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March 31, 2012

Hunter Mahan


JOSH BUSH:  We'd likes to welcome Hunter Mahan into the interview room here at the Shell Houston Open.  7-under par 65, 15-under through three rounds.  Hunter, you had your first bogey of the week today, just kept it going.  Great playing.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Yeah.  Been playing real solid all week.  One bogey so far.  That's always good.  This course is -- conditions are great, scoring is good.  It's always in perfect shape.  So -- the rough is pretty short, so you can kind of -- if you avoid the water and hit it on the opposite side of the fairway or rough, you're going to have a shot at the green, and play smart like that, you can have a lot of looks, and been rolling it well this week and especially today.
JOHN BUSH:  Let's go into questions.

Q.  Hunter, you played so well this year, starting out already winning, having some great finishes.  Were you tempted to just go to Augusta and work on your game for the first Major, or did you want some rounds kind of live like this?
HUNTER MAHAN:  It was tempting, I guess, but not really.  This is a great tournament, has a good history.  A great golf course.  It's fun to play.  They do a great job of kind of getting it somewhat ready Augusta-like.  The greens are always great speed.
So I thought about it for about a second, but, you know, this is a place I played well at, and so I wanted to play well here and wanted to contend and try to win here.  I really didn't want to pass this tournament up.  I feel -- Augusta will take care of itself.  I kind of really didn't like the idea of spending so much time there before the tournament, and the hardest part of that tournament is Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, because you're just kind of sitting around and kind of seeing the course.  You can't wait to get started, really.

Q.  Have you changed your philosophy about -- I know you changed philosophy about how to prepare for Majors?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No.  I mean, I think you just try to learn the golf course as best you can beforehand.  Hope you hit good shots.

Q.  Hunter, now that you are in contention, how important is it for your confidence that you get the job done tomorrow heading into the first Major?
HUNTER MAHAN:  It's not that important.  I know my game is good.  Feel good about what I'm doing right now.  I have to go out there and trust it, whether I win tomorrow or don't play well, it's not going to knock me off too much.  Play too much golf for one round to mean more than any other round.

Q.  You seem like a guy who really knows how to get on a roll and ride out a roll longer than most.  Any explanation for why you think you can hang on to those runs longer than most guys do?  Can you kind of describe what it's like when you're in that zone.
HUNTER MAHAN:  I think you just -- you're just so in the moment.  You know, you're not worried about the score.  I didn't know how many under I was until 15 or 16 because I was just in the round.  I was just playing golf.  I was just trying to hit the next shot as good as I could and trying to stay in the moment as best I can, you know.
It's difficult out there because our mind always wants to shoot forward and go to 18 and see what kind of round you can get in and look at the leaderboard and try to figure all these numbers in your head.  But the more I can stay in the moment, just try hit the next shot good, it's one of those things where you just realize, oh, my gosh I'm 6, 7-under, I didn't even think about it.  I'm just trying to hit the next shot good.
Everybody always talks about scoring position and stuff like that, it's easy to kind start thinking ahead of yourself and start thinking about Sunday.  But you just got to try to hit one good shot at a time and let it add up from there.

Q.  You tend to not look at leaderboards for every tournament or --
HUNTER MAHAN:  No.  You always look at them.  They're hard to miss.  Sometimes you turn over and see it accidently even if you're not trying to see it.  But, you know, on Saturday it really doesn't matter.  You're trying to play as good as you can.  Maybe on Sunday you won't look at them for the front-9 because, you know, who knows what's going to happen until the last few holes.  Maybe you might start changing your strategy if you have a few shot lead or something like that, but from there you're just playing golf and trying to make as many birdies as you can, and this week you're going to have to make a bunch of them.

Q.  You mixed in hitting some balls really close with making -- I think you made four putts outside 20 feet today.  I'm wondering, do you think there was a sequence in particular that in your mind really got you going or let you know you were kind of -- things were flowing?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I had a good -- I hit a really good bunker shot on 4, par 5.  It wasn't a greenside bunker, but one in front of that one.  Hit it to like 2 inches.  That was a nice, easy birdie.  Then I made, I don't even know, 20-plus footer for par on the next hole and another 20-footer after that and played the next hole, 7 and made a birdie.  That was a nice stretch there.  It easily could have maybe gone through there even instead of a couple under like I did.
There's always those moments during rounds, even when you're playing your best, whether it's just kind of a hiccup, this is a little bit of focus, who knows what it is.  When you get through those little rough patches, it always feels good that you kind of got through it and kind of refocused yourself a little bit.

Q.  This has been a course where you've either finished Top 8 or you've missed the cut.  Has it been your game on the missed cuts?  Because obviously three Top 8's pretty strong.
HUNTER MAHAN:  I don't remember the missed cuts.  I couldn't tell you what went wrong or what the problem was.  I don't know.  I may have put too much pressure on myself to play well this week to get momentum going into next week, maybe.
I'm thinking 2010 I kind of remember kind of forcing the issue a little bit.  I don't think I was as sharp as I wanted to be, and, you know, you start thinking Augusta, "Boy, I can't play like this for next week."  You start putting too much pressure on yourself and start thinking ahead and all kinds of problems.
I don't know.  I like playing here.  It's a fun golf course.  It suits my game pretty well, I think, because I can hit a lot of greens and give myself a lot of looks.  For some reason, I think I seem to read the greens pretty well.  It's easy to kind look ahead a little bit, whether you should.

Q.  When you're on a roll like this, will you try switching out clubs, wedges, stuff like that?  Or do you -- it's been three weeks, something, when you're playing like this, do you maybe keep more clubs in the bag than you would ordinarily?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No.  I don't think it's the clubs.  I think it's me.  So I really don't care what I use or anything like that.  I don't want to get, you know -- I think I'm on a roll or playing well because I'm doing the right things from a swing perspective, mental perspective, from a lot of different areas.
Clubs aren't going to matter too much at the end of the day.  You know, when you play Augusta greens, they're going to be hard.  I want the best I can, especially for wedges.  You're going to want spin control out there.  You want to have your distance really dialed in, because those pins are on the slopes and everything.  It's difficult.  So I won't hesitate to change and make sure all my clubs are where they need to be.

Q.  Is this the most confident you've ever been in your game?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Maybe.  I feel like it's -- I felt like match play was the most complete my game has ever been.  It hasn't been as complete this week, but it's not far away.  I feel good about how -- what I'm doing and how I'm playing.  I feel like I can hit almost -- I can get up and down if I miss a shot or I just feel pretty comfortable on the golf course where nothing is going to bother me too much.  That's important.
JOHN BUSH:  All right.  Hunter, we appreciate your time.  Play well tomorrow.

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