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February 1, 2011

Hunter Mahan


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the defending champion of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Hunter Mahan.
Thanks for joining us. That was your second career PGA TOUR win. You went on last year with your World Golf Championships victory, and you're coming off a top 10 finish last week, so you're obviously well into 2011. You've got to be feeling good as you're back to defend your title.
HUNTER MAHAN: For sure. It's exciting to be back. It was nice to get off to a decent start last week and kind of get this West Coast swing going.
Obviously I have good memories from last year, so I'm looking forward to playing this week, hopefully have some success like I did last year.
DOUG MILNE: Speaking of success, maybe if you can just assess the state of your game? What's going right? What are you putting a little more emphasis on working on?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, it was strange for me last week. I actually didn't hit it very good. I was kind of all over the place, and, you know, my short game of putting actually was pretty strong, so that's what kept me in it. So I'm trying to -- hopefully I can hit the ball a little bit better this week.
This course is always in perfect shape. I haven't seen the rough yet, but I assume the rough is going to be somewhat thick, so you want to stay out of there.
The greens are always perfect, so you can make putts from anywhere. If I can just put the ball in play and give myself a lot of good looks, I think I have a good chance to play well.
DOUG MILNE: With that, we will open it up for a few questions.

Q. Is there any different mindset as a defending champion than, you know, when you came in last year?
HUNTER MAHAN: No. You know, kind of last year is last year, and I don't get any help for this year.
I just go out and keep on working this week, today and tomorrow, and get prepared as best I can, tee it up Thursday.
You know, I felt comfortable on this golf course. Like I said, it's the best thing I have going for me. I have to just trust that and be patient out on the golf course and just hopefully make some early momentum.

Q. How does it feel to be married? And how is being married and going on your honeymoon and everything, just coming back last week to play, is that tough to get back into the groove?
HUNTER MAHAN: Um, I don't know if it's tough, but I was -- I was happy to be out on the road and kind of getting in some normal routine. It's been crazy for the two months actually leading up to the wedding. We've been traveling a ton, haven't been home much, haven't had a whole lot of time to kind of get my game in great order maybe like I would like to.
But, you know, as soon as we got through the wedding and everything, it seemed like we were both kind of taking a deep breath and were able to kind of relax a little bit and just -- I was able to just to kind of focus on golf a little bit. So I was really looking forward to playing weeks in a row to get some sort of rhythm and get some practice time in and kind of feel out my game and see where it is and see where I kind of need to work on a little bit.
That's why I was -- that's why I was very happy with how I did last week, because things I have been trying to improve on actually showed up and were pretty strong when they needed to be.
So it's nice to be in a groove. It's nice to kind of -- it was a great time. We had a great time planning the wedding and getting it over with, but it's kind of nice to get back into the groove on tour and playing week after week.

Q. Where did you guys go, and how long was the golf club out of your hand for?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, it was strange. I played like every month last year. The last like three months I played, you know, China and with the Ryder Cup in Vegas and played Tiger's event. The club wasn't out of my hands for a length of time. I just wasn't practicing for days and days in a row.
So after Tiger's event, didn't do much till I think kind of January, first part of January. Then we had the wedding and the honeymoon, and I picked it up a few days before San Diego, so it was never that far off, but I never had a whole lot of consistency to my practice.

Q. Did you start hitting the ball better as the week went on? And how are you hitting it if you've had a chance to hit it out here yet?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, I was hitting it worse as the days went on, which was surprising, which is pretty rare for me. I'm a pretty good ball striker.
But it was just who knows what? It could have been timing or tempo or whatever. I don't know. I know my technique isn't far off or anything. Just couldn't hit a fairway, couldn't get any sort of momentum like having birdie putt after birdie putt.
It was birdie putt and scrambling and maybe a birdie putt and scrambling for a couple of holes. It was not maybe my kind of normal tournament. But, you know, I was putting pressure on the other parts of my game, and I think, for the most part, they actually exceeded my expectations, so that was actually pretty good. I was in the tournament for most of Sunday, which was actually kind of nice.
You know, technique is not far off. Just need some reps.

Q. It's nothing like Dallas or the rest of the country, but chilly weather right now, is it a little bit of a shock to your system?
HUNTER MAHAN: Um, it's surprising for me here. You know, there's maybe usually cold mornings out here, but then it warms up pretty nice. I know it's going to be kind of chilly for the next few days, but I've been in Dallas and went to Aspen for our honeymoon, so we've been in cold weather for a bit now, so it's not a big shock.

Q. Where would you say you are right now compared to a normal year? Would you be ahead, behind, same place?
HUNTER MAHAN: Maybe a little ahead, I guess, because I've never been a quick starter. You know, I won here last year, but this was, I think, my fifth tournament in a row, so it was actually the fifth tournament of my year.
So actually, to already be in contention last group on Sunday and to finish 6th already is kind of ahead of the game, and my game doesn't feel far off. I don't feel like I need to search for a couple weeks for my technique and everything. So actually, it's not far off.
I just need reps and I just need to keep going and keep swinging and get some rounds underneath me.

Q. Is that surprising, considering the way...
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, a little bit. I was concerned about getting it, having my swing kind of get away from me a little bit, but it actually stayed pretty close. And, you know, Sean and I worked last week for a good amount of time, and it was -- it was pretty good Thursday and Friday and just kind of was a little shaky on the weekend, but it's not far off.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Sean's brought to your game?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, he's brought a lot of knowledge I think about the golf swing. He's very -- what I like about it, it's not necessarily a theory. I mean, it's pretty well documented like biomechanically what is right and kind of what is wrong, and he's seen it with other players and he's seen the evidence with himself for the hours and hours he's taught about what is right and what is wrong and what works and what doesn't work, so I think he gives a player confidence in what they're doing, that it is correct in that they don't need to search for it. There's nothing worse than searching for your golf swing.

Q. So he's actually showing you what you need to accomplish?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. You're just learning with him. It's the stuff he tells you. If he's not on the road or on the golf course, at least you have an idea what to do and how to fix it if it does go a little haywire.
But, you know, I think he's a great teacher and he's a great guy and he's a great friend, so it makes it easy to work with him.

Q. Did that help you get through the weekend when it was getting a little shaky?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. I mean, it was shaky but it wasn't gone or anything, you know. I actually hit it okay down the stretch and played some decent golf swings, but, you know, it wasn't like I was, you know, hitting it, you know, into other fairways or anything like that. It just wasn't my normal shot pattern, I guess, which is weird.
Yeah, the more you know, the more you can control the bad stuff and kind of get it back if it is going a little haywire, which is good, so you can kind of save yourself some, you know, agony and mental frustration out there.

Q. When you think of Phoenix, the win in Phoenix, what's the one thing that comes to mind just right away?
HUNTER MAHAN: Um, probably just the weekend I had and kind of how it was kind of two parts of a week. Thursday and Friday were kind of a struggle, and I thought it was going to be another missed cut. And then had a good finishing nine on Friday and then it just propelled me to the weekend.
It was kind of a tale of two days for me, how it was kind of ugly for a couple of days, and then got it around, got some momentum on my side and just played great on the weekend.

Q. I wanted to ask you, like we were watching the telecasts Sunday and you had your white glasses on instead of your black ones like you do today. One of our friend's wife went through the room, and she says, That looks more like a rock star than a golfer. Do you like that image, the white sunglasses and stuff, kind of the rock star-like image?
HUNTER MAHAN: Um, well, it depends how far you go with the rock star image, I guess. I think today I think we're all trying to be different and we're all trying to be our own person out there and we're trying to let our personality shine.
With so many great golfers, I think we're all kind of trying to find our own identity out there, what people can relate to. I think with Rickie and Bubba and Dustin, we're our all own men and we're all very easily identifiable out there, which is good. We all don't work khakis and a blue shirt when we go out and play.
Golf has really grown into a fun sport, and it is a sport and it is athletic. I think we're all trying to be our own guy out there and trying to relate to the people watching us out there. And, you know, if a rock star image or whatever is having fun, I'm trying to -- you know, I love playing golf. I enjoy the heck out of it, so I hope people see that.
You know, I want to be different. I don't want to be cookie cutter. I want to be -- I want to look different and let people know I'm having fun out there, and I think it's okay to be a little different.

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