Blog Entry

Mahan victory could be a 'short' story

Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:09 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:09 pm

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rest assured, America, Hunter Mahan has heard you.

Plenty of folks recall how much trouble the popular Yank had in the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup, where his short-game shortcomings all but decided the clinching point for the European team.

He remembers it, too, with great clarity. It's something he's been trying to rectify for quite some time.

"Four years ago, I made my first Ryder Cup team, and I couldn't chip it from me to you," Mahan said Saturday.

After as many years of trying to remedy the situation, Mahan's finally got his wedge play and short game where it needs to be, which surely is a major reason why he's advanced to the semifinals Sunday in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mahan went to see a short-game coach a few months back, but it only made the problem worse, he said. His chipping and pitching were so bad, he and caddie John Wood had to find alternatives -- like putting as often as possible from off the green.

"Sometimes you can putt instead of chipping, which I did a lot," he said, laughing. "Sometimes I would be, 'All right, what can we do here? We have to get creative,' just because I didn't feel good about my chipping."

That mercifully began to change in the second half of 2011. Once a player with a terrific short game, it had seriously eroded, though not for a lack of trying to patch it up.

"I kind of remember how it happened," he said. "I saw a guy, because I was curious, 'Boy, I was a good chipper and all of a sudden I kind of lost it.' I remember I went and saw somebody and it didn't work out."

That's just the start of the story.

"At the end of the day, it made it worse," he said. "I saw people, but people can give you all the advice in the world and you have to trust it, believe it and you have to do it over and over and over again until it clicks. If you put the work in, it will. It's not rocket science."

Dustin Johnson has heard some of the same complaints about his short game.

"It's not like people say, it's not like D.J. is going to be a bad [chipper] or he just can't get good at it, I don't believe that. Anybody that's good at chipping or driving or iron play, there's usually a reason for it, it's not just luck. You just have to find those reasons why and work on it and try to do better."

Mahan said he finally turned the corner last year, though it was very gradual.

"I would be inconsistent one day, the next day would be good, and the next day not so good," he said. "Then I put it together back to back. I put some work in in January and I felt like the first tournament at Torrey Pines it was great. I kind of hit the corner, probably mid-January, is when I started feeling it when I practiced, I could do it like every day.

Mahan has been a fixture in the world top 25 for a couple of years, despite his admittedly shaky short-game issues over the majority of that period. How the heck did he pull that off?
"Well, it's not just a contest of skills," he said. "It's a contest of getting the ball in the hole. We talk about, 'D.J. can't chip or hit his wedges,' well, I don't know, he's pretty good. He could have a couple of majors in his pocket.  It's about getting the ball in the hole."

Now he's doing all of it better, not to mention faster.


Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: February 26, 2012 6:56 am

Mahan victory could be a 'short' story

One player of this Final Four that hasn't gotten much attention is Mark Wilson.  To me, the most interesting aspect of this guy is that he's a "wee mon."  I think they said 5'8" and 140 lbs.  Hardly fits the image so many in the golf media try to paint of the PGA having a surge of "athletic athletes" taking over the tour.

Of course, Wilson is hardly atypical, but the way golf is promoted today, you'd think the only thing keeping Endomican Suh from winning the Masters every year is a lack of desire or opportunity.  There was once a time when guys like Chi Chi Rodriguez and Jeff Sluman and Corey Pavin were used to show how size wasn't a factor in playing winning golf.  (What was the nickname Pavin always hated, the Little Bulldog?)  For some reason, that seems to be something the PGA is no longer proud of.  They used to take joy in the fact that a Craig Stadler was not going to win an Olympic gold medal as a sprinter, but he could win the Masters.

Wilson is a modest-sized human, and a math major to boot!  It seems to me that golf would want to shout this from the treetops if they want to "grow the sport."

It occurs to me that maybe I'm missing the boat on the PGA and golf industry's objectives.  Maybe they think people already know you can win at golf without being an "athletic athlete."  Maybe they want to get guys who benchpress 300 lbs to think that strength carries over to putting.  Maybe they want those guys to buy an expensive set of clubs (is there any other kind today?) before they realize that, while they may indeed be a great golfer, benching a lot, or running fast does not necessarily translate to golf.

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