Kuchar wins Memorial, looks forward to U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 3, 2013, 1:01 am

In our rush to typecast, it’s easy to shoehorn Matt Kuchar into generalized categories – nice guy, team player, consistent. If they ever made a movie of Kuchar’s life, Opie of “Andy Griffith Show” fame seems the obvious stand in.

What we don’t see – what is hidden away behind the boy-next-door smile and inviting demeanor – is a competitor who is driven often to extremes, a gamer who is inspired to win twice in a single season, to win a major, to just win.

That grit was on display early last Monday on the practice tee at Watters Creek Golf Club in Plano, Texas, not 12 hours after Kuchar had come up a stroke short at Hogan’s Alley to Boo Weekley.

“He finished solo second at Colonial and Monday at 9 a.m. we were on the range back at it until he had to catch his flight (to the Memorial),” said Kuchar’s swing coach Chris O’Connell.

“Second sucks,” is a phrase Kuchar would never utter, at least not in public, but know this – behind the smile and the sense of humor is the cold heart of a closer and it was on full display Sunday at Muirfield Village.

Highlights: Kuchar wins Memorial for sixth Tour victory

Memorial Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

For three days Kuchar had endured crusty greens and gusting winds that sent players with more polished pedigrees reaching for calculators to add up the damage and he entered the final turn two strokes clear of the field.

One by one they made a run at Kuchar. First it was Kyle Stanley, who birdied four of five holes just before the turn to pull within one stroke. Then Kevin Chappell, who birdied the 11th to tie for the lead and matched Kuchar with another birdie at the 15th hole to keep pace with the front-runner.

But for each punch Kuchar had an answer. He two-putted for birdie at the 11th and 15th holes to hold serve, and rebounded from a bogey at No. 16 with a 16-footer for birdie at the last to secure a two-stroke victory.

“When that putt went in I was excited to win, but I think it was even more excitement than just a regular tournament,” said Kuchar, who won his sixth Tour title. “That was not just a relief that I've two-putted and sealed the deal; that was, yes, I have done it. Yes, I have won the Memorial. It felt so good.”

It was, by almost every measure, a textbook performance for Kuchar. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday. Even his bogey at the 16th he “didn't think was that bad” and despite 33 putts on Day 4, he finished second for the week in strokes gained-putting.

It was quintessential Kuchar, calculating and workman-like. Even O’Connell, who spent two weeks prior to the Memorial working with Kuchar at his club in Plano during the Texas swing, was in awe of the performance.

“The last seven holes he just really put on a clinic there. He was in total control of his game,” O’Connell said.

The victory elevates Kuchar to darling status in two weeks at Merion, and conventional wisdom suggested the Memorial would be a good tune-up for this year’s Open. But considering the wind-whipped conditions perhaps it was a better litmus test for the British – not U.S. – Open.

Winds gusted to 15 (Thursday), 40 (during Friday’s storms) and 25 mph (Saturday) and players were sent off both the first and 10th tees in threesomes on the weekend in an attempt to dodge a parade of incoming fronts and complete play.

For Tiger Woods, the 2013 Memorial even had the feel of a past British Open, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

On Saturday, Woods’ opened his day with two double bogeys (Nos. 12 and 15), a triple bogey (No. 18) and a bogey (No. 17) that added up to an opening-nine 44, the highest nine-hole score of his professional career, and a third-round 79.

Only his second-round 81 at Muirfield during the 2002 British Open has been higher since Woods joined the play-for-pay ranks. Although he was seven strokes better on Sunday his tie for 65th is his worst four-round finish since he tied for 78th at the 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“I didn't putt very well. I had bad speed all week. I thought the greens didn't look that fast, but they were putting fast,” said Woods, who entered the week fresh off his fourth victory of the season at TPC Sawgrass. “I could never get the speed of them.”

But if an A.P.B. (all-points bulletin) was needed for Woods’ flat stick, or maybe just another impromptu lesson from Steve Stricker, the other end of the bag seemed to be working just fine. He finished fifth in fairways hit and connected with 13 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday.

McIlroy was only slightly better than Woods at Muirfield Village. The world No. 2 tied for 57th following a 78 on Day 1.

If the high-profile twosome’s hard week didn’t change the dynamic heading into Merion, Kuchar’s play will leave the door open to alternative scenarios with the year’s second major looming.

“Heading into Merion, I'll have a lot of confidence,” said Kuchar, who plans to make a scouting trip to the Philadelphia classic on Tuesday. “I think most guys will be in a similar boat in having to learn that golf course. But from what I understand you've got to drive it well, as you do in a U.S. Open, and I feel like I've been really driving the ball well.”

A major is the next item on his “to do” list and while any major would do, the U.S. Open would be particularly endearing for Kuchar.

“I don’t think he feels expectations,” O’Connell said. “One of his goals last year was to win multiple events. Another thing on his list is to win a major and he’s performed well in the majors the last couple of years. He looks at it like a natural progression.”

For a player who has been typecast his entire career, following this week’s performance at Jack’s place there is one last part Kuchar seems destined to play – major champion.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.