2013 PGA Championship Interview Transcript: Hunter Mahan
KELLY ELBIN: Proud new father Hunter Mahan is with us at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. This will be Hunter's eighth PGA Championship and his best finish was a tie for 16 in 2009 at Hazeltine National.
Two Top 10s in Majors this year but being a father has to be the most important and coolest thing. How does it feel to be a dad?
HUNTER MAHAN: Obviously it feels great. It was nice to be there for the birth and everything and to see the whole process was fantastic. It's been a great week at home, and I was glad to be there. It was a lot of fun kind of starting this new kind of chapter in my life and my wife's, so it's really exciting.
KELLY ELBIN: You had a chance to play the golf course yesterday. Just some thoughts on what you saw.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it looks like it's in great shape. The rough is healthy but not crazy tough to where it's very playable. The course looks really great off the tee. It's got great visuals. Every hole looks different. It's a really neat looking golf course, and it's going to be fun to play, because I think that you can make a lot of birdies, but there's a lot of places where, you know, one bad shot, and you're staring double right in the face. So you've got to be smart and avoid the big numbers this week, because there are going to be some great opportunities to make birdies.
Q. Your story is certainly one that's captured a lot of interest across the country about leaving the tournament and going there for the birth of your child. What sort of feedback have you gotten from, a, fellow pros, and b, just from the public?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, you know, the feedback's been incredible. Obviously the attention that's surrounded it has been unbelievable, as well, very unexpected. But the feedback's been 100 percent great. It's just been awesome to ... I think everyone can kind of relate. Everyone knows someone who has given birth or had a child and I think everyone knows how special it is.
I think people are just ready for a great story in sports, and it was a great time. It was so fun to be there and have my parents there and her parents and everyone be there at the same time. It was nice having my parents there all week, because they live in California, I don't see them as much. It was nice to have them there. I'm an only child, and so to have all the generations there ... it was really neat. It was a special time. It's just nice to have that quiet time, just me and Candy and Zoe just kicking it and doing everything. It was a lot of fun, a time I'll never get back, and it really ... I don't know, it just makes things matter a little bit more and, at the same time, matter a little bit less.
Q. Did Sneds give the birthday gift yet?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, I have not received it yet, but I am waiting patiently.
Q. You've been in the final pairing in the last few Majors, and the last 20 Majors have been won by 18 different people. How much does that give you hope knowing that it's a very wide open chance to win Majors these days?
HUNTER MAHAN: The depth and quality of the field now is pretty remarkable, especially at Majors. I know it seemed like when I first joined the Tour and everything, it seemed like there was maybe a handful of guys who could win and had a legitimate chance and by Sunday they were all up there.
Now, there might be 20 guys with a legitimate chance when they step on the tee, maybe 25, 30, when they step on the tee on Thursday with a chance to win and they have the games and potential to do that. It makes for exciting golf and it makes for unpredictable golf, and you just never know who is going to come out on top. This is a world class field and this is a world class golf course, so you're going to have to play your best to win this week.
Q. Ten years ago when the tournament was here, it was about Tiger and Phil coming in, and here it is ten years later, for a lot of reasons, people talk about Tiger and Phil. We tend to kind of group them together as this kind of entity; do the players ever think that way? They have been great players on this tour, but we put them together a lot for different reasons.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I don't think players really put them together. I think people want them to be together for a rivalry's sake. But that's pretty tough in golf to have rivalries, with the depth of the field and everything and the quality of player, it's hard to just have two guys battle it out each week. Golf is not like that. There's just too many good players.
I think that the similarities in the guys is what's so blaring to me. I've played with both of them and hung out with both of them, and they are just so different in every way. I don't know of a common thing other than they love to compete when they play golf. How they go about it is so different, but they both get it done and they get it done in a high way, and every tournament they are a threat to win. Especially right now with those guys, I think every time they stepped it up, it seems like in the last month, they have won. It's pretty impressive to see that their longevity is continuing.
Q. Kind of a take on that, being on the final pairing on Sunday in the last couple Majors, what do you think has held you back, first of all, in those situations; and secondly, has it been encouraging, discouraging, and why?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, it's been very encouraging to be in the final group in a major, I think it's a great accomplishment, because you're in the last group out there, and you get to see what everybody else does. You can see why Tiger and why those guys want to be in the last group. I feel like it's somewhat calming in a way, or at least that's what I felt, because you know kind of what everyone is doing, and you get a sense of everything.
You know you're playing well, and so you can just go out there and play golf and enjoy the experience, and enjoying the experience for me, is I think what I've enjoyed so much.
I don't know what's held me back. It's hard to win tournaments out here. It's not easy. I felt like I've played ... I just didn't play ... I think Phil played unbelievable at the British Open and no one was going to beat him that day.
I felt like at the U.S. Open, I wasn't that far off. I just had one or two shots that hurt me. I've just got to keep working, keep getting better at my all around game, and I think I'll get there. But I can't really point to one thing. I just know that I've played exactly how I wanted to play, and I didn't let the situation kind of over run me, and I had a great time doing it. Those type of experiences are just invaluable to have. I feel very excited and encouraged about what I've done, and excited about this week.
Q. I wanted to know if you can take us through the process of from the time you received the phone call on Saturday morning in Canada until when you got home, how you got back there, just that whole process. And secondly, was there anybody you're close with, whether family members, friends, who thought you made the wrong decision?
HUNTER MAHAN: I haven't met anyone who has said I made the wrong decision. I went on ... I went on Twitter just a little bit kind of after everything to see what the response would be, because usually Twitter ... they tell me how much I suck all the time and how dumb I am, so I figured somebody would say, you're an idiot, you didn't know what you're doing, you can't throw away ... but I didn't see that. Maybe I didn't look far enough down.
But it's been pretty much a consensus of people saying I did the right thing. I think how much they appreciated it, and it was nice to see someone not pick sports or glory in a way, and they picked their family in a moment like that. So it's been overwhelming great, and I haven't heard anything from anybody saying that it was the wrong decision.
But yeah, I think you saw my agent, Chris Armstrong, come on the range. I had lunch with him, and then I went downstairs, and my wife called him a couple times after that, and we got confirmation that her water broke, which was great news, because it wasn't like she was having contractions. We didn't know ... when you go through that whole process, sometimes you just never know what's going to happen. It could take a week after that or whatnot, but her water broke, it was a definite time to go home. Left the range. We were calling, you know, NetJets and trying to figure out could I get a plane, can we get commercial, can we get ... you know, what was going on.
I called a buddy of mine at home and told him I'm coming home, and customs was our only kind of issue. That was our only kind of hurdle and question mark. He called a buddy of his and said, hey, I think ... he called a buddy just to kind of clear some things up. He said, hey, his company's plane is up there, and they are leaving at four o'clock, and this was probably 2:00, 2:30 and they were going to fly right into Addison, which is close to Dallas, and he said, they can put you on the manifest and that's no problem. So I said, well, that's a no brainer, I can get there the earliest that way. Hopped on a plane, landed 6:30 ish, and got to the hospital probably 7:15, and Candy had just had her epidural, and it was a waiting game after that.
It was funny, she had the baby at 3:26, and it felt like 30 minutes when it was kind of said and done. It was a wild day. But, you know, I wouldn't change it for the world, so it was great, a great experience.
Q. How do you feel that your game sets up with the way the course is set up this week?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think it sets up great, and I'm excited about playing this golf course. It's a ball striker's place, small greens, and you really have to control your irons into the greens. You can hit some really good shots, make some great swings, and hit it just a little bit long or just a little bit short and you are going to be penalized pretty heavily.
And the great thing about it is I think there's a lot of opportunities to make birdies there. You can be ... I think the fairways are ... I don't know, they are not like a U.S. Open type of fairway where it's imperative to hit them. They are generous at some places, so I think you're going to see guys hit irons off tees. You'll see guys hit drivers off tees. Some guys will be more aggressive than others. I think there's a lot of ways to play this golf course, but good iron play is going to be huge, because you've got to know how far you're hitting it, because you can make a lot of good swings out here and just make bogeys and doubles pretty easily.
So if I can do that, which I feel good about, I think I'll have a good chance on Sunday.
Q. I was just curious, what's it like returning to work after the emotional high you've had for like the last ten days, and how will that affect your game this week, being away from your wife and daughter for the first time?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's been ... I felt like I haven't been on the course, played a tournament, in a long time, and it's only been, what, eight or nine days. So it's a little weird feeling. Like it feels very unfamiliar; I feel like I've had a month off.
But I think having last week, staying home last week, really just cherishing that time and being with Candy and Zoe and my parents were there, so that was a lot of fun to have them there. It was a great time. I really soaked it in and appreciated it, and used it wisely. I felt like I got that out of my system to where I can come back to here and be focused and play. I knew if I tried to maybe force it and play last week, I would have wanted to be two places at once and just wouldn't have worked out. But I felt prepared to leave them and I felt prepared to be here.
My wife does a great job of sending me videos and pictures of her all the time, and that makes it easier. It's easier now, because Zoe can't tell me how much she's going to miss me or something like that, so it makes it a little bit easier to leave.
But like I said, I was prepared to leave, and that was probably the best thing.
KELLY ELBIN: Have you practiced at all since you left the range that day?
HUNTER MAHAN: I hit a few balls this weekend and played a quick like 18 on Sunday just to kind of get on the course and start hitting golf shots and not start making too many golf swings and trying to force it down the fairway or anything.
I was able to kind of move around a little bit and I think I worked out once or twice to kind of make sure the body is going to be in good shape this week. I played nine holes yesterday and that felt great, so it was kind of nice to get back out there and play some golf.
Q. Tom Watson was honored here yesterday; your thoughts on him captaining The Ryder Cup and how badly do you want to get back on that team?
HUNTER MAHAN: No doubt that's a goal of mine for next year. I think it was a bold, bold pick by the PGA to pick Tom Watson. You know, I think he's going to have the respect of every single player in there, there's no doubt about it.
He's a competitive guy. I've seen him a couple times, kind of since he's been made the captain, and I can tell you, it's on his mind all the time. And he's, I think, sizing up guys and making sure he really gets to know players, because that's probably his biggest ... you know, it's going to be tough for him, because he doesn't play out here anymore. But he comes out once in awhile, and I think he's trying to get to know some guys and talk to them, and get to know their personal ties a little bit and see how everyone is going to fit together.
But it's going to be a lot of fun. He's a guy that has done a lot of amazing things in his career, and I think we are all ... whoever is on his team is going to be really working hard to win it for him and put in their best effort. It's going to be really neat being over there and have him there, because he's such an icon over there. It's really neat and I think it was a creative pick. I hope I'm a part of it, because I know it's going to be really special to have Tom Watson as captain over there, it's going to be really neat.
Q. You mentioned going onto Twitter to sort of gain people's perceptions of you, but how important a tool is social media for you to interact with the fans?
HUNTER MAHAN: It's a great gateway. There's no middleman; it's just us and them. It's interesting at times, because, you know, sometimes they get a voice and their voice is somewhat harsh and can be mean. But yeah, you take it with a grain of salt and you move on and you appreciate all the fans that really enjoy following you, enjoy watching you on TV and just being a fan of you.
It's always neat when you see those fans who really are excited to see you, and really look up to you. It's a fun way to interact. It's great to have, you know, ten minute, 30 minute question times and they get to fire away. It's really neat. I know that if I was a kid, I would be on Twitter and following my favorite athletes and asking them questions and be so excited if they responded to me.
Yeah, so it's really neat and it's a lot of fun to interact with them on a one on one kind of basis like that.
Q. Professional golf, there's an inherent life between a lot of travel and stuff. As a new dad, have you been getting a lot of advice from fellow pros and how to strike the balance between golf and fatherhood, and if so, from whom?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, ever since we found out Candy was pregnant, I've definitely asked a few guys kind of what they do or if there was any secret, or how do you balance life in that way.
I talked to like Justin Leonard and guys like Matt Kuchar and Sneds. It seemed intimidating to me at first before I had her, but now kind of having her, I kind of realize that life is ... I feel like it's easier, because now it's family and golf. There's really no ... and maybe some other things to do and maybe we'll travel, but I know we'll always be together. I know they have no real interest in being apart for that long. It's going to be fun to travel and I can't wait until they get older and can experience fun things and go to fun cities and taking them to different places, because we get to see so much cool stuff when we are out on the road. To share that with our kids will be a lot of fun.
I feel like it's kind of laid out for you a little bit. You kind of just know what to do when the time comes, and I don't know, I think it makes golf easier, because I'm practice, I'm playing golf, and when I go home, I don't think about it anymore. I'm just kind of focused on my wife and kid right now and just enjoying them and enjoying every kind of moment. I think that's the key, just enjoying all the little things makes life so much fun.
Q. Just curious, is it easier to win coming from behind or playing from in front, all things considered equal, not a huge lead, that sort of thing? What do you find?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think at a major, it's much easier to be at the lead or right by the lead, because it's very difficult to shoot a low round. You kind of saw in Akron last week, guys could shoot 3 or 4 under and have a really good round, but when a guy has a lead ... it's hard to shoot 6 or 7 under and make a big jump. In Majors usually the courses are tougher and it's harder to make birdies, and it's a little easier to kind of play safe, hit the center of the greens, get your pars and get out of there.
But on a week to week basis on the PGA TOUR, going into Sunday, you might have ten guys, 15 guys, who really have a chance to win, because you never know how somebody could shoot a 63 or 64. But in Majors, I think you want to stay close to the lead, and hopefully by Sunday have a chance to kind of be in that top 5, because I think that's a huge advantage compared to the field to kind of come up from behind somebody.
KELLY ELBIN: Zoe Olivia's dad, ladies and gentlemen.
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