By Ward Clayton, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Kuchar reacted well to the change of pace he experienced on Thursday in the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship. The 32-year-old Georgia Tech graduate shared the front nine with playing partners Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods and a large media and gallery contingent.
At the turn, an injured Woods was at 6-over-par 42 and withdrew. Kuchar and Kaymer continued their progress up the leaderboard. Kuchar shot 69 and Kaymer a 67.
“Tiger looked like he was in pain,” Kuchar said. “He was walking quite slowly, quite gingerly. It took him a lot of time to get to his ball. His putting and driving were great. But his other clubs were not so good. By the second or third hole he was really grimacing.”
As the trio left the ninth hole, Woods came up and said he was done.
“Have a good back nine -- play well,” was the message he delivered, Kuchar said.
Kuchar has been considered somewhat of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., product since his parents moved near to TPC Sawgrass 10 years ago.
Kuchar and his wife Sybi, who was a standout tennis player at Georgia Tech, lived in the beachside community for a while and now reside at St. Simons Island, Ga., just an hour north of Jacksonville. Matt and Sybi teamed in October 2009 to win the consolation title in the USTA National Husband/Wife Doubles Championship at the ATP Headquarters, located next door to TPC Sawgrass.
Kuchar said he played the Stadium Course two weeks ago and came back last weekend to give it another test run.
“It’s certainly a place I like,” said Kuchar, whose career-best finish here was a tie for 13 th last year. “I feel like I’m a good driver of the golf ball, and around here that’s one of the more important things to do. Put yourself in the fairway and have chances to hit and hold these greens.”