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More confidence and a mustache keys for Wagner

When Johnson Wagner decided to keep his mustache, which first sprouted during a Thanksgiving week visit to his in-laws' home in Richmond, Va., he promised his wife, Katie, that if he didn't play his way into the Masters, he'd shave it in April.

After winning the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Hawaii, Wagner locked up his second Masters invitation and the mustache is going with him.

Wagner's two-stroke victory Sunday changed his season perhaps more than the 15 pounds he lost during the offseason and the addition of his facial hair, which has drawn some good-natured kidding since he showed up in Hawaii. He jumped to No. 92 in the world with his third career victory, leads the FedEx Cup points race and can think seriously about chasing a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall.

The mustache, Wagner said, might have played a small part in his quick start.

"I was getting a lot of grief for it and I think it made me a little tougher, just taking some abuse," Wagner said. "It's funny the way it made me more self-confident, not really caring what people think.

"Plus, it's so hard to differentiate yourself out here. Charley Hoffman has his hair and Rickie Fowler has the way he dresses. If it's the mustache for me, that's just fine."

On Monday afternoon, Wagner, 31, had settled into the house he's rented for the Humana Challenge this week in Palm Springs, Calif., still savoring his victory. In his sixth season on tour, he is intent on becoming a more consistent player.

He won the Mayakoba Golf Classic last February, but it was his only top-10 finish of the year and he missed 10 cuts in 25 starts. Wagner has just nine top-10 finishes in 141 career starts, a number he wants to improve.

That's one reason he began working with trainer Geoff Graue here last spring and he has a trainer work with him three times a week when he's on the road. He's lost approximately 15 pounds but gained strength, flexibility and, as a result, confidence.

He also picked up a new equipment deal with TaylorMade, putting a new driver and 3-wood in the bag while staying with Titleist irons and golf ball.

Wagner said he felt sharper starting the season than any previous year and it showed in his golf game. When he tied for ninth in the winners-only field at the Tournament of Champions two weeks ago, Wagner knew he was onto something.

"I've struggled through the years to get top-10 finishes. I've never been a guy who has seven top-10s in a year," Wagner said. "At Kapalua, I didn't have a chance to win on Sunday, but I wanted a top-10 and I had more of a calm demeanor coming down the stretch."

Starting the final round at the Sony Open two strokes off the lead, Wagner said he was nervous early but his confidence in his swing gave him a sense of calm over the closing holes. It goes back, he said, to the work he's done with his swing coach Bobby Heins, his trainer and the time he put in at Quail Hollow Club since last season ended.

"I wanted to have a new attitude and not just be satisfied with the level where I was," Wagner said. "I played well in December and, in years past, I would have tried to hang on to that. But I decided not to try to hang on to it but to try and get better."