Grantland: The Secrets of Match Play

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Grantland: The Secrets of Match Play
Darren Carroll/Getty Images

unter Mahan was in the midst of a streak that was genuinely difficult to believe. In 11 matches at Dove Mountain Golf Course spanning two years, he'd played 169 holes without trailing once. He won the Accenture Match Play Championship 2012, and now, in the 2013 semifinals, he was two strokes up on Ian Poulter, the greatest match-play golfer of his generation and the 2010 tournament champion. Unlike Poulter's previous opponents, Mahan seemed at ease as he faced a pitch from 68 feet behind the green on no. 12. Poulter was on the putting surface, and this looked like the moment when Europe's Ryder Cup hero would make his move. Crosswinds in excess of 30 mph were whipping through the flags above the covered seating area, creating a sound like the roar of a gallery. But the spectators were silent as Mahan pitched, watching the ball catch the downslope and trickle toward the hole. A murmur started, not quite a match for the flags yet. It slowly gained steam as the possibility became real, and then erupted when the ball disappeared in the hole.

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