CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Hunter Mahan heard plenty of cheers in the 136th British Open on Sunday, or so he thinks. He can only assume the spectators were cheering for him, because so few got his last name right. The BBC's Peter Alliss was asked about the pronunciation on air and answered without a trace of doubt that in America it is pronounced "Mon," as a Jamaican pronounces "man."
Nice shot, Alliss.
"Uh, no," Mahan said when asked if anyone got his name right. "They were cheering for me. I've heard all kinds of pronunciations."
On TV it was Mon, he was told.
"I've heard them all," he said.
At this rate it won't be long before pretty much everyone in golf knows how to pronounce Mahan's name. After a rough first half of the season in which he missed eight cuts in 11 starts from the Nissan Open through the Crowne Plaza Invitational, Mahan has four top-20 finishes in his last four starts, including his first victory at the Travelers Championship.
"I'm just playing better," Mahan said. "I'm using my head. It's not hurting me, it's actually helping me. I'm just finally letting myself go out there and play golf and have a good time and enjoy it.
"It was definitely a struggle [early in the season]," he continued. "I was hurting myself out there, not really using my mind as an advantage. It was more of a disadvantage."
The 25-year-old began the day in full rain gear, but even while he was getting doused by cold rain he went two under for his first six holes. The weather cleared up for his back nine, when he made four more birdies for a bogey-free 65.
"I thought I could do it, and I thought I could do it on this course," Mahan said. "I like this golf course a lot. Conditions got good so you could be aggressive. I felt like I could make some putts; I really hadn't putted good all week and today I made some putts.
"I had six three putts in two days (Thursday and Friday) and it was just killing me. I knew if I kept plodding along and found my swing, I knew I could get up there."
Mahan may not have won, but it was another big dose of confidence for the former Oklahoma State star, and his big day meant he'd probably be returning for his fourth Open at Royal Birkdale next year. Anyone who finishes in the top 10, including ties for 10th, is automatically exempt for next year.