Matt Kuchar recovered from a poor start to win by four shots at the Sony Open
Matt Kuchar ended a four year wait for victory last year when he won in Mayakoba at the start of the 2018/19 season. His latest, and ninth PGA Tour title, came just three starts later, and Kuchar could barely believe it.
"I'm tickled, thrilled to have won two events this early in the year," Kuchar said. "To have won two out of three starts on the PGA TOUR is mind boggling to me."
The 40-year-old American led by two shots overnight but soon found himself behind playing partner Andrew Putnam after carding three bogeys and a birdie over the first five holes.
Kuchar dropped his first shot on the second hole and although he responded with a birdie on the third he then three-putted the 4th hole and followed it with a third bogey on the 5th. Meanwhile, Putnam's birdie on the third moved him to 18-under-par, but Kuchar was determined that he was playing well enough to turn it around.
"It was not the start I wanted by any means, but I knew I was playing good golf. I was pretty disappointed to give up a few shots, particularly the three-putt on 4, and with the wedge in my hands making bogey on 5. Thought, Man, that was just not at all the start I was looking for.
"Knew I was playing good golf; knew if I stayed the course, continued just plotting along and not letting that get the best of me, that some good stuff was going to happen."
He was right. The pair traded birdies on the 9th for Putnam to hold a slim advantage at the turn, but Kuchar was adament that was a crucial birdie for his momentum.
"Started playing really good golf. Didn't see any putts fall until the 9th, and I think that was that's just a crucial turning point for me. Making that putt on 9, stay within one of Andrew, and then played some great golf from then."
Birdies on the 10th and 12th holes put Kuchar briefly ahead by one until Putnam caught up to him on 13, but it was close as the 29-year-old would come for the remainder of the round.
Kuchar put both approach shots to within 12 feet on the par-four 15th and 16th holes and converted for back-to-back threes and a three shot lead standing on the 18th tee. The final hole felt like a formality, and Kuchar admitted it was the first time he enjoyed the walk up 18, in the end tapping in for a final hole birdie and four shot victory.
"It was really special. That was my first time really getting to enjoy the stroll up 18. I think most of my wins have come the 18th had to execute, had to par, birdie, whatever it may be on 18. Still, the tournament was in limbo.
"To be able to know the tournament was wrapped up, enjoy that walk, it was special. Can't tell you how much I think of Waialae Golf Club. Fantastic club, fantastic golf courses. I've always enjoyed and had so much respect for this place."
One shot behind Putnam were the quad of Marc Leishman, Hudson Swafford, Corey Conners and Chez Reavie, followed by Davis Love III.
Tied 8th on 15-under-par were Brian Stuard and Charles Howell, who was tied up his 10th top 10 result in this event.
As for Kuchar's aims, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Vijay Singh, who won 22 times on Tour after turning 40-years-old.
"I would certainly like to (do what Singh did)," Kuchar said.
"He set a great example. Certainly showed that is possible. A number of guys showed that it is possible. It's nice to know that.
"It's not like you hit 40 and you have to go away. There are guys that have done great. Certainly I'm off to a way better start than I would've expected. Feels good. I hope to continue."
WITB: Matt Kuchar
Driver: Bridgestone Tour B JGR (9.5 degrees)
3-wood: Titleist TS2 (13.5 degrees)
Hybrids: Bridgestone Tour B XD-H (18 degrees), Ping Anser (20)
Irons: Bridgestone J15CB (5-PW)
Wedges: Bridgestone J40 Forged (52); Cleveland RTX-4 (56), Cleveland RTX-3 (62)
Putter: Bettinardi DASS KM-1 Arm Lock (400 grams, 3 degrees loft)
Golf ball: Bridgestone Tour B X