MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar left the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain with a comfortable 3-up advantage through over Hiroyuki Fujita when play was called on Wednesday afternoon. A pair of routine pars at the 15th and 16th holes were good enough for the victory on Thursday.
Kuchar, who shot 1 under, atually had a chance to end things earlier but he missed an 11-footer for birdie to go 4 up at the 15th hole. He will play the winner of the match between Sergio Garcia and Thongchai Jaidee.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Matt Kuchar's lowest round ever at Riviera put him in an unaccustomed position at the Northern Trust Open.
Kuchar, who has never finished higher than 14th in seven previous starts here, owns a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia after shooting a bogey-free 64 on Thursday. Kuchar, who has two top-10s in his first three starts of the season, hit 15 greens in regulation to lead the field as he eclipsed his previous best at Riviera by two strokes.
Play was suspended at 8:43 p.m. ET due to the fog that had arrived about an hour earlier and darkness setting in. The second round will begin as scheduled at 9:40 a.m. ET (6:40 PT) and the 18 players who didn't finish will complete their first rounds starting at 10:20 a.m. ET
Garcia's round of 65 was the best of the afternoon. He hit eight fairways, 12 greens and used just 25 putts.
Brandt Jobe was along in third after going out in the first group of the day and shooting 66. Red-hot rookie James Hahn, England's David Lynn and Charlie Beljan are tied for fourth after 67s.
Beljan was playing the 18th hole when play was suspended. The man who survived a severe panic attack to win the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic three-putted from the edge of the green, 43 feet away, to fall back to 4 under.
The group of 11 players shooting 68s included two-time champion Fred Couples, Lee Westwood and former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, who is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut.
Defending champion Bill Haas shot a 1-under 70 while his playing partners and the men he beat in last year's playoff, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, opened with 71s.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- A Hawaiian vacation filled with snorkeling, outrigger canoeing, surfing and paddleboarding sent Matt Kuchar back to California this week to resume his PGA TOUR campaign in a relaxed frame of mind.
And it looks like he handles the paddleboard with the same kind of steady strokes that keep him on the leaderboard nearly everywhere he plays.
"On a calm day I think it's a pretty easy thing," Kuchar said. "I think when it gets a little rough, it starts getting exciting. When you get better, you start trying to challenge yourself by trying to catch waves. I prefer some calmer conditions and going out and have a nice, relaxing paddle."
Kuchar's first round in the Northern Trust Open on Thursday was the equivalent of that kind of ride. The bogey-free 64 was the best of Kuchar's career at Riviera and left him with a two-stroke advantage over Brandt Jobe when the morning wave completed their rounds.
Kuchar opened with a string of three birdies -- two-putting the par-5 first hole from 29 feet, then kicking in putts of 25 and 29 inches at his next two holes. He added another from 4 feet at the seventh hole, then drove the 10th and two-putted from 58 feet to get to 5 under. He closed out the round with two more easy putts of 8 feet at No. 16 and 3 feet at the 17th.
"Always fun to have bogey free days, especially around this golf course," Kuchar said. "... Just drove it well today which is a big key around here. The greens are pretty tricky and pretty firm this year, so coming out of the rough, it's difficult to get a ball to stop close to the hole.
"Coming out of the fairway is a key thing to play some good golf, so we are driving it well and played some nice golf today."
Truth be told, Kuchar wasn't totally surprised to have played so well -- even though his record at Riviera isn't that impressive. He's played seven times previously and has never had a top-10 finish; his best is a tie for 14th in 2008.
The Hawaiian vacation was a "blast," of course, and came on the heels of three straight weeks of competition that produced a pair of top-10s and a tie for 16th in Palm Springs, where Kuchar bases the family early in the year.
"I came back refreshed and energized and ready to get back playing again," he said.
Toward that end Kuchar spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday working with his coach, Chris O'Connell. Kuchar liked the early results so much, the two headed over to Los Angeles Country Club to get in a round at the North Course and put things into play.
The time -- on the course and in the ocean -- was obviously well-spent.
"I was excited about the things were working on and excited how I was hitting the ball, and said let's get out on the golf course and see if it works on the golf course," Kuchar said. "Things were going well early in the week and still continuing, but I think the hot start was certainly a great way to get the round going."
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Matt Kuchar has never had a top-10 finish at the Northern Trust Open. His best in seven starts, in fact, has been a tie for 14th in 2008
But after opening with a career-best 64 at Riviera, by two strokes, no less, Kuchar has put himself in position for so much more. He set the tone for the day with three straight birdies and added two more in his final three holes.
"I got off to a hot start," Kuchar said. "And I was playing solid golf. I had a couple of days work with my instructor, Chris O'Connell and it was one of those things where I was excited to get going."
The bogey-free round of 7 under earned the steady Kuchar a two-stroke lead over Brandt Jobe, Tim Herron and David Lynn. Jobe is also in the clubhouse but Herron and Lynn each have four strokes remaining, on opposite sides.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The first 10 holes of Bill Haas' title defense at the Northern Trust Open have landed him in a tie for the lead with Matt Kuchar.
The two started on opposite nines within 11 minutes of each other. Kuchar birdied his first three holes and ended up making the turn in 4 under. Haas, who started on the back nine, shot 33 and then made a 15-footer to tie Kuchar.
The ageless Fred Couples is tied with Brandt Jobe. Pat Perez, Jimmy Walker, Josh Teater and rookie James Hahn for third at 2 under. The 53-year-old Couples, who is playing in his 31st Northern Trust Open, has just made the turn.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, the two men Haas beat in that playoff last year, aren't faring as well. They are playing with Haas in one of the day's featured groups -- Mickelson is even par while Bradley is 1 over.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here.
2013 PREVIEW: Matt Kuchar prevailed over what is annually the best field in golf at THE PLAYERS Championship -- and before what used to be a home crowd, no less -- as he won for the fourth time in his career. He also posted top-10 finishes in two of the four majors. Is Kooch, who has 39 top-10s in the last three years, ready to take the next step in 2013?
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: Kuchar started the final round of THE PLAYERS one stroke off the pace being set at the time by Kevin Na. He closed with a 70 and ended up winning by two strokes -- the first American champion since Phil Mickelson won the PGA TOUR's signature event in 2007. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: It's always pleasant when nice things happen to nice people. Win or lose, Matt always seems to have a smile on his face. He and his caddie Lance comprise the nicest twosome on the course. I thought his putting was better when he used a conventional length shaft and grip but you can't argue with results and Kuchar is THE PLAYERS champion. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Coming off yet another year hovering around the $4-million mark ($3.9 million), but that total was a bit inflated for his win at THE PLAYERS, which has the biggest purse on the PGA TOUR. Furthermore, after consecutive seasons with 20 and 19 top 25s, he logged "only" 13 in 2012, but he still matched his 2011 total of top 10s with nine. He's mid- to late first-round value. If you're on the fence, the kicker is that he hasn't competed in fewer than 22 events (2012) since his return full-time to the TOUR in 2007. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||1st||THE PLAYERS Championship|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 21
Rounds played: 82
Top-10 finishes: 9
Money List rank: 11th
Driving distance: 128th
Driving accuracy: 42nd
Greens in regulation: 86th
Strokes gained-putting: 25th
Scoring average: 5th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Matt Kuchar in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know
Following an opening-round 67, Matt Kuchar reflects on his play in the 2012 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with Fred Albers from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Matt Kuchar used to play East Lake Golf Club frequently when he was a student at nearby Georgia Tech.
But it took the 34-year-old longer than he had hoped to return to play the legendary Bobby Jones' home track as a pro during the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Kuchar is hoping the third time's a charm, too.
Two years ago, he came back to Atlanta ranked first in the FedExCup only to tie for 25th and fall one spot in the competition for the $10 million bonus. Kuchar entered the Playoffs finale at fifth last year and tied for 20th in the tournament, again dropping a spot in the FedExCup.
This week, Kuchar is no longer among the five who control their own destiny at East Lake. He came in 16th so all he can do is focus on winning and see where the rest of the chips fall -- and Kuchar did what he needed to do on Thursday with a 67 that left him one shot off the lead.
"My first two TOUR Championships didn't go quite as nice as I would have liked," he said. "Awfully nice to get off to a good start. Didn't hit it that well, didn't drive it that well particularly, but putted fantastic. Really had the putter going."
Kuchar made four birdies and dropped just one shot to par when he missed the fairway and the green at No. 4 and couldn't convert a 19-footer to save. He only hit five fairways and 11 greens on Thursday but those 26 putts helped him compensate on a course on which he's becoming increasing comfortable.
"I think I've learned over the years that maybe the difference between college and now is the new greens and how firm they are," Kuchar said. "There are just a lot of places where you used to be able to get up and down, and now you can't. I played smart when I was in trouble, and I was able to sneak away with a 3 under par round."
Kuchar says he has decided to embrace the distraction of family and friends this week, and he's come in more rested than in the past. He's not checking the numbers or obsessing over the scenarios, he's just trying to play his best to see where it takes him.
"The game of golf is so fickle that I think I do a good job of not putting too much in the way of expectations on myself," Kuchar said. "I come looking to play well, but certainly not expecting it. So I don't know if the pressure was there or just the game of golf."
The top 30 in FedExCup points are headed to East Lake for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Here’s a look at Matt Kuchar, one of the 30 players who will contend for the FedExCup title.
SCENARIOS TO WIN FEDEXCUP: For Kuchar to win the
FedExCup, he MUST win the TOUR Championship and have the following
scenarios fall into place:
> Rory McIlroy (No. 1) finishes in a 3-way tie for 9th or worse
> Tiger Woods (No. 2) finishes in a 3-way tie for 4th or worse
> Nick Watney (No. 3) must finish fourth or worse
> Phil Mickelson (No. 4) finishes T-3 or worse
Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) finishes T-2 or worse
> *Tie for the FedExCup
Click here for scenarios of every player
SEASON IN REVIEW: Kuchar ended a 20-month victory drought in a big way when he came from behind to win THE PLAYERS by two strokes. The win was his first in 37 starts -- during which time he had produced 14 top-10 finishes. Two of those came in World Golf Championships, and he added another later in the year at the Bridgestone Invitational, his eighth top-10 of the season. His consistency led to a spot on his second Ryder Cup team. -- Helen Ross
PATH TO TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP: Here’s a look at
Kuchar’s results in the first three events of the 2012
Click here for Playoffs Tracker of every player.
|FEC ranking after event||
PREVIOUS FEDEXCUP FINISHES: Here is how Kuchar has finished in previous Playoffs appearances:
EAST LAKE HISTORY: Though Kuchar is from Atlanta, he’s made it to East Lake only twice, tying for 20th in 2011 and 25th the year before. He’s broken par just once in eight rounds there.
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Fred Albers, on-course
correspondent for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, provides a quick look at
Georgia Tech graduate who has lots of local knowledge at East Lake. Has no weakness in his game, does everything well. I think his family life is so solid, it helps his golf game as it puts everything in perspective. Kuchar has the ability to stay very emotionally level during a round of golf.
PLAYER PAGE: Click here for more on Matt Kuchar
Now it’s your turn. How do you think Kuchar will fare at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola?