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Mahan's round two takes wrong turns

Saturday, April 11, 2009

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A smooth ride around Augusta National Golf Club that had Hunter Mahan near the top of the Masters leaderboard after one round turned into a roller coaster in the second.

Hunter Mahan walks up to the first green with his caddie John Wood after hitting out of the pine straw. He birdied the first hole but followed with a bogey on No. 2 and double bogey on No. 3. (Kendrick Brinson/Special)

When things went wrong for the 26-year-old Texan on a windy Friday, they went really wrong. By the end of a round that included a double bogey and triple bogey, his 3-over 75 in the second round dropped him to 3-under entering the weekend, six strokes from the lead.

"It was very, very bumpy," Mahan said. "I didn't hit it bad, I just hit some dumb shots. In wind like this, you've got to be very committed."

Mahan entered the round tied for second place at 6-under, but his descent from the top was quick. He birdied the first hole but bogeyed No. 2 and struggled to keep the ball on the third green, coming away with a double bogey.

He got back to 5-under with an excellent approach from the pine straw well right of the 10th fairway, setting up a 20-foot putt that he sank for birdie.

His biggest misstep of the day came two holes later, when the wind caught his tee shot on the par-3 12th and pushed it into Rae's Creek. Playing partner Robert Allenby experienced the same misfortune.

"Hunter hit a great shot and all of a sudden this wind just came up out of nowhere and his ball went in the water," Allenby said, "and the same thing happened to mine."

That's the way things went all day at No. 12, which had been playing as the toughest hole on the course Friday when Mahan's group completed its round. But Mahan blamed himself for not executing properly.

"I just didn't commit to the shot," he said. "I didn't hit it bad, I just didn't commit to it the way I needed to and focus on how far I needed to hit it. The wind is perfectly swirly right now. It's perfect conditions for some head scratching."

Mahan reached the green in two shots on each of the remaining par-5s, the 13th and 15th, but came away with birdie only on 15 to reach 3-under. He also had two birdie putts barely miss as he played the final six holes in steady but unspectacular fashion after his troubles on No. 12.

Mahan carded 66 in Thursday's first round despite suffering from a severe chest cold that forced him out of Wednesday's Par-3 Contest. He said Friday that he is still struggling with a cough and a lack of sleep, but he refused to blame his health issues for a sluggish second round.

After making his first cut at the Masters since playing as an amateur in 2003, Mahan said, his concern for the weekend is more mental than physical. He stressed that he must fight the urge to make up ground too quickly or risk sliding back even further.

"I don't think this is a course you get too aggressive on or you're going to be in trouble," he said. "You're going to hurt yourself. I just want to try to play golf (today) and play like I did the first day."

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