When prospective golf team members prepare to head to Oklahoma State a few things are certain – 1. They are already studs in the golf world at an amateur level. And 2, when they get through with their time in Stillwater they likely have a promising career ahead of them as a touring professional.
That theory was once again proven Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open as a trio of Cowboys graced the top spots including the victor, Hunter Mahan. Mahan captured his 2nd PGA Tour victory with fellow OSU alum Rickie Fowler and Charles Howell III in close pursuit.
Mahan faced trouble early on in the final round as a cracked driver had to be replaced but in the end that club did come through for him, as well as a more important one, the flat stick, on his way to a final round of 65. That helped him to push past a crowded leader board on his way to a winning score of 16 under, one better than what phenom Rickie Fowler could must from his impressive 21 year-old skill set.
On a day when many a player contended it was Mahan who stepped up and separated himself while others seemed to fail at critical moments. The 27-year old California native surged forward with a remarkable second shot on the 13th hole. The pinpoint 2nd shot of more than 250 yards on the par five set up an eagle that made all the difference in the end. Follow up birdies on 14 and 16, where he made flawless strokes set the table for the victory.
At the same time the leading contenders, Y.E. Yang and Rickie Fowler, while playing splendidly, made key mistakes that would assure Mahan the $1.08 Million prize and easily his best finish of the year.
Yang rolled into contention on holes 10 through 15, playing them in a collective six under par, but made a crucial mistake of driving into the water on hole #17 where he eventually posted a bogey. His final round of 65 got him to 14 under par and a final position of 3rd.
Fowler, the new face of a generation of young pros, still had an opportunity on the last hole to tie Mahan but he had let a great opportunity pass him by on the 15th hole. The long-knocker laid up from 231 yards on the par five. A simple par stalled the momentum he had gained by birdies on #13, and #14, something he would fail to regain.
All is not lost however; Fowler proved he has the ability to contend and has given himself a remarkable number of opportunities in just a few PGA Tour appearances. He will just need a couple average finishes through the rest of his season to secure his card for next year. That is likely not even on his mind as he expects to win and has not shown any reason as to why he would not before 2010 draws to a close.
This time though, he must defer to his fellow Cowboy, Mahan, who went lights out on the weekend by posting back-to-back 65’s. “Great players win and I want to be a great player,” he said immediately after the round.
As the 1999 U.S. Junior winner, the top collegiate player in the nation back in 2003 ,and subsequently showing his ability on the PGA Tour as a winner and member of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams , all Mahan now needs to make his dream of greatness come true is to keep winning.
So far he has just the 2007 Travelers Championship to add to today’s victory but clearly he is capable of more.
Fans expect nothing less from this Cowboy, and like just about every OSU golfer before him – he demands even more from himself.