Masters gives Hunter Mahan chance to create new memories

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hunter Mahan doesn't know if he'll ever live down his stubbed chip at the 2010 Ryder Cup, even as the gaffe recedes into memory. He took down Rory McIlroy at the Accenture Match Play Championship to notch his first Tour win of the season. He outlasted the field in Houston for his second.

Even with his name sitting on a Masters leaderboard going into the final round, he hasn't run free of the occasional barb about a two-year-old mistake.

"I get killed on Twitter all the time, mostly from European guys," Mahan said with a smile after a third-round 68 left him five off the lead. "I just got tired of it so I said, 'Beating Rory didn't do much good?' I have no idea what it's going to take for people to forget that."

A green jacket wouldn't hurt.

Despite the occasional ribbing in cyberspace, Mahan carries a healthy perspective on the golf course. He has remade his short game through dogged work, becoming a dependable player on and around the greens. His long game is already one of the best in golf. He is grinding to make his short game its equal.

"I'm trying to not be afraid of change trying to find a way to get better," Mahan said. "I've moved on from [the chip]. I've played pretty good since. I'm going to learn from that experience. I could have gotten in a shell and been upset about it and dwelled on it. I'm not going to let someone else determine my success. I'll determine my own success."

Mahan has long been considered a future major champion, and he is showing signs that he's close to getting there.

On Saturday, he made five birdies and a lone bogey in a round of 68. He played the par 5s in three under.

When Mahan arrived in the press room for his post-round interview, Phil Mickelson made eagle on the 13th hole. When the score was posted on the leaderboard, Mahan smiled knowingly.

"I just played the first two rounds with him," Mahan said. "I don't know if there's a player on Tour who loves Augusta more than Phil. Loves everything about it. He puts his coat on when he gets here. He gets off the plane and the coat is on and he comes through the gates."

Mahan is one low round away from joining Mickelson in that club. It will take a special performance on Sunday. Mahan believes he has it in his bag.

"If you don't think you can win," Mahan said, "you're never going to win."