New dad Hunter Mahan aims for 1st major at PGA Championship
Back to golf after birth of daughter
The Mahan family still awaits that promised baby gift from Brandt Snedeker.
"I have not received it yet," proud papa Hunter Mahan said with a grin, "but I am waiting patiently."
Mahan feels as though he hasn't played golf in a month. In fact, it's been only a week-and-a-half since he pulled out of the Canadian Open with the 36-hole lead, opening the door for Snedeker to win.
A lot has happened since then, of course. Mahan rushed home to Dallas in time to witness the birth of his first child.
He skipped the Bridgestone Invitational last week to be with his daughter, Zoe Olivia. His parents visited from California, and Mahan, an only child, loved the sensation of having a big family around.
Now he feels primed to resume his chase of that elusive first major.
"I really soaked it in and appreciated it and used it wisely," Mahan said Tuesday, two days before he opens the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. "I felt like I got that out of my system to where I can come back to here and be focused and play. I knew if I tried to maybe force it and play last week, I would have wanted to be two places at once, and it just wouldn't have worked out. But I felt prepared to leave them and I felt prepared to be here."
His wife keeps sending photos and videos, which also helps. And, Mahan noted, "it's easier now, because Zoe can't tell me how much she's going to miss me."
Mahan's third-round tee time had been pushed back because of the threat of lightning on July 27 in Oakville, Ontario. He'd just finished lunch with agent Chris Armstrong and headed for the driving range. Then Armstrong got a call from Mahan's wife, Kandi, who was several weeks from her due date.
Once they found out her water had broke, the decision to leave was easy: The baby was coming soon.
There was just the matter of figuring out how to get back quickly to Texas. They were looking into private jets, commercial flights, trying to sort out how to rush through customs. Then a buddy told Mahan that he could get on a friend's company plane that was leaving in about 90 minutes.
Mahan landed in the Dallas area around 6:30 p.m. and was at the hospital by about 7:15, where his wife had just received an epidural. Zoe was born at 3:26 a.m., though it was all such a blur Mahan could've sworn only a half-hour had passed since his arrival.
A few hours later, Snedeker won the Canadian Open and promised a "very nice baby gift" for the Mahans. He said last week he had yet to decide on what it would be.
Tiger Woods, a father of two, said Tuesday: "He made the perfect choice. Actually, there wasn't any."
Mahan acknowledged he later went on Twitter, curious to see the reaction to his decision.
"Usually Twitter, they tell me how much I suck all the time and how dumb I am, so I figured somebody would say, 'You're an idiot. You didn't know what you're doing. You can't throw away (a potential win),"' he said. "But I didn't see that."
"Maybe," he added, "I didn't look far enough down."
But Mahan isn't really surprised by the response. He figures most everyone can relate to his situation.
"I think people are just ready for a great story in sports," he said.
The 31-year-old Mahan is now looking to write a great sports story on the course. He played in the last group at the previous two majors but couldn't put together a strong enough final round either time.
Mahan shot 75 on Sunday at the U.S. Open to tie for fourth, four strokes behind Justin Rose. At the British, he shot another 75 that left him tied for ninth, six strokes back of Phil Mickelson.
"I can't really point to one thing," Mahan said. "I just know that I've played exactly how I wanted to play, and I didn't let the situation kind of overrun me, and I had a great time doing it. Those types of experiences are just invaluable to have. I feel very excited and encouraged about what I've done and excited about this week."