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Hunter Mahan relishes playing in front of loud New York crowds

Hunter Mahan reacts after putting on the 17th

Hunter Mahan reacts after putting on the 17th hole green during final-round play at The Barclays golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Paramus, N.J. Mahan won the tournament with a 14 under-par 270. Credit: AP / Adam Hunger

By winning The Barclays last year and looking up to see his wife and 1-year-old daughter approaching the 18th green after their surprise trip from Texas, Hunter Mahan always will be part of New York golf lore. He does not need his huge crystal trophy to remind him how special that is. Just like he never needs a GPS to remind him of his whereabouts when he is here.

"It's pretty easy to tell that you're in the New York area. The fans are so passionate. They love golf," he said Monday at Barclays headquarters on Seventh Avenue during a Manhattan tour to promote this year's tournament, which will be at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey, Aug. 27-30. "It's easy to tell where you are quickly, just by stepping on the golf course, stepping into the event."

The Barclays -- the first leg in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs -- will be at Bethpage Black next year, and Newsday reported last month that the Tour has been negotiating to bring the tournament to Glen Oaks in Old Westbury for 2017.

It is all fine with Mahan, who liked the landscape even before he won last August at Ridgewood. "You're in the New York area so you've got an old-school golf course and you've got a rich history already," he said.

Rich and unpredictable, as he discovered when he finished a round of 65 and saw Kandi and their daughter Zoe waiting for him last August. "For some reason, she decided, 'I'm coming up there,' " he said. But Mahan, a Californian who now lives in Dallas, is used to the unexpected in New York.

He recalls the sound of the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage, when he was paired for the final round with his friend Phil Mickelson. "That was a lot of fun. It's the greatest paradox in sports history to me. They love Phil and Phil seems like the exact opposite of what they would like. He's from California, he acts kind of goofy and smiley all the time. But they absolutely love him," Mahan said.

"It's always funny for us because he's the furthest thing from a New Yorker. He's a West Coaster in every way. But he gets them involved. He loves the crowd, he loves the roars, he loves the loud noise. That's what you get up here."

On that day, the biggest surprise for Mahan was what happened on his approach shot to the 16th green while he was in contention. It was not a happy surprise. He hit what appeared to be a perfect shot. Too perfect, it turned out. The ball crashed into the flagstick with a loud thwack. Instead of landing close to the hole for a kick-in, it caromed 40 feet, off the green. Who knows what would have happened if he made birdie there instead of bogey?

"Well, the pins were thick and they were metal," he said. "Oh yeah, I remember it vividly. I remember hitting the shot, watching it come down, [thinking] it should be stiff. It hit that pin and it sounded like a gunshot. It just shot way off the green. I was like, 'What just happened?' It was one of those crazy moments."

Not crazy enough, though, to keep him up at night wondering how life would have been different if he had won the Open instead of finishing in a tie for sixth, four shots behind champion Lucas Glover. "I don't think much would have changed. I feel like I'll win a major someday," Mahan said.

Then again . . .

"It would have been nice to see it not hit the pin," he said, "to just land there and stick right there. It would have been cool."

OutingsThe New York Sportscene Children's Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic will be Aug. 31 at Hamlet Golf & Country Club, Commack. Call 631-580-7772, ext. 109.

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