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August 10, 2010

Hunter Mahan


KELLY ELBIN: Hunter Mahan, ladies and gentlemen, fresh off a victory at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational that clinched a Ryder Cup spot for him as well. This will be Hunter's fifth PGA Championship. His best finish is a tie for 16th last year at Hazeltine National.
Hunter, congratulations on the win. It must give you a lot of positive energy coming into the season's final major.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I feel great about my game and excited about this week. I think this course suits me pretty well. So I'm looking forward to getting started on Thursday.
KELLY ELBIN: How about some general comments on the golf course? You didn't play here in 2004. Your thoughts on the practice holes you played out there.
HUNTER MAHAN: It's in perfect shape right now. It's going to be a difficult test if the wind starts to blow. You've really got to find your spots off the tee to find your lines, and because obviously fairways are going to be important because there are a lot of kind of sharp kind of cliffs where the fairway kind of runs off into deep bunkers and waste areas. So you've got to pay attention out here and avoid the big number.

Q. We talked a little yesterday about your relative anonymity and the fame of, say, Tiger even after this past weekend when you had such a great tournament. Half an hour ago, this place was jam-packed. Would you even want to be that famous? You mentioned you're going to get your due, would you even want to be that famous?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, sure. I mean hopefully you're doing good stuff, too; if I'm playing great golf and winning majors to be that famous. So I would definitely try to -- it would be a good problem to have.

Q. Did you keep score today, and if you did, how much did you beat Tiger by?
HUNTER MAHAN: It was a little tighter than 30, I think, yeah. It was close. It was close. I'm not sure. I'm not sure. But no, it was a good day. We had a good time.

Q. I mostly wanted to ask you about what was your -- from your vantage point, how do you see Sean's work with Tiger? Just another set of eyes or possibly something more or what?
HUNTER MAHAN: Definitely another set of eyes right now. Could be something more. You never know. But I felt Tiger hit it nice today. He was doing -- I think he was hitting pretty much every shot that he wanted to hit. So he seemed pretty comfortable out there.

Q. It seemed like the mosquitoes are pretty bad this morning. Did you notice that, and if so, does that do anything to the way you have to -- obviously it's the same for everybody but does that affect any way the way you approach the tournament?
HUNTER MAHAN: No. We can't do anything about it, except put on a lot of 'OFF!'
No, they were out this morning in a big way. It was quite shocking. Especially when you went by the few holes right on the lake there. I mean, it was -- they were incredible. They were swarming, in fact.
So no, we can't do anything about it. They seem to kind of go away during the last nine holes or so. But no, yeah, it wasn't a whole lot of fun out there.

Q. After the year you've had do you still get mistaken for Leonard at all? Does that still happen?

Q. Which is good, right?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, it's definitely good. Definitely good. No, not as much anymore. Which is nice. I'm trying to create my own personality and my own real person, I guess, so that's good.

Q. You've played Ryder Cup once and then Presidents Cup; can you just describe the difference in the intensity of the two weeks and the different sort of championships?
HUNTER MAHAN: Between the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup?

Q. Yes.
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, just the Ryder Cup has a little more history than the Presidents Cup. But it is, they're both great events, they're both run extremely well. They're both difficult. A lot of great competition that we have to play. And they're both a lot of fun. I know I have a great time playing in both of them, and I'm real looking forward to playing kind of overseas over in Wales. It should be highly competitive and it should be a ton of fun.

Q. Wanted to ask you about the bunkers in general. Have you ever seen so many in your life? What are some of your most memorable bunkers in terms of the ones that are in play, and have you ever looked on certain holes and said, who in the world could possibly ever hit it in this one?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, there's -- well, as soon as you drive through the gates there's bunkers there staring you in the face. So I don't see a golf course anywhere near there. Yeah, they're every where, really. I mean, I feel bad for the fans because it seems like you could be walking, and all of a sudden you're falling in a hole of sand and don't even know it.
No, I think the only real tricky one is on -- I think it's 6. That kind of almost separates the green into two, and it is very narrow. I don't know exactly what you're going to do if you hit it in it. It's barely wide enough to actually get in there and really make a full stance. So that will be the most penalizing bunker for sure.
But most of the other ones are not -- you can get out of them pretty easily. There's nothing too drastic about any of the ones on the golf course.

Q. You touched on it a bit, but can you run us through what you saw in Tiger's game today?
HUNTER MAHAN: He seemed very calm and relaxed when we went out there and played. I know he had a good time. We all had a good time playing. I know he was hitting -- seemed like he was trying to hit a bunch of cuts and he was succeeding on every shot. He had great control over his golf ball and his game looked fine. It looked fine to me. He didn't really hit any weird-looking shots or strange shots. Everything was pretty much on his line all day, and I thought he swung it pretty well.

Q. You were out there with Tiger today -- sorry for all the questions, do you think he can get back to where he was? And if he doesn't, given the putting issues and things that we're starting to see last week, some more dents in the armor so to speak; if he doesn't, is that bad for the game or good for the game?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well I definitely think he can get it back. His talent is still there. Obviously when he gets.

Q. All the way back?
HUNTER MAHAN: To like 2000? I mean, that was just a special time. I totally believe so. I mean, it's there within him. I don't really think you can look at this year and just go, well, this is a sign of things to come. I just don't believe that.
Like he said last week, it's been along year for him, and I think he's going to totally get his game back. He'll get his technique down and get some confidence in what he's doing. I think last week he just looked lost, just watching it from my perspective. He just can't look like he knew quite what to do and for any player that's a very uncomfortable feeling to have when you feel like you don't know what to do. You're just trying to find something, and it's hard to just kind of -- I think I was there myself kind of middle part of the year. I was kind of like, God, what do I do now?
But he'll right the ship. He's very, very smart guy. He's a smart golfer. He'll find that little thing that he needs and he'll get back to his routine, and he'll be winning a major before you know it. And I don't think it's -- I mean, I don't think it's really good or bad for the game. I think he'll come back, and I don't think -- it will just be a little blip in his career.
But I think the game will pull through. I think we're going to see guys like hopefully like Rory McIlroy and myself emerge as hopefully great players, and Sean O'Hair is playing great. I think we're going to see a lot of other players kind of that maybe you wouldn't see before.

Q. There haven't been a lot of guys outside of Tiger who have won consecutive tournaments, or like you have a chance this week to win a big tournament then a major. What will you have to do to do that; is that a realistic goal?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think so. I felt like I won last week, and that was a pretty good field and I've got the same great players this week. So this will be actually my first chance to go back-to-back. My other two wins I actually didn't play the week after.
So I'm looking forward to playing this week. Confidence is good. I feel good about my game. I feel good about what I'm doing. I know what I need to do to play well, and to play well for four days, so I don't see why not. It's just golf. There's no rules that you can't keep winning. So I feel great about my position and what I can do this week.

Q. Your relationship with Sean Foley, why has it been as successful as it has, and kind of what is his philosophy or the things that he emphasizes with you that's helped you get to the level that you've been at?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I think he's -- obviously I think he's a great teacher. He's spent a lot of time studying the golf swing, and he's player himself. So he's gone out there on the range and he's tested his theories on himself and figured out what works with a golf swing and what doesn't.
From a mechanical point of view I think he really knows the swing extremely well. He's the best I've really ever talked to in-depth about the golf swing; he knows more about it than anybody. And as a coach, he knows how to talk to us. He really knows how to prepare us for a tournament. Because he can't -- you can't have a big lesson this week because we have to play a major. He knows how to just -- he knows exactly what to say to us to give us the right amount of information that we can use and then we can take it to the golf course. And he talks to us differently. He talks to us differently; Sean is different from me and from Stephen Ames.
So he knows how to talk to each one of us and get the most out of us from a swing perspective. And he just knows his stuff. I totally trust in what he says and any time I go out there and play, I feel like I do have a very good understanding of what I need to do.

Q. The Ryder Cup, I'm afraid; you obviously are very proud to have earned your way on to the team this time. How did different does it feel now having done that, as opposed to how you felt last time getting a wild card?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, last couple times being I felt like I was close the last couple times. I just didn't quite play well enough to get on the team. But I was close. And I knew how I had a good chance to make the team.
And then usually after maybe during the PGA, but I usually played decent afterwards; so I knew there was a consideration on making the team.
But now that I've been on a few teams, you really want to make the team so bad, and that's what I think feels differently. I know the experience that I had at Valhalla; I know how great it was.
So going into this year, I mean, you know, sometimes you don't know what you're missing, but I know what I'm missing if I didn't make the team. So that's what I was really striving for the last few months and working really hard on getting my game to where it was kind of last week; and to win and solidify my spot. So it feels great, and it's one less thing to worry about in a sense because it's -- you're playing last week you're playing for FedExCup position, you're playing for Ryder Cup position, you're playing for a lot. And now I feel like I can just come out here and just worry about playing golf and playing well and playing well at a tough place and at a major.

Q. As a wild card, do you feel you're not really part of the team; that there's more pressure to justify your place on the team?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, no. I feel like when you are on the team, you're on the team. You've earned your way on the team in another way, I guess. I mean, you've -- as long as you're on the team you've done something to get there. It's not by luck or just because he likes you. He's picking he feels like the 12 best Americans at the time. So any time you're on the team, it's a blessing no matter how you get on there.

Q. A follow-up quickly on Sean and Tiger. I think Tiger said Sean made a video of him today. Did Sean look at that and tell Tiger anything about it or do you know anything else specifically on subjects that Sean was talking to Tiger about?
HUNTER MAHAN: I did not see any sort of them talking about the video the. I don't think -- I never saw Sean play the video for him. I don't know what their situation is at this time. I assume -- I have a feeling they're going to talk about that in private and then figure that out in the next few weeks or months, who knows. But I don't know exactly what they're doing together.

Q. Maybe getting too far ahead in this deal, but suppose it does happen between Woods and Foley, how would that work for you and O'Hair and some of the other guys in the camp already? And I had a follow-up, too.
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it will work fine. I don't think there will be any real problem. I don't think -- it would be great to have Tiger in that kind of access with Foley and O'Hair and myself and Rose. I mean, I think it will only benefit all of us, really, if that happens.

Q. You and Dustin and Kim and O'Hair, you have all got three wins, all around the same age; is there sort of unspoken competition around among you to push each other more than maybe you would get out of it if you just pushed yourself individually?
HUNTER MAHAN: Maybe a little bit. Maybe a little bit. I don't want them to have more wins than I do. And I think that's a great thing. That's going to push all of us to be better and to do great things. I think we're all capable of doing a lot of great things in this game, and I think we already are. So it's pretty neat.
I think the next goal for a really young American is winning a major. And that probably goes for young Europeans, as well, like a Rory McIlroy or anybody. I mean, that's everyone's goal is to win a major because that really solidifies yourself of your greatness in this sport. Because you look at guys who won majors in the last ten years, there's not many of them. Tiger's won a bunch and Phil's won a bunch and Vijay and Furyk, and there's just -- it's hard to win. The same guys are up there every week, it seems like.

Q. When Paul Azinger made his picks last time around for the Ryder Cup, he had input from every player or all eight players that made it on points. How much input would you like to provide in Corey's pick in regards to the four captains picks?
HUNTER MAHAN: If Corey asks, me I'll give him an opinion of who I think is playing well and would be a great addition to the team. That's all I can say about it. I would like to tell him who is a good guy and who is going to be great in the clubhouse and on the golf course.

Q. So your criteria is going to be more -- at least if you had to have a criteria, you would feel like how the person interacts with other people, what you think of that player, how much is that versus how much of their game how do you balance it?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, like anything, they got to be playing well. I mean, that goes for everybody. If you're not, if you're -- if I wasn't playing well and didn't play well last week, then I wouldn't think I would make the team.
So like anything, every guy who is playing well right now probably feels like they have a chance, and I think they should. So luckily I think we have a large number of players that are playing well and that have a great chance to be on the team, not with -- maybe earn their way on the team this week and then maybe be captain's selections.
So I think Corey has a hard decision in front of him because there's a lot of great young players with some veterans playing well. So it's going to be a tough one for him.
KELLY ELBIN: Hunter Mahan, thank you very much.
HUNTER MAHAN: Thank you.

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