Kuchar killing them with consistency

By Jason SobelMay 14, 2012, 2:38 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In the cutthroat, alpha dog world of professional golf, where wins are the thing and everything else comes a distant second, being classified as “consistent” can easily be construed as the ultimate backhanded compliment.

Might as well say, “Nice speed,” on a yanked 5-foot putt. Or, “You’re smarter than you look.” Or even worse, “Your wife has a nice … personality.”

All of which should spell bad news for Matt Kuchar, who over the past few years has been amongst the most – all together now – “consistent” players in the game. Entering this week’s Players Championship, he had competed in 59 official PGA Tour events since the beginning of 2010, finishing in the top-25 in a whopping 46 of them, but winning just once.

It would be enough to leave most players wrapping their irons around the nearest tree, but Kuchar simply kept on flashing that perma-smile, as if the negative connotations of such a label were only fuel for greater success.

All of which leaves the rest of us wondering: Does this guy ever get frustrated?

“I get asked that question a lot,” said his father, Peter Kuchar. “He just felt that one of these days the putter was going to get hot and when that happened, it would happen.”

“His strongest attribute is how patient and how mentally strong he is,” said his caddie, Lance Bennett. “He’s able to stay even – not get too mad or too excited.”

“Matt will always put a positive spin on everything,” said his instructor, Chris O’Connell. “He would look at it as, ‘Heck, I played at a high level, some of the best golf I can play and it just so happened that another guy played better and beat me.”

In most other sports – heck, in most other walks of life – consistency is a trait to be desired, one which makes fellow competitors envious of steady results. In golf, a player who finishes in, say, 12th place every week won’t reap the rewards equal to one who peaks twice per year, but parlays those performances into victories.

Not that it ever discouraged Kuchar.

“I'm really happy with the way my golf career has gone,” he maintained. “I've played some great golf, some consistent golf.  I never wanted to be the guy that won once a year and missed 10 cuts a year.

“Back when I was thinking about this, Tiger Woods was either winning or finishing second or third every week, and I wanted to figure out, ‘How do I get to be like that; how do I play good golf? Lately, Steve Stricker was that guy. It seemed like Steve Stricker was a guy that I could be more like than I could be like Tiger Woods. I can't hit the shots Tiger Woods can. Steve and I play a similar game, just a consistent game, and that was a guy that I said, ‘I'd like to play like him.’ I'd like to show up, be playing good, have a chance to win tournaments, and it's gone that way.”

Even pros who value consistency understand that level results can have their ups and downs. Instructors, though, preach consistency – and for good reason.

“I think most people, when they come to take a golf lesson, they say they want to be more consistent,” O’Connell said. “As an instructor, it gives me great pleasure to know that week in, week out Matt is giving himself a chance to win. Some guys have two great weeks a year – they may win once and have a third-place finish. That’s great for winning money, but to be a truly elite player who wins majors and other big events, you’d better be a consistent player or just hope your game comes around at the right time.”

In the unstable world of varying rankings and parity within winner’s circles, Kuchar certainly ranks among the very few for whom consistency remains, well, consistent.

He understands that, much like at last month’s Masters Tournament, where he finished in a share of third place, he can only control his own score, not his destiny on the leaderboard.

It was that consistency – the same consistency which had so often resulted in top-25 or top-10 or top-five finishes over the past few years – that finally netted him another title on Sunday, taking The Players by keeping cool, calm and collected down the stretch.

In other words, just being himself.

You know, the guy who never becomes frustrated by consistency, never loses sleep over so many close calls without a victory cigar. It’s the reason why, when one intrepid reporter asked about his failure to win for nearly two full years, Kuchar responded by answering, “You can suck it, big guy!”

OK, so maybe he does get frustrated after all. Then again, that perma-smile never left his face, even when he said those words. And it almost never does.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.