What We Learned: Kuchar is major ready

By Will GrayJune 3, 2013, 1:26 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on whether Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major, Karrie Webb's remarkable record of sustained excellence and the debate that still lingers over the format of the NCAAChampionship.

Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major. Long thought of as a player who is solid in many aspects but great in none, Kuchar has now demonstrated an ability to win consistently against upper-echelon fields. If you need proof, just consider the settings for each of his last three PGA Tour victories: The Players Championship a year ago, where annually one of the strongest fields in golf assembles; a resounding march through the bracket at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season and Sunday’s triumph at Muirfield Village.

With his most recent win, Kuchar will likely supplant Justin Rose as the highest-ranked player without a major title to his credit when the new rankings are published Monday. In his post-round news conference, Kuchar noted a perception before the year began that two pieces were missing from his resume: a major victory and a multiple-win season. Now that the former has been achieved, the latter is all that remains in order to include Kuchar’s name when discussing the truly elite players in today’s game. – Will Gray

In the prognostication game, timing is everything. Anyone can pick a winnerp; it's picking the right winner on the right week that keeps those big buildings in Las Vegas in business. On Friday afternoon, with Matt Kuchar in the mix on a crowded Memorial Tournament leaderboard, I tweeted the following: 'How well has Matt Kuchar been playing? If I had to make a U.S. Open pick right this minute – and trust me, I don't – he's my guy.' Well, a little over 48 hours later, he tested my theory about timing, as the remarkably consistent Kuchar played some remarkably consistent golf to claim the Memorial title. It left me wondering: Did the victory actually hurt Kuchar's chances of winning at Merion? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that he wouldn't take the W and take his chances, but the numbers tell us how difficult it is to win back-to-back starts. In fact, before Kuchar's victory, only one other player –  Tiger Woods, of course –  had even been able to back up a win this season with another one. We'll find out if Kuchar can disprove this theory soon enough by prevailing on a course that should be tailor-made to his game. Or else we'll learn once again that, yes, timing is everything in the prognostication game. – Jason Sobel

Five years into its match-play experiment, the NCAA Championship still has an identity crisis. Officials want drama, and the current format provides plenty of that. (Just ask Cal.) Officials also want the national championship to identify the top team in the country, and four times in the past five years the No. 1-ranked team has left NCAAs without the trophy. Match play will be used for a few more years, even if many think a 72-hole stroke-play tournament is what’s best for college golf. Fortunately, second-ranked Alabama’s win Sunday quieted this debate. But, rest assured, only for a few months. – Ryan Lavner

Karrie Webb’s longevity as a winner is something to marvel over.

It’s not so much her age. She’s only 38. That’s four years younger than Phil Mickelson, just a year older than Tiger Woods. It’s more the nature of the way she has been able to continue to fan the embers of her ambition after fashioning a Hall of Fame career that surpassed even her wildest dreams. That’s no easy trick in the women’s game, where youth rules so much more than in the men’s game, and where the pressures of being the top women’s player have taken such a toll. Annika Sorenstam retired at 37, Lorena Ochoa at 28. At her best, Webb was just as dominant as they were. 

For someone who has already secured her place in history, it must be exhausting fending off challengers who just keep getting younger. It must be difficult to keep pushing to do the work it takes to win on an ultra-young tour. Lydia Ko won at 15 last year, Lexi Thompson at 16 the year before. Yani Tseng was 22 when she rose to No. 1. Inbee Park holds the top spot now at 24.

Webb’s Shoprite victory Sunday was her 39th LPGA title. She has victories somewhere in the world in 18 of the last 19 years. The drive to keep beating these baby-faced challengers is something to marvel over. – Randall Mell

Matt Kuchar may have inherited the title “best player without a major” thanks to his performance at the Memorial. His two-stroke victory is his second of the season, and the sixth of his career, and makes him an easy pick heading into Merion and the U.S. Open in a fortnight. Kuchar has five top-10 finishes in his last 12 Grand Slam starts and after Muirfield Village he appears ready to take that next step. – Rex Hoggard

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Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.