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Mahan's shift in mindset brings him big rewards

Hunter Mahan

HUMBLE, Texas -- Didn't see this coming, did you?

Hunter Mahan isn't too sure he did either.

The man who has made a career of being too hard on himself, the man who was so distraught he broke down in tears at the 2010 Ryder Cup is suddenly the best American player in the game.

He leads the FedExCup, too, after becoming the first player to win twice on TOUR this year.

Mahan's no stranger to winning, but it's usually been from behind. Or out of a free-for-all on the back nine. Sunday, he stepped up and won the 2012 Shell Houston Open the way you'd expect one of the world's best to finish it off -- with his mind.

"I had to have a lot of patience,'' said Mahan, who edged Carl Pettersson by a shot. "I had to really be present, one shot at a time. Couldn't start thinking too far ahead. There's too many good players up there. . . you know, so it feels nice to kind of to win it with my mind today.''

The same mind which is now on Augusta and the first major of the year.

"I felt like I was playing well coming in here, so whether I won or not wasn't going to deter me from how I felt about Augusta,'' said Mahan, who also jumps to No. 4 in the world.

"The game feels good. I feel very capable of playing great golf, and I feel like I showed myself I don't have to be perfect to win. You know, I felt -- like I said, I felt like this week my mind was probably the strongest part of my game. That's a great thing to feel for sure.

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By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR

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