By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Hunter Mahan isn’t sure what has held him back in the final round of each of the last two majors when he played in the final pairing on Sunday.
Well, Phil Mickelson’s 66 at Muirfield was one -- “No one was going to beat him that day,” Mahan said.
“I felt like at the U.S. Open, I wasn't that far off. I just had one or two shots that hurt me.”
Perhaps fatherhood will help.
Playing for the first time since his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child two weeks ago, Mahan has a newfound perspective. In other words, if your life doesn’t revolve solely around golf, it makes playing golf at this level that much easier.
“It's hard to win tournaments out here,” Mahan said. “It's not easy.
“I've just got to keep working, keep getting better at my all-around game, and I think I'll get there. But I can't really point to one thing. I just know that I've played exactly how I wanted to play, and I didn't let the situation kind of overrun me. Those type of experiences are just invaluable to have.”
Mahan has done just about everything else in golf. He’s won five times on the PGA TOUR, including a pair of World Golf Championships titles, played in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups and beat Rory McIlroy in match play a week before McIlroy would move to No. 1 in the world.
The hole in the resume is a major.
While Mickelson lapped everyone in the final round at The Open Championship, Mahan didn’t do himself any favors with a 75.
Ditto at the U.S. Open, where he shot 73 on Sunday to finish four back of Justin Rose, who was three strokes better than Mahan that afternoon.
“It's been very encouraging to be in the final group in a major,” Mahan said. “I think it's a great accomplishment, because you're in the last group out there and you get to see what everybody else does. You can see why Tiger and why those guys want to be in the last group. I feel like it's somewhat calming in a way, or at least that's what I felt, because you know kind of what everyone is doing, and you get a sense of everything.
“On a week-to-week basis on the PGA TOUR, going into Sunday, you might have 10 guys, 15 guys, who really have a chance to win, because you never know how somebody could shoot a 63 or 64. But in majors, I think you want to stay close to the lead, and hopefully by Sunday have a chance to kind of be in that top 5, because I think that's a huge advantage compared to the field to kind of come up from behind somebody.”
So what are Mahan’s chances at Oak Hill this week?
“I'm excited about playing this golf course,” he said. “It's a ball-striker's place, small greens, and you really have to control your irons into the greens.
“If I can do that, which I feel good about, I think I'll have a good chance on Sunday."