Triumphant Mahan title hungry after joining elite golf company

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Hunter Mahan joined some elite company with his victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but the American says he has a long way to go before he will be happy with his win ratio on the PGA Tour.

It was Mahan's second World Golf Championships (WGC) crown, and he joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Darren Clarke as the only multiple winners of the elite events which bring together the game's best players.

"To be the player I want to be, you have to win more," Mahan told reporters after outplaying world number two McIlroy in the 18-hole final. "That's how you separate players.

"That's when you talk about players, how many majors have they won, how many tournaments have they won.

"I felt I was capable of winning more than four (PGA Tour events), but that's what I have right now. But I feel like I'm doing all the right things. I feel I'm doing the right steps to become a more consistent player and hopefully win more."

Mahan, who has played on every U.S. team at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup since 2007, climbed to a career-high ninth in the world rankings issued on Monday.


"If I wanted to be the player that I felt like I could be, I was going to have to change," said Mahan, who in the past had often wallowed in self-pity and anger after playing poor rounds.

"I had to take it easy on myself, basically not try so hard. I didn't want to have my identity stuck with my golf score. They needed to be separated.

"I needed to play golf because I enjoyed it, accept the result and move on. I was too attached to how I played and my results. Now I'm trying to learn from every round, good or bad and use it going forward."

Mahan, who became the first American to win the Accenture Match Play Championship since Woods in 2008, also pointed to improved chipping as a key development in his game.

At the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales, Mahan memorably fluffed a chip on the 17th hole, allowing Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell to clinch the decisive point in the final singles match to secure Europe's victory.

"I was a good chipper and all of a sudden I kind of lost it," the American said. "It's one of those things you keep grinding on, keep working on.

"I finally felt something and started trusting it. I took it to the course and then I took it to tournaments. And then it felt like, boom, all of a sudden I have all the confidence in the world.

"You can put me anywhere now and I'm going to get it up-and-down," added Mahan, who said he finally turned the corner with his chipping confidence in mid-January.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)