Hunter Mahan is the winner of the 2012 World Golf Championships-Match Play after a 2 and 1 victory over world No. 2 Rory McIlroy.
Mahan steamrolled McIlroy on the first 10 holes; His lead was four-up with just seven holes remaining. McIlroy was not going quietly as he immediately birdied 11 to show Mahan that he wasn’t finished. Mahan answered the challenge by hitting fairway after fairway and green after green to keep the pressure on young McIlroy. McIlroy’s birdie at 14 to cut Mahan’s lead to two-up was as close as he would get. Mahan closed McIlroy out on 17 as McIlroy’s birdie putt couldn’t find the hole.
How impressive was Mahan this week? He only saw the 17th hole in three of the six matches he won this week and only played the 18th once. Mahan is known for his relentless game from tee-to-green and this week his chipping and putting were on point as well. With that combination in motion, Mahan showed in that he deserves to be ranked in the 10 of the world.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Hunter Mahan has had to live the last 18 months with the moniker of “the guy who couldn’t beat Graeme McDowell” at the 2010 Ryder Cup in the final singles match which gave Europe the cup.
His 2010 season saw him finish with two wins and a 17th place finish in the FedExCup standings and people were expecting this two-time Ryder Cupper to break out and become one of the best American players in the world.
2011 came around and Mahan was better, finishing a career-high seventh in the FedExCup standings, but not in the “win” department as he failed to win a tournament.
In 2012, Mahan started his season off with a top 10 at Torrey Pines, T15 at Pebble Beach and a respectable T24 at Riviera.
Match Play shouldn’t be easy. And in the end it wasn’t easy.
Mahan had to defeat five Ryder Cuppers or Major-winners plus arguably one of the hottest golfers in the last 14 months, Mark Wilson, on his way to victory.
It took him 19 holes in his first match to knock out fellow Ryder Cupper Zach Johnson. This would be the only match all week that he saw the final hole.
In round two, he made seven birdies to smoke former PGA Champion Y.E. Yang.
Round three matched Mahan with one of the world’s hottest players, Steve Stricker. Stricker, along with Mark Wilson, are the only two players on Tour to have three wins in the last 14 months. Mahan continued his torrid pace making seven more birdies for a 4 and 3 victory.
Last year’s third-place finisher and Ryder Cup teammate Matt Kuchar couldn’t slow Mahan down either. His belly putter went ice cold and Mahan’s steady play had him five-up at the turn. Mahan closed Kuchar out 6 and he was able to save some birdies for the finals.
In the first semi-final, Mahan allowed Mark Wilson to only win two holes en route to a 2 and 1 victory.
On Sunday, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy was the final victim and Hunter Mahan claimed his second WGC victory and his fourth career win overall.
Déjà vu All Over Again, Again
Young John Huh outlasted veteran Robert Allenby at 2012 Mayakoba Golf Classic in a playoff that would have made Ernie Banks proud. As Rob Bolton pointed out via Twitter, this was tied for the second-longest sudden death playoff in history behind the 1949 Motor City Open. It wasn’t exactly “let’s play two” but you get my point!
Huh, who made eight-consecutive pars in the playoff, is the first rookie-winner on Tour since Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship last August.
Huh’s final round 63 (eight-under-par) enabled him to make up a seven-shot deficit on Sunday’s leader Daniel Summerhays. Huh was safely in as the clubhouse leader while Allenby stood on 18 tee with a two-stroke lead. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before this season, but Allenby made a double-bogey six on the final hole to post 13-under as well. Chris Stroud, who was one behind the clubhouse leaders on 18 tee and needed to make birdie, also made double-bogey six, and the two-man playoff was set.
Matching pars over the first seven holes, Huh and Allenby were dead-locked heading back to the par-three 10th. Huh made his eighth par of sudden death and finally Allenby couldn’t match.
Huh, who won’t 22 until May, now has his first-ever PGA Tour victory and he did it in classy fashion. He only made five bogeys on the week, led the field in GIR and his 63 was the low-round of the Tournament. Not a bad way to finish on Sunday!
Huh should have been on your radar with four cuts made in four events played in 2012, including two finishes in the top 12. Now he has to be!
Young Guns vs Old Guns
In seven tournaments this season, the Young vs Old argument is now 6-2-1.
For the young, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21) and Hunter Mahan (29) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is in the middle, a half-point for each.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the old folks on Tour.
That’s seven-for-seven for US players winning on Tour in full-field events in 2012. Make it nine-for-nine in ALL events! What a start to a Ryder Cup year!
Rory McIlroy: The world No. 2 golfer ran out of gas in the final round versus Hunter Mahan and part of that could be attributed to his semi-final grinder with world number-three Lee Westwood. One, they don’t like each other. Two, he got off to a terrible start and had to chase in the first nine holes in both matches on Sunday. It’s not easy to come back time after time and McIlroy ran out of shots in the final after he found himself up against the better player on the day. There’s no doubt McIlroy is one of the top three players in the world and his performance this week does nothing to change my opinion of that.
Mark Wilson: Well-deserved third-place finish after defeating world number-three Lee Westwood. Wilson, who has victories at the Sony, Humana and WMPO in the last 14 months, might finally start to get some world-wide recognition after this week. He’s not flashy. He was a math major at UNC. He’s just steady and productive. And in results-driven business, his results in the last 14 months have been excellent.
Lee Westwood: The world No. 3 did his part to uphold his quadrant of the bracket. Never advancing beyond the round of 16 in 11 career-attempts, Westwood ended up being the only player that could lose twice in this tournament. His short game looks as solid as it’s been in recent memory and so does his figure. He’s lost weight in the off-season and it looks like the new regiment is agreeing with him.
Matt Kuchar: Last year’s third-place finisher ran out of gas in his quarter-final with eventual champion Hunter Mahan. The belly putter that was working so well earlier in the week was struggling to make pars. Not good. Kuchar’s 2012 start has been non-eventful (T22, T33 and T24) so we will all see if this T5 will spring him back to life in the fantasy world.
Peter Hanson: Finished with a quarter-final loss to Mark Wilson. In his fifth appearance here, this was his best finish. Hanson has T16 and T7 finishes in the last two U.S. Opens so you want to file that for Olympic Club.
Martin Laird: He had the easiest route to the quarter-finals so I’m not going to put him back in my upper-echelon just yet. He defeated No. 7 Quiros, No. 15 Manassero and No. 11 Lawrie before losing to eventual fourth-place finisher Lee Westwood. Not a bad second appearance though.
Sang-Moon Bae: The questions that most gamers wanted to know before the season started were: “Who’s this guy?” and “Should I draft him?” Now, you have both of your answers. Making to the final-eight in his first appearance shows that this young Korean isn’t bothered by too much. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at who he had to go through to get to McIlroy in the quarter-finals: 2010 WGC-Match Play champ Ian Poulter, reigning Masters champ Charl Schwartzel and a hot golfer in John Senden. He’s on your radar now!
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Luke Donald: The No. 1 ranked player in the world continued his slow start to 2012. Maybe it’s the new addition to his family. Maybe it’s the expectations that come with being world No. 1. Ernie Els had no sympathy for a misfiring Donald, knocking him out five and four. I wouldn’t worry too much. Once his short-game regains its world No. 1 status, Donald should be fine.
Adam Scott: Making only his second start of 2012 (T17 at NTO last week) Scott was knocked out by Robert Rock in the No. 2 vs. No. 15 matchup. Folks, we all learned this week that golf seedings are NOTHING comparable to NCAA tournament seedings. There are too many good players and any of these guys can win on any given weekend. Rock was coming off a win in Dubai, holding off Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy so this was hardly an “upset”. The only person who is upset is Adam Scott because he didn’t advance.
Tiger Woods: He’s back. He’s not. He’s putting great. He’s not. He’s beatable. He’s lost it. Whatever. He’s great for the ratings, games and chat rooms so I’m all for him. Admit it, you thought he would make that putt on 18. Heck, Nick Watney was reading his yardage book for the first hole of the playoff when Woods was lining his putt up. He didn’t make it. Alarm bells? Nah. But we’ve still haven’t seen four straight rounds of domination either. He’s back at it this week so we all get to witness something again!
Hindsight Part II:
Robert Allenby: His two-shot lead on 18 disappeared and so did his chance at victory with a bogey on the eighth playoff hole. He was T1 birdies made, T5 putts per GIR, and was T7 GIR. Usually, that’s PLENTY to find the winner’s circle. Allenby’s best finish of the season in four events before this week was T22.
Matt Every: Speaking of birdies, Every tied Allenby for most made this week with 21, including six on Sunday. Every continued his “all or nothing” season this week with T3. He was T6 at Sony in his first event of the season and has sandwiched CUT, CUT between these two finishes in the top 6. He’s worth the risk in later rounds.
Colt Knost: Played the weekend nine-under making 11 birdies to only two bogeys. Knost led the field in fairways hit and hit ALL of them on Sunday. He’s never found consistent success on Tour, he’s currently ranked 419 in the world, but 2012 has seen his best finishes, T3 at Mayakoba and T23 at Sony.
Daniel Summerhays: He played outstanding golf in the first three rounds, carding only three bogeys on his way to the 54-hole lead. On Sunday, the world’s 447th-ranked player made five on his first nine to go out in 41. He rallied on the back for 32 to finish T5. He’s made three of four cuts this season and this is his career-best finish on Tour.
Chris Stroud: He had a chance to join Huh and Allenby in a playoff but his double-bogey on 18 saw him finish T5. He now has three finishes in the top 13 in 2012. Tremendous putter just needs to learn how to take the next step.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Johnson Wagner: The defending champion finished on fire as he was seven-under through 13 on Sunday before bogeying 14 and 16 to finish with 66. He made two doubles on Saturday which stunted his chance to move up the leader board. Six events played and six cuts made. Five of those finishes are top 30.
Jarrod Lyle: Fifteen birdies and 13 bogeys tell the story. Lyle has now made six of seven cuts in 2012 but broke his string of top 10’s at Mayakoba.
Spencer Levin: After a quiet start Levin made 10 birdies on the weekend to continue his solid play in 2012. After seven events, he’s currently 13th in the FedExCup standings after his T34.