Matt Kuchar: "It's crushing...but Jordan is a great champion"


Matt Kuchar came as close as he's ever been to finally winning that maiden major, and described the bitter taste of runner-up as 'crushing'.

Always the nearly-man. It's a difficult pill to swallow when you're leading the Open by a shot with five holes to go only to be denied your maiden major title by a barely believable Jordan Spieth performance on the closing stretch. 

For Matt Kuchar, it's just another disappointing near-miss in a major championship - but the 2017 champion golfer of the year Jordan Spieth believes he will win one, it's just a matter of time. 

"I believe Matt Kuchar will win a major championship," Spieth said of his final-round playing partner. "And I believe that he'll do it sometime soon. He's a great champion and he's such a great person."

Back in 1998, when Kuchar won the title of leading amateur at both The Masters and The US Open in the same year, many tipped him as a future major champion. And he's certainly come close.

In the last eight years Kuchar has had nine top 10s across all four majors, with his closest being T3, T8, T5 in consecutive years at the Masters between 2012-2014 before his T4 finish at Augusta this year. 

Like Sergio before his major breakthrough this year, and like fellow best-play-never-to-win-a-major Rickie Fowler, Kuchar has won the unofficial fifth major of the year - becoming The Players Champion in 2012. Though there's no doubt this was one he wanted, and for a moment let himself believe he had.

But while he admits this one will be hard to take, noone will ever say that Matt Kuchar lost the Open championship in 2017, he was simply beaten by one of the best final stretch comebacks in history, by one of the best players in the world. 

"It hurts," Kuchar said in his press conference. "And it's an excitement and a thrill to have played well, put up a battle, put up a fight. 

"You work so hard to get to this position. And to have a chance to make history and win a championship. You don't get that many opportunities. And to be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it's a hard one to sit back and take."

"However, thinking with five holes to play, I played the next four in 2-under par. However, I lose two shots in those four holes to Jordan. I think I lose -- yeah, two shots to Jordan."

"And so I can only control what I do, how I play. Jordan is a great champion and certainly played that way in the finishing stretch today. It was impressive stuff when a guy does something like that. All you can really do is sit back, tip your cap and say, "well done." And it was certainly a show that he put on."

Kuchar began the day three shots back and seemingly needed a perfect start - but he was gifted a shot on the first as Jordan's par save slid by and then reduced the defecit to one on the next with a stunning birdie. 

But Kuchar didn't quite take advantage of the opportuities he had when the wheels were evidently coming off for Jordan.

"I was really bummed at the third hole, only had I think 138 yardsd to the hole and got too agressive with the wedge shot. To make bogey on the third was giving a shot - I kind of pride myself in not giving shots away, and I felt like I let one slip there"

"I had really good chances on 7,8 and 9. Finally make one on 9, and Jordan three-putted all of a sudden to be even with nine to go"

The pair were locked together for the next three holes, but Kuchar was the one with the distinct advantage when Jordan pushed his now infamous tee shot 100 yards right of the fairway on the 13th. 

Almost half an hour later, Kuchar had a lengthy putt for birdie and Jordan had taken a drop, hitting a miraculous three wood from the middle of the practice range to just short of the green. An easy par for Kuchar to gain the lead while it was a dropped shot for Spieth... and the memories of Augusta in 2016 came to the forefront of the mind. A second collapse in a major loomed for the 23-year-old at four-over for his round... but noone could have predicted what would happen next. 

"All of a sudden I now have a 1-shot lead after that hole in the British Open with five to go. I'm playing really well. Hitting a lot of good shots. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. And he just - really turned up" 

That one shot lead disappeared almost in an instant, as Spieth very nearly holed out from the 14th tee for an eagle of the par-three to put their match-play situation back to level. 

With two par 5s to come, the game suddenly felt very on - but the 50 foot eagle putt Jordan holed on the 15th was far from what anyone would have expected from the first couple of hours of play on Sunday, and more importantly gave him back a one-shot lead with three to play despite a birdie from Kuchar. 

Spieth gained another shot on the next, and although both had birdies on the par-5 17th, the two-time major champion was the one with the two-shot lead standing on the 18th tee. 

Kuchar bogeyed the final hole and a tap-in par was enough for Spieth to complete the most enthralling final five-holes - the lowest score record over that stretch by an Open champion (-5) - to win his third major championship. 

"As tough as it is to be this close and finish second, I am sure tha tit will lead to me continuing to work hard and push me harder to try to finish one place better"

One thing Matt Kuchar didn't expect was to see his family standing on the 18th ready to greet him, adding to the emotion of being in the final group and experiencing the heart-ache of coming so close.

"Seeing the family, that was a surprise. I talked to them last night on the phone. Thought they were in Colorado. It was a great surprise. A teary surprise. And it's great to have people to share things with, have loved one here"

"It was very, very cool to have them here."