Mahan sees Woods' intimidation returning, with or without major win

Hunter Mahan
Getty Images
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 | 9:50 p.m.

HUMBLE, Texas -- Hunter Mahan doesn't believe Tiger Woods has to win a major to validate his return to No. 1 in the world.

Woods fell to as low as No. 58 toward the end of 2011. But after winning at Bay Hill for his sixth PGA Tour title in the last 53 weeks, Woods returned to the top of the ranking for the first time since October 2010. Woods hasn't won a major, however, since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

''I think he's the man once again, and he proved that last week,'' said Mahan, the defendng champion at the Shell Houston Open. ''Everyone is waiting for the first major. I don't know why they're waiting for that. I think he's done enough this year to realize that he's still really good, and he's better than everybody else. He set the bar so high. I don't know what is going to make everyone go, 'He's back to that time.' I don't know if he has to win by 10 shots or whatever.''

Mahan doesn't buy into the notion of Woods or anyone else being able to intimidate players, though he's willing to make one exception.

''He's the closest thing to it,'' Mahan said.

Mahan then recalled a scene he witnessed at the 2006 British Open at Hoylake, which Woods won by two shots despite hitting only one driver all week. It was the third round at Royal Liverpool. Mahan, who went into the weekend 11 shots out of the lead, played early and shot 68 when he saw Woods going to the range for his afternoon start.

''He came out and walked on the range, and it was the most intimidating thing I've ever seen,'' Mahan said. ''He just walked out of the car, and we were hitting balls and everyone on the range ... everybody stopped and watched him. He just had this look like, ''This is what I need to do.' You can tell he was just in this zone. That was intimidating.

''He was just in a different place then,'' Mahan said. ''He had this focus and it was like, 'I'm going to destroy everyone out here. I'm going to hit this shot and I'm going to hit this shot and execute.' It was incredible to see that kind of focus.''