Mahan finds his path, fires a 5-under 67 at Players

Hunter Mahan shows his ball after making par on the 16th hole during the first round of The Players Championship.

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Paramus, NJ - Ridgewood CC

10:21:25 AM ET. 08/22/2014

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Hunter Mahan drew comparisons to a mountain man when he donned a fake grizzly beard for the second Golf Boys video.

But Mahan’s recent performances on the golf course have been similar to a man descending a mountain.

Since finishing runner-up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, his fourth straight finish of T-16 or better, Mahan hasn’t finished better than T-21, has missed two cuts and has just two rounds in the 60s.

“I think I was just trying too hard,” Mahan said. “I was trying to do a lot. I was trying to be this golfer that I picture myself being, and I can’t do it in one day and I can’t do it in one week or two weeks or three weeks. . . . I’m just trying to play golf and get better, and realize that it’s a process and things can change so fast. You just have to allow yourself to let it happen.”

Mahan seems to be heeding his own advice. He shot 5-under 67 Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. He made five birdies, but more importantly, didn’t make a single bogey. And he did it on a course that he hasn’t had a ton of success on – he’s finished better than T-17 just once in six starts (T-6 at 2011 Players).

That bodes well for a player whose confidence level has been shaken over the past month and a half, most brutally by an 82 during the second round of the Masters. Mahan doesn’t even remember that number.

“Individual scores were correct,” Mahan said. “I didn’t really add it up. After a certain point you know you’re going to miss the cut and it didn’t really matter.”

That was the wakeup call for Mahan – “It made me kind of stop and think about what I’m doing. . . . I was kind of playing OK for a while, but I was still kind of going down the wrong path.”

He’s had two more poor finishes since then (91st at RBC Heritage, T73 at Wells Fargo), but if Thursday’s 67 is a sign of better things to come – “I hit it just awesome tee to green,” he said. – Mahan appears to be heading back up the mountain.

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