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September 24, 2011

Hunter Mahan


LAURA HILL: We'd like to welcome Hunter Mahan into the interview room, nice birdie on the last hole, looks like you'll be in the final group tomorrow. Talk a little bit about your position and just your expectations for the final round.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, excited to be in the hunt. You know, this is obviously a tough golf course, only 9-under is leading, so every shot counts. To birdie 18 was very, very nice. I've been playing pretty well all week. I feel like I've got a good feel for these greens, which is obviously very important, and every day I feel like I'm hitting it a little bit better. Everything feels good, I just have to do it for one more day.

Q. Did you see that there were low scores to be had out there?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, this is a great golf course because 9-under is leading, but there's 64s and 67s and 68s and 66s out there. So it's perfect because it's possible, but it's still difficult. I knew that going into today, so I felt like I could shoot a good round in the 60s or something like that. I made plenty of birdies and an eagle there, so that was nice.

Q. Has 18 played easier for you than you'd expected? And in general, what do you think of a par-3 closing hole?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, well, the wind is just not blowing that hard right now. The conditions are so good right now, it's just trying to get the right yardage and everything and trying to make a good swing. It's not the most difficult hole in the world, but it is long when that back tee is up there. You just want to get 3 and get out of there, really. It's pretty simple. You can pretty much hit the middle of the green every day and try to hit it there and you'll be fine.
For a finishing hole, I'm not sure. If you flipped the 9 and had 18 -- and 9 being 18, I think that would be pretty cool. Someone mentioned that to me. But it's fine. It's 18 holes. 17 is a good hole. 16 is a good hole. So you've got some good holes coming down the stretch there, and it was pretty exciting last year.

Q. Given the fact that the top two or three guys are not exactly in contention, that opens up a lot of possibilities for tomorrow. While we're talking about cash instead of prestige, can you draw any comparisons to the pressure you might feel on the back nine of a big tournament, thinking about what's at stake?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's -- yeah, I remember playing -- the biggest check I had was for one and a half at New Zealand, and that was just like four of us, a couple hundred people out there watching, maybe a thousand or so people watching. When I won that, it was kind of surreal because it was a ton of money for 36 holes, and you're nervous, but it's an odd feeling.
But to be here in the TOUR Championship and to have that opportunity is pretty amazing. I didn't think I'd even have an opportunity even if I won this week, the way guys like playing like Webb. You could almost jot down top 5 for him the way he's been playing. It's pretty crazy. It would be pretty hard to think -- I don't know if I could think about that because I wouldn't know if I would have a chance just because there's so many other guys that could play well and bump me out without even me doing anything.
I'm probably not going to look too much at the leaderboard tomorrow. I'm not sure -- I just don't know how I would feel. Obviously I would be pretty nervous if I knew on 18 or 17 that I had an opportunity to do that. But I don't think I could -- maybe the Ryder Cup last year might have the same kind of feelings, but I don't know if I could compare that to anything.

Q. Ryder Cup for no money, this tournament for $11 million or whatever it would be, kind of weird comparison. Did you even bother looking at your scenario this week? What are you, 25th in points or something like that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I was 21. You didn't look that close, did you?

Q. I'm just easily confused.
HUNTER MAHAN: I'm Hunter, by the way.

Q. I can tell by the "H" on your shirt.
HUNTER MAHAN: Was there a question?

Q. Yeah, there was. Among the insults I asked did you even look at your scenario?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, I didn't think -- I didn't know if there was a scenario, honestly. The way guys were playing, Luke Donald, Webb, just so many guys up there that were playing really, really well, I didn't even think about them not playing well. So I just thought about trying to win the TOUR Championship. So that's the only thing I was concerned about. I'm not that good at math to actually figure out what everyone else would have to do.

Q. When did you realize today that you were No. 1 in points projection? During the round? After the round?
HUNTER MAHAN: Jimmy Roberts told me. I had no idea. I honestly didn't even think that was a possibility.

Q. And your reaction when you found out that you were No. 1?
HUNTER MAHAN: Shocked. But like I say, it's -- to be No. 1, it's kind of -- it's weird. Like I said, I could still win -- I could play flawless golf tomorrow, win by five and finish fifth in FedExCup points. I could finish tenth in FedExCup points. I'm 15 and I was outside the top 10 on FedExCup points. I mean, I might tee off tomorrow and be 10th. I mean, I don't know where I'll be. It's one of those things where it's like you can't even worry about it just because you can't do the math that fast. Someone makes a birdie -- Webb Simpson might make a birdie on 18 and it might be over, we don't know. Like I said, I don't have any idea. I kind of checked a couple times today, and I didn't even see myself in the top 10.

Q. Could you just take us through the eagle on 9, and did that kind of jump start the round?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. You know, birdied 8, hit it to a couple inches there, so that was a good kind of momentum going into the par-5. Hit a good drive in the fairway, then we had 260-ish or so to the hole, I think. But obviously it plays downhill and short, so we hit a hybrid, 18 degrees, and hit a good shot up the green, kind of just rolled right up to the bunker and I couldn't have hit a better shot really, and it was 25 feet or so. It moved about a ball or so right and kind of hung in there. The grain was kind of right in a little trough there, and hit a good putt and it went in. I hit some good shots, but I got lucky, too, on the second shot to end up where it did.

Q. With all the scenarios going, does it make it any easier in your mind in that the only way you could win the FedExCup is to win the tournament; second doesn't do you any good?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I mean, I'm going to -- it's pretty simple for me to try to win this tournament no matter if I can win the FedExCup or not doesn't matter. I'm trying to win the TOUR Championship. It's kind of sad for the TOUR Championship in a way because it kind of gets lost, and this is really one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. It's 30 of the best players in the world playing this week, and the only thing people are concerned about is the FedExCup, who's leading that.
Who's leading the tournament, it's going to be kind of weird tomorrow since the top 5 guys aren't really in contention except for Luke. Hopefully that doesn't take away from the tournament no matter who wins. But you know, like I said, I want to try to win the TOUR Championship tomorrow. I'm in a good spot. I feel good about my game, and that's all I can do and that's all I can really try to do.

Q. Did you get to see Foley last week at all?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I saw Foley last week. He came this week for like two days, and that was good. It was time well spent. Game wasn't far off, you know, it was just -- it was a very, very minor thing, but the golf swing is kind of a funny thing. It takes a little time to figure out. For each player, trying to figure out the right key and the movement is big for me.

Q. What was it?
HUNTER MAHAN: Trying to square up the club face at impact. I have a little different release now since seeing Sean. I'm kind of getting more to my left side so I have to release the club differently than I did before, so I just have to remember that. It sounds kind of simple, but I've got to square up the club.

Q. FedExCup doesn't start until when?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't know, man. Until the first guy tees off -- because if Webb shoots 65 tomorrow, it might be over or if he shoots 66 it might be over. It starts -- I mean, it starts with the first guy.

Q. January?
HUNTER MAHAN: It starts in January, yeah, ends in whatever month this is.
LAURA HILL: Hunter, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.

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