By Michael Beaven
Special to the Beacon Journal
The past eight months have been unlike any other for Hunter Mahan.
Mahan entered this season with one title, the 2007 Travelers Championship at Hartford, Conn., but held a spot on the money list top 30 for the past three years.
Mahan was having success as a golfer and then he met his future wife, former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Kandi Harris, in December.
The two hit it off, dated, became engaged in June and are planning a January wedding.
Mahan won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Feb. 28, and Sunday he claimed his second victory of the season by securing the title at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Mahan, 28, carded a 12-under-par 268 on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.
''Yeah, it's been interesting,'' Mahan said of the changes in his life.
''I mean, it's been good. She's only been good for me. But everything has kind of happened pretty fast, so it's different. Different is not bad. It's always been good.
''A year ago, the only thing I worried about was playing golf. That's it. I really didn't worry about anything else. And now [the time has] come to start my family and we're doing a bunch of stuff right now and we did a bunch of wedding stuff last week. A lot is kind of changing. It's all for the better, and each day I feel like I'm understanding it better and adjusting to it better.''
Mahan posted a 6-under 64 round Sunday after scores of 71, 67 and 66 the first three days.
''I've had two wins this year and I've missed six cuts, and I didn't miss one last year,'' Mahan said. ''I don't know how this game works. I'm just trying to figure it out as I go.''
Mahan, who was born in Orange, Calif., and lives in Colleyville, Texas, said additional responsibilities that come with a relationship have changed his mindset.
''For us, it's about communication and compromise and everything, and it's been nothing but awesome,'' Mahan said. ''I've only worried about golf for the past 27 years of my life, and to think about somebody else and . . . their feelings and stuff was just different. I think like anyone knows, when you get married or anything, it's an adjustment period, and that's kind of what we went through. But she's only been for the better.''
Mahan proposed to Harris the Saturday before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Harris was a Cowboys cheerleader for three seasons, in 2006-08.
When asked about the quick engagement, Mahan said: ''Yeah. People say when you know, you know. I'm always like, 'That's crazy talk.' But we had a great connection. She's just the best. I mean, she just brings out the best in me, so that's all I can ask for.''
Mahan also said he is more involved in the wedding plans than he ever envisioned.
''I always thought I would be [not involved much], but no,'' said Mahan, who was a standout at Oklahoma State University and the University of Southern California.
''If I hated something, I'm like, 'I don't like that at all.' But I'm going to keep my mouth shut until she asked me. If she loved it, then she loved it. That's all I need.''
Mahan has encountered some struggles on the golf course this year, but said personally, he was happy with his life.
''I just didn't play very good,'' Mahan said. ''It was kind of ugly there. Swing got a little out of whack. You know, there was a lot going on in a good way, you know, with getting engaged and kind of having a serious, serious girlfriend and everything. It was all good, it was all positive, it was all fun.
''We were having a great time, but it was energy going another place.''
Mahan did not reveal the exact wedding date, but said it will take place on a Saturday during the Sony Open in Hawaii. The PGA has not released it's 2011 schedule yet.
Perry eagles No. 6
Kenny Perry scored an eagle on No. 6 with a shot from 177 yards away. He eagled the par-4 when the ball went into the hole on the fly.
''I never saw it. I just heard the crowd,'' Perry said. ''I have never hit a shot where it went straight in the hole. It just went straight in. It was perfect. It barely nicked the front of the lip and went straight into the bottom of the cup. It was like Michael Jordan, a slam dunk.''
Perry high-fived his caddie and jumped into the air in excitement.
''It was a lucky shot,'' said Perry, who finished tied for 19th with Justin Rose and Stewart Cink at 2 under.
''It was a good shot, but you don't ever expect to hit it into a four-and-a-quarter-inch hole from 177 yards. I was excited.''
Palmer is second
Ryan Palmer placed second, just 2 shots behind Mahan after tallying a 1 under Sunday.
''I'm proud of the way I hung in all day,'' Palmer said. ''My swing felt good all day. I never got nervous with each shot and had a good strong round to get me fired up. I just could not get quite close enough to make a good putt.''
Two tie for third
Retief Goosen and Bo Van Pelt shot 65 and 67, respectively to finish tied for third at 9 under.
''I was about 5 shots better in the first two holes than yesterday, so that was a positive note,'' Goosen said.
Goosen and Van Pelt each shot a 33 on the front nine.
''I played good on the front nine, gave myself a chance and played good on the back nine,'' Van Pelt said. ''I hit a bunch of putts where I wanted. I'm disappointed, but I hit the putts like I wanted. . . . They just didn't go in.''
Sean O'Hair placed fifth at 8 under.
Other top scores
Jim Furyk shot a 64 Sunday and finished tied for sixth with Jeff Overton (69) at 7 under for the tournament.
Louis Oosthuizen (65), Padraig Harrington (66), Adam Scott (67), Steve Stricker (67) and Rory McIlroy (69) were each under par Sunday and joined Matt Kuchar (73) for a six-way tie for ninth.
Playing for charity
Rickie Fowler and Troy Matteson are contributing money this week to Walking for Kids, a children's charity founded by D.J. Gregory.
Gregory, 32, is a Savannah, Ga., resident who was born 10 weeks premature with cerebral palsy. He got around with an army crawl until age 5, and then began trying to walk. He worked himself up to a walker, then two canes, and now a single cane.
Gregory watched close friend Fowler and Matteson play Sunday. He has watched every PGA Tour event this year except for the Maykoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico, Feb. 18-21.
''Each week, I have different players for the foundation and they donate per birdie and eagle they make,'' Gregory said.
Gregory earned fame after attending and walking every PGA Tour event in 2008. He wrote a blog for the tour's official Web site, http://www.pgatour.com. Each week, he followed a different player, conducted interviews and shared personal experiences and he was featured on ESPN.
His experiences on the 45-week journey are chronicled in the book Walking With Friends.
Gregory said he likes Firestone's course. ''It is a very easy course to walk. It is a long course, but it is fun because it is very challenging for the players.''
Fowler concluded his week at even par and tied for 33rd. He wore a bright orange outfit Sunday: golf shirt, hat, pants and shoes.
His outfits had a theme each day; light blue Thursday, purple Friday and lime green Saturday.
''I try to throw some fun stuff together for the week,'' Fowler said. ''The fans expect it.''
Fowler might want to consult with fellow golfer Ian Poulter, who has his own clothing line.
Mahan's 64 is the lowest final round score by a winner in tournament history and the 3 shots he overcame equal the event's record for largest comeback, matching seven-time champion Tiger Woods in 2009. . . . Oosthuizen and Mahan were the only players to compile a bogey-free round Sunday. . . . There were five eagles Sunday and 13 in the four days at Firestone. . . . Woods finished tied for 78th and Phil Mickelson finished tied for 46th. The only other time Woods (77) and Mickelson (78) have shot 77 or higher in the same round was the third round of the 1998 British Open. . . . Woods is holding the No. 1 ranking for the 270th consecutive week and the 612th week overall in his pro career, both of which are records.