With Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott near the top of the British Open leaderboard, it can be easy to overlook Hunter Mahan. Mahan will begin the final round tied for second place, and the No. 23 player in the world has enough game to be the one hoisting the Claret Jug when all is said and done.
He hasn't won major championships like Woods and Scott, and he's never been No. 1 in the world like Westwood, but Mahan has won big events and has the experience to play well on Sunday in a major. He was tied for second place after three rounds at last month's U.S. Open, and played in the final group on Sunday. He shot a 75 and went on to finish in a tie for fourth place, but the experience may prove key on Sunday at Muirfield.
"Does it help?" Mahan said, via the Associated Press. "I think it does. Because I think it can be overwhelming at times. Being in the first or second, last groups there, to have everybody following you and seeing all the scores and everything, it can be overwhelming."
While he may not have a major championship trophy on his mantle, Mahan has performed well since turning pro in 2003. He's won five times during his career, including two World Golf Championship victories. Still, there is a big difference between winning a WGC event, or a regular Tour event, and winning a major. He's performed well in majors at times, but some still remember him more for losing the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup than they do for his five top 10 finishes in majors.
The 32-year-old Mahan played his way back into contention on Saturday by shooting a 3-under 68, tied for the lowest round of the day. He's hit 29 of 42 fairways, putted well and hasn't carded a round worse than 72 this week, yet many still can't look past the fact that he hasn't won a major. Asked what has kept him from closing the deal in a major, Mahan said he just hadn't been good enough. Will that change on Sunday?
"But I'm chipping and putting, I think, great and doing all the right things," he said. "So I feel comfortable ... with my game and excited about the opportunity to go out there, trust it and let it happen."
If Mahan does come away victorious on Sunday, he would join Scott and Justin Rose as first-time major winners this season.