Mahan takes Travelers for first PGA win

6-24-07 -- Hunter Mahan watched Jay Williamson hit two great approach shots from the 18th fairway on Sunday. Mahan stepped up both times and hit his just a little better.

Mahan earned his first PGA Tour victory Sunday by winning the Travelers Championship over Williamson with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

The win came a year after Mahan finished second in the tournament, and three days after he shot a 62 on the same course to take a first-round lead.

"Knowing that you can win and actually winning are two different things," he said. "And to win the way I did is just amazing to me. To have to birdie in a playoff, especially after he hit that shot in there is mind-boggling."

Mahan shot a 65 Sunday, but was trailing by a stroke on the final hole to Williamson, a 40-year-old journeyman playing just his second Tour event this season on a sponsor's exemption.

When Williamson hit a 161-yard second shot to within 12 feet, the crowd roared.

Then Mahan hit a 144-yard approach to within 7 feet.

Williamson missed a 12-footer for birdie, and Mahan put his in the cup, pumping his fist and sending the pair back to the tee.

"I just kept plugging away," he said. "Jay gave me a little opening on 18 and I'm glad I made it."

Williamson went right after the flag again in the playoff, and his second shot landed just over 7 feet away.

Mahan then hit his 134-yard approach to within 2 feet.

Williamson pushed his putt right, and could only watch as Mahan made what was almost a gimme.

"I hit it too hard and I hit it too high," Williamson said. "I'm not proud of either putt, but I'm proud of the way I played."

Mahan, 25, had just one other top-10 finish this year, tying for fifth at the Shell Houston Open in April. But he plays this tournament well, posting one of his two career second-place finishes.

His 62 on Thursday was one shot off the course record, and his 71 on Friday was his first round out of the 60s in this tournament since he shot a 72 during the third round in 2005.

"After that 62, I felt it almost came out of nowhere. ... I felt like I could play good here, I know I can win."

Mahan earns just over $1 million for the win and a spot in next year's Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii and the Masters.

Williamson gets $648,000 for second. Coming into the weekend, Williamson was seventh on the Nationwide Tour money list with $153,249 in earnings. His also earned a trip to Flint, Mich., for this week's Buick Open. He was hoping to get back his PGA Tour card with a win, but said he learned a lot in the loss.

"I can play with these guys," Williamson said. "And I learned that I'm going to be a golfer for a while."

He said he's hoping other PGA events will now give him exemptions.

"I really feel like if I was a great putter I would have won by a lot," Williamson said. "But I know what I need to work on to get to that next level."

Williamson has had 279 other PGA Tour starts, and his best finish had been a tie for third in the 2003 BellSouth Classic.

Nick O'Hern shot a 66 Sunday to finish at 11 under, good enough for third place. Vijay Singh shot a 65 and finished fourth.

It was Singh's third best finish of the season, behind his two victories. He said he plans to take next week off and get an MRI taken on a sore right elbow.

"I'll rest for a few days, and then back to business," he said.

Mahan made four consecutive birdies, starting at No. 10, and led Williamson by two strokes coming down the stretch.

Williamson got back within a stroke by making birdie on the 15th, and Mahan dropped into a tie for the lead with a bogey on the par-3 16th.

Mahan then hit his second shot at 17 over the green, and two-putted for bogey.

Williamson went straight for the pin, and just missed a 20-foot birdie putt, hitting the lip right. But his par gave him the lead going into the final hole.

Bo Van Pelt had the shot of the day, following up bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes by acing the 171-yard 16th with a 7-iron.

"Bill Haas had hit a really good shot with a 7-iron right before me, so I knew it was the right club," Van Pelt said. "It took one hop, and I think then it just kind of dribbled in -- pretty exciting."

It was the second ace of this tournament and the 28th in the tournament's history. Craig Perks had a hole-in-one on Thursday on the par-3 eighth hole.

Van Pelt finished the tournament at 8 under, good enough to tie for sixth place.


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