Mahan playing with renewed purpose

Jonathan Wall

If there’s one thing Hunter Mahan learned from last season, it's that pain can be the perfect springboard for bigger things. Forget the two titles he captured last season – a first for the up-and-coming star – the Ryder Cup defeat could end up being the turning point in Mahan’s career.

Up until that point, Mahan had never suffered pain on the golf course quite like last season’s heartbreaking defeat to the European squad. But in an instant, things came unraveled for the usually calm and collected Mahan.

He chunked a chip in the deciding match, costing the Americans a chance at stealing the Ryder Cup on foreign soil. In the post-round press conference, Mahan couldn’t hold in the pain he was feeling at that time.

"I'm just proud to be a part of this team," Mahan said after the match, his voice cracking. “It's a close team, and …"

Pain has a way of motivating those who are willing to embrace the moment and learn from the experience. If you want a prime example, take a look at Dustin Johnson.

Less than a month after a rules violation cost him a shot at the PGA Championship, Johnson won in Chicago at the BMW Championship. Like Mahan, he found a way to move on and use the pain to his advantage.

Mahan seems to be on the exact same path as Johnson. He’s playing with a renewed purpose and striking the ball like he did when he won in Akron and Phoenix last year.

While hasn’t posted a win since Ryder Cup, he’s getting very close. A three-under 69 on Saturday vaulted him into sole possession of second place at the Farmers Insurance Open.

At this point, it’s not a matter of if Mahan wins again – it’s just a matter of when. And when he does finally break through, don’t be surprised if he mentions the heartache at Celtic Manor as an impetus for his newfound success.