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.