Holder Mahan puts on the blinkers for title defence

MARANA - Reigning champion Hunter Mahan has turned to reverse psychology for this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by refusing to accept he is defending the title at the elite World Golf Championship event.
Mahan beat Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy 2&1 in last year's final to claim his second WGC crown. Net photo.
Mahan beat Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy 2&1 in last year's final to claim his second WGC crown. Net photo.

MARANA - Reigning champion Hunter Mahan has turned to reverse psychology for this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by refusing to accept he is defending the title at the elite World Golf Championship event.

The American knows full well that matchplay golf can be extremely fickle and he believes his best strategy is to be as aggressive as possible while trying to forget about what happened at Dove Mountain 12 months ago.

“Last year has nothing to do with this year,” Mahan, 30, told reporters on Monday while preparing for Wednesday’s opening round in the Arizona desert. “The road will be just as hard as last year.

“There’s no defending here. It’s just trying to win this week, trying to beat the guys who are going to play in front of you and that’s going to be a tough challenge. The score is kind of irrelevant.”

Mahan beat Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy 2&1 in last year’s final to claim his second WGC crown, ending a week of dominant golf that began with his closest match on the opening day.

After scraping past fellow American Zach Johnson in a first-round clash that lasted 19 holes, Mahan took full control of his next five matches while playing what he described as some of the best golf of his life.

MAHAN’S VICTIMS

Mahan’s list of victims last year included U.S. Ryder Cup players Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker, 2009 PGA Championship winner Yang Yong-eun of South Korea and McIlroy, who was then the world number two.

The American did not trail in any match that week after the third hole of his encounter with Yang in the second round, a contest he went on to win 5&3, and he is aiming for a similarly aggressive approach this week.

“You’ve got to be aggressive from the first tee, try to hit a lot of good quality shots and try to put pressure on your opponent,” said Mahan, who will face Italy’s Matteo Manassero in the opening round on Wednesday.

American world number two Woods is a three-times champion at the event, Poulter clinched the title in 2010 and fellow Englishman Donald followed suit in 2011.

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