Kuchar killing them with consistency

By Jason SobelMay 14, 2012, 2:38 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In the cutthroat, alpha dog world of professional golf, where wins are the thing and everything else comes a distant second, being classified as “consistent” can easily be construed as the ultimate backhanded compliment.

Might as well say, “Nice speed,” on a yanked 5-foot putt. Or, “You’re smarter than you look.” Or even worse, “Your wife has a nice … personality.”

All of which should spell bad news for Matt Kuchar, who over the past few years has been amongst the most – all together now – “consistent” players in the game. Entering this week’s Players Championship, he had competed in 59 official PGA Tour events since the beginning of 2010, finishing in the top-25 in a whopping 46 of them, but winning just once.

It would be enough to leave most players wrapping their irons around the nearest tree, but Kuchar simply kept on flashing that perma-smile, as if the negative connotations of such a label were only fuel for greater success.

All of which leaves the rest of us wondering: Does this guy ever get frustrated?

“I get asked that question a lot,” said his father, Peter Kuchar. “He just felt that one of these days the putter was going to get hot and when that happened, it would happen.”

“His strongest attribute is how patient and how mentally strong he is,” said his caddie, Lance Bennett. “He’s able to stay even – not get too mad or too excited.”

“Matt will always put a positive spin on everything,” said his instructor, Chris O’Connell. “He would look at it as, ‘Heck, I played at a high level, some of the best golf I can play and it just so happened that another guy played better and beat me.”

In most other sports – heck, in most other walks of life – consistency is a trait to be desired, one which makes fellow competitors envious of steady results. In golf, a player who finishes in, say, 12th place every week won’t reap the rewards equal to one who peaks twice per year, but parlays those performances into victories.

Not that it ever discouraged Kuchar.

“I'm really happy with the way my golf career has gone,” he maintained. “I've played some great golf, some consistent golf.  I never wanted to be the guy that won once a year and missed 10 cuts a year.

“Back when I was thinking about this, Tiger Woods was either winning or finishing second or third every week, and I wanted to figure out, ‘How do I get to be like that; how do I play good golf? Lately, Steve Stricker was that guy. It seemed like Steve Stricker was a guy that I could be more like than I could be like Tiger Woods. I can't hit the shots Tiger Woods can. Steve and I play a similar game, just a consistent game, and that was a guy that I said, ‘I'd like to play like him.’ I'd like to show up, be playing good, have a chance to win tournaments, and it's gone that way.”

Even pros who value consistency understand that level results can have their ups and downs. Instructors, though, preach consistency – and for good reason.

“I think most people, when they come to take a golf lesson, they say they want to be more consistent,” O’Connell said. “As an instructor, it gives me great pleasure to know that week in, week out Matt is giving himself a chance to win. Some guys have two great weeks a year – they may win once and have a third-place finish. That’s great for winning money, but to be a truly elite player who wins majors and other big events, you’d better be a consistent player or just hope your game comes around at the right time.”

In the unstable world of varying rankings and parity within winner’s circles, Kuchar certainly ranks among the very few for whom consistency remains, well, consistent.

He understands that, much like at last month’s Masters Tournament, where he finished in a share of third place, he can only control his own score, not his destiny on the leaderboard.

It was that consistency – the same consistency which had so often resulted in top-25 or top-10 or top-five finishes over the past few years – that finally netted him another title on Sunday, taking The Players by keeping cool, calm and collected down the stretch.

In other words, just being himself.

You know, the guy who never becomes frustrated by consistency, never loses sleep over so many close calls without a victory cigar. It’s the reason why, when one intrepid reporter asked about his failure to win for nearly two full years, Kuchar responded by answering, “You can suck it, big guy!”

OK, so maybe he does get frustrated after all. Then again, that perma-smile never left his face, even when he said those words. And it almost never does.

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After a 66, Woods has a chance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 6:02 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As one of his idols charged into a share of the lead Saturday at The Open, Shaun Norris took note of the quality of shots and offered the type of informed analysis that can only come from those inside the ropes, in the heat of battle, with everything on the line.

“I don’t think he’s very far away from really taking everybody on again,” Norris said.

He was talking, of course, about Tiger Woods.

On a warm, windless afternoon that turned Carnoustie into a cupcake, Woods torched the ancient links for 15 mistake-free holes. He said afterward that he didn’t know that he’d joined the logjam at 6 under par … which seems hard to believe, because there was a massive yellow leaderboard to right of the 14th green that he appeared to be studying intently. But no matter. At 4:13 p.m. local time Saturday – 458 days after undergoing a fourth back surgery – Woods shared the lead in a major. Again.

He wasn’t about to reflect on the long, arduous journey to get here. Not with 18 holes left to play. Not with the need for another stellar round Sunday in high wind. Not with the bevy of contenders between him and the lead. A reporter tried to ask Woods where he’d rank a 15th major title, after his scandal and his injuries and his DUI arrest. The no-brainer answer is the very top of the list – it’d be the greatest comeback in golf history, if not all of sports. But Woods wasn’t ready to go there, not right now.

“I know what you’re trying to say in asking,” he said, breaking into a smile, “but let me try and get there first.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Norris could have answered for him.

Just two weeks ago, he was playing in something called the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup, losing to two guys named Brad Kennedy and Hyung-Sung Kim, taking home 5,400,000 yen (or just shy of $50,000).

Toiling these days in Japan, Norris is a 36-year-old journeyman who is enjoying his best year as a pro, rising to No. 125 in the world. It’s rare that Woods’ playing partner is more fit than he is, but there stood Norris on the first tee Saturday, ready to rumble, his 200 pounds of muscle stacked on a 6-foot-2 frame.

Intimidated by Woods, he was not, but Norris walked away wholly impressed.

Impressed by Woods’ driving, perhaps his greatest bugaboo in this comeback.

Impressed by the precision with his irons.

Impressed by his lag putting.

Impressed by his course management and his golf IQ and his interaction with caddie Joe LaCava.

No, Norris has never won a major – in fact, this is just his second career appearance – but watching his playing partner dissect Carnoustie on Saturday, he knows that what he saw was good enough to win one, maybe more.

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Norris said. “I think he’s got a great chance.” 

Knowing that Saturday’s benign conditions offered the best scoring of the week, Woods wanted to stay in touch with the leaders. Getting up-and-down for par from 83 yards on the last preserved his 5-under 66 – his lowest score in a major in more than seven years. He’s four off the lead.

“It certainly is possible,” Woods said. “I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming into Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.”

In the recorders’ office after the round, Woods asked Norris if there was anything he could do for him – other than offer him this memory of a lifetime, 18 holes on a major Saturday, with the crowd in full throat. Norris has a few friends back home in South Africa who are diehard Tiger fans, so he asked whether Woods would sign a few gloves for them. Woods emerged from scoring, toweled off his balding head and then scribbled his signature on the palm of four brand-new Nike gloves, handing each to Norris’ caddie for safekeeping.

“Nice presents to give to my mates,” Norris said.

They’d be even more valuable if Woods went on to win Sunday, a scenario that seemed impossible a year ago but now, with the dodgy weather forecast, is not totally unrealistic.

Even if Woods comes up short, Norris didn’t hesitate in offering his own prediction.

“He’s close. Very close,” he said. “He’s definitely going to be at the top in a couple of months.”

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Tiger putts way into contention at The Open

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 5:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.

Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.

“I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.

Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.

“I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”

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TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 4:58 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:

• THAT WAS AWESOME!

At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.

• Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

• This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.

• One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.

• On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


• Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.

• One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.

• In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”

Yes, yes it is.

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Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open

By Grill Room TeamJuly 21, 2018, 4:55 pm

It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.

Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:

Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.