by Jeff Skinner
I am sure somewhere out there in the world of golf fandom there is a fan telling his buddies “I told you so…I told you Hunter Mahan was the best American golfer.” Maybe one of Mahan’s old college buddies at Southern Cal where he started college, or maybe one of his pals from Oklahoma State (he transferred) where he won the Jack Nicklaus Award or maybe an old high school pal from McKinney, Texas where he attended high school. I am sure there was someone besides his wife that thought Mahan was the top American but there weren’t many fans willing to put Mahan up there with the best in the world.
Mahan’s win at the Shell Houston Open has made him just that: The highest ranked American in the Official World Golf Rankings. It’s Mahan’s second win of the year to go with his WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship where he dispatched the world’s favorite Irish golfer, Rory McIlroy in the finals.
Third round leader Louie Oosthuizen played himself right out of the tournament with a front nine 41 and Carl Pettersson’s balky putter kept him from holding off Mahan down the stretch.
At the start of the year Mahan was ranked 17th in the world but with his win at The Match Play he jumped to tenth. This win puts him behind Luke Donald, McIlroy and Lee Westwood. That’s not a bad place to be as he heads into The Masters this week.
It was Mahan’s fifth PGA Tour win and fourth in two years and he is peaking at the right time. Mahan has had mixed results at Augusta with a missed cut last year and again in 2008. But when he makes the cut he finishes well. In 2010 he was tied for eighth and in 2009 he was tied for tenth.
He’ll be riding some momentum at Augusta and certainly would cement his spot as the top American if he can slip into that green jacket.