Catching up with Kooch
I know there have been people who say that I missed my time, he told me. They say I should have gone out and turned pro a couple of years ago.
Kuchar enjoyed the college life in Atlanta, and so he stayed to complete his degree at Georgia Tech. That hes picked apart for such a decision lingers as a sad statement on how professional sports have skewed a societys priorities.
When Kuchar failed to recapture the magic of the 1998 Masters and U.S. Open, he faded from view.
Sure there were times when I wasnt on top, he recalls. You know who was with you and who were your friends for the moment.
Matts family has long been a source of strength, but now even theyre heading in new directions. His parents, Meg and Peter, recently moved from just outside Orlando to Ponte Vedre.
Dad was ready for a change, Matt explained. And Mom wanted to be closer to the beach.
Also this spring, Matts 21 year old sister, Becky, married Michael Morris, a former University of Georgia golfer now in the real estate business in Atlanta.
Even though hes a Bulldog, Kooch joked of his one time rival, hes a great guy.
And so Matt Kuchar begins his own journey. It started in Jupiter, Florida with a job in investment banking. But the lure of golf pulled him away and late last year in Australia he turned professional with little fanfare and far from the glare of the American press.
Australia was an amazing experience, he said. I loved the country and loved the people.
Back in Jupiter, Greg Norman offered the former U.S. Amateur champ playing and practice privileges at the Sharks swank Medalist Club. Its a perk he says hell try to keep even after he makes an upcoming move back to Atlanta, where hell play out of The Golf Club of Georgia and East Lake, thanks to his relationship with Georgias first family of golf, the Yates.
I miss Atlanta a lot, said Kuchar. Wherever I went I was looked after and the people there have always been great to me.
In the meantime, hell continue to do corporate and charity outings, as well as practice.
I normally work out for an hour in the morning, he explained. Then Ill hit balls, play 18 and then work on some aspect of my game in the afternoon.
Kooch has made changes to his putting, reverting to some of the techniques he used as a kid when, like so many, he seemed to make everything he looked at.
I remember that I loved to watch Dave Stockton so Im going with more of a broad stance and forward press, he said.
The work seems to have paid off. He finished 17th at Greensboro on a sponsors exemption after having missed cuts at The Sony Open, The AT&T, and The Bellsouth. I heard more chants of Kooch at Greensboro than Id heard in a long time so it was fun, he recounted.
I now understand how things work, he said of the professional life. I feel like I finally prepared well for Greensboro.
Hell try to make enough money with his three remaining sponsors exemptions to earn a card, hoping for slots at Westchester, The Western Open and The John Deere. He also plans a couple of Buy.Com appearances and ultimately, in all likelihood, a trip to the Qualifying Tournament.
As for those corporate gigs, he admitted that he could make a handsome living simply trading on the popularity he cultivated as an amateur, but that obviously hes playing for more than money. Still, he laughs at the idea that hes actually getting paid for such work.
Playing golf and speaking is easy and fun for me, he mused. To know youre going to get a sizeable amount of money for just one day allows me in a funny way to check off some items I might need like a TV or new furniture.
Whats been flattering, he added, is how many times Ive gone to a draw party and been the first one selected even with a dozen other professionals there.
People do remember, and Kooch is betting itll pay dividends. Thats why he eschewed the established golf management firms and signed with Wilhelmena Artists, an entertainment concern with a sports division. They represent not only the likes of NBA star Stephon Marbury but Destinys Child, a red hot recording act. Matt Kuchars the only golfer in the stable.
Basically image branding is what they do, Kuchar said.
And what, Kuchar was asked, will his image be?
I guess the All-American kid, he conceded.
If thats not gritty enough for public consumption, or perhaps phony in some peoples eyes, so be it. Kuchar may have been a likeable innocent three years ago, but American appetites change quickly. And yet, theres really no discernable reason to believe that Kuchar, with the degree and the easy smile, is anything but what that image will project. The key now is winning, plain and simple.
Ive had so many people say to me that they think golf is ready to see me again, he said. Ive been lucky in the past that people have really taken to me so if I can get back out there I believe Ill see that great support all over again.
So Matt Kuchars begun navigating his way through that twisted world of love and money that is professional golf. If all goes well, this time hell have an abundance of both.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.