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TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP


June 19, 2013


Hunter Mahan


CROMWELL, CONNECTICUT

DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome Hunter Mahan to the interview room. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes prior to the start of the 2013 Travelers Championship, an event where you got your first PGA TOUR win in 2007 I believe. With that, I'll turn it over to you coming off a successful week also last week at Merion.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's exciting to be back here. Obviously a lot of great history here for myself. So, you know, I'm always happy and excited to be back here. It's a fun, great tournament.
It's kind of had a renewal since kind of Travelers took over, so it's been exciting and fun to see it grow and kind of to be a part of that. So always excited to be back here and it's a nice golf course to play after last week, which was such a brutal test. This one is a little more fun and a little more exciting for everyone to watch.

Q. After last week, thinking 1‑over or 2‑over is a good score‑‑
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's going to feel good. You're going to see, there's not as many obstacles and challenges. It's not such a penalty for hitting a not‑quite‑perfect shot. This is a fun golf course to play and it has a great last four holes, so I'm excited. I'm excited to get out there and play.

Q. The word fun has come up a lot among the golfers that are coming here this week. Can you just explain what it is that attracts golfers after the U.S. Open, not just in terms of how the course plays, although that being part of it, but what makes this a fun tournament?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I think it just has a good energy about it amongst the fans and everybody. The fans truly get excited about this and they are great to play for. They are kind of an easygoing crowd after a U.S. Open week, which is usually kind of tense. All of the players were tense, everybody was tense it feels like.
When you come here, it's not quite as intense going into the tournament. You're a little more, I don't know, almost fluid and you're just kind of more relaxed and you're just kind of ready to play and this course is, you know, set up to make birdies.
But it's also set up to challenge you, if the conditions are the way they are, soft and a little windy‑‑ it's not pitch‑and‑putt by my means, but you're just not going to be penalized for hitting a bad shot. You can still play the hole and get a birdie and be successful on it. It's just not quite as strenuous on the mind.

Q. Do you think the U.S. Open should go back to Merion?
HUNTER MAHAN: I mean, I would like it to. The course is fine. It's just logistically, the USGA has a really tough challenge there. It's tight in there, just to fit players and fans in there and get tents and everything, it's a challenge for them. They have to work really hard at it.
But the fans were great. The course, obviously, was a big challenge and I think the USGA learned a lot about that golf course and how it could play and how they don't have to extend it and just let it to be. You know, I think we really‑‑ as players, I think we want it to be what it is and not have the influence‑‑ it was so influenced by the USGA, I felt like it didn't‑‑ really didn't get to see its kind of true color there. I would love to see it come back there for sure.
To be in the final group, have a chance to win the U.S. Open, it was a great day. It tests you mentally and physically. That's what you need, to test yourself to get better. It was a great week. It was a week that I was looking forward to and prepared for and I was excited about because I felt like the course fit me pretty well. I take all positives from it and it was a great experience.

Q. What is it about this tournament that you developed a relationship with it, and you've become an ambassador for it; what is it about this place as opposed to maybe another tournament?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, travelers coming on board and kind of winning the inaugural Travelers Championship was a factor. I played here as a junior when I was 17. You know, when you were the AJGA Player of the Year, you got to come and play here, so that was a lot of fun.
I think it's just guys come here and appreciate it and travelers has worked hard to make it better. They have taken the opportunity and the challenge and they have really pushed to increase the practice facilities and they have done an incredible job.
I think the course itself, I think every year it's gotten in better shape. This year, it's flawless. The greens are just magnificent, and I feel like this is an event that has had a renewal since travels took over and the field has gotten better every year.
It's a fun, great place to play. I think it's one of the best TPC courses we play because it has such a great finish and such a great field to it, I think everyone can appreciate it. The list of champions here is pretty great. It gets overlooked sometimes, but everybody in golf history almost has played here, so it has a long, great history.

Q. You mentioned being prepared to be in the final group last week and you played in a lot of pressure situations before, so where would you rank that with all that was going on that day with all of the distractions? Where would you rank that? Is that one of your toughest experiences ever?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, not really. I mean, it was‑‑ each experience you go through, it gets a little easier. So the first Ryder Cup and that first kind of Masters you get into, that was pretty challenging. I knew how to handle it this time around, but there was a lot of‑‑ I mean, there was a lot of energy out there, you know, with Phil and everything, I mean, it was really Phil's tournament.
. It was kind of like when Stewart Cink won the British Open but he beat Tom Watson; it was Watson's tournament, even though he didn't win. It was kind of Phil's tournament. I've played with Phil twice when he finished second, and you see how much it pains him to lose and how much he wants to win there and how much the fans‑‑ one of my friends said, it feels like Phil never plays away. He always plays at home because it's just the fans are so for him. They are so‑‑ they want it for him so badly.
And then out there, I heard happy birthday probably 30, 40, 50 times; at the end of the day it was pretty annoying, but I'm sure he appreciated it and appreciated the well wishes and everything.
Yeah, it's strange, I really felt like it was a home game for Phil, even though we are in Philadelphia and Phil doesn't have any kind of connection there. It was really a fun day. It was pressure packed, but I don't know, I felt pretty good all day.

Q. Would you have pegged Justin as someone that would do well in the U.S. Open?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, 100 percent. I think Justin technically is probably the best player in the game, and I mean that from the putting to bunker game, short game, swing, everything he does is so‑‑ it's definitely I think the best. I mean, it's just so flawless when you see him and watch him play, and he makes the game look really easy sometimes.
He's a great U.S. Open guy, great iron play, incredible short game, that's what you need‑‑ that's going to win anywhere but for a U.S. Open particularly, but I would definitely have pegged him. I wouldn't have been surprised if you said he's going to win; that makes sense.

Q. (How difficult is it to play with the distractions when you are paired with Tiger or Phil)?
HUNTER MAHAN: You get used to it. I think when Tiger first came out it was probably shocking to everybody and it was different, but you get used to the distractions and stuff like that. You know, I feel bad for him sometimes, playing with Tiger, especially because he has so many cameras and stuff going on on his swing. It's just crazy.
Yeah, it takes a couple times but you understand it and get used to it and you find a rhythm in the round and you maybe don't play as fast as you normally would, having to wait for everyone to settle down. It takes a few times to understand the kind of sequence and the flow of the round.

Q. After playing Merion last week, do you have a different mind‑set for this week, or how does it change after playing in the U.S. Open?
HUNTER MAHAN: Oh, for sure, the U.S. Open, pars are good, you're going to play safe and you're going to play away from pins and this week you're going to be aggressive and you're going to try to attack the hole as much as you can and be aggressive. You can't play with much fear out here, because low scores are possible every single day. You know you've got to swing free and attack the golf course, you can't hold back and let it come to you so much.

Q. (Inaudible.)
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I stepped on the tee knowing I could win and I left feeling exactly the same, if not better. You know, as much as some media people or some people want to give permission to players; okay, you can win a major now because we feel you're ready, it's still golf and it's still 18 holes and it is something different except for what you add to it.
And it's easy to add a lot to it. We always get there earlier and try to do more work and try to figure a course out, if we haven't seen it before, figure out the nuances of it.
. Once you realize you don't need anyone's permission and realize it's just golf, and realize that at the end of the day, there's always another tournament. It's not the end‑all, be‑all. It's just golf and it's just one tournament and you've got to, you know, same rules apply. You've got to swing free and let it fly, even though in the U.S. Open feels like, can't hit it over here or can't hit it over there, you just have to let it fly.
DOUG MILNE: Hunter, we appreciate your time and best of luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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