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Mahan looks to defend title at this year’s Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Not even the sudden cold weather could diminish last year’s Phoenix Open champion Hunter Mahan’s enthusiasm for this year’s tournament.

“It’s exciting to be back,” said the 28-year-old pro.

Because Mahan is very aware that his 2010 victory was the start of a very successful season, both on and off the green.

After his one stroke victory over fellow Oklahoma State alum Rickie Fowler last year, Mahan went on to win again at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, earn a place on the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team, win a career-best $3.6 million, and wed his long-time girlfriend, former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader Kandi Harris.

“Obviously I have good memories from (last year’s tournament) so I’m looking forward to playing this week and hopefully I’ll have some success like I did last year,” said the newlywed.

Those good memories include back-to-back, bogey-free 65s on Saturday and Sunday and climbing out of a 4-shot deficit on the final round to defeat Fowler -16 to -15 for his second career PGA win. The $1.08 million pot didn’t come without a bit of turmoil though.

After his tee shot on the second hole of the final day, Mahan noticed he had a crack in his driver. Luckily, his now-wife saved the day, running to the couple’s car for Mahan’s backup driver and arriving back in time before his tee off on hole three.