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February 23, 2013

Hunter Mahan


DOUG MILNE:  Hunter Mahan, defending champion of the Accenture Match Play Championship.  You're finding yourself in a very familiar position at the end of the day Saturday.  Congratulations on your match today.  Just some comments on that.
HUNTER MAHAN:  Yeah.  Difficult match against Webb.  Great competitor, great player.  I knew it was going to be a tough one, and it was.  It was really a seesaw battle.  I don't think either one of us really gained too much momentum, it was so back and forth.  I made a couple nice up‑and‑downs and made some nice putts today.  In the afternoon that's kind of what led me to victory, obviously making the par on 16 gave me the 1‑up lead and I was able to finish it down the stretch.  But tight match and really could have gone either way.

Q.  It seems like you've mastered playing with a lead here.  Do you remember what it's like to trail, and how critical is it to play with a lead like that?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Yeah, you know, I‑‑ Webb had the honors today, and I realized how much I didn't like him hitting first just off the tee box.  I just didn't like it.  I liked going first and hitting it and then walking.  I felt like I had a rhythm there.
Yeah, it's different, but at the end of the day, it's just about executing.  Whether you're first off or leading or whatever, still got to execute your shots.  But I do‑‑ I don't know, I like getting to 1‑up or 2‑up early and I feel like I can just kind of put the pedal on the gas and just go with it.

Q.  Is it just as simple as you were playing really well last year when you came here and your game is in good shape again this year, or is there something about this course, about this setting that has you playing so well?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Well, it's probably a little bit of both.  I've been on‑‑ this is my fifth week in a row, so I've been in that kind of tournament grind for a while and kind of have a good rhythm with that, and I feel like I've gotten better kind of every single week.  It's somewhat refreshing a little bit to play in match play because you can kind of just lay it all out there every single match.  It's not like another tournament where it's one day after the next.  You're just kind of in the moment so much here that it's just kind of easy to play even when you're a little bit tired.
I think it's a little bit of both because I do have‑‑ I feel like I have a good sense of this golf course.  When I read putts, I'm so confident in my read that I'm stroking it freely, and I think that's been a big key this week.

Q.  You're going to make a nice check no matter what tomorrow.  Does that free you up in any way so you don't have to focus on money?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I think there's a fine line of being happy with what you've done so far and then not being satisfied, because it is‑‑ I mean, it's a long week.  It's already been a long week.  I've played a lot of golf, and especially today.  There's definitely that moment of, boy, I made it to the final four and I've had a good run the last couple years.
I think when you come out in the morning and you start getting in the grind of the round of just putting and warming up and stuff, you kind of forget all that and you just start getting into the match and start seeing the pins and start playing some holes, I think you're just into the match and you're into the golf right there, and you're just into the guy you're playing against.  It enters your mind, but I think once you start playing, you're all about winning at that point.

Q.  There was a lot of talk early in the tournament, there's no top 10 seeds left, all the 1s were out by the second round.  But you look around today, and you just beat the U.S. Open champion, you've got Ryder Cup guys, Poulter and Kuchar still around.  Just your thoughts on the final four and how much talent there is here?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Oh, 100 percent.  Myself and Poulter and Kuch and Jason Day, I think, that's‑‑ I think those are pretty good players.  I know it's not the top four in the world, probably what everyone was hoping for, but there's been a lot of great golf played, a lot of great shots, a lot of great putts.  There's a lot of great players.  There's not a big dropoff from the top 5 to the 25th or 30th ranked player, there really isn't.  And the great thing is this is just one round and anything can happen in one round.  Over a normal tournament things get weeded out and the top players seem to rise, but in one round, golf is golf.  You never know who can get hot.

Q.  There's a chance that by the end of the day tomorrow you will have played 72 holes in two days, something like that, playing two rounds today and two rounds tomorrow.  Is that a challenge?  Anything different you're going to do tonight to get ready for what could be another long day?
HUNTER MAHAN:  Not really.  I think my body will tell me when it's ready to go to bed and everything.  The challenge is going to be kind of‑‑ physically it's going to be a little bit of a challenge, but it's kind of the mental part is where the big challenge is and not letting yourself‑‑ just be happy to be there.  It's grinding it out and really focusing on the shot and kind of focusing on nothing after that, not beating yourself up after a shot or anything, just try and execute the best shots you can.  Now and then I can only hydrate myself the best I can because this is the desert and it's easy to kind of not drink enough water, but try to eat the right things and hydrate myself and get prepared as best I can, but other than that there's not much I can do.

Q.  Can you just talk about the challenge of playing Ian Poulter?
HUNTER MAHAN:  I've never played him before, so I don't know.  Only thing, I have so much respect for the guy and how he plays because it's not‑‑ sometimes it's not the prettiest, he doesn't have like the most‑‑ there's not one part of his game that I feel like is‑‑ that really shines.  He has a great short game, he's a great putter, but to me his determination and his will is his greatest strength.  You're going to see, he's never going to think he's out of a hole.  I can never think that he's out of a hole because I know he can chip in or make a putt from anywhere.  I think the greatest challenge with him is just staying in my own game and just playing, not getting to kind of playing at his speed or anything because if he starts playing well he's going to play fast and gets his head up, and his shoulders back and starts motoring down the fairway.  I just need to hit quality shots and put pressure on him that way.

Q.  Have you been off Dove Mountain since actually getting here?
HUNTER MAHAN:  No, I haven't left the compound yet.
DOUG MILNE:  Hunter, we appreciate your time.  Best of luck tomorrow.

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