Questions for ... Hunter Mahan

Thursday March 4th, 2010
Fred Vuich/SI

Obviously you had a great week at Phoenix, earning your second PGA Tour win, but your season had been pretty mediocre until that point. Where did your great play come from?

I didn't have the West Coast swing that I was looking for, but I actually felt like my game was in good shape. I guess I was having a tough time getting into the flow of the year. I was hitting it as well as I've hit it in a couple of years. Coming into the week I felt like I was close. I just needed to let it happen and not force it.

Everybody knows you are a great driver of the golf ball and you're a good all-around player, ranking fourth on Tour in the all-around category in 2009. What are the weaknesses in your game?

It's definitely been my short game: chipping and putting. I'm a streaky putter. I've really been working hard on that part of my game for last year or so. Now I actually feel pretty comfortable on the golf course. What's been difficult is taking some of the changes I've made in practice to tournament golf. I think not having a bogey over the last 36 holes at Phoenix is a sign that my short game is coming around.

Last week you used a new Ping conforming wedge for the first time. Previously, you had used one of the controversial pre-1990 Ping wedges. Did that make a difference to you at Phoenix?

The pre-1990 wedges aren't even close to what the wedges were last year. So it's not that big a difference. Early last week I visited Ping before the tournament and they worked on the sole and bounce of my 59-degree wedge to get a comfortable fit for me. Hopefully, we'll find a resolution to this whole groove thing and put it behind us. But until then it's something that we have to deal with.

You broke the driver you'd been playing for the last three years on the second hole in the final round. How did you adjust so fast to a different driver and keep your momentum going?

I had hit a ton balls with that driver and it was due to crack. I hadn't hit my backup driver too much, but luckily I had just tested it earlier in the week at Ping to see that everything was fine with it. But I was a little nervous because I never used it in a tournament. I was pretty relieved when the first shot I hit with it went straight down the middle. This week I'll test new drivers and see what I like.

At 27 you're very young by PGA Tour standards, but pretty old when compared to this new batch of talent that includes the likes of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, who had a chance to get in a playoff with you there at the end at Phoenix. What do you think of the Tour's youth movement?

It's quite amazing. I know that when I was 21 years old and a rookie on Tour I was starry-eyed and looking at Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as my heroes. I was definitely in awe and not as mature as these guys seem to be at the same age. Fowler looks like he's having fun and the more fun you're having out there, the better you're going to play. It's definitely good for the Tour.

How do you have fun off the golf course during a tournament week?

It depends on the city, but as a big basketball fan I like to take in a game anytime I can. At the Northern Trust Open in L.A. I caught a Lakers game. During baseball season I always try to catch a game in cities with teams. The worst thing you can do is sit around and think about your round. You have to give your mind a rest.

\nYou're a big Oklahoma State basketball fan, right?

Last Saturday was a good day. After I shot 65, there was my fellow-Cowboys golfer Scott Verplank in the clubhouse with the remote in his hand and the Cowboys were up 16 over No. 1-ranked Kansas. I didn't know if I would jinx them if I kept watching because they were winning without me watching. So I only watched just enough to make sure they would get the win, which they did, 85-77. It was a big win for our program.

Are you superstitious?

A little bit. Definitely in the majors I have a tendency to be more superstitious than in other tournaments. If I'm feeling good about my game I won't shave during a tournament. Sometimes I wear the same hat everyday and generally I like to have a quarter and a nickel in my pocket to mark my ball.

Who are your buddies on tour?

I'm great friends with John and Heather Rollins. They live down the street from me in Dallas. Sean O'Hair is someone that I have known since we were 11 years old. Sean and I laugh sometimes about how far we've come since playing in junior tournaments together.

You and Sean O'Hair have the same swing coach, Sean Foley.

Yes. Foley also works with Stephen Ames and I was a big fan of the simplicity and efficiency of Ames's golf swing. I knew Foley could help me with my short game and we eventually transitioned into working on the full swing. What I like about Foley is that he knows how to help very different players who are all very successful with the advice that he gives.

What swing thoughts do you typically carry on the golf course?

Each day it's a different thing so I always try to have a few swing thoughts in my head. Mostly it's the same couple of things that I need to focus on with my swing. At Phoenix my swing thought was to get my weight to my left side so I can stand on my left leg. I have a tendency to hang back on my right foot.

Your girlfriend, Kandi Harris, is a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. How did the two of you meet?

Her sister is married to Jason Enloe who plays on the Nationwide Tour. Enloe and I have the same psychologist.

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Obviously, my top goal is to make the Ryder Cup team. I think that's everybody's goal. I also like my chances to do well at the majors because I think my game is suited well to courses where you have to keep the ball in play.

What's the last book you read?

Luckily for me, my caddie John Woods likes to read. He always passes good books along to me. Recently I've been dabbling with Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakuer.

You're off this week, and you're playing at Doral next week. What do you do on an off-week like this?

I've played five in a row. I'm just relaxing and reconnecting with friends.

How did you celebrate after your win at Phoenix?

I had a nice dinner with my girlfriend, my agent and some of the folks at Ping.

Did you pick up the check?

Happily.

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