February 24 2013
MARANA Ariz. -- A year ago, Hunter Mahan eliminated Matt Kuchar in the quarterfinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
On Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club the two met again and this time Kuchar turned the tables on the defending champion, beating Mahan 2 and 1 to win a title of his own.
Kuchar has now won 14 of his last 16 matches in this global event and he has a 15-3 record overall. It was Mahan's first loss in 12 matches and his record overall is now 15-5.
Kuchar, who won THE PLAYERS Championship 10 months ago, got the upper hand early Sunday afternoon. Mahan was his own worst enemy starting out, making four straight bogeys to hand his opponent a 3-up advantage when the two walked off the sixth green, where Kuchar also happened to make his first birdie of the day.
When Mahan bogeyed No. 4 to start the string of three straight holes won for Kuchar, it marked the first time the defending champion had trailed in an amazing stretch of 169 holes. The streak dated back to the sixth hole of his opening match with Zach Johnson last year.
Kuchar then took a 4-up lead when he made a 3-footer for birdie at the eighth hole. But what looked like it was turning into a runaway changed dramatically on the back nine.
Kuchar made bogey at the 10th hole to surrender part of his advantage. Then Mahan finally started making birdies again -- four in a five-hole stretch starting at the 11th hole to pull to 2 down.
The brisk wind then died down just as Kuchar hit a 4-iron on the par-3 16th hole. The ball ended up next to a hospitality area and Kuchar proceeded to make bogey, and suddenly his lead was a tenuous 1 up with two holes to go.
But Kuchar secured the 2-and-1 win when Mahan's second shot at the 17th hole landed in a bush. He was able to advance it about 4 feet but when he didn't hole his fourth shot, Mahan conceded to Kuchar who looking at a 5-footer for birdie.
"I'm not sure I can explain how excited I am to have won this tournament," Kuchar said. "Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure. It seems like each hole there's so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole. To come out on top after six matches of playing guys, the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling."
Mahan, on the other hand, was at a loss to explain the unusual streak of bogeys on the front nine.
"I just didn't play good golf there," he said. "It just wasn't good. ... Kuch is a good player, he's a solid player. You saw today how he can get up and down and hit good quality shots and didn't put himself in the desert at all really. I just put myself too far behind the eight-ball. ... I gained some momentum on 10 and started playing a lot better after that, but it was just too little, too late."
SCORECARD STATS: Kuchar made five birdies and three bogeys. Mahan made four birdies and four bogeys. He conceded the final hole to Kuchar.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won six holes. Mahan won four holes.