With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson putting up lackluster performances, Hunter Mahan came out on Sunday and posted a stellar six-under 64 for his second win on the PGA Tour this season. As a bonus, he clinched a spot on the American Ryder Cup team.
It’s been an up-and-down year for Mahan, but overall, the positives outweigh the negatives.
His first win on the PGA, the second of his career, happened earlier in the season at the Phoenix Open, where he closed with a 65 for the victory. Then mid-season he stumbled on a rough patch, missing four cuts in a row, including at the US Open and the Travelers Championship, where he hadn’t finished worse than T4 in his last four starts at TPC River Highlands. But in between that, he got engaged, the Saturday before the US Open at Pebble Beach, to Kandi Harris, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
“I just didn’t play very good [this summer],” said Mahan. “It was kind of ugly there. Swing got a little out of whack. You know, there was a lot going on in a good way, you know, with getting engaged and kind of having a serious, serious girlfriend and everything. It was all good, it was all positive, it was all fun. We were having a great time, but it was energy going another place.”
But after some tune-up sessions with his coach, Sean Foley, he’s slowly been finding his way back on the leaderboard and on Sunday at Firestone, he clinched his first WGC victory.
“This is a world golf event,” said Mahan. “All the players all over the world come here to play, and it’s definitely the best win of my career for sure. And it’s probably the coolest trophy we get, too. That thing is pretty cool.”
By the way, he beat Tiger by 30 strokes.
“I never, ever thought that would be possible,” he said and held back his laughter. “It never crossed my mind. It’s definitely different.”
With his record at previous Ryder Cups, Mahan probably would have been selected as a captain’s pick, but the win propelled him to second in points and to make the team on merit is much more meaningful.
“It’s kind of weird to say, I just want to make it on my own, but any way you make the Ryder Cup team, it’s great, it really is,” he said. “But I felt — my game was good enough to make it on my own, and that was a goal of mine this year.”
Mission accomplished. Wonder if his winning twice on Tour was also a goal. He joins the ranks of Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose and Jim Furyk to have multiple victories in 2010. That’s not bad company. So, what’s next? Well, he’s certainly closer to being considered a marquee player. A win at a major would probably lock that up.
Good thing Mahan doesn’t have to wait long for his shot at the Wanamaker Trophy.
(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)