AUGUSTA — Perhaps winning the Masters will be the tonic to make people forget about Hunter Mahan’s performance in the Ryder Cup.
Starting at par, Mahan shot 4 under in Saturday’s third round and trails the leader by five strokes.
It was another good round in what has already been an amazing season for Mahan. He’s the only player on the PGA Tour this year with two wins, including a victory at last week’s Shell Houston Open. He could become the first person since Phil Mickelson to win the Masters a week after winning a PGA Tour event.
Taking from his Ryder Cup experience, he doesn’t seem to be putting too much pressure on himself, which may be the key to his results.
“I don’t want a bad round to determine my happiness,” he said.” I don’t want a bad chip to ruin my day.”
He laughed at the chip remark, a reference to a chunked shot he hit in the deciding match of the 2010 Ryder Cup. Mahan was 2-down to Graeme McDowell standing at No. 17 at Celtic Manor with the U.S. and Europe tied. Mahan’s tee shot to the par 3 landed short of the green. He chunked his chip, missed a long par putt and conceded the hole and the match to the European squad.
He was inconsolable afterward.
Though he says he still gets killed on twitter about it and has no idea how to make people forget the flubbed shot, he seems to have let the pain go and learned a lesson.
“That might have helped me because then I started saying, ‘You know what? I’m not going to let someone else determine my success,’ ” he said. “’ I’ll determine my success after a round, after a tournament and then I can move on from there.’ ”
There has been a lot of success since.
He responded to his match play loss to McDowell by destroying Jason Day, 5 and 3, in last year’s Presidents Cup and finished 4-1 to help the U.S. beat the International team. He also had two second-place finishes as part of nine top-10s last year and won more than $3.5 million.
He followed that by beating Rory McIlroy in the Match Play Championship finals earlier this year, the first of his two victories. He won the Shell Houston Open last week and is now the top U.S. player in the Official World Golf Rankings at No. 4.
He said he’s walking a fine line between focus and fun. He is preparing as much as he can, and constantly trying to think of ways he can improve because he said if you aren’t getting better you are getting worse.
But he’s not obsessing when things, like the Ryder Cup, don’t go his way.
He said he will wake up the morning excited that he has given himself a chance to win his first major, though he’s trying to remember that it just a golf tournament, and golf won’t determine his happiness.
“If you want it to much it might be too hard to reach,” he said.