Hunter Mahan has waited four years for a chance to make amends.
Mahan, one of Tom Watson’s captain’s picks for the United States team in the Ryder Cup next week at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland, lost the deciding match to Graeme McDowell in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales.
“I remember walking off that green and all the fans rushing on to Europe and Graeme and having a big party,” said Mahan, who chili-dipped a chip shot to lose his match on the 17th hole and was in tears afterward.
“I felt like I was walking by myself for 600 yards back to the clubhouse, and it’s a very lonely feeling. I want to get rid of that.”
Mahan, who grew up in Orange and attnded USC for one year before transferring to Oklahoma State, has a strong match-play record, 13-9-4 in the Ryder and Presidents cups.
He also beat Rory McIlroy in the final of the 2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship before losing to Matt Kuchar in the title match the following year.
Despite those successes, the McDowell match still plays on his mind.
“Winning is great, but for some reason losing lingers,” said Mahan, who cemented his spot on this year’s team in Watson’s mind when he captured the Barclays, the opener of the PGA Tour playoffs, for his first victory in more than two years.
“It hangs with you. I think redemption is going to be a strong word amongst all the players. Europe has flat out kicked our butt the last 10 or 15 years, and that’s just the way it is.
“We have a great challenge ahead of us, but we’re extremely motivated, and we have a lot to prove among each player.”
Mahan, who was left off the 2012 U.S. team that lost the Ryder Cup in stunning Sunday singles collapse, didn’t want to be left out again, but he failed to play well enough this season to finish in the top nine in the point standings to earn an automatic berth.
He had to do something late in the season to catch Watson’s eye, which he did by tying for 15th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, tying for seventh in the PGA Championship and then claiming his sixth PGA Tour victory to start the playoffs at TPC Boston.
“(Watson) texted me after the win and stuff and said congrats,” said Mahan, who entered the Tour Championship fifth in the standings and had a chance to take home the FedEx Cup before tied for 23rd in Atlanta. He finished fifth in the standings. “He liked how I played. And so that was the first bit of communication we’ve had. And (vice captains) Andy North and Steve Stricker texted me, as well. …
“It feels good to be back in contention and get a win. I was playing great that week, as well, but you never know what could have happened. It feels good to get a W. It’s been a couple years, and it feels good the way I did it with a great round on Sunday.
“I saw myself winning. I saw myself making the putts. At the Match Play (in 2012), it was kind of the same thing. I just got in the groove and I just was seeing myself winning there. I felt so into the moment on every shot. I wasn’t behind, and I wasn’t thinking too far ahead.”
The U.S. leads the all-time series in the Ryder Cup, which dates to 1927 at Worchester (Mass.) Country Club, 25-12-2, but things changed since Great Britain and Ireland added the rest of Europe in 1979.
The Euros are on a 9-4-1 run since 1985 and have won five of the last six, broken up only by the Americans’ victory in 2008 at Valhalla.
That is one reason why the PGA of America chose Watson as captain, because he was in charge the last time the U.S. won on European soil, at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, in 1993.
Watson has a great feel for the Ryder Cup. He said it was difficult seeing the American meltdown two years ago at Medinah, even though he was watching it at home on television.
It was the same for Mahan, who had his own reasons for wanting to be there.
“The only thing worse than losing the Ryder Cup is not having a chance to win it,” Mahan said.
Painfully, he knows that from both sides.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre