As family reunions go, this one wasn't exactly Thanksgiving with the Waltons.
But maybe Hunter Mahan's emotionless non-reaction to a surprise visit from his wife, Kandi, and baby daughter, Zoe, on the 18th green Sunday in the FedExCup playoff opener at Ridgewood (N.J.) Country Club showed how all-consumingly hard it is to win in golf, and how little energy is left to spend on Hallmark emotions. Or how stunned Mahan was from barely saving bogey as victory went from certain to wobbly. Or maybe how much Mahan has hated it in the past when another player's kid traipsed across the green when there was still a group left on the course?
Or, maybe just Mahan owes Kandi a big ole spa day with his winner's check after she made the effort to fly up from Texas with toddler Zo, to surprise him, and didn't get much in the way of big, wet, celebratory, slobbery kisses. Instead, Mahan sort of rushed his family off the green and raced ahead of his wife with a speed-walk to the scorer's trailer. Even the CBS camera had as hard a time catching up with Mahan as Kandi.
"I had a lot going through my head," said Mahan, with an embarrassed grin, in what amounted to a sheepish admittance that he wasn't exactly Husband of the Year at that moment.
It made for fun couch-jockeying, sure, but ultimately, the Mahans are one happy family today.
Mahan, a perennial American heavyweight and Majors contender who hadn't visited the winner's circle since 2012, stitched together a Sunday 65 and forged a two-stroke win at the Barclays, holding off Jason Day's 68, Cameron Tringale's 66 and Stuart Appleby's own Sunday 65.
The victory not only reminded Mahan what it felt like to win – he won twice in 2012, and now has six on the PGA Tour overall – but also reminded U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson that Mahan is still out there, treading water in the pool of captain's picks. Watson is set to make his picks after this week's Deutsche Bank Championship that ends on Labor Day, and an American squad that is already being derided as massive underdogs to Team Rory could use someone like Mahan, who knows what Ryder Cup pressure feels like.
In 2008, Mahan was a fresh-faced 26-year-old when Paul Azinger tabbed him as a captain's pick at Valhalla. Mahan responded like the Rookie of the Year, leading Team USA with 3.5 points as the team registered a Tiger-free team win over Team Europe, still America's only Ryder Cup win in the 21st century.
Two years later, in a wickedly competitive 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales, it was Mahan in the final singles slot against Graeme McDowell – and Mahan who famously stubbed a chip shot in a 3-and-1 loss to McDowell, and broke down in tears at the post-match press conference. That led to Phil Mickelson seizing the microphone and speaking on behalf of Mahan in a memorable Ryder Cup moment. Mahan scored only one point in that Cup. The Ryder Cup giveth, and taketh away.
So, Mahan. He knows the Ryder Cup.
Watson's cup does not runneth over with choices, either. A Mahan win and a Mahan Sunday charge – even with that 72nd hole bogey that had a few dicey moments – has to look appealing to Watson and Team USA. Plus, wives get to be a big part of the Ryder Cup scene. And Mahan can treat his lady like a queen at the red carpet gala. She deserves as much.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
74-65-70-70 – 5-under 279, Rory McIlroy, tie-22nd, The Barclays, first round of FedExCup playoffs, Ridgewood C.C., Paramus, N.J.
Cue the outcry: What's wrong with Rory?
For the first time since June 15, young McIlroy entered a PGA Tour event and did not win. That was when he tied for 23rd at the Pinehurst U.S. Open won by Martin Kaymer.
Since then, Rory entered and won the British Open at Hoylake; entered and won the WGC-Bridgestone in Akron; and entered and won the PGA Championship at Valhalla.
His Joe DiMaggio-like hit streak ended at The Barclays, where a first-round 74 undid him. It didn't take the analysis of swing coach Michael Bannon, Rory's guy for 17 years, to attribute that sloppy round to a late-summer hangover. After all, doing Fallon with Tiger Woods, doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with Tiger Woods, challenging beautiful actress Meghan Markle to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, and dumping the ice on beautiful actress Meghan Markle can be tiring and affect your concentration.
"It was going to come to an end sooner or later," McIlroy said, much to the disappointment of the mass of fans who followed him at Ridgewood, and probably didn't think it was ever going to end, based on the kid's scintillating last month on Earth.
The good news is, golf fans will likely get to see Rory do his thing this week in Boston. After waffling on whether to play the Deutsche Bank, given his solid FedExCup points standing, McIlroy indicated he is "90 percent" to play in Beantown. Rumor is, there are some human beings of Irish descent somewhere in the Boston area, and may provide a warm welcome for the Ulsterman.
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
Nobody could be happier for Hunter Mahan than his embattled swing coach, Sean Foley. Foley is the latest target for those searching for reasons why Tiger Woods has fallen off the face of the Earth. Never mind that Tiger had microdiscectomy surgery in late March and probably should have never been near a golf course for the rest of this year. (I am not a doctor, I only play one in Yahoo Sports golf columns.) Instead, Foley is in the sights of those wondering why Tiger is missing both left and right. Even former Foley pupil Parker McLachlin took to Twitter earlier this month to urge Tiger to drop Foley and stop missing "both ways".
Yet, Mahan is a Foley pupil. And Mahan's ball-striking – first in greens in regulation at the Barclays, just as he was in his prior two starts, including a tie-7th at the PGA Championship – boosted Foley's stock.
That's why Foley had to be sweating out Mahan's 18th hole. Mahan arrived with a three-shot lead, and could probably have used junior clubs and still made double bogey for the win. But things got sticky with a drive blocked way right – Nick Faldo on CBS attributed the swing to the nerves of trying to close out Mahan's first win in two years – and then a lengthy discussion of what to do next with caddie John Wood.
Wood finally talked Mahan into the smart play, chipping back on to the fairway and leaving wedge to the green. But Mahan, again playing tight, tugged his wedge left and missed the green. It took a tricky up-and-down to save bogey there, and may have contributed to Mahan's discombobulated reaction to seeing his family on the green. Foley's pupil got the win, though, and Foley can walk the range next week with his chest puffed out.
Still, the whole scene was unnecessarily tense. Let's go back out to the 18th tee box, remind Mahan that he'd just birdied 17 and was smoking hot, that he only needed to make the same swing he'd made all day to find the fairway, make par and card a 64, and . . . give that man a mulligan!
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