Hunter Mahan stays in the RBC hunt with some clutch play

Late in Friday's second round at the RBC Canadian Open, with the ball nestled in deep, thick rough below his feet, Hunter Mahan struck a 97-yard laser-beam to within inches of a pin deviously tucked at the back of the tiered, undulating par-5 15th green.

But Hunter is just that kind of player: crafty, dynamic, and relentless.

Mahan, who shot an opening round five-under 65, was ecstatic entering this week's RBC Canadian. But it was not necessarily because he was striking his irons cleanly, or because his putting stroke felt fluid. Instead, the 28-year-old Mahan was thrilled at the chance to compete with his best friend since he was 12 years old, Sean O'Hair.

However, two rounds later O'Hair has been sent sailing after missing the cut (+1) and Mahan has played phenomenal golf, currently 8-under (T3).

Mahan fought relentlessly through swirling Canadian winds to repair blemishes at holes 4, 12 and 13. The Oklahoma State University grad honed his accuracy off the tee and set up an array of viable birdie opportunities, capturing six birdies en route to his 3-under 67.

The rolling terrain, narrow fairways and overall arduous conditions of the St. George Golf Course surprisingly work in Mahan's favor, considering he is ranked No. 1 in Total Driving and No. 2 in Ball-Striking on Tour.

Hunter's classic, power-fade swing dynamically intertwines technique and touch. In a Golf Magazine interview, Mahan said, "You can be told a thousand times how to do something, but you have to translate it into your own language. You have to have feel involved in technique."

Mahan has established a sense of rhythm and control on the golf course that has allowed him to soar to victory twice on the PGA Tour. First, Mahan captured the Traveler's Championship in 2007, which catapulted him into the top-100 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Then earlier this year, he beat out young gun Rickie Fowler by one shot at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Mahan has recorded six top-25 finishes on the year, highlighted by a T8 at the Masters.

Hunter sits just two shots behind leaders Tim Clark and Dean Wilson, who are at 10-under heading into the weekend. But with the way he has been pummeling his drives and draining clutch putts, don't be surprised if Mahan surges to the top of the leaderboard over the weekend to grab his third professional victory.

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