Posted on: February 25, 2012 7:46 pm

Kuchar's comment a pain in his own neck

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- As his past American teammates in international cup competitions can attest, Matt Kuchar can apply the verbal tourniquet as well as any player in golf. Even Phil Mickelson, a master of the craft, has openly expressed his admiration for Kuchar's needlework.

Kuchar's quick wit, displayed in a very public fashion, created a lively bit of discourse for a few moments after he was pummeled by Hunter Mahan, 6 and 5, in the quarterfinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Saturday.

Broadcast analyst Nick Faldo had expressed on the air Friday night that he felt long putters gave players an advantage, and after Kuchar raked the ball all over Dove Mountain in his loss, three-putting from everywhere, he said he wanted to whack "Faldo in the neck."

Of course, minus the context, some wondered whether he was serious. Kuchar immediately sought out the six-time major winner to explain himself.

It was a joke that misfired about as badly as his putting stroke. He was trying to suggest that, given the way he putted Saturday with his long model, it was reason enough not to ban the long sticks.

"I think I have a chilly sense of humor," Kuchar explained later. "It was meant to be funny. Nick’s a big boy [physically]. I don’t want any piece of him. I thought it might be funny. 

"It was funny in my mind. I don’t know if it was funny in anybody else’s mind."

It could be worse. A few years ago, an angry girlfriend, Brenna Cepelak, whacked the front of Faldo's Porsche. She wasn't kidding.

Category: Golf
Posted on: May 12, 2011 3:02 pm

Tiger was obviously ailing? Yes and no

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- Two guys with the same front-row seats.

But you'd never know they were watching the same sporting event.

The playing partners of Tiger Woods in the first round of the Players Championship could not have been farther apart in their postround comments about Woods, who quit after nine holes on Thursday. It was almost funny, the difference in their levels of perception with regard to the pain Woods was feeling with his myriad leg issues.

"Tiger looked like he was in pain today," said Matt Kuchar, who shot 69. "It looked like you could tell he was walking quite slowly, quite gingerly it seemed like. He was just last to get to his ball every time as he was just walking so gingerly."

Woods said he aggravated his injuries with the very first swing of the day. Which Kuchar picked up quickly.

"Yeah, probably by the second hole I knew that you could tell," Kuchar said. "That walk wasn't normal, and I think by the third hole started seeing some grimacing."

While Kuchar was almost expecting Woods to stop after nine holes, Kaymer, ranked No. 2 in the world, was clearly caught off guard. Woods handed him his scorecard after walking off the ninth green.

"I was surprised because I was not expecting it," Kaymer said. "But I mean, nobody really knows in how much pain he was [in]."

Kaymer failed to notice that Woods was favoring his right leg and struggling to keep up with his playing pertners.

"Did I notice anything?" Kaymer said. "Yeah, he was walking really slowly. He was walking behind us. But I didn't know that it was because of pain or I just thought that he walks a little slower than me. 

"I didn't really know in how much pain he was. I don't know what he told you guys after the round, but for us, I was focusing on my game. I was not really paying too much attention."

Not a bad idea, really. Kaymer, the defending PGA Championship winner, shot 65 and was in a tie for third after the morning session.

Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 3:29 pm

Kuchar back in familiar form -- in the Honda hunt

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Let's just toss it out there on the table and be done with it.

Matt Kuchar has played in five tournaments this season. He has finished seventh or better in four of them, including a third-place finish last week at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

After signing his card following two rounds of the Honda Classic, he was back in the top five and set to contend on yet another weekend. He is the reigning PGA Tour money-list champion, played on the Ryder Cup team, won a FedEx Cup series event last fall and won the prestigious Vardon Trophy.

So with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk having done next to nothing for months, is Kuchar the best American player in the game?

Outside of Bubba Watson, who has won twice in the past year and lost a major in a playoff, it's hard to present much of a case for anybody else. Kuchar, the 2002 Honda champion, was his typically solid self on Friday, finishing with a 1-under 69 that left him four strokes behind early leader Rory Sabbatini.

He has 18 top-10s in his last 34 starts.

"Yeah, I've played really well for two days," said Kuchar, a Florida native. "This probably has to be one of the hardest courses on tour, and throw in a 20-  to 30-mile-an-hour wind, it becomes really hard.

"I think if you keep it anywhere around par, you're doing well."

Kuchar said playing a tough course can't hurt his chances when the major-championship season rolls around.

"Guys prepare all sorts of different ways," he said. "You don't see Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson here, but I think any time you can play a difficult course, it helps."

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 3, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: March 3, 2011 10:49 am

At Honda, it's different strokes, different folks

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The pursuit of perfection, at least in golf, is an admittedly futile one.

The pursuit of improvement, however, is a daily obsession for players at even the highest levels.

The past two weeks offer textbook cases in point.

Australian star Adam Scott, who won the Texas Open last year to revive his career, showed up this week at the Honda Classic using a long putter in an attempt to improve on his performance on the greens, which often has held him back over the years, to put it mildly. Scott, 30, finished No. 136 last year in putting average and is 181st this season.

Over the years, Scott has labored over the short ones in particular, so the long stick ought to help. Generally, the broom putters cause players to lose some touch on the long lag putts, but helps on short-range efforts. So, clearly, Scott can use the help.

That doesn't mean guys with stellar strokes don't fiddle around, too, however.

Rising American standout Matt Kuchar topped the PGA Tour money list last year and won the prestigious Vardon Trophy for compiling the best scoring average for the season. He has one of the purest strokes in the game. Yet last week at Match Play, after doing some work with putting guru Dave Stock, he showed up with a putter that had been extended by five inches. It also had a thicker, longer grip. He rests the top of the grip against his left wrist.

"Just trying to see if I can improve," he said.

Get this: Kooch last year was a superlative sixth in putting and stands a solid T17 this year.

Kuchar finished third last week at the Accenture Match Play and must have liked the experiment had progressed. This week, his caddie, Lance Bennett, entered the equipment trailer and asked that the putter be extended by another three inches.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 5:41 pm

Donald pricklier than Saguaro, makes finals

MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar visited the flora and the fauna, the prickly and the sticky.

But the rigors of the desert were nothing compared to the human Gila Monster he was playing in the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Saturday.

He extricated himself from the cactus. But Luke Donald was relentless in a 6 and 5 victory that wasn't even as close as the score indicated. And the score rightly screams "rout."

"There was no escaping Luke Donald," Kuchar laughed. "I played decent golf and he just tore me up. I wasn't ready for that."

That line now stands five deep, Kooch.

Donald, making only his second start after an 11-week offseason layoff, has obliterated his five foes this week, rolling up 27 birdies in 73 holes. In his two matches Saturday, he birdied an incomprehensible 13 of 27 holes.

"That'll do," he laughed.

He hasn't trailed all week -- in any match, at any point. Whoever he faces in the final on Sunday not only is facing the hottest player in the Sonoran Desert, Donald is well-rested, too. Three of his matches didn't reach the 15th hole. He hasn't played the 18th all week, becoming the second player in tournament history to make the finals without reaching the last.

He had only played two tournament rounds in the previous 11 weeks entering the event, so fatigue surely won't be an issue.
"It's certainly one tick in my box," he said.

He's ticking like a bomb ready to blow up his next foe. Should be be completely surprised? Maybe not. Donald's unerring and consistent style -- he rarely hits foul balls that take him out of holes -- is great for match play in many regards. He doesn't give many holes away. Par is usually his worst score.

Moreover, we should have seen it coming. While others have generated more attention, Donald has amassed a Ryder Cup mark of 8-2-1 in three appearances. Al this despite being one of the shortest hitters in the elite echelon of the game. The Dove Mountain, admittedly perched about 2,500 feet of elevation, still measures 7,800 yards.

"There's more to the game than hitting it far," he said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 25, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 6:12 pm

Different strokes it isn't for Kooch at Accenture

MARANA, Ariz. -- Forget tactical.

Matt Kuchar is all about practical.

The game's quirky and nuanced mode of competition this week at the Accenture Match Play Championship hasn't prompted Matt Kuchar to alter his playing style much at all, and there might be some madness in his method, but you cannot argue with the results.

Kuchar, who has joined the argument as the best American player at the moment, beat Rickie Fowler 2 and 1 on Friday to advance to the fourth round at Dove Mountain.

Kuchar, who won the 1997 U.S. Amateur, is using a similar tactic -- playing the week as though it's just another stroke-play event. It's a decidedly odd tack to take, given that some players adjust to what their opponents have done on every shot. In fact, in his first match of the week, Jason Day actually changed his club on the first tee in reaction to what his foe had done.

Not Kuchar.

"I try to treat it the same as stroke play," he said. "I try to play smart golf. I try to hit fairways, center of greens, you know, have birdie opportunities. 

"It rarely happens that I change my strategy. I think you always expect the player to do something great. I think you've got to continue to play good golf. I think too often, you change your strategy, play conservative and end up making a conservative [par] and they make a miraculous par.

"I think the plan I maintain is very similar to stroke play. It feels like it may be a little bit more nerve wracking. Each hole feels like a tournament in itself. I think there are just a few more nerves than a regular stroke play event."

Category: Golf
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