AUGUSTA, Ga.--The roars cascaded through the back nine at Augusta National GC Saturday, the unmistakable sounds of fans cheering on eagles and birdies becoming loud enough to leave a young player still finding his comfort zone in such situations feeling a tad bit anxious. Perhaps it's a sign then of the budding maturity of Hunter Mahan that the 27-year-old, playing in his fourth Masters, joined in the birdie parade, shooting a four-under 68 to put him in a three-way tie for sixth place at six-under 210.
"If you're not mentally strong and mentally at your best, you won't win," Mahan said. "You've got to stay focused. If you get caught up in it [everyone making a move], you're liable to make a silly mistake and that's what kills you around here."
Playing with another twentysomething, Bill Haas, Mahan made the turn in three-under 33. After birdies on the 12th and 13th holes moved him to six under, he had his biggest stumble of the day, a bogey on the par-5 15th after hit his second shot over the green and hit a poor chip some 20-plus feet by the hole with his third shot.
Still, he regrouped, making a downhill 10-footer birdie putt on the 18th to finish with some momentum and put himself in the third-to-last group Sunday, where he'll play with Fred Couples.
"You chalk [the bogey at 15] up as a mistake, but you can't dwell on it," said Mahan, who is hoping to improve on his T-10 finish from a year ago. "I'm swinging it good, giving myself a lot of good looks."