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Hunter Mahan ( 1982 - )  Category ( Athletes ) [suggest a correction]

Hunter Mahan keeps stalking a major title on the PGA circuit, but they continue to escape at the last minute.

In the 2009 U.S. Open, for instance, Mahan was one shot off the lead when he drilled a five-wood right on the flagstick on the 16th hole of the final day. Unfortunately, that shot was too good, caroming off the stiff metal stick and off the green. From there, Mahan made bogey and his chance at a victory was gone.

After his final round 72, leaving him one of only eight golfers to finish even par or below at the notrious Bethpage Black course on Long Island, Mahan was philosophical.

"It happens," he said. "It's a U.S. Open. You're going to get shots like that."

Mahan was born in Orange, CA on May 17, 1982, but learned to play golf in Texas. His high school won the state championship with Mahan playing No. 1, and he gained a measure of natioinal visibility by capturing the USGA Junior Chanmpionship in 1999.

As a member of the Southern California golf team, Mahan was Pac 10 Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference. Despite that success, however, he transferred to Oklahoma State University to be closer to home and became a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year.

In 2002, Mahan lost 2 and 1 to Ricky Barnes in the finals of the U.S. Amateur. Coincidentally, Barnes – like Mahan a native Californian -- also made a strong bid for making the 2009 Master’s his first major victory before fading down the stretch.

Mahan was still an amateur when he finished tied for 28th in the 2003 Masters. But that encouraged him to forego his final year at OSU and enter the PGA qualifying tournament. A 16th-place finish gave him his tour card at 20.

It’s rare that any new professional, no matter how talented, dominates the PGA tour immediately, and Mahan was no exception. He did post a couple of top 10 finishes in 2006 and “arrived” in 2007 when his victory in the Travelers Championship lifted him to No. 32 on the money list. He also tied for sixth in the British Open and for fifth in the tour Championship.

The next year, Mahan was named by Jack Nicklaus to the Ryder Cup team and wound up leading the squad in scoring (3.5 points) while playing in all five possible matches.

At this point in his career, Hunter Mahan is starting to get the inevitable question: When are you going to win a major?

Soon, he thinks.

“I just feel so comfortable playing in a major,” he told PGA “You just kind of know what to expect, I think, because you know it's going to be hard. It's going to be a long, tough week. So I just really enjoyed the challenge (at the ’09 U.S. Open).”

Mahan considers himself “a good striker of the ball,” wielding his woods and long irons as well as anyone on tour. It has been putting and his short game that has been the variable.

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