Aim­ing to play his way back to PGA

For­mer Ry­der Cup player Ma­han tees it up on lower cir­cuit for chance to earn tour card

The Province - - SPORTS / GOLF - DOUG FER­GU­SON

Hunter Ma­han never imag­ined mak­ing his Tour de­but at this stage in his ca­reer.

He has been a pro for 14 years, with two World Golf Cham­pi­onships among his six PGA Tour vic­to­ries. He has seven ap­pear­ances in the Ry­der Cup and Pres­i­dents Cup, and just short of US$30 mil­lion in ca­reer earn­ings.

Ma­han sees this more as an op­por­tu­nity than a de­mo­tion.

“The best thing for my game is to play tour­na­ments and put to the test my skills in tour­na­ment golf,” Ma­han said af­ter his pro-am round at the Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Cham­pi­onship in Colum­bus, Ohio. “This is where I can play, so it’s the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to work on my game. I feel like I’m mak­ing strides, and I want to con­tinue to push my­self. Right now, it feels good. I feel like I’m build­ing on some­thing, and I haven’t felt that in a long time.”

The tour­na­ment starts Thurs­day on the Scar­lett Course at Ohio State Univer­sity. It is the first of four tour­na­ments in the Tour Finals that of­fer PGA Tour cards to 25 play­ers who make the most money from these events.

The tour­na­ments are for play­ers who fin­ished in the top 75 on the Tour or fin­ished Nos. 126 through 200 in the FedEx Cup stand­ings on the PGA Tour. The top 25 from the Web’s money list al­ready are as­sured of PGA Tour cards and are play­ing for higher sta­tus.

Ma­han is not the only PGA Tour win­ner in Ohio.

Ben Crane, Matt Jones and John­son Wag­ner also are at the Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Cham­pi­onship. Also in the field is Roberto Cas­tro, who last year played in the Tour Cham­pi­onship at East Lake.

Ma­han played in the Ry­der Cup three years ago in Scot­land, but it wasn’t long be­fore he be­gan to jug­gle life on the road with a grow­ing fam­ily at home. He has three chil­dren ages four, two and one. He failed to qual­ify for the FedEx Cup play­offs for the first time last year. He be­gan work with Dal­las-based swing coach Chris Con­nell at the end of last year.

This is a re­build­ing process for Ma­han, and he is show­ing plenty of pa­tience. Play­ing on the fi­nal year of his full ex­emp­tion from his sec­ond World Golf Cham­pi­onships ti­tle, he made only 10 cuts in 26 starts, though that in­cluded a tie for 16th in the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship.

“I felt like I had an iden­tity cri­sis,” Ma­han said of his swing. “Some play­ers could play from where I was, and some could have had suc­cess. But it’s not in my DNA, and I be­lieve ev­ery­one has a golf DNA from where they play their best. I’m try­ing to get back to that.”

He said Con­nell has helped fix the glar­ing mis­takes. Now it’s about re­gain­ing con­sis­tency, and the con­fi­dence that comes with it.

“The good thing is Chris knew where he wanted to take me,” Ma­han said. “We’re go­ing where I wanted to go and where he wanted to go, and it’s just fig­ur­ing out how to get there.”

The Tour Finals go to the Boise Open next week, fol­lowed by a re­turn to Ohio for the DAP Cham­pi­onship at Can­ter­bury near Cleve­land. It con­cludes with the Tour Cham­pi­onship at At­lantic Beach Coun­try Club, about 16 kilo­me­tres from PGA Tour head­quar­ters in Florida.

Ma­han never played what was then the Na­tion­wide Tour when he left Ok­la­homa State. PGA Tour cards back then were awarded through qual­i­fy­ing school, which he went through twice be­fore he em­barked on a ca­reer in which he rose as high as No. 4 in the world.

Asked who he was play­ing with in the open­ing two rounds, Ma­han wasn’t sure.

“I think there was a Har­ring­ton,” he said. “But it’s not Padraig.” He’s play­ing with Scott Har­ring­ton.


Chris Stroud, who won his first PGA Tour ti­tle ear­lier this month and played in the fi­nal group at the PGA Cham­pi­onship, has pledged to give $10,000 to re­lief ef­forts in Houston. Stroud is among 30 play­ers from var­i­ous tours who live in Houston. Stroud also said he would give 10 per cent of his earn­ings from the Dell Tech­nolo­gies Cham­pi­onship at the TPC Bos­ton. PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han said the tour would give $250,000 to the Amer­i­can Red Cross.


Hunter Ma­han will make his Tour de­but at the Na­tion­wide Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Cham­pi­onship in Colum­bus, Ohio on Thurs­day. Ma­han, a six-time PGA Tour win­ner, is try­ing to earn back his PGA card by play­ing in the four Tour Finals events.

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