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January 2, 2013

Hunter Mahan


JOHN BUSH:¬† Thanks for coming by and spending a few minutes with us here at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.¬† You were a two‑time winner on TOUR last year.¬† Welcome back to Kapalua.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Thank you very much.
JOHN BUSH:  Talk about making your third start at this tournament, what it means to be here and how this golf course suits your game.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Well, it's always great to be here.  Obviously you won on the PGA TOUR the year before.  It's a great start and every player enjoys coming here and wants to start here.
It's exciting but it's also crazy to think; I feel like the year never really ended last year.  Just kind of keeps on going.  It's fun to be here.  I think everyone is happy to be here.

Q.  How much time did you take off, and were you able to just leave the clubs alone for a little while and what did you do for fun?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I played in Turkey and we travelled a little bit.  We went to Italy for a week and went to Israel, and then played Tiger's event and played in Thailand.  Had a couple weeks off and then came here.
So you know, I didn't drop the clubs off too long, which I think kind of always keep swinging and always keep thinking about the game.  But a lot of traveling, which is fun, which is good.  I think when it's just you and your wife, it's easy to travel, because if you start having family, that time gets a lot more difficult.
So I think we want to take advantage of it as best we can right now.

Q.  How close were you to all the violence that took place in Israel?  Was your visit before or after?  Hopefully not during.
HUNTER MAHAN:  I guess it depends when you heard about it.  I wouldn't say we were in the middle of it but we were pretty close.  When we were there, there were missiles at Tel Aviv and we were in Tel Aviv.  Once we heard that and once my wife heard that, she said, we're out of here.  There's a group of us there, so some got out and some had to stay, because weren't supposed to leave until Monday and got out of there on Friday I think.
It was surreal and it was hard to fathom that there were actually missiles firing at you.¬† Crazy thing is, for them, it's just a way of life, because I played‑‑ they had a little golf clinic there and played under‑‑ they have got one golf course in Israel and we got to play it.¬† I played with one of the better Israeli golfers there and kind of told him‑‑ we asked him about what was going on and he said, "That's just a day in the life of an Israeli."
It's pretty surreal, pretty eye‑opening.¬† It was a great trip.¬† Unfortunately it was cut short.¬† But it was really‑‑ it was a lot of things, but it was really educational and a lot of fun at the same time.

Q.  Did you beat him?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† I did, yeah.¬† He was a good player.¬† It's hard to expect‑‑ you have kind of low expectations when you go to a country that has one golf course and you don't really have any idea, but he was really talented and skilled.¬† He comes over to Arizona and plays a little bit.
But he was a good player.  Yeah, he has high dreams, which is great, and he's working hard.  But you know, you don't get to see too many golf courses when there's only one.
But it's cool.  It's cool to see a place like that that still has golf, and the kid is working hard to better himself and help his family out and everything.

Q.¬† Curious how you assess your 2002 season.¬† You won twice, did you ‑‑
HUNTER MAHAN:  2012.  I didn't play 2002.

Q.  You won twice, but does the end of the season overshadow the victories that came so early?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Maybe I guess.  I didn't play as well as I wanted to near the end.
But I think that's golf, it's hard to play well exactly when you want to all the time.  And if I played well, if I have two wins at the end of the year, it would look differently probably, felt differently, and I'm not going to be picky about getting wins, especially at the Match Play and in Houston, I think there's two good fields and a lot of good players.
You're always disappointed when you don't play well but I can't be too disappointed.  To win multiple times on the PGA TOUR is not an easy feat anymore, the competition is so deep.  But it was a learning experience.  I learned a lot from that.  Tried some things last year to better myself and some things worked and some things didn't.
That's a part of growing, and that's a part of experimenting and trying to become better.  Some things work out in your favor and some things don't, so you learn what's good for you and what's bad for you.

Q.  Are you still using the putter you had at the Match Play?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No.  I stopped using that putter.  I went to like a shorter putter for Houston and then won in Houston.
So it's kind of funny, I switched putters like twice last year and switched putters before Match Play and won and then switched putters before Houston and won.

Q.  You went to the short one right before Houston?

Q.  What does that tell you?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I don't know.  I guess it's not the putter.  I guess that's what tells you.

Q.  Switch putters every week.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Believe me, that crossed my mind.

Q.  Do you set goals for yourself at the beginning of each year, specific goals?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I guess you do.  There's certain things that I set goals on.  Not so much wins or losses or anything like that, trying to win this tournament or put myself in this category.  That's too hard I think.  That's too broad.  I think it needs to be more specific and so I've got some things I want to improve on.
But they are pretty specific and they are not‑‑ it's not about winning or putting myself up in this category, because if I do these things well, that will put me up there, but there's things I need to improve on and get better at.

Q.  Care to share them?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† I need to become a more consistent putter.¬† I think last year I was kind of ‑‑ it was good at times and then it wasn't so good.¬† And I think I want to learn more about putting and about why good putters are good putters and maybe why some good putters are not good putters and maybe why some guys are and improve my wedge play, play better on par 5s.
You know, I think all of the great players seem to just tear up par 5s.¬† They make a lot of birdies there and it takes a lot of pressure off other parts of your game when you can kind of capitalize on the easier holes.¬† If I can do a better job of that, and you know, when you get to playing this TOUR, it's razor‑thin the differences between I think a Top‑5 player and a Top‑25 player.

Q.  So you have all this extracurricular stuff around here, the ziplining and whale watching and whatnot, but then you have the cautionary tale of Geoff Ogilvy and Lucas Glover and all that.  So I'm wondering how much of that stuff you're going to do this week; is that usually on your agenda?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Yeah, you know, I don't particularly like the water that much.  I get seasick pretty easily, so I won't be out in the water too much.  Had some fun the other day trying to boogie board on the waves and stuff.
You know, the sea is a powerful thing and you've got to show respect because it will let you know who is the master.  I got pounded a little bit out there.  It was fun.  It's fun to do things that you don't normally do, and this is great place for that.
There's, gosh, like I said, there's a hundred different things you can do here.¬† At the same time, I'm trying to get‑‑ this is great weather and trying to work on my game a little bit and make sure I get enough time for that.
Yeah, I'm trying to do‑‑ have some fun and do some different things.¬† You do have to be somewhat careful in how you‑‑ what kind of situations you put yourself.¬† You never know what could happen.¬† I mean, Geoff was so‑‑ I mean, so silly, you know, cutting your finger and can't pick up a club for a while.¬† Lucas, I mean, you know, accidents can happen anywhere.¬† I would hate to not do something because I'm afraid of getting hurt, but at the same time, you've got to be smart.

Q.  What are you missing on the West Coast?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Sony and Palm Springs, Hope.

Q.  Not to take your words out of context, although we are happy to do it, when you say that every player wants to start here, I know what you mean, but you still have a ton of guys who don't start here?

Q.¬† What are your thoughts on that, and how do you see this tournament fitting into the new wrap‑around schedule?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† I think, you know, I think this is‑‑ with golf now, it's year‑long.¬† The season doesn't end in September.¬† I mean, it doesn't really ever end.¬† It just keeps kind of looping over and over and over again.¬† And everyone has different schedules and everyone has a different kind of schedule, a different format they play in.
And some guys take‑‑ I know a lot of the European guys, I've talked to them kind of about what they do and they take January off, they take half of December and January off, because they have to play all the way up until November, basically, on their tour.¬† You can definitely understand the European guys not coming here because this is a long way to go for probably one tournament for them, so it probably doesn't make sense.¬†
And I think for‑‑ I mean, starting the first week in January, you don't get a whole lot of time off.¬† Boy, if you have kids, and you know, you're playing a lot in the off‑season and everything, especially when they are in school and whatnot, everybody has different priorities in life and what they do.¬† I only play this week or I don't play Sony‑‑ I usually want to weeks off because I play five on the West Coast.¬† Some guys are playing overseas and start the season over there.¬† How everyone plays, it's their own deal.
The wrap‑around schedule, I just don't know‑‑ when does the season actually end?¬† Is it December?

Q.  Never.  You just said it.
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† For the PGA TOUR schedule‑‑

Q.¬† It ends with THE TOUR Championship and that‑‑
HUNTER MAHAN:  And then it goes to what?

Q.  It goes to the week before Thanksgiving.
HUNTER MAHAN:  To a week before Thanksgiving?  I mean, I don't think that would have a big effect on this tournament, because I still think this is a tournament guys want to play and if they get into this, they are probably going to play Sony or maybe take a couple weeks off and start the West Coast.
For the wrap‑around, I don't think it will be a big deal.¬† I just think golf is so global now.¬† After THE TOUR Championship, there's a lot of opportunities for guys to go play all over the world.¬† Having done that, it's really exciting to play all over the world and see all kind of different places and experience different things.
There's a lot of great tournaments, a lot of great courses out there and a lot of good fields.  It's hard to ignore that stuff and get ready for this specific tournament.

Q.  What's the coolest place you've gone to play a tournament?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† The coolest place I've gone?¬† Boy, gosh, I think‑‑ well, to play a tournament, I mean, to play golf in Israel is pretty cool.¬† I mean, Turkey is really interesting.¬† Turkey, I never thought I would play a tournament in Turkey.
It's cool to see places where golf is so new.  They are starting to get golf tournaments in Turkey and we got to meet a lot of the kids and stuff.  It's not really a place that you think of; I'm going to go play golf in Turkey this year.
It's neat, they are working hard there and trying to get the programs up and get the kids involved.  The course was actually pretty fun to play and I think that's going to be a staple on The European Tour for a while now.  You know, that's a place I just never thought I would actually travel to, so it was cool to see it.

Q.¬† With the wrap‑around schedule, when will you rest?¬† Will two weeks here, two weeks there be enough to stave off burnout?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No, not through the whole year.  Definitely not.  You know, it's not going to be easy.  I think it's going to take time for guys to figure out what's the best way for them to play a schedule and figure out when time off is necessary and important.
You know, I think what Stricker is doing, playing only ten tournaments a year, it really shows that he's not going to let any sort of outside influence affect how he's going to handle his life and his family, and he's going to do the things that are important to him.
You know, it's going to take a few years to figure out what's the best way for you to play and how much you're going to play and what the amount of rest is, because I remember the last few years, I played quite a bit in the off‑season, went to China for a few weeks and went to Australia and played.¬† At some point, it catches up to you.¬† It's kind of like McIlroy said, 'I've got to take time off,' because you just don't know when you're going to crash and it's usually too late and you'll just be so exhausted, you'll be burned out and you don't even know why.
Yeah, there's a fine line of staying sharp and then kind of going over the edge.  It's going to take time for us to figure that out and figure out how we're going to play at a high level, consistently, every time we go tee it up, because that's the whole point is to be at a high level every time you peg it.
This is brand new to everybody, so it's going to take some time to see what the best scenario is for everybody.

Q.¬† Just a grow‑the‑game‑for‑kids question.¬† You came up through junior golf.¬† Running into a kid on the street, just low key, what are the top three things you tell that child to get him interested in the game?
HUNTER MAHAN:  To get them interested in the game or get like better at the game?

Q.  Get them out playing golf.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Gosh, I don't know.  I would say it's a sport, whenever you hit that good shot, it's one of those things where it's like, there's no better feeling to see the ball go up in the air and go right at your target.
It's a great feeling to have.  It's a game that you just never stop improving on.  That's what's so cool about it.  It's like when you throw up a basket, you make it, and that's it.  It's as good as it gets.
Golf, man, just every day is a new day and every day you're going to experience something new about yourself and about the game, and you know, this game is pretty‑‑ it's pretty honest.
You can't fool your way around it.¬† You've got to work hard and you've got to be‑‑ gosh, you've got to be patient and you've got to be, you know, you've got to enjoy it, because you're going to fail more than you're going to succeed in this game.
But it's so much fun to play and it's done a lot for me.  I've met a lot of people and seen a lot of things I never would have seen without golf.  I think it's a gateway to a lot of great things if you allow it.

Q.  Just to follow up, 'Golf Boys', three of the four are here; any impromptu performances this week?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No.  We are certainly not a band.  We are not entertainers.  We are golfers.  That's all we are.

Q.¬† Are you boys‑‑
HUNTER MAHAN:  I'm a man.  When we do, that we're boys.  But when we step on the golf course, we're men (laughter).  Well, I am.  I know Bubba is.  I think Rickie's still a boy.  He's 15 years old; he doesn't even shave yet.

Q.¬† Speaking of which, you had a 17‑year‑old get through Qualifying School, you're going to have a 14‑year‑old at the Masters.¬† Is that the trend, do you think, or are they anomalies?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† No, I don't think it's a trend.¬† I think it's just there's always a young‑‑ there's always someone else coming up who is young who is really good.
I remember meeting Jason Day in Australia years ago when he was 15 or 16 and he was coming up and he was going to be this great young player.  He's turned out to be great player.
But that's just the game.¬† Everyone kind of hits their stride in different places, you know, and I don't think it's going to be a trend of, you know‑‑ it takes awhile to actually get strong enough to play on TOUR and do this all the time.¬† I don't think it's going to be‑‑ we're not going to be 17‑year‑olds make TOUR School every single year from now on, I don't think.

Q.  If I can follow on that, is there still room in the game for an Ian Poulter who doesn't really get going until his 20s?
HUNTER MAHAN:¬† I think so.¬† I mean, those are‑‑ guys like Poulter are what make the game great.¬† Guys like Stricker, who started out great and then he disappeared in his 30s and he's been an unbelievable player in his 40s.¬† I know Azinger didn't start playing until college and stuff.
That's why this game is so great.  There's not a right formula to get a kid in a club when he's two years old.  I think when Tiger came out and all that stuff, he was 1 and he was on TV shows and he was so great, you could just kind of see how good he was.  It was kind of freaky.  But that's not everyone's formula.  That shouldn't be, this is how you do it.  You can do it many different ways, and guys are proving that through 40, 50 years of playing golf.
It's up to the person how much they want it.¬† And when you see Ian, you can see how much he wants it, and that's why he's so good is that he just‑‑ he wanted it more than anyone else.¬† I'm sure he's not the most talented guy out here but he's a guy who has probably the strongest mental makeup of anyone.¬† That's what's so cool about this game.¬† It's not all about how physically gifted you are. ¬†It's about playing the game and getting it in the hole, and he's pretty special at it.
JOHN BUSH:  Hunter, thanks for coming by.  Good luck this season.

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