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March 24, 2011

Hunter Mahan


JOHN BUSH: We have Hunter Mahan after a 3-under par 69. Hunter. Eagle on No. 16 was the highlight of a good start to the tournament.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, they moved back 16, the par 5, and I hit a good 4-iron in there to kind of just short of the ridge there, and yeah, hit a good putt. It was a nice little bonus there for two good shots and a good putt for eagle.
JOHN BUSH: Overall, your round, it looks like solid ball-striking.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it was good ball-striking. Hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. Conditions like this, you want to be a little safer and just hit the ball in the middle of the green and give yourself a lot of looks.
Only negative was two 3-putts. So I've got to get a little better feel for the greens but other than that, it was nice.
JOHN BUSH: Where were those 3-putts?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't know. Can you tell? 3 and 15.

Q. The course in general, does it suit your eye?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I like the way this course looks. It's pretty fair, but you can take it low, given the right conditions, and the greens are usually in great shape and they are good this week. They are pretty firm. Looks like maybe they watered them to kind of keep them from getting too firm too early, because we are going to have great weather.
But the course is going to get tough, and I love it when courses get difficult. I feel like that kind of suits my game.

Q. When did the wind start really picking up over the course of your round?
HUNTER MAHAN: It seemed pretty early. Maybe started on the back, maybe around 13 or something, the par 3. I hit a nice 3-iron and it -- gosh, only went about 205 or something. It was picking up at that point. As soon as we made the turn it was humming pretty good.

Q. Also, you're coming off a pretty good finish at Doral a couple of weeks ago. So how has your game been and what's been working in the last couple of weeks?
HUNTER MAHAN: It's been good. Ball-striking has been nice. I was a little shaky early in the year but finally getting my groove and getting comfortable with the golf swing. It's been nice.
Been hitting a lot of good shots and my game is fairways and greens. If I can do that and give myself a lot of good looks, and I can figure out these greens and hopefully -- I think this course is going to change a lot.
So we are going to have to be really sharp mentally out there, because playing tomorrow afternoon, it could be a lot different than this morning.

Q. John said a few weeks ago at Doral that he was really liking your temperament and that you were really calm and you weren't getting too high or too low, whatever, and it was something that you had been working on and a good place in your life and game right now. Just wondering if you can elaborate on that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I felt like if I wanted to be a Top-5 player in the world, someone who can go out there and win majors, I have to add a better, more consistent attitude week-in and week-out. I couldn't be so judgemental on one shot or one hole.
We play so much golf, you don't realize how beat down you can get if you're so tough on yourself. I need to go out there and relax and just kind of let my game come out and let it just -- really just let it flow. Try to get some sort of rhythm out there and trust myself; enjoy, enjoy playing golf and enjoy swinging well. Don't take it for granted and be excited when I hit good shots and not be so matter of fact. Because I'm quick to be critical of myself, but you know, I've got to learn to pump myself up a little bit and get excited when I'm swinging well.

Q. Something that you're working on by yourself?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, well, I've got Neal Smith, my sports psychologist, and it's something we talk about all the time. We talk about it, but it's something I just have to do. There's only -- coaches can only take you so far. The player has to kind of take over and take responsibility and just start doing it. I mean, there's a certain point of coaching and then the player has got to take over and accept the teaching and just do it.

Q. Kind of a take-off of that question, the experience of what you went through last year, the aftermath of it, did it help you in that regard, in terms of the mental stuff?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, when you look at it, it was a moment. It was just something -- of all of the things I've done, it's pretty small in a way. It was one of those really great moments, I can always think back and visualize where I was and all of the people surrounding. It was really an incredible arena for golf. I've been lucky enough to play in all of the majors and seen some pretty cool things, and I've never seen anything like that. I just never have. And I would love to be in that situation again.
It's something that you realize, you don't want to take stuff like that for granted, and enjoy them. It's easy to get critical about stuff, but if something like that happens, you realize you just have to learn from it and it's one shot, and it doesn't make or break who I am or how I'm going to feel about myself. If it does, I'm not going to be the player I want to be.

Q. There was so much support after that.
HUNTER MAHAN: The people I think really realized how much we care about it. It's not just an event we show up to and la-dee-da, and whatever happens, happens. Every player put a lot into that event. It's the most fun, but it can be the most stressful week of the year.
So I think people just appreciated that I'm not -- I wasn't going through the motions but I wasn't happy to lose. It sucks to lose, and it didn't feel good, at all. It felt a whole lot better in Valhalla. So that's what I'm working towards, getting better and hopefully getting to Chicago and bring back the Cup.
JOHN BUSH: Hunter, thank you, sir.

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