CARMEL, Ind. –- His tee time, 8:05 a.m. EDT on a quiet and carefree Sunday morning, meant he would play in front of few fans and with very little on the line.
That’s OK. First off meant he’d be first to leave the Crooked Stick Golf Club and what Hunter Mahan needs more than anything right now is to get away from the game, away from the crowds, away from the questions. He has faced challenging shots under great pressure on the golf course, but this week was perhaps the toughest task the game has ever presented him.
Having put his heart and soul into a bid to make the Ryder Cup team, Mahan learned officially last Monday that he was not part of the club. That was tough stuff. But then going on to try and apply his game face for the BMW Championship? Virtually impossible.
“Glad to have a break. It was hard. Harder than I thought,” said Mahan, whose 80-77 weekend left him last of 70 players, at 12-over 300. “(There’s) so much off-the-course stuff, so much going on, golf is hard right now.”
Having struggled to find the sort of form that came so easily early in the year when he won twice, Mahan concedes he’s been out of sorts for weeks now. Hitting fairways and greens, a hallmark of his game, suddenly became an incredible challenge and as the pedestrian finishes piled up, Mahan’s standing in the Ryder Cup race went down and down . . . until finally, he slipped out of the top eight and his fate was in the hands of Captain Davis Love.
Several more weeks of pressure golf ensued, several more weeks of poor performances, and it ended in bitter disappointment. So Mahan cannot lie; he didn’t bring much fire into this third FedEx Cup playoff event.
“You can only try so hard for so long,” he said. “I’m out of gas.”
He is not, however, out of ideas. His bid ended to make his third consecutive Ryder Cup team, Mahan is focused on his golf game, which is far below his standards. “My driving is as bad as it’s ever been and that’s the strength of mine. If I don’t drive it well, it hurts my chances.”
Thus will Mahan take a few days off, then head to Orlando, Fla., to work with Sean Foley, his longtime swing coach. And from there, Mahan will tee it up in the Tour Championship as he’s one of three players who’ve qualified for the FedEx Cup finale (Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson being the others) every September since the playoffs began in 2007.
“This happens to every golfer,” said Mahan, who in his last seven tournaments has missed two cuts, shot 27-over for 24 rounds, and failed to finish better than T-19. “You play golf this much and you go through some bad stretches.”