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Hunter Mahan leads AT&T National by two strokes heading into weekend

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2012

All week long, golfers at the AT&T National have said how difficult Congressional Country Club's Blue Course at Bethesda is, and how it's playing more difficult than last year's U.S. Open.

Hunter Mahan doesn't seem to agree.

Mahan blazed his way through Friday's second round, shooting a 6-under 65 that tied the lowest round of the tournament with Cameron Trinagle. After missing the cut at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open, Mahan is thriving.

"I enjoy playing here," said Mahan. "It suits me very well. ... I feel good about playing here and I really enjoy it."

In the four years the AT&T National has been held at Congressional, Mahan has played in all 14 rounds and shot over par only twice. He's scored a 65 or lower once in those tournaments, including his 9-under 62 in the final round in 2009.

He leads Jimmy Walker, Robert Garrigus and Virginia Tech product Brendon de Jonge by two strokes heading into the weekend.

Mahan, an accomplished golfer since his high school days, won his first PGA Tour at the 2007 Traveler's Championship, and he's won four times since, twice in 2010 and twice in 2012. His most thrilling performance came at last weekend's Traveler's Championship, where his final-round-best 61 vaulted him into a tie for 11th after starting the day tied for 68th.

"It is nice to shoot a good round," said Mahan referring to that impressive round. "I've got confidence in my game no matter where I play."

With the temperatures reaching 100 degrees Friday, the course was expected to play tougher for the afternoon rounds. Plus, golfers also had to constantly hydrate themselves in order to help withstand the sweltering heat.

"These guys work out all the time and [we] try to keep our bodies in shape for days like this when it's tough out there and it beats you down," said Mahan.

de Jonge was the first in the clubhouse to post a score of at least 5-under for the tournament.

Having played in 19 PGA Tour events this year, de Jonge hasn't missed a cut since March 23rd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He didn't qualify for or was not selected to three tournaments since then: The Masters, the Byron Nelson Invitational, and the U.S. Open.

"When you're as fit as I am, it's easy [playing so often]," said the burly de Jonge, in good enough spirits to make a joke about himself. "Yeah, I am [tired]. I've always played a lot, though. It's what I'm used to."

de Jonge will be paired with Mahan for Saturday afternoon's round.

"It's a tough place to play," said Mahan. "It's not every week you get to play a course of this caliber."

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