Hunter Mahan still riding birdie train

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MARANA, Ariz. — Hunter Mahan is making it look easy on Dove Mountain’s undulating greens in the Match Play Championship.

Hunter Mahan takes off his cap upon winning his match against Steve Stricker on the 15th green during the Match Play Championship on Friday.  ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ERIC RISBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Hunter Mahan takes off his cap upon winning his match against Steve Stricker on the 15th green during the Match Play Championship on Friday.

Counting conceded putts, Mahan made nine birdies in 15 holes for the second consecutive day. He beat Steve Stricker 4 and 3 on Friday in the third round after topping Y.E. Yang 5 and 3 on Thursday.

“Distance control is everything,” Mahan said. “Making sure you’re landing in the right spot and getting the right bounce. We’ve done a very good job of that and been very clear. That’s enabled me to make these solid, aggressive swings. If you get it in the right place, you’re going to have good looking putts and birdies.”

He’s using a new putter after struggling on the greens last week at Riviera in a 24th-place tie in the Northern Trust Open.

“Last week, I had no sense of the greens and missed everything,” Mahan said. “But for some reason this week, I feel confident. I feel confident whenever I get on the green I’m going to make it. It’s a good feeling to have right now.”

Mahan will play Matt Kuchar in an all-American quarterfinal.

THE FULL 18: After Kuchar finished off Martin Kaymer 4 and 3 on the 15th hole, he declined a ride to the clubhouse and played the final three holes by himself.

“I was working on a few things that I thought could be tightened up a little bit,” the former Georgia Tech star said.

“All in all, I feel like my game is in good form. I just wanted to play a few extra holes to familiarize myself with them.”

TALKING SOCCER: While beating Nick Watney 3 and 2, Englishman Lee Westwood found out Watney has a passion for British soccer.

“We talked about football going around out there,” Westwood said. “It’s called football, not soccer, and he knows a lot about it. He’s a Spurs fan, so that may mean he doesn’t know a lot about it. He didn’t know Nottingham Forest well, which means he really doesn’t know a lot about football or what league they’re in.

“So, we had a chat going around out there, and I filled him in on the England manager’s job, and how his manager might be a favorite for it, and his team might be trying to keep hold of him. I like playing with Nick. He’s a good lad.”

Westwood will play Martin Laird in the quarterfinals.

SOUTH KOREA’S HOPE: Bae Sang-moon joined K.J. Choi (2008) and Y.E. Yang (2011) as the only South Korean players to reach the quarterfinals. Choi and Yang failed to reach the semifinals. Bae meets Rory McIlroy today in the quarterfinals.


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