VERONA, N.Y. – It took Matt Kuchar more than seven years, but he finally claimed a second PGA Tour victory.
Kuchar rolled in an 18-inch putt for par Monday on the sixth hole of a sudden-death playoff to beat Vaughn Taylor and win the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” said Kuchar, who missed the cut at Turning Stone two years ago. “They’re so difficult to win. If you don’t win, there’s not a whole lot of rewards. The game beats you up.”
Kuchar knows from experience. A heralded amateur player – he was the 1997 U.S. Amateur champ after Tiger Woods’ three-year run – and a star in college at Georgia Tech, he won the 2002 Honda Classic in his first full season on tour.
That was it until Monday.
“There’s something to be said about guys that win,” Kuchar said as he hugged his young son Cameron and kissed his wife Sybi. “It’s a feeling you don’t experience very often. I got my first one rather easily.”
Kuchar improved to 2-0 in playoffs and the top prize of $1.08 million boosted his earnings for the year past $2.3 million to 25th on the money list. His best previous finish in a tournament this year was a fifth-place tie at the Memorial in June.
Tied for the lead after 72 holes, neither player managed to win after two playoff holes on Sunday. They each birdied the first extra hole and parred the second before play was suspended because of darkness.
Playing the 12th, 13th and 18th holes in the playoff, Kuchar missed a chance to win on the first hole Monday when he missed a 4-foot putt at the par-4 13th. Each player bogeyed the hole.
They matched each other again on the next two holes, with Kuchar sinking a 20-foot birdie putt at 18 and Taylor then calmly rolling in a 7-footer.
Then, as a stiff crosswind picked up and a light rain began to fall, Kuchar got a huge break when Taylor hit his tee shot at No. 13 into the water hazard along the right side of the fairway and had to take a penalty stroke.
With a light mist blowing in his face, Kuchar hit his second shot into the rough on a slope to the right of the green and pitched inside 2 feet.
Taylor finished with double bogey on a hole he had parred during every round and Kuchar easily made par.
“I felt like I had a chance to win a couple times,” said Taylor, who has two victories on tour, the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2004 (in a playoff) and again in 2005. “Maybe next week.”
It was the first six-hole playoff on the PGA Tour since Greg Norman beat Larry Mize at the 1986 Kemper Open.
Kuchar, who won the 2006 Henrico County Open on the Nationwide Tour in a playoff, said he had a restless night and fought a huge case of nerves throughout all six extra holes.
“You’re just so nervous,” Kuchar said. “After I missed the short putt at 13 and hit my chip 20 feet by the hole (at 18), I’m like, ‘Aw, what have you have done here? You’ve just given this thing up.”’
Turning Stone is the first tournament of the Fall Series, which is comprised of five events. Players are vying to finish the year in the top 125 on the money list to retain full exemption for 2010, and the 33-year-old Taylor was right on the cusp at No. 131 with $519,282. He more than doubled his total with his runner-up check of $648,000, putting him over $1 million in earnings for the sixth straight time.
“I was trying to keep the (PGA) card this Fall Series, and I think I locked it up,” Taylor said. “So, you know, one goal accomplished.”