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Mahan to use Ryder Cup "kick in the teeth" as motivator

Hunter Mahan of the U.S. tees off on the 5th hole during his World Golf Final Group 2 match against Webb Simpson of the U.S. in Antalya, sou
Hunter Mahan of the U.S. tees off on the 5th hole during his World Golf Final Group 2 match against Webb Simpson of the U.S. in Antalya, sou

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hunter Mahan described missing out on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a "kick in the teeth" but said it would act as motivation for him to make sure he was back representing his country at Gleneagles in 2014.

Despite picking up two wins on the U.S. PGA tour this year, a mid-season slump saw Mahan finish one spot shy of automatic qualification for the team and he was then overlooked by Davis Love III for one of his four captain's picks.

The world number 20 played at the previous two U.S.-Europe clashes and the last three Presidents Cups so the scars from missing out on Medinah were clearly still tender.

"At the end of the day, I wasn't playing as well as the other guys, I've got no one to blame but myself really," he said in a teleconference on Thursday ahead of his participation in next week's Thailand Golf Championship.

"When you've made the last five teams, you know how much fun it is, you know how much you enjoy the process, hanging with the guys and playing the practise and so on.

"And when you're not there, you know what you're missing and it sucks. It feels like you let yourself down in a way. It definitely kicks you in the teeth a little bit.

"But that's the great thing about this game, you know, it doesn't matter what you did yesterday, it matters what you do tomorrow. It's a very truthful game, you can't get lucky, you can't ride on the coat-tails of last year."

Mahan said he had reversed his original decision not even to watch the Ryder Cup, in which Europe overcame a 10-6 deficit on a dramatic final day to retain the trophy.

"It was difficult to watch, I felt bad for the guys because I know how hard they competed, but you've got to give it to Europe too, they outplayed the U.S. on Sunday," he said.

GREAT MOTIVATOR

Texas-based Mahan clinched the biggest victory of his career at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February and reached the top 10 in the world rankings this season.

He has decided to skip next month's WGC-HSBC Champions in China, where he finished tied for seventh last year, to give himself more of an off-season.

And while missing out on Medinah was a blow, the 30-year-old thinks his career is moving on the right trajectory as he looks forward to next season.

"It's a great motivator to try and get back on the team, I made more money this year than I ever have and did some things I never have before," he said.

"If you play this game for 25 years and you're going to have ups and downs. I'm more motivated than ever, and I'm not forgetting that I can still improve a lot of things."

Next week's tournament at the Amata Spring Country Club outside Bangkok will be his first in Thailand and gives him a chance to test his putting, which he admits can be "streaky", on fast, firm greens.

The field for the $1 million Asian Tour event also includes defending champion Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Bubba Watson - the latter one of Mahan's partners in the spoof boy band "Golf Boys" which has proved such a hit on the internet.

While describing the "Oh, Oh, Oh" charity song as a bit of fun, Mahan said he would be all business next week.

"These tournaments in Asia have great fields, I played in China last year against great players, it's a normal event," he said.

"It's no fun getting beat. I don't enjoy it and I don't plan on showing up and shaking a few hands and having a good time. I'm going out to do my best."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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