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Mahan says Ryder defeat made him player he is today -- so can we move on?

By Steve Elling | Senior Golf Columnist

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hunter Mahan is having a career year, is poised for his best finish in a major championship and is just entering his prime at age 29.

What he wouldn't give for a few cracks in his rear-view mirror.

Mahan, a quotable American who has already won twice this year and is the top-ranked Yank in the world at No. 4, shot 4-under 68 to move into T6 after the third round of the Masters on Saturday.

Somewhat surprisingly, his defeat in the final match at the 2010 Ryder Cup was broached after the round, a nagging moment that continues to dog him, even after the six most spectacular weeks of his life this season.

2012 Masters
Mahan hit a sloppy chip shot in the final match in Wales, and Europe's Graeme McDowell won the winning point. Mahan was arguably the best player on the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup last fall and won the Accenture Match Play and last weekend in Houston.

What's a guy got to do to put that memory behind him?

"Well, obviously I've not made you forget," Mahan said. "If you can tell me what I'm supposed to do, I'll try to do it. It just seems to keep living with me, and I don't know why."I know they [NBC Sports] kept replaying it at the match play, and then I beat Rory, but that didn't seem to do much good, because you're asking me about it now. I don't know what it's going to take. I couldn't tell you."

He doesn't just hear about it from nosy media types, either. Poor guy. Even after he drilled future world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to win the match-play title, he was hearing about it.

"I get killed on Twitter all the time, usually mostly from European guys," he said. "It's pretty funny. A guy said something, and I just got tired of it. So I said, 'Well, I guess beating Rory McIlroy didn't do much good.'

"He goes, 'Of course not.' I was like, well, there you go. You know, I have no idea what it's going to take for people to forget that. It was a big moment, I guess I sucked at it."

But it toughened him up, for sure. In fact, looking back, it might have been responsible for the spike in his play over the past 2½ years, which includes four wins.

"I think I'm going to learn a lot from that experience, just because, heck, I could have gotten in a shell and been upset about it and dwelled on it," he said. "It was a great experience, man.

"I was in the last group at the Ryder Cup. What an incredible experience. All of these people; I have never seen anything like that. So, it was a great experience and I took a lot of good from that."
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