Planet Golf — 02 April 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Has Mahan risen to elite status?

Is it time for give Hunter Mahan his due? Is it time to put him among the elite golfers capable of winning a Green Jacket?

Mahan won the Shell Houston Open Sunday, elbowing through a pack of quality golfers down the stretch to win by one stroke over Carl Petterson and two over former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Mahan finished with a 16-under par 272 score.

Mahan becomes the only two-time champion this season. He also won the WGC-Accenture in Tucson in late February – beating the world’s No. 2 player Rory McIIroy in the title match. This is the second time in Mahan’s career that he has won multiple events in a season (2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).

With the victory, he has taken over the top spot in the FedExCup standings, 258 points ahead of Johnson Wagner. He also has moved up to No. 4 in the world golf rankings.

“Shoot, I’d be lying to you if I said I doesn’t feel awesome to be ranked No. 4 in the world,” Mahan told the media afterward. “That’s a pretty surreal thing to think about. You know, I felt like I could be a good player in this game, but to win twice this year and be 4th, it feels great, really does. It shows me what I can do, you know, shows me what I’m capable of.”

He is the Tour’s top money winner with $2,937,240. more than a half million ahead of everyone else.

Mahan, 29, won his fifth PGA title, tying Dustin Johnson for the most by a player under 30. Not even McIIroy can say that. He has yet to miss a cut in seven starts this season with three top 10s.

That’s a loaded resume but it doesn’t translate well to Augusta. He is listed as a 40-to-1 shot to win the Masters next week. Even Jason Day, who hasn’t finished higher than 17th in four PGA events this season, has better odds at 33-to-1.

Asked if his win and his season thus far has prepared him well for Augusta, Mahan said, “I don’t know. I’ve kind of been on the back nine on Sunday a couple times, kind of felt the roars and cheers a couple times. That’s going to help, because I remember those feelings because it’s hard to – it’s hard to tell anybody how it feels standing on 15th fairway there, kind of looking down on 16, 17 and 18. It’s hard to describe that and so – but I know that, you know, my mind is capable.”

One reason he’s not among the favorites is because he’s had a somewhat spotty record there. He has qualified for the Masters five times and missed two cuts, including last year. But he did finish in a tie for eighth in 2010 and a tie for 10th in 2009.

“Physically, I feel capable,” he added. “So I feel like, you know, hopefully I have that situation and opportunity. I feel very – I’m going to feel excited to be there and maybe more comfortable than, you know, having not had a lead and finishing out on the 18th hole. I take a lot from this week, but Augusta is its own animal. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Only two players have won the Masters after winning a tournament the week before. Sandy Lyle won the 1988 Greater Greensboro Open then the Masters title and Phil Mickelson won the 2006 BellSouth Classic before winning the his second Green Jacket.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 46th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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