Hunter Mahan has some thank-you notes to write. He can start with his girlfriend, Kandi Harris. Mahan might not have won the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale without her.
Mahan noticed a crack in his driver after he teed off on the 2nd hole in the final round on Sunday, so he sent Kandi racing to the clubhouse parking lot to retrieve his backup from the trunk of his car. Harris returned with the club before Mahan teed off on the 3rd hole, a crucial move because No. 3 is a par-5. "I really didn't want to hit a three-wood on a par-5," Mahan said.
"He's buying me dinner tonight," Harris, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, declared as Mahan finished his winner's press conference.
Another thank-you should be sent to the Dave Stockton Putting Co.—that's the legendary putter--putting coach plus his gurus-in-the-making, sons Dave Jr. and Ron. Mahan had been struggling with his stroke so he, like Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes and a growing number of Tour players, went to the master for help. Mahan also switched back to the putter he used in 2007 (when he took his only other Tour title, at Hartford) through part of '09. "I was simply trying to find the best way for me to putt my best," Mahan said, "and it's been feeling good."
Apparently so. The putter won this Phoenix Open for Mahan on the closing nine. He holed an eight-footer for eagle at the 13th, an 18-footer for birdie at the next hole, a 14-footer for another birdie and the lead at 16, then a pair of knee-knocking par savers of four and six feet on the last two holes to edge Rickie Fowler by a shot.
Mahan should also send notes to Fowler and PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang for making his path to victory slightly easier. Fowler, trailing by a stroke, uncharacteristically laid up from 230 yards with his second shot at the par-5 15th to play to his strength, his wedge game, then left his approach short of the green, scrambled for par and watched birdie putts narrowly miss on all three of the final holes. Yang lit up the back nine with four birdies and an eagle in six holes, blew past the field into the lead and then—serious oops!—hooked his drive into the pond guarding the drivable par-4 17th and made bogey. He finished two back.
Said Mahan, 27, who played on the most recent U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, "I haven't won since 2007, so I thought it was important for me to get at least one win this year."
Done. Now get on those thank-you notes.
Photograph by FRED VUICH
MAGIC WAND Mahan made 65 of 67 putts from inside 10 feet and holed five key attempts down the stretch.