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Mahan's victory menu set

Friday, April 02, 2010

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If Hunter Mahan wins the Masters Tournament, the first item on his Champions Dinner menu will be macaroni and cheese.

Hunter Mahan, who won the Phoenix Open in late February for his second career victory, will be playing in his fourth Masters. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

That was part of his victory dinner after he won in Phoenix earlier this season.

"Mac and cheese; that's a must, I think, after a win," Mahan said.

And what wine goes with macaroni and cheese?

"I usually go red," he said

Mahan might have the privilege of making a menu one day at Augusta National Golf Club. In the past year, the former Oklahoma State All-American had a star turn in the United States' Presidents Cup victory (going 2-1-1, including a singles victory over Camilo Villegas) and picked up his second career win, in Phoenix. Add that to his best finish in three starts at Augusta National last year (tied for 10th), and it might not be long before Mahan is contending for a green jacket.

He opened last year's tournament with 66, his low round by six shots at Augusta National. After 75 in the second round, he closed with 71-69 to finish at 7-under 281, five shots off the winning total.

Mahan believes experience is the key to solving Augusta National. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

"I didn't do anything differently," he said. "My game was better than it has been going into there. I didn't pressure myself to play well. I just went out and played."

Mahan is from the "you need to play the course a few times before you can contend" school of thought at Augusta National. This will be his fourth start.

"There are so many nuances there with the greens," he said. "The pins are always the same, so guys that have played there for 10, 15 or 20 years probably have a better understanding than the younger guys.

"That's why it's great to play with guys like Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera, guys who have had success there. I like to learn from them and figure out what they did better than anybody else."

Mahan thought he'd play well immediately at Augusta National. He tied for 28th in his debut in 2003, but then missed the cut in his next start, in 2008. He averaged 73.8 for those six rounds.

"It's been a little frustrating, but it was nice to play well last year," he said. "I always thought the course suited me. I'm a good iron player, so I thought I should be able to play to control my distances around the fairways and greens."

Mahan's game is in even better shape than it was last year at this time. His world ranking verifies that: He was 46th in the world last year at this time; after his win at Phoenix in late February, he moved to No. 22. And he says he is ready for the Masters.

"I always get excited about playing Augusta; I get chill bumps just thinking about being on the first tee and starting your round off," he said. "I always love playing there."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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