Hunter Mahan didn’t wait long to back up his WGC-Accenture Match Play victory with another big win. Mahan walked away with the Shell Houston Open title on the strength of a final-round 71 – and a bit of help from third-round leader Louis Oosthuizen – just six weeks after his WGC breakthrough.
Mahan’s second win of the season vaulted him to No. 4 in the world rankings, where he’s now the top American. It also boosted his odds for this week’s Masters Tournament; Ladbrokes lists Mahan at 25/1, behind only five players – Tiger Woods (9/2), Rory McIlroy (6/1), Phil Mickelson (12/1), Luke Donald (16/1) and Lee Westwood (20/1).
Sunday dawned with Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, as the Houston favorite. The South African began the day two shots clear of the field, but unraveled with double-bogeys on holes 5 and 8 followed by another pair of bogeys. Oosthuizen righted the ship with three birdies down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to catch Mahan.
In fact, Carl Pettersson proved Mahan’s toughest competitor. The pair were tied on 16-under through nine holes, but a Pettersson bogey on No. 10 handed Mahan a lead he refused to relinquish. Pettersson finished second alone, with Oosthuizen third after a 75.
Mahan’s fifth career victory came against a field full of world-class players, including pre-tourney favorites Westwood (11/1), Mickelson (12/1), Steve Stricker (18/1) and Keegan Bradley (18/1). Mickelson and Bradley tied fourth, while Westwood (T21) and Stricker (T36) were off their games.
Not so for Mahan, who appears to be coming into his own at age 29. “It shows me what I can do,” he said of the win and his lofty new ranking, “shows me what I’m capable of.”
The year’s first major gets underway Thursday, April 5, at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
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