Posted on: February 26, 2012 2:53 pm

Mahan finding home with the Nome

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- For a putter carrying the same name as a town in Alaska, Hunter Mahan has been anything but freezing cold.

Mahan switched this week from a Ping Anser putter, an iconic, legendary club with an offset clubhead, to a more contemporary putter.

All he's done is scrape a tournament-best 28 birdies into the hole in his five matches en route to the Accenture Match Play final on Sunday at Dove Mountain.

Mahan is using a Nome, more of a mallet-headed club, with far less of an offset clubhead. He said he had tests run with a laser device and learned, to his shock, that with his old stick, he was aiming off-line, and not at the hole. 

"Pretty amazing, everything was aiming left," he said.

It's been an amazing performance since. Now we'll see if he didn’t use all the magic before facing world No. 2 Rory McIlroy in the final.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:09 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:09 pm

Mahan victory could be a 'short' story

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rest assured, America, Hunter Mahan has heard you.

Plenty of folks recall how much trouble the popular Yank had in the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup, where his short-game shortcomings all but decided the clinching point for the European team.

He remembers it, too, with great clarity. It's something he's been trying to rectify for quite some time.

"Four years ago, I made my first Ryder Cup team, and I couldn't chip it from me to you," Mahan said Saturday.

After as many years of trying to remedy the situation, Mahan's finally got his wedge play and short game where it needs to be, which surely is a major reason why he's advanced to the semifinals Sunday in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mahan went to see a short-game coach a few months back, but it only made the problem worse, he said. His chipping and pitching were so bad, he and caddie John Wood had to find alternatives -- like putting as often as possible from off the green.

"Sometimes you can putt instead of chipping, which I did a lot," he said, laughing. "Sometimes I would be, 'All right, what can we do here? We have to get creative,' just because I didn't feel good about my chipping."

That mercifully began to change in the second half of 2011. Once a player with a terrific short game, it had seriously eroded, though not for a lack of trying to patch it up.

"I kind of remember how it happened," he said. "I saw a guy, because I was curious, 'Boy, I was a good chipper and all of a sudden I kind of lost it.' I remember I went and saw somebody and it didn't work out."

That's just the start of the story.

"At the end of the day, it made it worse," he said. "I saw people, but people can give you all the advice in the world and you have to trust it, believe it and you have to do it over and over and over again until it clicks. If you put the work in, it will. It's not rocket science."

Dustin Johnson has heard some of the same complaints about his short game.

"It's not like people say, it's not like D.J. is going to be a bad [chipper] or he just can't get good at it, I don't believe that. Anybody that's good at chipping or driving or iron play, there's usually a reason for it, it's not just luck. You just have to find those reasons why and work on it and try to do better."

Mahan said he finally turned the corner last year, though it was very gradual.

"I would be inconsistent one day, the next day would be good, and the next day not so good," he said. "Then I put it together back to back. I put some work in in January and I felt like the first tournament at Torrey Pines it was great. I kind of hit the corner, probably mid-January, is when I started feeling it when I practiced, I could do it like every day.

Mahan has been a fixture in the world top 25 for a couple of years, despite his admittedly shaky short-game issues over the majority of that period. How the heck did he pull that off?
"Well, it's not just a contest of skills," he said. "It's a contest of getting the ball in the hole. We talk about, 'D.J. can't chip or hit his wedges,' well, I don't know, he's pretty good. He could have a couple of majors in his pocket.  It's about getting the ball in the hole."

Now he's doing all of it better, not to mention faster.

Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:09 am
Edited on: November 19, 2011 4:30 am

Furyk, Mahan lead USA to cusp of win in Oz

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For a good long while on Saturday, the Presidents Cup began taking on a familiar feel for Hunter Mahan and his American mates.

That is, if numb counts as a feeling.

It was wet, the fans were getting all wound up and the U.S. fortunes were heading in the wrong direction again, just like last year at the Ryder Cup in Wales.

But this time, they weathered the cool weather, quieted the home-field crowd and got one hand clasped firmly on the trophy heading into the final day of the Presidents Cup at treacherous Royal Melbourne.

“It definitely had a Ryder Cup atmosphere and today we had Ryder Cup weather,” said Mahan, whose birdie on the 17th hole helped win a crucial point in the afternoon best-ball session. “Boy, there was a lot going on here today – this was the Australian team we were playing here and you heard it all day.”

Just not so much at the end.

Just as the International team mounted a brief and frantic rally at the end, the Americans scored key best-ball wins behind Mahan and veteran Jim Furyk to take a commanding 13-9 lead into Sunday singles.

It ain’t exactly over, but fat women are warming up their chords at the Sydney Opera House. In the eight previous eight President Cup matches, no team that has trailed entering the 12 Sunday singles matches has managed to win to cup.

After demonstrably winning Saturday’s morning alternate-shot session 4-1 to take an 11-6 lead into the afternoon best-ball format, the International team finally made some noise as the situation got close to desperate. All five best-ball matches went to the 17th or 18th holes, in fact, but the Yanks mostly dodged the heavy mortal fire.

Furyk won his match with Nick Watney, 1 up, when opponent Adam Scott missed birdie putts from seven and 25 feet on the last two holes that could have resulted in the Americans losing a full point.

Furyk, one of four players on the U.S. team in his 40s, was the only one of the foursome who hasn’t sat out a match and improved to 4-0 for the week after one of his most disappointing seasons. He and Phil Mickelson teamed for wins in their first three matches before Lefty took the afternoon session Saturday off to rest.

After this week’s utterly unforeseen spurt, Furyk now has a PrezCup record of 19-10-3, matching Tiger Woods for most full points in event history. He’s 4-2 in career singles in the event, too.

Last year, Furyk was the PGA Tour Player of the Year, but he was winless in 2011 and rarely was in the Sunday mix. This week marked the first time in 14 combined Ryder or Presidents Cups that Furyk, 41, amassed a 4-0 mark.

Mahan redeemed himself some, too. He lost the deciding point at the Ryder last year when he flubbed a chip shot in the final match against Europe’s Graeme McDowell. Saturday, after animated Aussie Jason Day drained a 35-footer for birdie on the 17th hole to seemingly extend the match, Mahan dropped a 20-footer of his own to secure a 2-and-1 victory. In other words, the Internationals won the afternoon best-ball session, 3-2, but it could have been far worse for the Yanks.

"The putt Hunter Mahan made on the 17th hole was clutch," International captain Greg Norman said. "That is what makes you the professional golfer, what you are. That's why these guys win golf tournament, because they love that moment."

The wins by the Mahan and Furyk pairings certainly let some air out of the Aussie arena, so to speak. In the five times that the Yanks have led by four or fewer points heading into Sunday play, the team has never lost the singles session.

In broad terms, the Internationals must muster 8 of the 12 points to have a chance to secure a tie in the matches, in which case the U.S. would still retain the cup. Only once in eight previous Presidents Cups has either team managed eight points in singles, when the U.S. won the 1994 Sunday session, 8-4, to win the cup in an overall 20-12 rout.

Barring a complete crash and burn, the Americans will be 7-1-1 in the event on Sunday night.

Category: Golf
Posted on: May 13, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 2:29 pm

Wild, woolly weekend ahead at Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- We scribes here at CBSSports.com are forever in search of the latest trends, the things that move and shape the sports we cover, from the people to the rules, in an attempt to keep our readers up to date on the games they love.

Here's a hot one for you: Three guys with beards are in the top five at the Players Championship.

Make no mistake, beards are rare in golf, because it's a monochromatic, buttoned-down crowd, mostly. But thanks to guys like Lucas Glover, who won last week and looks as though he hasn't shaved since the onset of puberty, they are becoming more noticed of late.

Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan, also in the top five at TPC Sawgrass as of midday Friday, are also unshaven and ranked in the world top 20. The timing seems odds on all three counts, since summer temperatures are blazing already in the Southeast and beards aren't exactly cool in the summer months.

Mahan said his beard, which is sparce compared to the manicured fescue that Glover sprouted, isn't uncomfortable. So it's not a fair comparison, he said,

"I don't really feel it that much," Mahan said. "Yeah, [Glover] is in another category of woolly mammoth."
Category: Golf
Posted on: May 13, 2011 2:17 pm

Mahan styling near top of Sawgrass board

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- In a manner of speaking, Hunter Mahan was already the talk of the tour even before he shot a 5-under 67 in the second round of the Players Championship on Friday to move into weekend contention.

Mahan's move pushed him into the top five as the morning wave finished play, although Mr. Blackwell might not be putting him so high on his infamous fashion list.  You know, if the fashionista wasn't dead.

Mahan made a visit to a Golf Channel talk show earlier in the week and showed up in a long-sleeved, multi-colored print shirt, a vest, a bow tie and black-framed eyeglasses that had apparently been borrowed from Drew Carey.

Mahan, one of the most approachable players in the game, has been getting all sorts of feedback since. One wag said he looked like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Disney pirate movies. If you haven't seen the movies, think about Keith Richards on stage with the Rolling Stones.

"I can roll with that," he laughed.

Of course, others suggested he was wearing garb that Ryan Moore, another player with an adventuresome fashion sense, had rejected.

"It's nice to see people stepping out of their confort zone and bringing a little style to the game," Moore said when asked about Mahan's attire.

I think that was intended as a compliment.

Mahan said he was trying to make a splash on his live TV appearance, on the Gray Goose show. Trouble was, so many people were tranfixed by what he was wearing, they missed the good things he had to say about the state of the game.

"When you are up there, you want to stand out and show some sort of personality," he said. "I wouldn't play golf in it."

Mahan, who grew up in Southern California and lives in Dallas, dresses fairly conservatively at work compared to some, like Rickie Fowler or even Phil Mickelson. mahan seemed pleased that people took notice, whatever they were saying.

"I guess that's just the way I roll," he laughed.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:19 am

Mahan weathers cold, winds for Doral lead

DORAL, Fla. -- Hunter Mahan has already experienced the best and worst that the Blue Monster has to offer.

After playing in completely benign conditions for his first 11 holes, play was suspended on Thursday night and he had to play his final seven on Friday morning in chilly weather and a 25 mph wind.

Somehow, there was no performance dropoff and he finished with an 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Japan's Ryo Ishikawa as players headed out for their second round of the day at the Cadillac Championship.

"Yesterday was perfect, you couldn't ask for better weather," Mahan said. "Today, it's blowing extremely hard and you have to think your way around this golf course now and you just have to know where the dangerous spots are and play safe."

As Ishikawa put it: "I expected the monster to show its teeth."

Mahan, who has three career wins and already has claimed a WGC title, played his closing stretch in 1 under.

"I putted great and made a couple nice par putts early," he said. "Just got to take what the wind gives you, really, and just try to avoid the water and avoid the big numbers."

Easier said than done.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 7:34 pm

With no wind, players blow away Doral

DORAL, Fla. -- If there's anything that has been learned over the 50 years that tournament golf has been staged hereabouts, it's that the Blue Monster without wind is like a dragon that doesn't breath fire.

Helpless, defenseless and vulnerable.

After a storm blew through the Cadillac Championship on Thursday and caused a 2:45 delay, the winds nearly disappeared and players painted the scoreboards in red.

Matt Kuchar eagled the first hole and was 5 under through his first five holes. Hunter Mahan birdied seven of the 10 holes he played and was leading when play was suspended because of darkness.

Years ago, when Doral was considered a long, hard venue, the Blue Monster moniker had more teeth. Sans the wind, it's about as threatening as a septuagenarian with dentures.

"I guess with that storm it brought some tranquility to the golf course, because there was just no wind," Mahan said. "There was nothing out there. The course is in perfect shape. I was seeing there was a bunch of low scores. So, good players and a good golf course and benign conditions, you're going to have some good scores."

There were 26 players in the field of 66 at 3 under of better when the horn sounded, halting play.

"When the wind doesn't blow here," said Lance Bennett, Kuchar's caddie, "people are always going to go low."

Not everybody lit up the place, of course. The big-name trio of Philk Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell was something of a letdown. Mickelson was 2 under and the other pair were both 1 under.

"We had a beautiful day to play golf," Mickelson said. "When the storm went away, the weather cleared up and we just had beautiful weather."

The rain that blasted the course for an hour and tore up severl structures did more than just throw the schedule into disarray, too.

"It definitely made the greens softer," said Camilo Villegas, who was 3 under.

Category: Golf
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