Skip to main content

Houston win puts Mahan in right state of mind for Masters

updated 9:06 AM EDT, Mon April 2, 2012
Hunter Mahan waves to the gallery during the final round of the Houston Open at Redstone on Sunday.
Hunter Mahan waves to the gallery during the final round of the Houston Open at Redstone on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hunter Mahan climbs up to a career-high fourth in golf's world rankings
  • American becomes the PGA Tour's first two-time winner of the 2012 season
  • His one-shot victory at the Houston Open boosts his hopes of a first major
  • The 29-year-old goes into the Masters this week with a new mental approach

(CNN) -- Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will predictably be among the favorites for this week's Masters Tournament, but another name slipped into title contention on Sunday.

Hunter Mahan's victory at the Houston Open lifted him up to fourth in the world rankings, higher than any other American who will be playing at the golf season's opening major at Augusta National.

Mahan's one-shot victory over Sweden's Carl Petterson launched him to the top of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, but more importantly he showed a new mental strength that may help him win one of the sport's four biggest events this year.

"I felt like this week my mind was probably the strongest part of my game. That's a great thing to feel for sure," he told the PGA Tour's official website after becoming the first two-time winner of 2012, following up his victory at the World Match Play Championship in late February -- when he beat McIlroy in the final.

"When you play a major, you're going to have to have all facets of the game, especially your mind has to be a strength. What I'm going to take from this week is that my mind was so strong, I was able to persevere through some ... you know, having the lead and doing something I haven't done before.''

What I was doing before, it stunk. It wasn't any fun. It just doesn't make sense to beat yourself up
Hunter Mahan

The 29-year-old had won three PGA events before this year, but is perhaps best known for his emotional defeat in the final game of the 2010 Ryder Cup teams event when he broke down in tears after losing the decider to Europe's Graeme McDowell.

"I felt like I could be a good player in this game, but to win twice this year and be fourth, it feels great, really does. It shows me what I can do, shows me what I'm capable of,'' Mahan said.

"I wasn't reaching my potential, in a way. I think great players, when you see them, their head is always up. They never seem to get down. They might get upset over a shot, but don't get down on themselves over a shot. It just never seems to bother them.

"You also watch Tiger ... I played with him last week. He's just got that confidence and that swagger back where it's just head up, chest back and ready to go play. You got to be positive in this game -- it's too hard. Hitting a good shot might be hitting it 30 feet (from the pin). You don't have to hit it (to) two feet for it to be a good shot.''

Mahan said he is enjoying the game more with his new approach.

"I think I'm just tired of doing it the wrong way,'' he said. "What I was doing before, it stunk. It wasn't any fun. We play so many holes, play so many tournaments -- it just doesn't make sense to beat yourself up, you know, because the game is hard enough.''

Mahan said he had thought about skipping the Texas tournament, where he had finished in the top eight three times in five years.

But the prospect of having to spend extra time at such a daunting place as Augusta, where he has twice made the top 10 in the last three years, made the decision to play at Redstone a simple one.

"I didn't like the idea of spending so much time there before the tournament, and the hardest part of that tournament is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, because you're just sitting around and seeing the course. You can't wait to get started,'' he said.

Mahan will seek to preserve a remarkable statistic in a sport where good putting is often the difference between success and failure -- he has not three-putted in 102 holes, more than five and a half rounds of golf.

But one player missing from the Masters field is South Africa's three-time major champion Ernie Els.

The 42-year-old, twice a runner-up at the Masters, needed to win in Houston to earn a starting place but finished six shots back and will not line up at Augusta for the first time since 1993.

Petterson finished on 15-under 273, one shot ahead of 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who fell away from contention with a 75.

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson tied for fourth on 276 in a group including 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
It's a big dilemma: Be with your wife for the birth of your first child, or stay at work and try to earn $11 million. For Billy Horschel, it's a no-brainer.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
She's just 19 but Hyo Joo Kim is already showing she's ready for the big time after recording the lowest ever round at a major championship.
updated 1:06 PM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Masters champion Bubba Watson says winning the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot would bring forward his retirement from the game.
updated 7:31 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
EVIAN-LES-BAINS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15: A view of the 14th green during the third round of The Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club on September 15, 2013 in Evian-les-Bains, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
The world's top women golfers will be chasing a $3.25 million prize purse at one of the most stunning courses on the LPGA Tour.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Tom Watson selects Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson as his wildcard picks for the Ryder Cup contest with Europe.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
Ian Poulter kept Europe clinging on in their Ryder Cup battle with the United States in Chicago.
Ian Poulter, who has constantly haunted the U.S. in Ryder Cup golf, is back after being chosen as a wildcard by European captain Paul McGinley.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Tiger Woods has split with his longtime coach Sean Foley after not winning a major during their four-year tenure.
updated 7:05 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
Success just keeps on coming for Rory McIlroy, but the world No. 1 is already targeting more titles following his second PGA Championship win.
updated 10:24 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
From Seve's "spine-shivering" moment to Jack Nicklaus' "perfect explosion," David Cannon has captured many of golf's defining images.
updated 9:20 AM EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
They came home as casualties of war -- physically shattered and mentally broken. But golf is proving to be an unlikely salvation for U.S. veterans.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
You are the one hitting the shots, but the man standing over your shoulder could hold the key to your golfing destiny.
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
PINEHURST, NC - JUNE 10: Rory McIlroy (R) of Northern Ireland talks with his dad Gerry McIlroy (L) during a practice round prior to the start of the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2 on June 10, 2014 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
He has been there for all three of his son's major wins, but the latest triumph may well have been the sweetest yet for Rory McIlroy's father.
ADVERTISEMENT