Hunter Mahan heads to the Masters with a truckload of confidence

If you took a minute to go down the list of Masters favorites prior to the Shell Houston Open, chances are you wouldn't have had Hunter Mahan in your top 10.

That's not to say he wasn't a decent pick, but even with his win earlier this year in the desert at the Accenture Match Play, there was still a host of big names you would have picked before him.

Guys with a major-championship pedigree and local Augusta National knowledge always top the list. But following his win on Sunday, the sweet-swinging Mahan appears to be peaking at just the right time, making him a legitimate pick to win not only his first major championship but also his first green jacket.

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Mahan, who started the day two shots back of Louis Oosthuizen, wasn't spectacular during the final round, only carding a 1-under 71 on a day when conditions appeared to be absolutely perfect. But unlike a number of the guys near the top, Mahan stuck to his game plan and parred the field to death, stringing together eight straight to start his round before he birdied the ninth and 10th holes to move in front.

From there he kept the damage to a minimum to pick up his second win of the season, becoming the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this year. Not only that, but also Mahan is now the top-ranked American in the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory.

There used to be a point a couple years back when we wondered if Hunter Mahan had the chutzpah to be a truly great player. Sure, he had a couple of wins and a WGC victory, but every time he appeared to be on the verge of breaking out, he'd collapse on the weekend or go MIA for a handful of tournaments.

The consistency and will to win was never there. But four months into the 2012 season, it's clear Mahan is a different player. The confidence and consistency is there, and the swing has never looked better under pressure-packed situations.

It's gotten to the point now where it'd be crazy not to talk about Mahan as a favorite going into the Masters. When you've played as well as he has over the last couple of months, a green jacket doesn't seem out of the question.

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