Kuchar wins The Players Championship

By Doug FergusonMay 13, 2012, 11:11 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Matt Kuchar looked beyond the edge of the 16th green at a scene packed with enough stress it could wipe away even his smile.

Across the water was an island green that was awaiting him Sunday in The Players Championship. The guy dressed in all orange and pumping his first was Rickie Fowler after making a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to cut Kuchar's lead to two shots.

Kuchar stepped over his 15-footer and answered with a birdie just as big.

''Yeah, absolutely I saw the putt,'' Kuchar said. ''Watched the thing disappear and he gave a big fist pump. I knew it got him to within two shots and he could birdie 18 to bring it within one. That could have changed the whole scenario of how I would have approached and played 18. So I was really excited to drop that birdie on 16. That was big.''

Everything was big for Kuchar on the TPC Sawgrass – most of all, that smile.

After a three-putt bogey he could afford on the 17th, and a tap-in par on the final hole with his family watching, Kuchar closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot victory, his fourth career win and by far the biggest in so many ways.

It was his first win in 38 starts on the PGA Tour, dating to The Barclays in 2010. He won $1.71 million, the richest prize in golf, and moved to No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings and a career-high No. 5 in the world ranking. His parents moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, so he stayed with them all week and delivered the perfect gift on Mother's Day to the woman who taught him to have fun while playing golf.

Even at scary Sawgrass, that was never a problem.

Not so for Kevin Na.

Already struggling with a pre-shot routine of practice swings, waggles and a few intentional whiffs so he could start over, Na heard it from the fans who heckled him with chants of ''Pull the trigger!'' and ''Hit it!'' He lost the lead for good with four bogeys in a five-hole stretch to finish the front nine, and when he hit his tee shot in the water on the par-3 13th, fans serenaded him with, ''Na-na-na-na ... good-bye.''

He closed with a 76, keeping a peculiar record intact – since The Players moved from March to May in 2007, the 54-hole leader has not shot better than 74 in the final round, with an average score of 76.3.

''I backed off and they're booing me,'' Na said. ''I said, 'Look, guys, I backed off because of you guys.' ... But it is what it is. I also felt that a lot of people were turning towards me and pulling for me, which I really appreciate.''

Fowler missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole – the difference of $399,000 – and shot 70 to settle for a four-way tie for second. He was joined by Ben Curtis, who holed a 10-foot birdie on the last hole for a 68; Zach Johnson, who shot 68; and Martin Laird, who made bogey on the 18th for a 67.

Laird made the strongest run on a cloudy, breezy afternoon, tying for the lead with his third straight birdie on No. 12. Laird lost his momentum with a poor tee shot on the 14th that led to bogey, and with a bogey on the final hole, he needed big mistakes from Kuchar that never came.

Luke Donald finished alone in sixth after a 66, not quite enough to replace Rory McIlroy at No. 1 in the world.

Tiger Woods shot 40 on his front nine and rallied for a 73, at least finishing The Players Championship under par. That was the smallest of consolations. Far more alarming was that he tied for 40th, the first time in his career that he has finished no better than 40th in three straight tournaments. The streak began after a five-shot win at Bay Hill for his first PGA Tour title in 30 months.

''Just keep working. Keep working,'' Woods said when asked what he could take out of the week.

Kuchar opened with a tee shot into the woods and a bogey, though that was his only significant mistake until he could afford one with the three-putt at the 17th. The key shots turned out to be pars in the middle of the back nine.

With a one-shot lead and on the upper shelf of the green on the 13th, he two-putted from 60 feet to stay in the lead. His next tee shot went into the bunker, just over the water, on the 14th. He blasted that out from 181 yards, just over the bunker and safely onto the green to secure another par.

''Just doesn't seem like anything is going to upset him too much,'' Laird said. ''That's obviously a good attitude to have when you're out here on Sunday on this golf course.''

That smile has been around for a long time.

It first showed up in 1998 when Kuchar won over the crowds with his easy smile and demeanor while contending as an amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open. Through wins and having to go back to the Nationwide Tour, it never seems to leave him.

''It's completely a natural reaction,'' Kuchar said. ''I love playing the game of golf. I have fun doing it. I'm a golf junkie. I have to force myself to take vacations where I cannot play golf, because the game is just always so challenging. And I think it's that challenge that's addictive to me. ... The smile is there because I'm having a good time.

''Now, granted, if I'm shooting 10-over par, you're probably not going to see my real happy. I'm hopefully going to behave myself appropriately, thanks to my mother, but I'm not going to be near as happy as when I'm making birdies.''

Suffice to say Kuchar, who finished on 13-under 275, was thrilled Sunday.

''It's such an amazing feeling - playing amongst the game's best, to come out on top, to do it on Mother's Day ... it really is magical,'' he said.

Curtis, who started the season without a full PGA Tour card, now has three top 5s in the last month, including a win at the Texas Open. He was slowed by a double bogey on the par-3 eighth, and simply couldn't catch up.

Even though Laird is the only player who actually tied for the lead at one point, Fowler generated the biggest buzz in his all-orange attire and free swinging ways. Coming off his first PGA Tour win last week at Quail Hollow, he got in the mix with two birdies in the opening four holes, only to take a double bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on the seventh. Even so, he ran off four birdies after that and never went away until missing the short birdie at the end.

''The last few holes were a lot of fun,'' Fowler said. ''It's a rush out there. Get yourself in contention Sunday at The Players, it's a lot of fun.''

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.