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An Interview with HUNTER MAHAN
KELLY ELBIN: Hunter Mahan, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 37th Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club. Hunter is making his first Ryder Cup appearance, being a captain's selection of U.S. Team captain Paul Azinger.
Welcome to the Ryder Cup and what should be a very special week. Thoughts, initial impressions of being at this international event.
HUNTER MAHAN: Great so far. Kind of looking forward to just getting the week started. It's going to be a great course. I think it's going to have great fans. I think the team is excited, and we're all looking forward to this week.
Q. Do you get to go to the Muhammad Ali Museum last night?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah.
Q. First of all, had you ever seen any of his fight films? I know you didn't see him live, but see any of his fight films and what did you think of him as a fighter?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, ESPN Classic, SportsCenter, stuff like that. Amazing. I don't know a whole lot about boxing, but it's pretty obvious how great he was physically, mentally, and the way he kind of played with the media and everything and kind of when he went out there and boxed and how focused he was on accomplishing a goal and just went out there and did it. Amazing.
Q. It's not your usual field trip obviously before a golf tournament, but did you get any did you derive anything from it that might be useful in terms of just, I don't know, his approach to things and keeping it loose and then just going ahead and doing the job or anything like that?
HUNTER MAHAN: Not too much. I mean, we just got to see how great a man he was. I mean, outside of boxing, what he did for the world, what he did for his race. Just amazing stuff. I mean, someone who had his own intentions and just did what he wanted to do and felt like he had an obligation to himself and to his country and everything.
I think what we're doing this week is pretty much on a smaller scale to what he did in his life. I think we're all glad to be here and excited to be here and truly blessed that we get to play for our country and play this week.
I want to thank Paul for allowing us to go there and thank them for kind of allowing us to walk around a little bit and watch a great video. It was awesome.
Q. Forgive me for asking this, but did you think you'd blown it when you did that interview with the golf magazine, your Ryder Cup chances?
HUNTER MAHAN: I didn't know. I didn't really know. I talked to Paul after that, talked to PGA of America, so I didn't feel like I did. I think we had a good chat, and I think we cleared the air quite a bit. I think we've both moved on from that, and I'm just looking forward to playing golf now.
Q. With all the new meat on the team, I guess they're going to probably try to pair younger guys, rookie guys, with experienced guys. I'm wondering how you see all that playing out, and do you envision rookie with rookie, and if they were to ask you to hit the first shot Friday morning, how do you think like they did in Montreal, how do you think you would react to that? Obviously the rookie component this week is going to be a huge issue to try to deal with.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah. You know, I don't know what Paul is thinking in that aspect, but it probably wouldn't be a bad thing to put a rookie with an experienced guy.
The good thing is we do have a lot of experience on our team with the rookies we have. And I think I look forward to playing with whoever he puts me with. I think rookie on rookie or rookie and veteran, I don't think it really matters. I think this team has a great energy. I think we're excited to be here. I think we're really motivated this week, and if Paul wants me to hit the first shot, I'll hit the first shot. That's not going to determine the whole Ryder Cup, so I'm not too worried about it.
But to go out there first would be great, though. To start it off, Europe has started it off quickly, so we need to turn that around and build some momentum on our side.
Q. I'm sorry to bring up the infamous magazine article again, but what you said in that and what you've experienced so far in the Ryder Cup, are they wildly contrasting experiences, or whatever your perceptions were before?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I really haven't experienced a whole lot yet, just one night. I mean, this is a very busy week. We are constantly doing something. But definitely the tone of the article was definitely not the way I intended it to be.
This is a great week. I mean, this is not something I didn't want to participate in or anything like that. I was trying to make the team, and I'm very excited to be here and ready to play golf and ready to experience everything, because this is like they said said, there's only been like 172 guys who have played in this. So this is an honor for me to be here and an honor to be a part of it.
Q. From what you've seen of the course so far, what is it that excites you about the setup and what maybe intimidates you, as well, from what you've seen?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, the course is right out in front of you. It pretty much tells you what to do on every hole. It's in great shape. There is not much rough. I mean, the first cut is very big in a lot of areas. It could be 12, 15, 20 feet wide. It's a great golf course.
I think people are going to see a lot of birdies made. You're going to have to play aggressive and loose. It's a course to go out there and just have fun and play.
Q. Just a quick one. Hole 13 looks quite challenging with the elevated green. If that becomes a 260 , 270 yard, do you fancy a quick drive up into the heart of the green there?
HUNTER MAHAN: What hole is that?
Q. 13 is the par 4 island hole.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, that could be an interesting hole. I think there's a lot of things that could happen on that hole. They could put the tees up, entice a few guys to go try to hit the green. There's another par 4 on the front nine, I think No. 4 you can do the same thing.
Definitely a lot more risk on 13, but I think there's a lot of fun things you can do on this golf course. Obviously that would be a pretty neat, interesting shot with it being surrounded by water and everything. But that would I have a feeling that tee is maybe up; that's my guess.
Q. What's your first memory of the Ryder Cup?
HUNTER MAHAN: Probably walking in the room and seeing my name on the bag, seeing all the clothes. To see your name on the USA bag and see all the Ryder Cup clothes with the American flag on it, that's just such a cool feeling.
Q. Sorry, perhaps you didn't understand the question. The first time you read or saw anything to do with the Ryder Cup.
HUNTER MAHAN: First thing that comes to mind is when I think when Curtis Strange got picked. I don't know, was that '95, I think? And just seeing, you know I remember seeing Curtis' face after he lost, just seeing how down he was. That's the first thing I remember. I don't remember much of that week, but I do remember that, and just the emotion that it brings out in a player. A seasoned guy like Curtis to succumb to the pressure, you know how big this event is.
Was Torrance the captain then? I don't remember who the captain was, but I remember him celebrating. Who was the European captain? To see them win, you just saw how excited they were.
Q. Just following up on that, did that make you excited to embrace that emotion, or does that kind of emotion make you nervous at all?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, I went to the '99 Ryder Cup. I think I was only 13 in '95, so I didn't know I was kind of clueless to know what kind of pressure that was.
But to go to the '99 Ryder Cup, I mean, you just had to go to a hole and just sit there and wait for everybody to come around, but you could hear the crowd. It seemed like miles away, and see how excited they were. To get on a stage like that is it happens once every couple years. You don't have a home court advantage in golf, and this is it for us.
I think the fans are going to be very excited to have the tournament here, and to have two Kentuckians on the team, I think it's really going to bring out a lot of good emotion in everybody.
Q. Could you please tell us everything you know about J.B. Holmes?
HUNTER MAHAN: Everything I know?
Q. Yes, everything. You guys are about the same age, right? I'm sure you ran across each other in college or whatnot?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think so. When he became a real good player it was kind of after I turned pro and stuff. I know he hits it really long, and I know he wears a rain glove instead of a normal golf glove; I do know that. Other than that, I don't know much about him.
Q. The underdog role, is that something you guys can embrace? Is it viewed as an insult, or just reality because of the way the trend has been going here recently? How do you see that playing out? Can it be a rallying point, or how do you view that?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it's probably the first year we've really been the underdogs. That team is solid 1 through 12. I mean, they are good, and they're playing good.
So we know the challenge in front of us. It's pretty clear. We just have to go out there and play golf because we like to play golf, not because we're trying to beat Europe or anything like that. We have to go out there and play because we love to play, and we're all excited to be here and really looking forward to this challenge and opportunity because it still is golf. You know, we just have to go out there and enjoy the whole experience.
Q. How much have you played four somes? How many times have you played it? What do you think of the format, and does it suit you?
HUNTER MAHAN: Just last year in the Presidents Cup, maybe in college a couple times. But it's good, though. It's different. Kind of talking with a partner, trying to figure out some strategy and stuff like that is important. But it's fun.
You're just trying to hit your shot as good as you can. You're just trying to go out there and play and you're just trying to root on the guy next to you and just beat the people in front of you. You don't have to beat everybody, you just have to beat the guys you're going against.
Q. Anything you don't like about playing foursomes?
HUNTER MAHAN: Not really. It's just different, which is good. This is why this event is great, because it's different. You don't get to do it every day. The fact that it's like this is great.
Q. When you were there in '99, which day were you there? Which day did you go?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it was on Saturday. It was Friday or Saturday, but for the singles.
Q. Did you get into the atmosphere? Were you one of the ones shouting, "USA, USA"?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't know if we were shouting USA but we were cheering hard for them. It was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. In golf you don't have kind of a home court advantage where everyone is cheering for you, only in the Ryder Cup where that really happens. To kind of have all the fans pulling hard for them because they were getting down so early, we were trying everything we could to help them out.
Q. Is it possible that you said the things you said because you were preparing yourself for the disappointment of maybe you might not make the team?
HUNTER MAHAN: No (laughter). Wow, that didn't even cross my mind, because I said that so long ago. I think I said that probably I don't know, four months ago, maybe longer than that. That thought never even crossed my mind, actually. I think I was right on the edge of making the team the whole time.
KELLY ELBIN: U.S. Ryder Cup Team member, Hunter Mahan. Thank you.
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