Before the AT&T National tees off Thursday, Hunter Mahan has a confidence-building memory from which to draw: His closing 62 in the last PGA Tour event held at Congressional Country Club, back in 2009.
“It was awesome,” Mahan said. “I felt good teeing off. I felt we had something special in us. The course suits me pretty well, and I enjoy playing here. But I knew we had an opportunity to play a good round. Winning wasn’t really as important as playing well.”
Mahan went off early that day, and Tiger Woods, the event’s host, closed with a birdie at 16 to take the lead by one, and came home with consecutive pars to secure a victory. Mahan since has solidified his standing in the golf world. He, Woods and Jason Dufner are the only two-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, and Mahan is now considered a threat to win any time he plays.
“It’s a little bit of a process, really, learning to win,” he said. “Playing as an amateur, and playing in college is one thing. You’re really playing against the best kids for only a small period of time. Out here you’re playing against the best players for 20-25 years. So it’s a little bit of a shock, a little bit of an adjustment.”
Steve Marino (W.T. Woodson/University of Virginia) held the lead after the first round of the 2008 AT&T National, a bogey-free round in which he had some of the most vocal support in the field.
“I think some of them might have matured a little bit over the last couple years,” Marino said Tuesday. “I think it might be a little bit tamer.”
Marino, who missed four months because of bone bruises in his left knee and a circulatory issue that prevented recovery, is looking to make his first cut since he returned earlier this month at the Memorial. He shot rounds of 84-78 to miss the cut and finish 154th in a 156-player field at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.
“Being out for so long and coming back and playing one of the hardest golf courses in the world,” Marino said, “in hindsight maybe I wasn’t ready for that kind of a test.”
Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old high school student who tied for 21st at Olympic, played his first practice round at Congressional on Tuesday with fellow amateur Jordan Spieth, with whom Hossler will team at the University of Texas. Hossler, in the field on a sponsor’s exemption, continued to say he doesn’t feel like he’ll be too nervous to compete in his first PGA Tour event.
“It’s still me and my caddie and the golf course,” he said. “Obviously, it’s tough to say this, but it doesn’t really matter where you’re playing.” . . .