think I can say any different than these three guys have. It's great to be here and to be a part, associated with an event like this with 14 great guys. It's a lot of fun, and I think we are all glad that Wednesday afternoon is here and that we get to get this thing going tomorrow.

Q. Were the pairings you guys were in today, is that your pod for your group to draw for your two-man teams?
JUSTIN LEONARD: You'll find out in like 30 minutes. So we might just wait till that to happen. But, you know, our practice round pairings were certainly not a blind draw.
ZACH JOHNSON: (Nodding).

Q. You've been around quite a bit in these teams. How do you compare and contrast The Presidents Cup, it seems a little bit lighter, the mood is a little bit more relaxed maybe, to a Ryder Cup. Do you think that's because you guys have done so well and pretty much dominated The Presidents Cup as opposed to The Ryder Cup?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I attribute it, the biggest difference really is a lot to do with the build up. We as players think a lot about The Presidents Cup well before the event. But it seems like the media doesn't really get behind the event until it's closer to it; whereas The Ryder Cup, it seems to start three or four months out with the media as far as the attention it receives.
I can tell you, once the week gets here, we as players, there's not a whole lot of difference. I think that it seems, because the galleries know both sides equally as well, especially when it is here in the States, as far as the U.S. and the International Team, probably don't have the crowd reactions as far as positive towards our team; they are not so much negative in Ryder Cups, but you can certainly tell the difference in crowds.
As far as players, I mean, there's not a whole lot of difference between practice rounds, team room. There's a lot of trash-talking going on, and it's on the golf course and it's after the golf course, and it's before we get to the golf course. So guys are well motivated, and it's just a fun week to be a part of. But I don't feel like once the week is here there's a whole lot of differences between the two.

Q. Could you give us a couple of examples of some of the trash-talking that's going on? Do you mean amongst yourself or with the guys on the International Team?
JUSTIN LEONARD: No, it's totally within our own team. In fact, I think some of us are looking forward to aiming the trash in a different direction.
There's a kid down there at the end that has got a pretty quick word. And then you can imagine around the ping-pong table, you don't even have to be on our floor to hear what's going on. I think Phil's having a lot of fun this week. I know we all are, but Phil, he says that's one of his favorite parts of the week is talking trash and then trying to back it up. And it doesn't end here at the golf course.

Q. Experience obviously matters in these kind of events, but how important is it also to have some young guys and new faces on the roster?
JUSTIN LEONARD: I think it's very important. It's funny, as I sit here in thinking ten years ago, I was in Hunter's or Sean's shoes, and kind of playing in these events for the first time.
Now being able to take a little bit more of a leadership role, and not that these guys need any help as far as their games, but just getting used to the different things that go on during the week, from possible pairings and being ready for anything to whatever it may be.
These guys have played at high levels for a number of years, and once you get out there on the golf course between the ropes, it's all familiar to them. But some of the things that go on during the week, especially kind of before the week, before the tournament begins, there's some unknowns there, and I think we all try and help these guys when we can.

Q. One of the things that MJ was saying, that you're his special project for the week, so obviously you're paying for that, for his time. But what has he been helping you with, and are you any good at ping-pong table?
ZACH JOHNSON: No, he's not.
SEAN O'HAIR: I don't really think he's been helping me with anything. He's been taking my money, though, I can tell you that.
It's been just great I think talking with him and I think sitting with him at a table or joking around with him playing golf, it just, to me, it really doesn't get much better than that. He's somebody that, as an athlete, him being an athlete, I'm not calling myself an athlete; you look up to him.
You know, my wife and I were sitting at the table last night at the gala just saying, are you kidding me, we're sitting with MJ, we are sitting with Tiger, we're sitting with Steve, we are sitting with Freddie, and it's just like, you know, what do you even talk about.
I think just him coming up to me and making me feel comfortable and joking around and doing some betting, which I'm kind of getting the crappy end of the stick on that one, has just made me a lot more comfortable with my situation out here. On the golf course I feel very comfortable. Let's face it, if we are all out there having a good time, we are going to play well. And that's definitely the case, because we are out there having a great time. And whether it be smack talk between MJ and I or these guys or whatever, it's such a great environment to be a part of. It's just the energy the last few days has been fantastic, and something that is pretty special.
And I do suck at the ping-pong table.

Q. The 18th hole here has now become the 15th hole, and the 9th has become the 18th, so they have re-routed this golf course for this tournament. Are you in favor of such a change? Would you rather play 18 as 18 or 18 as 15? Do you think it's beneficial to this golf course that they moved it?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think it's beneficial for the event because you're going to get more matches to play that hole playing as No. 15 than you would if it was the last hole in a match. And I think that scene for the 15th hole for matches coming down the wire, it will play a critical part, and should play a critical part, in just about every match.
Whereas, if it was the last hole as the routing is, you would certainly get a few matches to it, but not every match.
So I think the re-routing is good. It gets those last few holes closer to the clubhouse. It makes it easier for fans to have a chance to just sidestep, or even in a couple cases, just simply turn around and you can watch a match coming up. So I think it makes the most sense for this event.

Q. A couple of the guys used the word "fun" and talked about Freddie being easy and so forth, and you've played in a bunch of these for a lot of different captains. Is this looser than any other event, or where does this fall in the loose meter?
JUSTIN LEONARD: It's pretty high up on the loose meter.
The other captains I've had in The Presidents Cup have been Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and while we have a good time and it's an incredible week to get to spend with those guys, they are not exactly contemporaries of ours; whereas Freddie, we have all played a lot of golf with Freddie.
You know, he's like a duck on the water. He's very smooth and calm on the surface, but underneath, he's paddling like crazy. It's been a lot of fun the last couple of months. He won't ever answer his phone, but he will text, with a certain lack of punctuation, which I've given him grief before.
It's been fun and it's been a little different because he's such a contemporary of ours.

Q. You have had so many different partners in these team events, what do you consider the key to a good partner, chemistry, same games? Is there something that's important that stands out in your mind?
JUSTIN LEONARD: Well, I think you need to play with someone you're comfortable with, and like you said, I think I've been groomed to play with anybody because I've played with everybody. But I think it's a little more strategic in alternate-shot of possibly getting guys -- and it's more important that they match up personality-wise than it is game, but I think it's maybe a little more important to match similar games.
You know, I think when you get best-ball, it's nice when you can mix it up a little bit and maybe get guys that have different games. But you know, as far as, I've played with enough guys, I feel like I can play with anybody. And I think our team, because a number of us have played on these teams for a few years -- Hunter, this is not his first Presidents Cup, this is his third team event. Sean down there, you know, you would think he's played on these for the last ten years the way he's talking in the locker room and team room and everything. So everybody fits right in.
So the problem is it may give Freddie too many options, but I think we have done a good job of communicating some good combinations, and, you know, ultimately, he will make the final decisions. But it's been a really good group effort so far.

Q. I was going to get you to talk about the Monday match, how much did you have to give MJ, what did it come down to, and did he know you were such a Kobe guy?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, yeah, MJ definitely took advantage of us without a doubt, without a question. And especially Sean. (Laughter).
As MJ said, he's got a Parker lounge chair on Sean's head right now and he owns him, I think that's the project, he just owns him. I can't speak for Sean on that. I think we'll have a great time through Sunday, but to play with MJ and Freddie, and Lucas, with, I don't know, ten people following us, just playing golf, having a great time, I mean, it doesn't get better than that. That was a memory that I'll have forever. It was a lot of fun. And he's a solid player; he's a player. It may not look pretty, but he does it every time, and it goes very straight.
He's a player. He knows what he's doing out there, and I paid my debts, I'm clean, we're clean. So he doesn't have to bother me anymore. But he's been special this week, he really has. He's just a normal guy, really. It's amazing how normal he's been and how much fun he's had. I think he's had the most fun out of anybody here, really, he really has. It's quite unbelievable to think that he's everywhere we are. So it's been special, and Freddie has definitely made the right choice with that decision.
DOUG MILNE: Thank you.

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