Ryder Cup tears a distant memory for smiling Mahan
Sixteen days after being reduced to tears at the Ryder Cup, American Hunter Mahan returned to the PGA Tour for this week’s Las Vegas Open with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
Although the 28-year-old will never forget the emotional roller-coaster of his gripping 3&1 loss to Graeme McDowell in the decisive singles match at Celtic Manor, he has only positive memories of the US defeat at the hands of Europe.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a situation like that again,” Mahan told reporters on the eve of Thursday’s opening round at the TPC Summerlin in the penultimate PGA Tour event of the year.
“I was excited to have that opportunity to have a chance to win the Cup like that. It was a great experience. To me, it’s just the best time of golf. I only take positives from it, that’s for sure.”
With the overall score tantalisingly poised at 13-1/2 13-1/2, Mahan and McDowell had everything to play for in the final Ryder Cup match out on the course.
The American, unbeaten in five games on his Cup debut when the US won two years ago, trailed by three after 11 holes but fought back to one down with three to play, needing only a half for his team to retain the cherished trophy.
However, McDowell sank a curling birdie putt from 12 feet on the 16th green to go two up before securing the win with a conceded par at the 17th where Mahan succumbed to nerves and fluffed his chip.
“I felt like I played really good that day,” Mahan said. “I just didn’t make any putts. On the front nine, I had five holes of putts I should have made. That’s what kind of put me in the position I was in being three down going into the back nine.
“I actually hit it great, and I thought I was handling everything pretty well and had a shot at being in that position.”
Mahan could hardly muster a word at the post-Ryder Cup news conference and at one point broke down in tears when trying to discuss his match with McDowell.
Asked on Wednesday whether he had considered ending his season after the disappointment of the Ryder Cup, Mahan replied: “No, never. It was just the emotion of the week.
“It’s a long week. You put everything you have into that week and then, when it’s kind of over, you have nothing left.
“And now I’m in Vegas trying to win this event. I think it’s pretty easy to put it behind you because I took a lot of good things from it. I don’t take anything bad from it.”
Mahan, a double winner on the 2010 PGA Tour, is renowned for his ability to shoot low scores and he likes his chances this week at the TPC Summerlin.
“I feel pretty refreshed, and I haven’t felt that way in a while so I’m feeling good about it,” he said.
“The weather here is usually pretty hot, but it’s actually pretty cool at the moment and we got a good amount of rain the last couple days so you can be aggressive. I’m just excited about this week.”
Britain’s Martin Laird, who clinched his maiden PGA Tour victory here last year in a three-way playoff, is back to defend his title.