LOS ANGELES – The par-5 first hole at Riviera was statistically the easiest hole on the PGA Tour last season. It’s a cupcake once again this week – and especially Friday, when it played to a 4.29 scoring average and yielded only two bogeys.
One of those dropped shots? It came from the leader at the Genesis Invitational, Matt Kuchar. He made a mess of the opener, missing in the right rough off the tee, yanking his approach left of the green and then needing two more delicate pitch shots from the kikuyu rough to reach the green. Bogey.
It was going to be that kind of rocky day.
Kuchar scraped it around to record four birdies and stay in front at Riviera, at 9-under 133. But afterward, he sure didn’t sound like a guy who’s staked to a two-shot lead over three players, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
“I better find more control,” Kuchar said bluntly. “Bottom line is being in control of what you’re doing, and I could use a little more control over the weekend.”
Indeed, for a player who ranks seventh on Tour in driving accuracy, Kuchar has been uncharacteristically wayward this week. He’s hit just over half of his fairways (15 of 28), which is problematic when he’s 62nd in driving distance out of the players who made the cut.
Keeping Kuchar ahead of the pack has been a red-hot putter. In the opening round he holed 118 feet worth of putts, and he kept rolling Friday and sits first in the field in putting, gaining more than seven shots on the field on the greens.
After a sluggish end to 2019, Kuchar has been better of late, winning in Singapore and then finishing in the top 20 in Phoenix.
When asked if he thinks his ball-striking problem is correctable on the range before his third round, Kuchar replied: “I sure hope so. I sure hope so.”