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.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

Getty Images

Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

Getty Images

Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."