The Upshot: Kuchar turns another heartbreak into ecstasy at Harbour Town
April 20, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Matt Kuchar holed out on the 72nd hole to close out his seventh PGA TOUR triumph. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Just when it looked like Matt Kuchar might blow another Sunday lead, he finally closed one out in style, holing a bunker shot for birdie on the 18th hole to cap a 64 and what turned out to be a one-stroke victory at the RBC Heritage.
"I told my caddie before that last shot, 'I'm about due to make one of these,’" Kuchar said."I knew it was at least an easy par. Bunker game is good. No problem.
"I went up and took a good read, knew it would release and break right to left, played it just right of the hole, watched it roll. I heard the crowd go crazy when the thing disappeared. I went crazy myself. It was just an incredible feeling."
And an incredible ending, especially considering a few minutes earlier Kuchar inexplicably three-putted from four feet for bogey on the par-3 17th.
Instead of his extending his lead, Kuchar, who had started the day four back of Luke Donald but passed him with a front-nine 30, dropped into a tie with the Englishman.
“A little bit of shock,” Kuchar said of his reaction to the bogey."But I think I do a really good job of shaking things off.”
That’s an understatement.
In each of his previous three starts, Kuchar had at least a piece of the lead in the final round, including two weeks ago in Houston, where he squandered a four-shot advantage on the last day and hit his approach shot into the water on the 72nd hole before losing in playoff when Matt Jones chipped in for birdie.
This time, Kuchar was on the other end.
Donald, who began the day with a two-stroke lead over John Huh and was four groups behind Kuchar, was on the 15th green when he heard the roar from Kuchar’s chip-in.
"I probably should have backed off that putt, because I did hear it, " said Donald, who has finished in the top three at Harbour Town five of the last six years."Someone told me he holed out from the front bunker.
"I knew what I had to do. On 17 when I hit the tee shot, I was one back and I needed to birdie my last two."
Instead, he managed only par, including on 18, where his approach to the difficult closing hole came up short of the green and his birdie chip slid past the hole.
"Disappointing, obviously, not to have won, " said Donald, who finished with a 69."Usually a solid 69 on a windy day with a two-shot lead is usually enough to get it done on Sundays."
KUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCHHHH!!! no one deserves a little luck more than Matt Kuchar these past few weeks!— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) April 20, 2014
CALL OF THE DAY: John Maginnes from PGA TOUR Radio on SirusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Matt Kuchar's hole-out birdie at No. 18 to win the 2014 RBC Heritage.
DONALD DONE IN BY MISTAKES: Two holes ultimately cost Luke Donald what would have been his first win on the PGA TOUR since early 2012.
At the par-4 sixth, the former world No. 1 hit his tee shot out of bounds and went on to make double bogey.
Four holes later, he drove it into the water left of the fairway and eventually made bogey.
"(On 6) I got a gust of wind in my backswing, kind of pushed me backwards, and I kind of overcompensated," he said. "(On 10) it was just a poor swing. I flipped it. It was kind of a little bit of my old tendency creeping in, and it’s going to take some time to get all of that out. What I’m working on hopefully will help that."
Last August, Donald dumped longtime swing coach Pat Goss (who still works with him on his short game) for Chuck Cook.
The reason he did was because he felt like Cook could help him be more consistent off the tee, particularly in majors and on tough golf courses. Sunday was an inopportune time for those old motor patterns to creep back in.
"You can't really make mistakes, and there's more pressure," Donald said, trying to explain the difficulty of closing out a win on Sunday. "I think that's why we admire Tiger so much, because he is so good at closing it down when he had the lead.
"Tiger was very good at just making the other guys make mistakes, and just playing his game. And obviously 69 with a couple-shot lead is usually good enough, but Matt played a hell of a round."
Shot of the Day
Matt Kuchar’s hole-out birdie on No. 18 earns Shot of the Day
ODDS AND ENDS
• Jordan Spieth, who was coming off a runner-up showing at the Masters Tournament, saved his best round of the week for Sunday, shooting a 4-under 67 to tie for 12th in just his second trip to Harbour Town. Last year he finished ninth.
• Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick made 18 pars on Sunday to end the week at 2-under 282 to tie for 23rd. That tops his previous-best PGA TOUR finish, a tie for 44th at the 2013 Open Championship. He missed the cut in his only other two starts this year at Bay Hill and Augusta National.
• Russell Knox turned in the best finish by a first-time RBC Heritage participant with a tie for ninth. Only five players have ever won in their first appearance in the event -- Arnold Palmer (1969), Bob Goalby (1970), Stewart Cink (2000), Jose Coceres (2001) and Boo Weekley (2007).
THEY SAID IT
“I thought Houston I was in control, I thought that was a tournament I was going to win. But that didn’t work out. I played some really good golf at Augusta last week, and I thought this is where it’s supposed to work out. I kept wanting after things didn’t work out in San Antonio, just give me another chance. Amazing to have four straight weeks of chances on four completely different golf courses. I take a lot of pride in playing good week in and week out. This has been some excellent play.” -- Matt Kuchar, on finally winning after being in contention each of his previous three starts.
“There was a lot of pressure out there, and I felt it, for sure. I felt like I hit decent shots down the stretch. ... It wasn't that relaxing, but Sundays in the final group shouldn't be. They should be tough and they should be hard. And that's what you expect.” -- Luke Donald, on the pressure of the final round.
STAT LEADERS: The best from Sunday and the week at Harbour Town.
Category Round 4 leader
Total Weekly leader Total Driving distance
J.B. Holmes 303 yards
Charles Howell III 301.9 yards Fairways hit Ricky Barnes
12 of 14 Billy Horschel
45 of 56 Greens in regulation
15 of 18 Matt Kuchar
53 of 72 Fewest putts Jordan Spieth
23 putts Chesson Hadley
102 putts Most birdies Pat Perez
9 Matt Kuchar 19 Lowest round Matt Kuchar
64 Matt Kuchar