MARANA, Ariz. – Give Hiroyuki Fujita this: At least he extended his stay in the desert for a few more minutes.
With opponent Matt Kuchar lining up an 11-foot birdie putt for the win immediately after the restart Thursday, it appeared the 43-year-old from Japan was on the verge of waiting nearly 26 hours just to lose in a matter of seconds.
The putt was straight, almost dead straight, and on Thursday morning Kuchar had contemplated just practicing 10-footers on the putting green at Dove Mountain.
“I figured that was an OK strategy,” he would say afterward, “but I like to be prepared for everything.”
Kuchar missed that birdie putt, sending him to the par-3 16th with a 3-up lead.
Likely needing a birdie to extend the match, Fujita’s tee shot covered the flag, nearly dropped, and settled some 15 feet behind the hole. He was unable to make the putt, however, halving the hole with pars and handing Kuchar a 3-and-2 victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Kuchar, who has reached at least the quarterfinals each of the past two years here, hoped to finish his match Wednesday, but as he walked from the tee to the green, a light rain turned into a wet mix that soon became a heavy snow.
They couldn’t continue.
So he waited. And waited. And on Thursday morning, Kuchar set an “imaginary alarm” at 7 a.m. and then watched as his cellphone bleated with more and more delay updates.
“Nobody wants to wait all day to play one or two holes,” said Kuchar, who will face Sergio Garcia in the Round of 32 on Friday, “but you get used to it around here.”