Mahan advances with another birdie spree

Associated Press Published: February 24, 2012
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MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Hunter Mahan is making it look easy on Dove Mountain's undulating greens in the Match Play Championship.

Counting conceded putts, Mahan made nine birdies in 15 holes for the second straight 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."

He's using a formula that carried Geoff Ogilvy, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald to victories the last three years on the Jack Nicklaus-designed desert layout.

"It's an interesting course because it seems like bombers would eat it up," Mahan said. "But it hasn't been the case. So it's been kind of surprising in a way. It seems like good shot-makers and good putters have won here."

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

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SOCCER TALK: Lee Westwood finally found a way to beat Nick Watney — and also discovered the American has a passion for British soccer.

"We talked about football going around out there," Westwood said after beating Watney 3 and 2 in the third round to exact some revenge for Watney's second-round victories over the English star the last two years.

"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."

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