With versatile game, Kuchar will look to hold off diverse group of pursuers
Interview: Matt Kuchar
Following a third-round 69, Matt Kuchar reflects on his play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial with Bill Rosinski from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.May 25, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- You need to protect a one-stroke lead going into the final round. Would you rather face tough conditions when par is acceptable, or easier conditions when birdies are in demand?
In other words, would you rather play defense or offense?
Matt Kuchar had never contemplated the question until it was posed to him late Saturday afternoon. He may soon know the answer.
Kuchar enters Sunday's final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial looking for the sixth PGA TOUR win of his career. He leads by a stroke on a crowded leaderboard -- 22 players are within five shots of his 54-hole total of 11 under.
A shootout is expected on Sunday. Benign conditions and soft greens have allowed players to go flag hunting most of the week.
Ordinarily, stiff winds provide Colonial with its defense, and that may well be the case Sunday. But with a packed leaderboard, the general consensus is that players will need to be aggressive.
"It's going to be a shootout," said Boo Weekley, who is tied for second with Matt Every, Chris Stroud and Graham DeLaet.
"It's so jammed out there," DeLaet noted, "someone is going to shoot a good number tomorrow,"
So that leads us to our original question. Would Kuchar be better off if Colonial plays tougher on Sunday, if the winds do pick up and players are knocked back on their heels? Or does he welcome the birdiefest that most of us presume will take place?
"I don't know that my game is all that suited to either course," Kuchar said. "I've tried to build a golf game that works on all courses in all setups.
"I feel very comfortable of the gameplan tomorrow. If the conditions are such where you've got to go low, I feel very comfortable being able to make some birdies and being able to go low. If the conditions are hard, I would be pretty excited to try to just salvage pars and make sure I don't give strokes away."
Kuchar certainly hasn't given away many strokes this week. He's made just three bogeys through the first three rounds, tying for lowest total in the field. He hasn't made a bogey on the back nine all week -- remember that if this tournament is close down the stretch.
So successful this week in staying out of trouble at Colonial, Kuchar was shocked when he suffered back-to-back bogeys as he approached the turn in Saturday's third round. He failed to get up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the seventh, and failed to get up-and-down from off the green at the eighth.
"They were easy up and downs," Kuchar said. "One of my strengths i to convert on those opportunities and not let shots go."
But because he did, Kuchar goes into Sunday with no margin for error.
And that's left the guys behind him licking their chops.
Among the chasers are defending champion Zach Johnson; another past Colonial winner in Steve Flesch; veterans such as Weekley, Tim Clark and Freddie Jacobson; eager pros looking for their breakthrough first win, such as Every, Stroud and DeLaet; hometown favorites such as Martin Flores, John Rollins and J.J. Henry; and a 19-year-old emerging star in Jordan Spieth.
Round 3 Recap: Crowne PlazaIn the third round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Matt Kuchar leads at 11 under.
Kuchar may be proven, but no one is ready to settle for second.
"I do got the best chance out here to win right now, I do," Weekley said in his southern drawl. "That's how I feel."
"You never know what can happen," Every said. "You see guys shoot 63, and somebody shoots 66 and it's not good enough."
Clark -- like Kuchar, a winner of THE PLAYERS Championship -- has been a runner-up twice in this event. You get the feeling he thinks he's due at Colonial. After shooting 65 on Saturay, he'll enter the final round two shots off the lead, tied with Flores, Rollins and Flesch.
"I've been in this position before," he said. "It's about, for me, staying aggressive on this golf course. When you try to play it safe, it can come back and get you. So I just need to stay aggressive."
Every actually hopes there are significant winds on Sunday, as he thinks that will help separate him from all the other contenders.
"When the wind picks up, it might favor me," he said. "... When it doesn't blow out here, it's kind of a putting contest."
Rollins -- a member at Colonial -- feels the same way.
"I'm coming from behind," he said. "It's always nice to have some wind that can also help you pick up some shots."
And then there's Johnson. He's won two of the past three years at Colonial. He's just three shots off the lead but will need to climb past several players.
No one would be surprised if he does just that. Eighteen of his last 19 rounds at Colonial have been in the 60s.
"I'm in a place ... that is manageable," he said.
But for now, the man at the front is Kuchar. A world-class player at No. 5 in the FedExCup standings and already a winner this year at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. His lead is slim but don't expect him to be an easy target.
"Tomorrow is an exciting day," he said. "It's going to take a lot of birdies, I know. There are going to be a bunch of guys shooting low tomorrow.
"I will have to see how low I can go as well."
Evidently, Kuchar enjoys playing offense with the lead. Well, at least for this week.