February 26 2012
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
MARANA, Ariz. — There are so many turning points in a match play tournament and Hunter Mahan was very solid through six matches. He hit 64 of 96 greens, 57 of 75 fairways and was 7 of 10 in bunker saves. However, the turning point of this tournament might have come on Monday when Mahan changed to a face-balanced, center-shafted "Nome" putter from Ping. He proceeded to make 35 birdies in winning six matches.
Focused: Rory McIlroy missed a three-foot par putt on the first hole and you wondered about his concentration to start the championship match. McIlroy was coming off a very emotional semifinal victory against Lee Westwood and might have been a bit flat on the first hole against Mahan. "That's probably true. I put a lot of energy, a lot of emotion into that first match," McIlroy said. He was 4 down at the turn only to rally, playing holes 11-15 in 5-under par but the slow start could not be overcome.
Nutritious or superstitious: Starting on Wednesday, Hunter Mahan had the same lunch and dinner for five straight days. He had a tuna melt with swiss cheese and fried avocado for lunch, followed by buffalo tacos and eggplant soup for dinner. "We did not eat that because we're superstitious," said Mahan's wife Kandi. "Hunter kept eating that combination because he felt so good on the course and figured it was good energy."
Concessions: Lee Westwood and McIlroy conceded very few putts to each other during their semifinal match. In fact, Westwood once made Rory putt from inside of two feet. That changed in the afternoon matches. McIlroy was very generous with Mahan and in the consolation match, Westwood told Mark Wilson his 9-footer was good for birdie. Westwood was going to make bogey at best so the concession did not alter the match but you did not see that same generosity against McIlroy.
Caddie wanted: Wilson needs a caddie this week. No, his is not parting company with Chris P. Jones. It seems Jones has had his car out for the entire West Coast swing and with Wilson playing two matches on Sunday, Chris has a long drive ahead of him. It's 2,168 miles from Arizona to Florida and Jones won't arrive at PGA National until Thursday. Wilson suspects he'll have a lot of offers to caddie for him in Wednesday's pro-am.
Shots to remember: Three shots stand out for Mahan in his championship match. He hit a 6-iron on the 159-yard sixth hole to tap-in distance. "I has to crush it to get it there and it was perfect," Mahan said. At the 10th hole he then hit a 7-iron from 177 yards that was also conceded. "I hit that good too but also got a good kick on the green." Finally, Mahan got up and down out of a greenside bunker on the 13th hole for birdie to preserve a 3 up lead. "I have been practicing my short game all winter and it showed this week," he said. Mahan was 7 of 10 in bunker saves during the tournament.
Room to the right: There was a great synergy between Mahan and his caddie John Wood the entire week but it really showed on the 16th hole. Mahan was 2 up with three to play on the 191-yard hole. Wood wasn't about to let his player shoot at the flagstick. His last words to Mahan were "we have room right all day." Mahan aimed safely away from the hole, made par and closed out his match on the next hole.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.