Kuchar wins Memorial, looks forward to U.S. Open

By Rex HoggardJune 3, 2013, 1:01 am

In our rush to typecast, it’s easy to shoehorn Matt Kuchar into generalized categories – nice guy, team player, consistent. If they ever made a movie of Kuchar’s life, Opie of “Andy Griffith Show” fame seems the obvious stand in.

What we don’t see – what is hidden away behind the boy-next-door smile and inviting demeanor – is a competitor who is driven often to extremes, a gamer who is inspired to win twice in a single season, to win a major, to just win.

That grit was on display early last Monday on the practice tee at Watters Creek Golf Club in Plano, Texas, not 12 hours after Kuchar had come up a stroke short at Hogan’s Alley to Boo Weekley.

“He finished solo second at Colonial and Monday at 9 a.m. we were on the range back at it until he had to catch his flight (to the Memorial),” said Kuchar’s swing coach Chris O’Connell.

“Second sucks,” is a phrase Kuchar would never utter, at least not in public, but know this – behind the smile and the sense of humor is the cold heart of a closer and it was on full display Sunday at Muirfield Village.

Highlights: Kuchar wins Memorial for sixth Tour victory

Memorial Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

For three days Kuchar had endured crusty greens and gusting winds that sent players with more polished pedigrees reaching for calculators to add up the damage and he entered the final turn two strokes clear of the field.

One by one they made a run at Kuchar. First it was Kyle Stanley, who birdied four of five holes just before the turn to pull within one stroke. Then Kevin Chappell, who birdied the 11th to tie for the lead and matched Kuchar with another birdie at the 15th hole to keep pace with the front-runner.

But for each punch Kuchar had an answer. He two-putted for birdie at the 11th and 15th holes to hold serve, and rebounded from a bogey at No. 16 with a 16-footer for birdie at the last to secure a two-stroke victory.

“When that putt went in I was excited to win, but I think it was even more excitement than just a regular tournament,” said Kuchar, who won his sixth Tour title. “That was not just a relief that I've two-putted and sealed the deal; that was, yes, I have done it. Yes, I have won the Memorial. It felt so good.”

It was, by almost every measure, a textbook performance for Kuchar. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday. Even his bogey at the 16th he “didn't think was that bad” and despite 33 putts on Day 4, he finished second for the week in strokes gained-putting.

It was quintessential Kuchar, calculating and workman-like. Even O’Connell, who spent two weeks prior to the Memorial working with Kuchar at his club in Plano during the Texas swing, was in awe of the performance.

“The last seven holes he just really put on a clinic there. He was in total control of his game,” O’Connell said.

The victory elevates Kuchar to darling status in two weeks at Merion, and conventional wisdom suggested the Memorial would be a good tune-up for this year’s Open. But considering the wind-whipped conditions perhaps it was a better litmus test for the British – not U.S. – Open.

Winds gusted to 15 (Thursday), 40 (during Friday’s storms) and 25 mph (Saturday) and players were sent off both the first and 10th tees in threesomes on the weekend in an attempt to dodge a parade of incoming fronts and complete play.

For Tiger Woods, the 2013 Memorial even had the feel of a past British Open, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

On Saturday, Woods’ opened his day with two double bogeys (Nos. 12 and 15), a triple bogey (No. 18) and a bogey (No. 17) that added up to an opening-nine 44, the highest nine-hole score of his professional career, and a third-round 79.

Only his second-round 81 at Muirfield during the 2002 British Open has been higher since Woods joined the play-for-pay ranks. Although he was seven strokes better on Sunday his tie for 65th is his worst four-round finish since he tied for 78th at the 2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“I didn't putt very well. I had bad speed all week. I thought the greens didn't look that fast, but they were putting fast,” said Woods, who entered the week fresh off his fourth victory of the season at TPC Sawgrass. “I could never get the speed of them.”

But if an A.P.B. (all-points bulletin) was needed for Woods’ flat stick, or maybe just another impromptu lesson from Steve Stricker, the other end of the bag seemed to be working just fine. He finished fifth in fairways hit and connected with 13 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday.

McIlroy was only slightly better than Woods at Muirfield Village. The world No. 2 tied for 57th following a 78 on Day 1.

If the high-profile twosome’s hard week didn’t change the dynamic heading into Merion, Kuchar’s play will leave the door open to alternative scenarios with the year’s second major looming.

“Heading into Merion, I'll have a lot of confidence,” said Kuchar, who plans to make a scouting trip to the Philadelphia classic on Tuesday. “I think most guys will be in a similar boat in having to learn that golf course. But from what I understand you've got to drive it well, as you do in a U.S. Open, and I feel like I've been really driving the ball well.”

A major is the next item on his “to do” list and while any major would do, the U.S. Open would be particularly endearing for Kuchar.

“I don’t think he feels expectations,” O’Connell said. “One of his goals last year was to win multiple events. Another thing on his list is to win a major and he’s performed well in the majors the last couple of years. He looks at it like a natural progression.”

For a player who has been typecast his entire career, following this week’s performance at Jack’s place there is one last part Kuchar seems destined to play – major champion.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.