What We Learned: Kuchar is major ready

RSS

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on whether Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major, Karrie Webb's remarkable record of sustained excellence and the debate that still lingers over the format of the NCAAChampionship.


Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major. Long thought of as a player who is solid in many aspects but great in none, Kuchar has now demonstrated an ability to win consistently against upper-echelon fields. If you need proof, just consider the settings for each of his last three PGA Tour victories: The Players Championship a year ago, where annually one of the strongest fields in golf assembles; a resounding march through the bracket at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season and Sunday’s triumph at Muirfield Village.

With his most recent win, Kuchar will likely supplant Justin Rose as the highest-ranked player without a major title to his credit when the new rankings are published Monday. In his post-round news conference, Kuchar noted a perception before the year began that two pieces were missing from his resume: a major victory and a multiple-win season. Now that the former has been achieved, the latter is all that remains in order to include Kuchar’s name when discussing the truly elite players in today’s game. – Will Gray


In the prognostication game, timing is everything. Anyone can pick a winnerp; it's picking the right winner on the right week that keeps those big buildings in Las Vegas in business. On Friday afternoon, with Matt Kuchar in the mix on a crowded Memorial Tournament leaderboard, I tweeted the following: 'How well has Matt Kuchar been playing? If I had to make a U.S. Open pick right this minute – and trust me, I don't – he's my guy.' Well, a little over 48 hours later, he tested my theory about timing, as the remarkably consistent Kuchar played some remarkably consistent golf to claim the Memorial title. It left me wondering: Did the victory actually hurt Kuchar's chances of winning at Merion? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that he wouldn't take the W and take his chances, but the numbers tell us how difficult it is to win back-to-back starts. In fact, before Kuchar's victory, only one other player –  Tiger Woods, of course –  had even been able to back up a win this season with another one. We'll find out if Kuchar can disprove this theory soon enough by prevailing on a course that should be tailor-made to his game. Or else we'll learn once again that, yes, timing is everything in the prognostication game. – Jason Sobel


Five years into its match-play experiment, the NCAA Championship still has an identity crisis. Officials want drama, and the current format provides plenty of that. (Just ask Cal.) Officials also want the national championship to identify the top team in the country, and four times in the past five years the No. 1-ranked team has left NCAAs without the trophy. Match play will be used for a few more years, even if many think a 72-hole stroke-play tournament is what’s best for college golf. Fortunately, second-ranked Alabama’s win Sunday quieted this debate. But, rest assured, only for a few months. – Ryan Lavner


Karrie Webb’s longevity as a winner is something to marvel over.

It’s not so much her age. She’s only 38. That’s four years younger than Phil Mickelson, just a year older than Tiger Woods. It’s more the nature of the way she has been able to continue to fan the embers of her ambition after fashioning a Hall of Fame career that surpassed even her wildest dreams. That’s no easy trick in the women’s game, where youth rules so much more than in the men’s game, and where the pressures of being the top women’s player have taken such a toll. Annika Sorenstam retired at 37, Lorena Ochoa at 28. At her best, Webb was just as dominant as they were. 

For someone who has already secured her place in history, it must be exhausting fending off challengers who just keep getting younger. It must be difficult to keep pushing to do the work it takes to win on an ultra-young tour. Lydia Ko won at 15 last year, Lexi Thompson at 16 the year before. Yani Tseng was 22 when she rose to No. 1. Inbee Park holds the top spot now at 24.

Webb’s Shoprite victory Sunday was her 39th LPGA title. She has victories somewhere in the world in 18 of the last 19 years. The drive to keep beating these baby-faced challengers is something to marvel over. – Randall Mell


Matt Kuchar may have inherited the title “best player without a major” thanks to his performance at the Memorial. His two-stroke victory is his second of the season, and the sixth of his career, and makes him an easy pick heading into Merion and the U.S. Open in a fortnight. Kuchar has five top-10 finishes in his last 12 Grand Slam starts and after Muirfield Village he appears ready to take that next step. – Rex Hoggard