At the end of NBC’s Roger Maltbie’s interview with Hunter Mahan, Maltbie, awkwardly, said, “Condolences,” to which Hunter replied, “Condolences?! I didn’t die!” Mahan had a big smile on his face despite losing the playoff to Bill Haas for the Tour Championship and all the other spoils that went along with it — the FedExCup and bonus money.
Mahan’s second-place finish dropped him to No. 7 in FEC points. The difference in earnings between No. 1 and No. 7? $10 million and $700,000. With prize money from the Tour Championship, Mahan made $1,564,000, which is a nice fat check, but Haas walked away with $11,440,000 — a $9.8 million difference. So at the end of the day, Mahan and Haas were indeed playing for roughly $10 million.
But these guys are already so rich that it’s not about the money. A day earlier, Mahan seemed annoyed with all the FedExCup chatter, saying, “It’s kind of sad for the Tour Championship in a way, because it kind of gets lost, and this is really one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year.”
He gave himself a good shot at winning both prizes.
The drama started on the 18th hole in regulation, where Hunter made a beautiful up-and-down from the rough behind the green to force the playoff. He was, yes, chipping. (I’m told NBC didn’t hold back in reminding viewers about that fatted chip in Wales last October.) But his caddie John Wood talked him through the shot like a pro and Mahan executed it like a champ and knocked it about three feet for par.
Mahan had no complaints about his season, but he was, of course, disappointed he hadn’t notched a win.
“I had nine or ten top 10s this year,” said Mahan. “It was solid, you know, but it wasn’t great.”
Still, he tried to look on the bright side and came out to the presser in good spirits, saying he couldn’t be upset with how he played.
“I couldn’t have been happier with how I played, I just can’t make a putt,” said Mahan in his post-playoff presser. “I didn’t have my first birdie until 15, and I had a ton of looks. They were close, too. Just didn’t make a putt.”
“I thought I had a chance on the second playoff hole and then he hits it out of the water to two feet, so it seemed like he was destined to win this week.”
Mahan had a good look for birdie on 17 in regulation and in the playoff.
Bubba Watson, who was really, really into the duel, watched intently in the NBC-designated interview patio with a TV on the side of the pond across from 17 green.
The big-hitting left hander said excitedly to Aaron Baddeley, “Hunter just had the same exact putt!” to which Baddes replied, “I know, I was there.”
(It was actually a hilarious moment.)
When Baddeley saw where Hunter had lined up the putt, he added, “Doesn’t break that way.” And he was right.
“I feel like I hit good putts,” said Mahan. “I didn’t feel like they were bad strokes, they were just kind of misreads, some were too high, some were too low, and I could never get any kind of momentum going the right way.”
No doubt the loss hurt and lingers for at least a few days, but at the time Mahan still had the adrenaline of participating in a head-to-head duel for $10 million. The way things played out, the FedExCup was a real playoff — “That would be match play,” said Hunter earlier in the week on the driving range at East Lake when asked for his comments on the end-of-the-season format.
“I’m pretty happy with the way I played this week,” he said. “I played pretty good. I hit a lot of good shots. Like I said, I couldn’t buy a putt today, and that’s the way it goes sometimes, and that’s the way our years are sometimes.”
(AP Photo/Dave Martin)