RBC Canadian Open interview: Hunter MahanJuly 24, 2013
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THE MODERATOR: Hey, guys, please welcome Hunter Mahan to the media room today. Hunter, this is your ninth RBC Canadian Open and you've had two top five finishes. Tell us what it's like to be back at the RBC Canadian Open, and we'll open it up for some questions.
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, it's the first time I've been back to Glen Abbey in a while, so it's good to be back. The course looks in phenomenal shape. I think it's going to be a great week. Hopefully we have a good week of weather and everything.
But, yeah, this is a tournament I've been close to before. So I look forward to coming here every year, and hopefully I have a chance this year.
Q. With your National Open, when you played the U.S. Open, obviously, you did quite well there. I was wondering if you could look at the Canadians in this week's field and think about in your Open if you had so few people, so few Americans in your National Open like the 19 Canadians this week, if it was that way in the U.S. Open, what would the pressure be like?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't know. It's interesting. That's an interesting question. I guess you would feel almost like Tiger every single week when you have so many people following you and critiquing every single shot you have. But it's probably different because I think you can see the support that all the Canadians get when they're here is great.
No one is critical of them. They're just hoping for a winner and they're excited. I think they should be excited about the guys this year. I think there are a lot of guys that are capable of winning. I feel like Mike was the only one holding the pedestal there, but I think there are a lot of guys sharing it now.
You know, it's a growing sport in Canada, and like I said, there are a lot of young players that are starting to come through. But it should be fun for them. I hope they enjoy this experience.
Q. Even with the numbers that you get in the U.S. Open, do you still find that there is a lot of focus on the home boys, so to speak? Do you feel it when you're out there?
HUNTER MAHAN: No, I don't think so. I don't feel like there is a pride factor like there is in Canada. I think there is ‑‑ I mean, being an American, you want to win the U.S. Open. It's obviously a great tournament. But I don't think there is that same connection between the Canadian Open and Canada. They haven't had a champion since the '40s, and it's not ‑‑ I don't know, the second or third one in Canada. It doesn't have that popularity in the numbers like in the States. You know, when you have a drought that long, I think you have to start really wanting it and start hoping. It becomes a focus of everyone this week, so I think they have a great chance.
Q. If I remember correctly, you got an exemption to this just after turning pro; is that correct? Like seven or eight years ago?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, nine years ago, yeah.
Q. When you've played this many, you've got the RBC affiliation now, but you were pretty regular on this before you had that. Did that connection early on to the tournament sort of lead you to play here on a more regular basis?
HUNTER MAHAN: Yeah, I think you appreciate every opportunity a tournament gives you, and you want to always make sure you pay them back any way you can and show up and play their event. I think they've had so many great golf courses in the past, and I think that's what keeps guys coming back is the quality of an event and the fact that RBC in the last few years has really taken this event and taken it as a challenge and want to reclaim it to its rightful place of being a large tournament among all the players.
Q. The winning score here has been a low number, you know, 18, 20. What do you expect this week? Do you think a lower number brings more or fewer guys into contention in it?
HUNTER MAHAN: Maybe a few more. But I expect the scores to be a little lower because I don't think the course is going to be as soft. It's not going to be where you can fly it to the hole and let the ball stop there. The greens, I was surprised how firm they were being early this morning. They still had a little bit of jump to them. So that's going to ‑‑ the small type of greens, that's going to make you ‑‑ you're going to have to focus on your distance control out there because if it's a little off, there is not much room for error on these greens, especially when the pins are tucked on the spot.
So I don't expect the scores to be as low. Especially with the wind blowing the way it is and it's a little cooler. Usually it's pretty hot and the ball's jumping off the pace. We'll find the course playing a little longer and little more challenging than the greens. But the course is in pretty good shape.
The rough is at a good length where it's not super penalizing, because I don't think anybody wants to come off the British Open and the U.S. Open and shoot a couple over, you know? You make it a little bit too hard, and that's when you're going to start losing some guys.
Q. Hutch mentioned earlier there are 19 Canadians in this field, and there is one that's not here this week. We all know what Justin Rose did at the U.S. Open. At one point in time we looked at the leaderboard and saw Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan right there. You have one thing in common, the little guy from Burlington, Ontario coaches you, and his name is Sean Foley. Can you talk about him and why he's such an accomplished coach nowadays?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think he's a great coach because of his work ethic and his vision for this. He always wanted this, and I think he never ‑‑ I think he saw his path, and he really went against the grain of teaching for a long time and probably was looked at in a different light. He was probably thought of as a little crazy because of how he took teaching from a biomechanical point of view and a science point of view.
I think people love the fact that golf is so kind of fluid and organic, and there are always theories and all these guys kind of finding things and this weird language and all this stuff, and playing and all these kind of big words. He has worked very, very hard and done a lot of research on making the golf swing more scientific and proven stuff, not so much theory.
There is a lot of theory in the golf swing and stuff. And he worked very hard in figuring out what's right and what's wrong. What can I tell somebody that's fact, and not just fiction. Not just guessing out there and throwing out an idea. He's learned to be a good teacher. He's had all this data and worked hard at it and become a good teacher along the way.
Q. When he was teaching you, what percentage of that is technique and though knowing Sean the way I do, what percentage is the mental side?
HUNTER MAHAN: Well, we talk about everything. You know, he's a friend of mine first and a teacher second. So, yeah to talk to a player, you have to know how to talk to a player. He talks to each of his students differently. He explains things differently.
Justin Rose has six or seven swing spots. I have one or two. We're always working on different fields and everything. So being a great teacher isn't just information. It's talking to a student and understanding their head and how they work and everything, so that's big. That's a big, big part of it is understanding who you're talking to and how can I translate this info that I have into their language so they understand it, so it's a seamless process.
Q. Brandel Chamblee had some comments ‑‑
HUNTER MAHAN: Why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't he?
Q. Just wondered what your thought was when you heard those comments?
HUNTER MAHAN: I don't know what he said. I'm sure it wasn't good. He doesn't like Sean Foley very much. I don't know why. I don't know what he said though.
Q. People talk about learning how to win to lose, and the experience of major championships, and you've had a lost experience in the last month or so. I'm wondering what you've learned about how your body reacts and how your mind reacts and that you can bring forward?
HUNTER MAHAN: I think every tournament you play, every experience you're going to have, you're going to learn something about yourself. Understanding how affairs can help you down the road in everything. I think I'm not overcomplicating my golf swing or anything. I'm not overcomplicating my practice sessions trying to work so hard at something.
I think I'm just trying to know myself as best I can, understand myself, what do I need to play great. I don't have to force things as much. Just let things happen and just, I don't know. I just don't feel like I have to practice every single day or four times a day.
Before the Open, I practiced twice and then I showed up on Sunday. Because I knew I had a big couple of weeks beforehand and I knew I needed rest. That was my main priority. I had to rest and recoup, so I could go into each day that I played there and be mentally focused and make sure on Sunday I was ready to go. Because that's all that matters is you have enough energy on Sunday to put complete focus on each shot and have no negative reactions and have nothing bother you.
For me, I need to have that energy. So that is the most important thing. Whatever that means I have to do beforehand, that's what I have to do.