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Hunter Mahan makes a statement with his Match Play victory

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Hunter Mahan / Getty Images

A professional golf career can sometimes be defined by one shot (just ask Jean Van de Velde), and for the last year-plus, Hunter Mahan's entire career has been summed by just that: a single shot.

We've all seen the shot before of Mahan standing over his chip on the 17th hole of the 2010 Ryder Cup (heck, NBC replayed it countless times this week) and promptly stubbing it about 25 feet in front of him to lose the hole and the match.

It was a gut-wrenching shot, and for the longest time, it was the one that defined Mahan's career. Forget that he was a three-time tour winner and member of multiple Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, all that seemed to matter was that one shot.

But that all changed on Sunday, as Mahan picked up a statement victory at the Accenture Match Play over Rory McIlroy that proved he's on his way to turning things around at the age of 29.

[ Golf Digest: Hunter Mahan's 10 rules for finishing a great round ]

Mahan was on his game this week, taking out some big names -- including Steve Sticker, Y.E. Yang, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar -- en route to the finale. The names were impressive, sure, but it was actually the way Mahan went about almost every match that made you stand up and take notice.

Simply puy, the dude in the flat bill Ping hat was on point all week long. He picked up 16 birdies during a 30-hole stretch during the tournament, and carded nine more in 13 holes during a 6 and 5 demolition of Matt Kuchar in the quarterfinals.

But it wasn't just the birdies that made the week impressive. Mahan's short game -- something he's worked on tirelessly over the last year -- was about as perfect as we've seen it in ... well, maybe ever. He was getting up-and-down from all over the course and rolling in the clutch putts that never seemed to drop last year.

If you want a prime example of how much practice can pay off, just go back and watch the short game clinic he put on for much of the week. It was a huge reason why he made it to the final and took out one of the top players in the world.

Now comes the hard part of Mahan: Trying to capitalize on the biggest win of his career, and keep the positive vibes going. Even though he hasn't been able to do it in the past, you have to like his chances this time around. Not only does his swing look completely sound, but his confidence in every aspect of his game is also at an all-time high.

With the Ryder Cup chip now a distant memory and a statement win under his belt at the Accenture, you can see why 2012 has all the makings of a special year for Mahan.

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