Kuchar Putting It All Together

By Mercer BaggsMarch 9, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Honda ClassicIn the early morning hours, on a chilly Tuesday earlier this season, Matt Kuchar stood isolated among a small crowd on the practice green.
 
Putting from all angles, at two separate holes, he stroked one putt after another, until at least 15 minutes had passed.
 
He then went to his bag, and instead of packing it up and heading to the range, he pulled out a different putter.
 
The same routine ensued.
 
Then he did it with a third putter. And a fourth.
 
Finally, after nearly an hour of practice, he appeared ready to exit the putting premises.
 
His walk, however, was a false alarm. He was only headed to a Ping representative, from whom he borrowed a putter with a head shaped like a steroidal potato masher.
 
Another 15-20 minutes later, Kuchar was finally putter-pooped.
 
I like to experiment, just play around with different equipment, Kuchar said between his putting and ball-striking practice sessions. But I always go back to my trusty old putter.
 
Old Trusty didnt live up to its name last year, and it cost him a little confidence and a lot of cash.
 
A season removed from Rookie of the Year consideration, Kuchar dropped from 49th on the PGA Tour money list to 182nd ' more than a $1 million difference. He made only eight of 23 cuts, and not a single one after the Western Open in July.
 
Kuchar had one victory (Honda Classic) and four top-10 finishes in 2002. He took the collar in both departments last season.
 
It was frustrating, Kuchar said in classic understated fashion. Id say the main reason why I didnt perform well was putting. If youre going to win ' or just play well ' you have to putt well.
 
In his first full year on tour ' after a near pristine amateur career that saw him win the 1997 U.S. Amateur Championship and twice earn first-team All-America honors at Georgia Tech ' Kuchar ranked 40th in putts per round, at 28.63.
 
Last year, he sank to 107th, needing 29.18 swipes every 18 holes.
 
But, thanks to his win at Honda a season prior, Kuchar had a mulligan in his pocket ' an extra year to regroup, recover and retain his tour card.
 
Now, the pressure is really on to perform. Another finish outside the top 125 on the money list and hell have to make his maiden Q-School appearance ' he initially earned his card by playing well in sponsors exemptions in 2001 ' in order to gain full exempt status next season.
 
Definitely, this year I need to make the top 125, he said. That now becomes kind of a priority.
 
But, I set my sights pretty high, instead of just saying I need to make the cut or I need to make the top 125. If you set your goals high, even if you dont make them, sometimes you get close anyway.
 
One of those lofty goals is a return trip to the winners circle. That would almost assure him of hitting another target.
 
Id really like to make the Tour Championship. Its at East Lake; I have a lot of connections in Atlanta and at the club, said the former Yellow Jacket.
 
He also hopes to be a 'major' player.
 
Kuchar -- who awed fans with his brilliant play and omnipresent smile in the 1998 Masters and U.S. Open -- failed to qualify for a single major championship last season.
 
Thanks to his Honda triumph, he played in all four majors in 2002; though, he missed the cut in each one.
 
Kuchar has had plenty of weekends off lately.
 
His sophomore season ended dreadfully with seven consecutive missed cuts. But it dramatically got better when, a week after his final event, he married Sybi Parker, a former Georgia Tech tennis standout.
 
It was nice to take a break. We went to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, he said.
 
I basically had just the honeymoon off ' it was about a month off. Then I got back to practicing and getting ready for this season.
 
I wanted to come out and be prepared. I didnt want this year to creep up on me without being ready to go.
 
Kuchar said he has been working with instructor Randy Sonnier, who helped Frank Lickliter overhaul his swing and win last year in Tucson, and Rick Smith, the notable swing coach to Phil Mickelson.
 
My swing has been on good form for a while now, Kuchar said. Working with the two of them has been good for me.
 
Ive mainly been working on my putting.
 
You look at a guy like a Tiger Woods or an Ernie Els, Kuchar continued. You look at them address the ball and you say, How can they not hit anything but a good shot? And so the rest of us, we never quite look like Tiger Woods or Ernie Els setting up. I think that might be part of our problem; we don't always look like we're going to hit a good shot. I think from the start, when you put yourself in such a good position, you have some margin for error.
 
And so that's been the major key that I've been working on.
 
While mentally and physically prepared to attack 2004 head-on, it took Kuchar a few rounds to awaken his putter from its slumber.
 
Kuchar missed his first two cuts of the season before earning a share of the first-round lead in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
He needed only 25 putts in shooting 65 at Poppy Hills, but couldnt crack 74 over the next three rounds and tied for 48th.
 
He then missed the cut in the Buick Invitational and last week at Doral.
 
Apparently his putter just rolled over and went right back to sleep. His putts-per-round average has actually increased, to 30.00, this season.
 
And so he continues to practice.
 
Just trying to match my lines up, and move the handle a little more. I tend to move the putter without moving the handle ' a little wristy, he explained.
 
Putter-by-putter, he putts away.
 
Until Old Trusty starts earning its keep. Or he finds a new Old Trusty.
 
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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.