Kuchar Molder push each other into contention at PGA Championship


2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – They’ve made their way through worse fog.

Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder come uniquely prepared to lead the PGA Championship through the trouble that keeps blowing into Whistling Straits.

These former teammates at Georgia Tech played their way onto the leaderboard on a day that began with yet another weather delay.

In a different sense, Kuchar and Molder have fought their way out of the fog before, out of the malaise that once shrouded their careers after such promising starts.

Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar has two career PGA Tour victories. (Getty Images)
With a 3-under-par 69, Kuchar is the leader in the clubhouse in the suspended second round of the year’s final major championship. At 8-under 136, he’s a shot ahead of Nick Watney (67) and three ahead of a pack of players that includes Molder (67), Rory McIroy (68) and Dustin Johnson (68).

Kuchar was also the first-round leader. With a birdie over the final four holes of his suspended opening round early Friday morning, he closed out a 67.

On a day that started with a 2-hour and 40-minute fog delay, the third of the championship, Tiger Woods didn’t tee off for the second round until after 5 p.m. He made six consecutive pars before play was halted with darkness falling to remain at 1 under. He was among 78 players still on the course when play was halted at 7:27 p.m. (CT).

The second round will resume Saturday at 7 a.m. local time.

Phil Mickelson was able to complete his second round with a 69, leaving him six shots behind Kuchar.

“Not too much trouble to report in two rounds,” Kuchar said. “Just putting well and staying out of trouble.”

Kuchar, 32, and Molder, 31, know about the trouble golf can bring.

They were a pair of can’t-miss kids coming out of Georgia Tech who got lost on the way to stardom.

Kuchar won the U.S. Amateur in 1997, then made stirring runs as an amateur at the Masters (T-21) and U.S. Open (T-14) in ’98. As a pro, he won the Honda Classic in ’02, but he would lose his PGA Tour card and find himself fighting his way back via the Nationwide Tour.

Molder, who turned pro a year after Kuchar, was a four-time first-team All-American. He won his PGA Tour card on sponsor invites without even going to Q-School, but he would also lose it and spend four seasons trying to get it back via the Nationwide Tour.

The former Yellow Jackets are on the rise again.

“I think that’s the beauty of the sport,” Kuchar said. “There’s no guaranteed contract. You have to perform, and it’s a tough game.

“I think most people would have expected the two of us to be doing this earlier on in our career, but I remember talking to some guys when I was fresh on Tour, talking to them about a 10-year learning curve out there. It didn’t make much sense then. I went out and had a win straightaway in ’02 and thought it would be smooth sailing.”

Kuchar’s sails look full again. After winning his second PGA Tour title at Turning Stone last year, he’s logged eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, more than any other player. He’s finished fourth or better four times. His 69.48 actual scoring average is best on Tour.

“The position I’ve put myself in, the logical next step would be to win,” said Kuchar, who’s never led a round in a major championship until this week and has one top-10 finish 20 majors.

But Kuchar said he sees a trap in thinking like that.

“Do you leave disappointed if you don’t win?” he said. “We came to the conclusion that the best way to approach it would be to have a goal for the week of putting yourself in contention on Sunday.

“To win, there’s definitely an element of luck involved. You just can’t control everything out there.”

Kuchar and Molder are pushing each other this week. They played two practice rounds together, but Molder found himself on the losing end of their bets.

Over 27 practice holes at Whistling Straits, Molder said Kuchar made 13 birdies.

“I actually still owe him,” Molder said.

How much?

“A little bit,” Molder said.

Their duel continued into the first two rounds with Kuchar and Molder in back-to-back pairings. They kept an eye on each other as they moved up the leaderboard.

Coming off the 13th green Thursday, Molder heard the roar when Kuchar holed out a wedge from 136 yards for eagle. On Friday, Molder watched Kuchar nearly repeat the feat.

“I’m never surprised by anything he does,” Molder said.

Molder’s making his own run this season. While he’s still looking for his first PGA Tour victory, he has a career best six top-10 finishes this year.

The duo would like nothing better than to push each other all the way to the end in bids to win the Wanamaker Trophy this weekend.

“Sometimes, it take a little while to figure out how to play your best, how to maximize your efforts out here, and I feel like he's just hitting his stride, and I feel like I'm doing the same,” Molder said.