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April 13 2013

6:10 PM

Kuchar ready to take next step

Matt Kuchar fired a 69 on Saturday at Augusta National.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- For the second year in a row, Matt Kuchar heads into the final round of the Masters with a chance to win his first major.

He trailed Peter Hanson by four strokes a year ago but grabbed a share of the lead -- briefly -- with an eagle at the 15th hole. After a bogey at the next hole, his second in as many days there, though, Kuchar finished two shots out of the playoff Bubba Watson won.

At 4 under thanks to Saturday's 69, Kuchar figures to be a bit closer to the top spot when the shadows set on the third round this year. He's anxious to put the lessons he's learned into play when everything is on the line. 

"Last year was my first real time being in contention going late into Sunday," Kuchar said. "It's kind of what we all play golf for, having a chance at a major championship, having a chance at the Masters tournament, it's exciting. I've not quite had the feelings anywhere else that I did when I made the eagle on 15 last year and got right in contention."

Kuchar played Augusta National's all-important par 5s in 4 under on Saturday. The two on the back nine were bounce-back birdies of 2 and 6 feet while those on the front, both inside 4 feet, fueled a solid 33.

"Around this place you take what the course gives you," Kuchar said. "Here the par 5s are opportunities that you want to take advantage of and I feel great about having birdied all four. I would say that it's a good feat, because even though they are all potential birdie holes, they're all potential bogey holes or holes that you can mess up on."

With roughly an hour left in the third round, Kuchar and Nick Watney were the only two players who had shot in the 60s twice this week. Kuchar had a 75 in the second round but "cleaned things up" on Saturday, particularly his driver, and put himself in good shape for what could be a career-defining Sunday.

Kuchar may not have won a major but he has proven himself on golf's biggest stages. He beat what is annually the strongest field in golf, top-to-bottom, at last year's PLAYERS Championship and then beat the top 64 players from around the globe at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.

So Kuchar doesn't look to be intimidated on Sunday. He knows everything will be magnified but he's ready to see how he measures up.

"We have all hit a thousand golf shots before," Kuchar said. "They all seem to get a little bit bigger and a little bit more challenging when a tournament's on the line, but hopefully the experience from last year and the continued good play throughout the year has helped and will help tomorrow."


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