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Kuchar Set to Defend at Memorial
Matt Kuchar was his usual steady self in last year's Memorial Tournament. The Georgia native posted two 4-under 68s and a pair of 70s to win the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event by two shots over Kevin Chappell.
The victory was Kuchar's second of the year - his first of 2013 came in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and was the sixth of his career. The 35-year-old added a seventh title this April in the RBC Heritage.
The hallmark of Kuchar has been his consistency, both on the course with his swing and with his ever-smiling demeanor, regardless of the circumstances. In 14 starts this year, he has the victory along with a second place in the Shell Houston Open - losing in a sudden-death playoff to Matt Jones - among his nine top-10 finishes.
So far he's earned $3,464,302 and, with 1,571 points, is third in the season-long FedEx Cup race. He's also now ranked fourth in the world, behind only No. 1 Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods.
After missing only his second 36-hole cut of the year in last week's Colonial in Texas, Kuchar's looking to rebound at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. He's paired in the first two rounds with reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Steve Stricker in the $6.2 million event, which starts Thursday.
On Tuesday, Kuchar met with reporters to discuss his season and his chances for a repeat this week in the Memorial. Here's what he had to say.
MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Matt Kuchar, our defending champion at the Memorial Tournament. Matt, you got done playing a few holes. Talk about the course and your thoughts coming back, and we'll have a few questions.
MATT KUCHAR: Holy cow, the course is in awesome shape. It's just as good a condition of courses I think we've seen all year. Fairways are running out. Greens are spectacular. It is fun to play. The rough is thick. I mean, it's a championship test of golf. It looks really, really good. Of course I'm excited to be back. I've had some great things go on here over the years. This tournament has been really good to me, highlighted, of course, with last year's victory. So this is always a special place for me to come back, and particularly special coming back this year as defending champion.
Q. You normally play well coming out of the Dallas swing because you get a chance to work with Chris. What would you say the state of your game is right now?
MATT KUCHAR: Really good. I know I missed the cut last week. I told some people - I said, I hit it really good last week. I putted really well. One of the strange things, that golf course can just creep up on you, kind of one of the sneaky golf courses. It's one of my favorites. I've had some great results at Colonial. I was a bit surprised to have the weekend off, but still felt really good and really positive about what I was doing with Chris, how I was hitting it, how I was putting it. I come in here feeling awfully good.
Q. Is it harder or easier to defend?
MATT KUCHAR: I haven't had a whole lot of chances. I've won seven times on the PGA Tour. So this will be my maybe sixth chance to defend. Only a few guys have a whole lot of opportunities to defend. Winning a golf tournament is difficult to do. You don't win that many. So to try to defend, of course, is hard. It's fun. Some guys have had good success. Some courses seem to fit guys really well. The main guy comes to mind is Tiger. He's just a guy that seems to have a whole lot of victories out of a select couple of courses. But I think he could win anytime, anyplace type of thing with his golf game. For me, I feel excited and I feel optimistic about my chances. This course has been really good to me. One of my favorite places to come. I've had great success in the past and feel the state of my game is still pretty good.
Q. When you look at the guys that have won here maybe, say, in the last 10 years, is it because of one particular part of their game, or does it -
MATT KUCHAR: Go through a list, Tiger has won a few times. I know Steve Stricker.
Q. Justin Rose. Kenny Perry. K.J.?
MATT KUCHAR: There's not a whole lot of similarities amongst that crew. I mean, I think this course demands you to do everything well. These greens seem to get every bit as fast as Augusta National's. You have to be on your game. And I think when greens are fast, it's not so much a premium on your putting, but your iron shots is a real premium and positioning your iron shots. Driving is certainly a premium here. You don't have to hit a lot of drivers. The longer guys, particularly, don't have to hit a lot of drivers. I tend to hit more than most. I tend to challenge some of the shorter holes knowing those are opportunities for me to turn into real birdieable holes and know that my driving is one of my strengths, so I tend to challenge those a little more than most. But I think in order to do well, you just have to have all parts of your game working.
Q. They changed the 18th tee from the Presidents Cup but this is the first time it will come into play in the Memorial. And I just wonder, will that cause you to attack that hole any differently than you have in the past?
MATT KUCHAR: I've hit a lot of 3 woods. I'll probably be hitting a lot more drivers off the last. It's amazing how they do the change this year. You can't even tell where the old tee box was. There's no outline of where it used to be. It's not just grown over. It's now part of a hillside slope, to my best knowledge of where I think it was. I'm guessing there's, what, at least 20 yards added.
Q. 30 or 40.
MATT KUCHAR: 30 or 40 yards. It's definitely changed my club selection from a 3 wood to a driver.
Q. I know it seems a little early to ask this, but every time you're getting fitted this week for Ryder Cup uniforms. Is this when you start thinking about that down the road and your position and trying to make that team?
MATT KUCHAR: I would say for a fair number of us, the thinking probably started Sunday night at Medinah, I would say. You probably start going, man, I hope we can have another chance in two years. You want another chance. So I know for myself I was ready for two years to get here and try to have another crack at the Ryder Cup. That first year, where the points aren't as important, you focus more on Presidents Cup for sure last year. This year this focus is more on the Ryder Cup. I think guys start thinking about it earlier. I know when Tom Watson got named captain, people got pretty excited wanting to make the team.
It becomes a little more real now. It becomes a little more real once you go in and do the fitting and start seeing some of the clothes and seeing some of the guys that will be around for the tournament. It's pretty exciting. I know my caddie went in, got fitted. He was all psyched about the clothes that were there to be worn. Lance certainly was awfully pumped up telling me how cool the hats were and how cool some of the other gear was. It's still cool. This will be my third Ryder Cup if I make the team. And I still feel like a kid. I still feel like one of the coolest things about going to those team events is the moment you walk in your hotel room you see all the clothes lined up on a clothing rack like you'd see in like in a store. I think it's a neat moment just to - you're supposed to try everything on right away, make sure it fits so if any adjustment needs to happen, you get that taken care of. I can't wait. I'm like a kid trying everything on. I can't wait to see how it all looks and which outfits I think are best and seeing the U.S.A. flag patch on the uniform somewhere. It's still a very cool thing for me.
Q. Will you make a scouting trip to Pinehurst at all?
MATT KUCHAR: I'll be there Monday. After here I'll leave and go.
Q. It's inevitable that at every tournament these days you get asked what's your preparation for the Open? Have you been up to Pinehurst or have you -
MATT KUCHAR: I've not seen Pinehurst since 2005. So I haven't seen it since the redo. I don't know exactly what to expect other than no rough and a lot of sandy waste areas. I haven't heard exactly what it looks like. Just speaking of sandy waste areas, how they'll be played, whether or not we'll have the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits issue or exactly how they'll be played, if you can ground your club, remove things, I don't know that just yet. But I'll go Monday/Tuesday of next week, Monday/Tuesday of next week. I'll go to see the course, make the Open week easier. I go to make it a more relaxing couple of days where I'm not working really hard to learn the course; that I put my work in Monday and Tuesday or just kind of refreshers - sorry, Tuesday/Wednesday of tournament week are just refreshers and not burning myself out on tournament week.
Q. What has your communication with Tom Watson been like and what's your take on his approach to his captaincy so far?
MATT KUCHAR: Not a whole lot of communication. I've seen him a handful of places. Saw him and spent some time with him in Hilton Head and rain delays. I'm sure there's a lot more that goes into it than what we see. Pretty much it seemed like he gave a pick away straightaway. It seemed like he gave two picks away and took one back. I don't know exactly if that's how it worked. But I know he's basically given a pick away and now there's nine spots and three picks. And other than that, I'm sure there's a whole lot of work that goes in there that I don't see. But as far as my involvement, that's pretty much what I've seen so far is what's happened.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.