Mahan celebrates his first win as a father

By Jason SobelAugust 25, 2014, 12:09 am

PARAMUS, N.J. – While her father was busy attempting to navigate the 18th hole at Ridgewood Country Club on Sunday afternoon, little Zoe Olivia Mahan was blissfully oblivious to the buzz in the air.

Playing the role of adorable toddler to perfection, she wore a purple dress over flower-patterned pants, white sneakers with the Velcro straps pulled tight and pink-framed glasses, all topped with a green bow in curly hair.

Just 50 yards from the final green, separated by a wall of bleachers filled with applauding fans and fronted by tournament officials with blue blazers and flawlessly coiffed hair, Zoe held the hand of her mother, Kandi, while navigating a wobbly path of her own. She heartily clapped along with the bleacher creatures, but when they lustily offered their loudest cheer of the day, her mother scooped her up and made a beeline through the tunnel toward the source of their emotion.

Hunter Mahan culminated his final round at The Barclays with an unsteady bogey, holing an 8-foot putt to finish off a 6-under 65. No matter, though. Still two shots clear of his next closest competitor, he visibly huffed a sigh of relief.

That instinctive reaction could have meant so many things. Relief from the final-hole bogey that began when he belted his tee shot too far to the right. Relief from a week spent yo-yoing atop the leaderboard, jockeying with so many other players for the title. Or relief from clinching his first victory in more than two full years.

Not that he hasn’t had his chances.

It was just over a year ago when Mahan led the Canadian Open entering the third round. He was warming up on the driving range when his manager received a phone call. Kandi was going into labor in Dallas – and for the geographically challenged, it should be noted that Dallas isn’t very close to Canada.

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He didn’t flinch. Quickly withdrawing from the tournament, he hopped on a plane and headed due south, arriving in time to see the birth of Zoe later that afternoon.

Within a few days, the happy family was interviewed on multiple national television shows, telling their story while graphics such as “MILLION-DOLLAR BABY” flashed across the screen.

This week, it was Kandi and Zoe who were watching on television, as Hunter contended for three days without them. Visiting family in Odessa, Texas, his wife decided on Saturday night that – win or lose – she wanted them to be there for him when he finished his final round the next day.

“It’s just great to be together no matter what,” she said. “If he did win, we definitely wanted to be here. So we decided we were going to go, me and Zoe.”

They left Odessa at 10:30 a.m. and arrived in New Jersey at 4:15 p.m., as Hunter was playing the 15th hole. Navigating traffic even better than he’d navigated Ridgewood, they arrived shortly thereafter, with him still playing the 16th hole.

Mother and daughter hid in the clubhouse for a little while, then roamed toward that spot adjacent to the 18th hole while Mahan was in the midst of trying to win.

After he did, after it was all but final and the crowd cheered in his honor, after he huffed that sigh of relief, he turned and unexpectedly saw Kandi hustling toward him, enthusiastic smile on her face, Zoe in her arms.

“I was almost in shock, I think,” he later explained. “All of a sudden, there's my wife and daughter and I'm like, ‘Wait a minute, should they be on the green or not? What do we do?’ There was a lot going on in my head and it was hard to keep everything kind of straight. They didn't come in all week and I wasn't planning to see them until tomorrow. Obviously to see them right now and to win is a special feeling.”

His win will be tinged by narratives surrounding the Ryder Cup (he’s aiming to earn one of three captain’s picks that will be unveiled in just over a week) and the FedEx Cup (he jumped from 62nd on the points list to first, ensuring that he will play all four playoff events for an eighth consecutive season).

Those details aren’t insignificant, but the story of Mahan’s sixth career PGA Tour victory is that it’s his first as a father – and his first since giving up a potential title to see the birth of his daughter.

“I was playing great that week as well, but you never know what could have happened,” he said. “It feels good to get a W. It's been a couple years, and it feels good the way I did it.”

Kandi knows this one was different.

“I think it’s so special for him,” she beamed. “He has always said it’s a dream of his to win a tournament and have his baby girl there.”

Not long after the victory was clinched, Kandi handed Zoe over to her proud father. “Hi, baby girl!” he cooed, lifting her into the air, punctuated by a kiss. The little girl smiled and clapped, just like everyone else who had just watched her dad win the tournament.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”