Featured Golf News
Kuchar Good at Weathering Storms
Matt Kuchar is proving to be quite the performer when the weather is at its worst during top tournaments. In February of this year in occasionally snowy and freezing conditions in Arizona, the 34-year-old survived the chill and the game's best players to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship for his first World Golf Championship title.
And so far through the first three rounds of the blustery and stormy Memorial Tournament, the five-time Tour winner is proving his mettle once again. Through three rounds of the Jack Nicklaus-hosted $6.2 million event, Kuchar has recorded rounds of 68, 70 and 70 to reach 8-under 208 at the Nicklaus-designed Muirfield Village course, two shots ahead of Kevin Chappell and Kyle Stanley.
Kuchar's 70 was one of the few under-par rounds Saturday; the low third rounds were 4-under 68s by Chappell and J.J. Henry. More typical were marks in the high-70s. That was borne out by the 79 by defending champion Tiger Woods. The five-time winner at Muirfield and No. 1-ranked player in the world opened with an 8-over 44 on his front side, the highest nine-hole mark Woods has ever totaled since joining the Tour in 1996.
Kuchar told reporters after the round that he was a bit "fortunate" to get some birdies - five to be exact, against three bogeys, while managing to avoid big numbers. Here's what Kuchar had to say about his round and his position heading into Sunday's final round at the Memorial.
MODERATOR: Welcome and congratulations to the third round leader Matt Kuchar. I guess it was more of a bit of survival out there, it seemed like as much as anything else. Just talk about conditions and standings through 54 holes.
MATT KUCHAR: This place is really challenging, particularly with winds at 25 miles an hour all day. It was a bit of a survival is right. I was fortunate to make a handful of birdies. I think anytime you make a birdie in these conditions, you feel like you're really up on the field here. Most of these holes you're looking at just get out with a par. Putting in this much wind and on greens that are this fast is always really challenging. The only time you make any sort of putt you feel pretty good. My round of 2 under I felt was a good, solid, steady round of golf. I drove it well. I feel like I'm hitting it solid. And when you're hitting it solid, the wind doesn't affect the ball as much as the unsolid hits. I feel really confident. I had some good stuff going on last week, carrying into this week. It's nice to see it keep going and to have another chance to win late on Sunday will be fun.
Q. They made mention on TV, it's one of the hardest days, conditions wise, scoring wise as there has been. Would you agree with that?
MATT KUCHAR: I can't think of anything more. I'd have to agree. I don't know what the average score would be today, but I think this course is challenging without wind. But with this much wind, it's got to be one of the tougher conditions we've played. And then I guess you could take Kapalua. When it got canceled there a couple of days, that was really challenging. Thankfully the greens softened up a little bit. Thankfully the rain last night softened things up. There were a few shots, it was a bit of a learning curve this morning as to how much the ball would release. After Thursday, Friday, you knew the ball was going to release a fair bit on the greens today. It was much softer, which was a real blessing. I think if it was anything near firm like it was Thursday or Friday, it would almost be unplayable.
Q. You're one of the later guys coming in. When you saw guys like Tiger Woods and some of the others struggle early, did that make you nervous going out there to shoot?
MATT KUCHAR: I did not know about Tiger's struggles until I got in here. But understandable in these conditions. If you're not on good form, these conditions are really going to beat you up. Fortunately, I feel like I've been in pretty good control of what I've been doing and able to survive. So I wasn't paying too much attention to the other guys. I knew coming in with these sort of winds it was going to be difficult today.
Q. You've been playing pretty consistently good for a while. When you're able to do what you did today with the conditions out there, you talk about being on your game, what's the most important part of controlling that game out there in conditions like this?
MATT KUCHAR: You've got to hit the ball solid. If you're not hitting the ball solid, you don't have a chance. You just - if it's not solid, you don't know how far you don't know what up the wind is going to do to it. Conditions like this, you've got to be hitting it in the sweet spot just to have a chance.
Q. Back to Tiger for a moment. As tough as the conditions are out here, when you see a guy like that shoots 44 on a side without a penalty shot, is that almost a double take for you? I know you were out there playing and didn't realize it until you came in and saw the scores. Given the way he's had success at this place and the form he had coming in, did you kind of do a double take?
MATT KUCHAR: A bit. Golf is a fickle game, I think everybody that's ever played the game has those days where I think they've got it and then the next day they don't know where it went. Conditions like this, I think even if you feel like you've got it, pretty easy for the round to get away from you and the scores to get away from you. I think most of us would tend of be surprised anytime Tiger shoots a number like that, but a lot more understandable in these conditions.
Q. Speaking of getting it, what kicked in when you and Chris worked together before Colonial?
MATT KUCHAR: You know, Jeff, it's just a little bit of refinement. We work on the same stuff over and over again and it just gets a little bit better and a little bit better. I felt like it was good at Byron Nelson, just missed an occasional shot here and there. But it's been good for a while. I don't think there's any secret ingredient that has just gone in. As professional golfers we're always a bit of a balancing act from being too steep and too shallow and trying to find the happy spot, but it's - to me, I'm really proud of the last couple of years being in there and in contention a lot and now starting to win some more, to have chances. Golf was always fun to me, but it's really exciting when you've got a chance like this on Sunday. I'm really pleased with where I stand right now.
Q. What was the one shot that you hit today that the wind wreaked the most havoc with?
MATT KUCHAR: It was that shot on 15. I hit a 3 wood, hit a nice drive down the middle of the fairway, and had a good upslope. And it was just going to take a full 3 wood for me to get home. I thought no problem. With the pin on the left, don't want to miss left. I want to make sure if I do anything, I miss right. Hit a really solid shot. It just took off really high. I thought that will be fine, that will just end up in the right greenside bunker to the left pin. No problem. And the wind blowing as hard as it was and as high as the ball got launched, it just kept drifting and kept drifting and found its way into a hazard I didn't even know existed over there. That's the one. I knew what the wind was doing. I knew it was hard left to right. I just didn't realize that I hit it that high and the wind would take that much affect on it.
Q. Are you surprised you guys finished today given the gloom and doom yesterday of the reports?
MATT KUCHAR: The forecast sounded reasonable for us finishing. It sounded like 5:00. I guess it's just after 5:00 right now. I don't know if the forecast is still the same for afternoon storms starting around now. But it sounded like if we played in any sort of reasonable time that we would finish today.
Q. You talked about consistently being in contention the last couple of years, how has that helped you? The more times that you're there and you talk about the excitement level, what do you learn from it all?
MATT KUCHAR: I think all of us perform better when we're comfortable at something. I think the more you get in a situation, the more comfortable you become at it. I tell people at the first tee, I remember at tournaments being really, really nervous on first tees. Now I've had thousands of opportunities hitting a drive off the first tee. The first tee I still get a little jittery, but nothing like when I was 19, 20, nothing like the jitters and nervousness I had then, I became more comfortable after doing it time and time again so I've done better. And I think that holds true to being in contention playing on Sunday, the more often you do it the more comfortable you get. I equate it to the more comfortable you get, the better you seem to do.
Q. As long as you've been coming here, did you think that this was a tournament and course that you could win? And when you look at the list of the guys that have won at this place, maybe do you feel that you're at a point in your career where you're ready to be there?
MATT KUCHAR: Early on I thought this was a place that I thought was a huge advantage for the long hitters. I thought this may not play into my strong suits. But the more I play the course, the more I learn it, the more comfortable I feel. My track record here might be one of my better track records of any tournament. I feel like there are a lot of holes where guys are laying up with 2 irons or hybrids or 3 wood. I feel like my driver and kind of 3 wood long game off the tee is one of my advantages. I pushed the envelope a little bit trying to get some shorter irons in. And I've had some really good success here. As far as being ready, I feel like I should have won tournaments that got me nice preparation to have a good round tomorrow.
Q. How about the players?
MATT KUCHAR: This list has got a great list of champions. It's a great tournament. Playing in Jack's tournament is a treat for us all, and I think one everyone strives to put their name up on that list of champions.
Q. It was a battle out there for a start, and you take a 6 on the 15, and miss the green to the right on 16, what's the value of that par there?
MATT KUCHAR: 16, I missed the green on the right there is pretty much where you want to hit it. That hole is really difficult. Hitting the green there is a super big bonus. I stood on that tee and that bunker was pretty much my garden spot. Put me in that bunker and I'll be happy with that spot. I had about a 10 footer. That was nice not to go back to back bogeys. But whether I make it or miss it, I think I was playing the last couple of holes the same. I let things like that roll off. I don't think that gained a huge momentum for me. It was a nice par save.
Q. Of the holes out here has that been No.1 in your books if you drop a shot there?
MATT KUCHAR: It's okay, yeah. You drop a shot there, you drop a shot on 12, don't make a double on 12. Don't make a double on 16. You want to avoid the big numbers.
Q. What's the most interesting reaction you've received on the hair?
MATT KUCHAR: Most people that have a reaction say they like the beard. I'm not sure it's fully a beard yet. I never, ever thought I'd have a beard, but it's grown pretty full so far. I think most of the women in my family, my mother and my grandmother, dislike it. My wife likes it, so it's staying for now.
MATT KUCHAR: Why is it staying for now? Because my wife likes it (laughter). Once it gets to a point it becomes a challenge to shave it, you need clippers. So without clippers it just got to a point where it hurt too bad to take a razor blade to it. I have to wait for get home to clipper it back and then shave it.
Q. What did your grandmother say?
MATT KUCHAR: Why won't you shave is pretty much what I got.
Q. Are you superstitious, if you are, will you keep it?
MATT KUCHAR: No, no.
Q. However it plays out tomorrow?
MATT KUCHAR: However it plays out tomorrow when I get back home, I'll shave it.
Q. You kind of talked about the 16th, where you were aiming for the bunker. Your knowledge of where to miss the ball here, how important is that this week?
MATT KUCHAR: Very helpful. I think that's a good point in that there are several places where I feel like, through course knowledge and through just being able to chart a golf course, I've learned where to miss it. I just - 16 is a perfect example. It's a bend in the left side, the wind is left to right, the greens slope left to right. If you miss it left, you don't have a chance. From the right side, it's a reasonable shot to get it up and down. There are several holes like that that some sort of golfing smarts really come into play. Hopefully you don't need - need to know where to miss it, hopefully you need to know where to hit it. But we know you don't hit it where you want it every time. And missing in the right place is really important.
This place I think is extra difficult. The kind of Golden Rule is you want to leave yourself uphill putts, you want to be below the hole. There are several places, you take 14, there's just no room below that hole, it's water. You can't be below the hole. Seems like there's a lot of holes like 14 where you can't be below the hole. 9, today there's no chance you're going to be below the hole. You have to pick and choose. For the most part, the Golden Rule is being below. However, this course and these pins, it seems like they really make it difficult, not giving you much chance of a reasonable uphill putt.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.