Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

June 13, 2013

Kuchar could smile his way to Open title

ARDMORE, Pa. — He was the smiling kid with his dad on the bag in his first U.S. Open, eager to be himself and not the guy he was following.

Matt Kuchar never expected to be the next Tiger Woods, mostly because even then he knew it wasn't possible. Winning the U.S. Amateur a year after Woods recorded his third straight amateur title got him into the 1998 Open, but it would be a long time before the two were in the same conversation again.

"I was never thinking because I won the amateur the year after Tiger that I was the next Tiger Woods," Kuchar said. "That was never something that I thought about or thought I was going to follow the same path as Tiger. I knew I had a different path that was for me."

That path was rocky at times, but Kuchar never lost faith in his talent. He rebuilt his swing, found his way back on the PGA Tour after a brief hiccup, and started contending in tournaments.

Now he's in another conversation this week at Merion Golf Club. He's joined a select few as perhaps the best player who hasn't won a major championship.

"I don't know that I'm quite in that talk yet," Kuchar said Wednesday. "I know that a lot of people have been yelling out that they have got me in their pools and they're picking me this week. But we hear a lot of that talk every week."

Perhaps Kuchar should start listening more. Coming off a win two weeks ago at Memorial — where his young son got a high five from host Jack Nicklaus when Kuchar won — he's high on a lot of lists as a possible winner at this Open.

That he's not shying away from the talk says something about how confident he is about his game.

"I feel like I'm playing some good golf," Kuchar said. "I'm looking to continue to play good golf. Certainly a major championship, a U.S. Open, is one I'm geared up for. I'm looking forward to competing and trying to put my name on this trophy."

Kuchar was still an amateur when he played his first U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1998. His father — who drew some criticism for his exuberance — was carrying his bag and on Sunday it was both Father's Day and the golfer's 20th birthday

Fans sang Happy Birthday to him and yelled "Happy Father's Day" to his father as they walked to tees, but the real highlight was a 14th place finish. It paid no money but showed Kuchar that he could compete with players a level above him.

Three years later he was a regular on the PGA Tour, making $500,000 in his rookie year. The next year he won the Honda Classic, giving him a two-year exemption on tour and marking him as one of the rising stars of the game.

Then it all started to fall apart. Kuchar began missing cuts with regularity, finally ending up in golf's minor leagues — what was then the Nationwide Tour — while he retooled his game and tried to find a swing that worked as well as the swings of players who were on the big circuit.

"I think that out here there was a definite learning curve on the PGA Tour of just being comfortable standing on the range, hitting balls next to Ernie Els or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson and not just being in awe," 'Kuchar said. "And trying to say, 'Well, I can't hit it like that, what do I need to do to hit it like that?' "

He was a tennis player who took up golf when his mother upgraded their membership at a country club as a Christmas present. Playing better was never an issue since he quickly became one of the top — and finally THE top — amateur in the country.

Coming back on tour in 2007 he played well enough to keep his card, though barely. The next year he won $1.5 million, and the next year cracked the top 25.

Kuchar has already won twice this year, at the Match Play Championship and the Memorial, his sixth career win. He's moved to No. 4 in the world golf rankings, and hasn't missed a cut all year while averaging 69.84 strokes a round.

He's a ball striker who rarely makes mistakes, and a putter who excels on fast greens, a combination that has oddsmakers and fans lining the fairways at Merion thinking he has a good shot to win his first major this week.

"I think (the) great thing about the game of golf is there's no clear-cut favorites," Kuchar said.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Lamons-main.jpg Tahlequah wrestler Hestin Lamons adds to memorable season with All-State triumph

    Hestin Lamons’ fitness regiment has been a grueling one this summer. It paid off in a big way at the All-State wrestling dual on Wednesday night.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • ropin-make-a-wish.jpg Dirteater, others help Make-A-Wish

    The event will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Tickets are $5, with kids 6 and under free.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Photo-for-Shinn-story.jpg Coaches preview Sooners season

    Toby Rowland addressed the elephant in the room even before Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel arrived at Journey Church on Wednesday.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Date set for Keys football physicals

    Before scheduled practices can begin in order to prepare for the season, players must first receive a physical.
    Next Tuesday, Aug. 5, Keys High School will be administering physicals in the high school cafeteria.

    July 31, 2014

  • Keys-Dakota.jpg Playing both sides of the line

    Recently, Keys High School football standout Dakota Matlock was nearly severely injured in a terrifying car wreck.

    Matlock is coming off a stellar gridiron season for Keys High School. On offense, Matlock ran for over 1,000 yards for the Cougars. In his sophomore season, Matlock led Keys in tackles from the safety position.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bassmaster.jpg Crossing, and fishing, the Delaware

    Bassmaster Elite Series anglers to compete Aug. 7

    BASS has fished out of some legendary venues over the years (including Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans), but never Philadelphia, which is host of the Bassmaster Elite at Delaware River, Aug. 7-10, 2014.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mison.jpg Mixon’s attorney says incident with woman self-defense

    The attorney for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon says the incident that left a 20-year-old female OU student with multiple facial fractures was a case of self-defense.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hooper.jpg Sparking the flame

    Sequoyah High School’s Justin Hooper looking to lead this year

    Last season was Justin’s last chance to play alongside Cody at Sequoyah High School.
    Justin had to battle to win the Indians starting tailback. The coaching staff did not know who was going to be the Indians starting running back coming into fall practice.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • NSU-fishing-team.jpg NSU teams compete in fishing tournament

    Three teams from Northeastern State University’s Bass Fishing Team competed in the Fishing League Worldwide College Fishing Tournament on Grand Lake in Grove on Saturday, June 21.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Johnson, East win easily at All-State

    Jake Johnson was able to hold off Lawton MacArthur’s Trent Meisel at the Class 5A state tournament in May. On Monday at the All-State tournament at Cherokee Hills Golf Club, Johnson had it much easier against Meisel.

    July 29, 2014

Poll

Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
Undecided.
     View Results
Press Sports Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction
Stocks