Golf: New dad Mahan returns seeking last-group glory

Hunter Mahan is back on the golf course after racing away from a lead to witness the birth of daughter Zoe, hoping for a major breakthrough at the PGA Championship.

The 31-year-old American has played in the final Sunday pairing of the past two majors but could not capitalize, sharing fourth at the US Open and ninth at the British Open.

But since then, Mahan has become a father. Leading the Canadian Open 10 days ago, Mahan learned just before his third round was to start that his wife, Kandi, had gone into labor. He raced from the practice range, flew home from Toronto to Dallas and was there when his wife gave birth at 3:26 the next morning.

"It feels great, "Mahan said. "It was a wild day but I wouldn't change it for the world.

"It was nice to be there for the birth and everything and to see the whole process was fantastic. It has been a great week at home and I was glad to be there. It was a lot of fun starting this new chapter in my life. It's really exciting."

After taking a week off to stay at home with his wife and new child, Mahan only played his first practice round two days ago and nine holes at Oak Hill on Monday.

"It feels like I haven't been on the course, played a tournament, in a long time," Mahan said.

"It's a little weird feeling. It feels very unfamiliar. I feel like I've had a month off.

"Staying home last week, really just cherishing that time and being with Kandi and Zoe, I got that out of my system to where I can come back to here and be focused and play."

Mahan looked on Twitter to find critics of his decision to throw away a lead to see his daughter's birth but couldn't find any.

"I haven't met anyone who has said I made the wrong decision," Mahan said.

"I went on Twitter after everything to see what the response would be, because usually on Twitter they tell me how much I suck all the time and how dumb I am, so I figured somebody would say, 'You're an idiot... but I didn't see that.

"It was nice to see someone not pick sports or glory and they picked their family in a moment like that."

Mahan has not won a title since last year's Houston Open and his best finish in seven prior PGA Championships was a share of 16th in 2009 at Hazeltine. But he has become familiar with last-group Sunday tension in majors.

"It has been very encouraging to be in the final group in a major," Mahan said.

"I feel like it's somewhat calming. You know you're playing well, and so you can just go out there and play golf and enjoy the experience. Those experiences are invaluable.

"I don't know what has held me back. I've just got to keep working, keep getting better at my all-around game, and I think I'll get there."