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Worth the Wait

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When Matt Kuchar turned professional in 2000, many an observer believed it to be three years too late. Sunday in Coral Springs, Fla., he proved all doubters wrong by winning the Honda Classic.
 
Kuchar used a four-hole stretch of birdies on the back nine, and a series of saves coming home en route to shooting a final-round 6-under 66. The seasoned 23-year-old finished the event at 19-under-par 269, two shots clear of Joey Sindelar (70) and Brad Faxon (67).
 
I always knew it was the right decision, to stay in school, said Kuchar, who collected $630,000 in becoming the sixth first-time winner on tour this season, and the seventh to do so at this event.

Maybe those that second guessed me wont second guess anymore. (Thats) rewarding in itself.
 

Premium Video - Subscription RequiredMore from Kuchar on winning
 

 
Heavy rain fell on the TPC at Heron Bay Thursday, leaving several players with more than 18 holes each of the next three days.
 
Mike Weir led the tournament, at 16-under, when the third round concluded Sunday morning. However, the left-handed Canadian wilted over his final nine holes, shooting 3-over 39 to finish tied for 11th. Weirs downfall came when he double bogeyed the par-4 10th after being forced to hit his second shot right-handed from the brush.
 
The leaderboard was convoluted throughout the final round. Kuchar rolled in a 12-foot birdie at the 13th to tie Sindelar for the lead at minus-17. He then stroked in another birdie ' his fourth in a row ' at the 14th to move one ahead.
 
The 14th marked the end of his birdie streak, but the beginning of a remarkable stretch of recoveries. He got up and down from the sand on holes 14-16, twice for birdie. He also saved par from a settled-down lie off the green at the 17th.
 
Trailing Kuchar by a shot, Sindelar fell two back when he made bogey ' his first of the tournament ' on the 71st hole.
 
Kuchar then sealed the tournament by saving par, once again, at the par-4 18th. After coming up short of the green with his approach, he raced his birdie effort 12 feet past the hole, against the collar. Undaunted, Kuchar nailed the putt for victory.
 
I wanted that putt really badly, he said. When that putt dropped, the rush I felt, I haven't felt that since the U.S. Amateur and the Masters.
 
Armed with a cemented smile and a lethal short-game, Kuchar won the 1997 U.S. Amateur Championship. He then ' to the surprise of many ' opted to return to college rather than turn pro and reap the million-dollar benefits befitting someone of his potential.
 
Following a couple of impressive showings in the 1998 Masters (T21) and U.S. Open (T14), Kuchars star dimmed. He wasnt even the top player on his Georgia Tech team ' that belonged to Bryce Molder - by his senior season.
 
In 2000, upon graduating with a degree in management, Kuchar finally shunned his amateur status. He made his professional debut in the Australian Open, and competed in one PGA Tour event, missing the cut at the Texas Open.
 
Playing on sponsors exemptions in 2001, Kuchar collected a pair of top-threes and $572,669 in 11 events, easily enough money to secure his 02 tour card.
 
Full-field scores from the Honda Classic