PARAMUS, N.J. - Hunter Mahan's two-year victory drought might not have been as long as it turned out to be. He could have won the Canadian Open last July, given that he was leading after two rounds, only to abruptly leave during warm-ups to catch a private jet to Texas so he could be with his wife, Kandi, for the birth of their first child.
He never regretted that decision, even though it cost him a chance to win the $1,008,000 first prize. Mahan figured that was a once-in-a-lifetime event and that he would have other chances to win tournaments, as he did Sunday.
He walked off the 18th at the Barclays with a two-stroke lead and stunned to see Kandi and 1-year-old Zoe waiting for him. Kandi had chosen to surprise him by flying from Texas to make up for his trip last year.
"That's one way to look at it," Kandi said.
Except Mahan didn't look at it that way. "Well, you know, there was nothing to make up for," he said after finishing 14 under and earning $1,440,000. "But it feels good to be in contention and get a win."
The triumph in the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs was a watershed for the 32-year-old golfer. It moved him to No. 1 on the FedEx Cup points list and gave him a massive boost in consideration to be one of captain Tom Watson's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
"I've been thinking about it for a few weeks," Mahan said. "I have no idea what he's thinking or if he has any sort of strategy. But I think a win is a good step in the right direction."
That decision is for another day. The FedEx Cup means plenty to Mahan, the only golfer to have played in all 29 events in playoff history. Yesterday, he was the coolest and ablest at Ridgewood CC. "It suits my game," he said, mindful that he shot a course-record 62 in 2008.
He burst out of a crowded pack with birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 17. That built a three-stroke lead and his 6-under 65 held off Stuart Appleby, Cameron Tringale and Jason Day, all two strokes back.
Mahan was better under fire than third-round co-leader Jim Furyk, who shot 70 and finished four strokes behind.
"[He was] just consistent," said Morgan Hoffmann of Wyckoff, New Jersey, whose roars from local fans didn't faze playing partner Mahan. "He plodded along and made birdies where he needed to and didn't make mistakes. It was really cool to play with him and watch that happen."
Even a bogey on the final hole -- a drive into the right trees, a layup and poor pitch that missed the green -- didn't fluster Mahan. The only thing that did unnerve him was the sight of his wife and daughter near the 18th green.
"I was almost in shock," Mahan said, noting that Day still had to finish the hole. "I'm like, 'Wait a minute, should they be on the green or not? What should we do?' There was a lot going on in my head and it was hard to keep it straight."
Kandi said she made the decision to fly up Saturday night and kept it from him.
She and her daughter boarded a flight in Odessa, Texas, at 10:30 a.m., changed planes in Dallas, reached Newark at 4:15 and got to the course when her husband was on No. 16. They hid until he was done.
"He had always said it's a dream of his to win a tournament and have his baby girl there," she said. "I thought we'd better go."
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