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Kuchar

Cleans Up American smiles his way to the biggest win of his career – and a cool US$1.7 million – at the PLAYERS Championship

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att Kuchar avoided the big mistakes that slowed so many other contenders – starting with Kevin Na – and kept it out of the water on the Stadium Course to eliminate the kind of drama he didn’t need. He closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot victory. That famous smile, which he first showed the golf world as an amateur in 1998 competing on the biggest stages, was brighter than ever as Kuchar tapped in for par. He celebrated on the 18th green with his wife and two sons, and shared a hug and a high-five with his mother. His parents moved to Ponte Vedra Beach and Kuchar stayed with them all week. Coming off the green, he said he was “about to buckle” after such a week. Just like his golf at the dangerous TPC Sawgrass, he kept it together. “It’s such an amazing feeling – playing amongst the game’s best, to come out on top, to do it on Mother’s Day ... it really is magical,” Kuchar said. Along with the pressure of trying to win, Na had to put up with some heckling. Already considered a slow player, he struggles to take the club back without practice swings and waggles, and over the ball he could hear fans saying, “Pull the trigger” or “Hit it.” “I backed off and they’re booing me,” Na said. “I said, ‘Look, guys, I backed off because of you guys.’ ... But it is what it is. I also felt that a lot of people were turning towards me and pulling for me, which I really appreciate.” Kuchar won for only the fourth time in his career, and the first time since the 2010 Barclays when Martin Laird three-putted the last hole and lost in a play-off. Laird made the strongest run on a cloudy, breezy afternoon, tying for the lead with this third straight birdie on the 12th. Laird nearly went in the water on the 18th, missed a six-foot par putt for a 67 and wound up in a four-way tie for second. Rickie Fowler, going for his second straight win, tried to make it interesting with a birdie on the island-green 17th to get within two shots. Kuchar watched from across the water on the 16th green, and then rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt to give him a three-shot lead going to the par-three 17th. Every shot matters standing on a tee and looking at an island. Kuchar found land, three-putted for bogey and made a regulation par at the end. Fowler missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th and shot 70. Ben Curtis made a 10-foot birdie on the 18th for a 68, while Zach Johnson shot 68 to join the tie for second. Luke Donald finished alone in sixth after a 66, not quite enough to replace Rory McIlroy at No 1 in the world.

AFP

Winning smile: Kuchar’s TPC Sawgrass success was only the fourth PGA Tour win of his career – and his first since the 2010 Barclays Championship 2

HK Golfer・JUN 2012

HKGOLFER.COM

HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・JUN 2012

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“I backed off and they’re booing me. I said, ‘Look, guys, I backed off because of you guys.’ ... But it is what it is. I also felt that a lot of people were turning towards me and pulling for me, which I really appreciate.”—Kevin Na

AFP

“It’s such an amazing feeling – playing amongst the game’s best, to come out on top, to do it on Mother’s Day ... it really is magical.” —Matt Kuchar

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HK Golfer・JUN 2012

Tiger Woods shot 40 on his front nine and rallied for a 73, at least finishing The Players Championship under par. That was the smallest of consolations. Far more alarming was that he tied for 40th, the first time in his career that he has finished no better than 40th in three straight tournaments. The streak began after a five-shot win at Bay Hill for his first PGA Tour title in 30 months. “Just keep working. Keep working,” Woods said when asked what he could take out of the week. Na had a three-shot lead early in the final round with a birdie on the second, but he fell apart quickly. There were waggles and a few whiffs as part of his painful pre-shot routine, but there were far too many shots in the wrong spot for him to have a chance. He made four bogeys in five holes to close out the front nine in 39, and his hopes ended with a tee shot into the water on the par-three13th. Na closed with a 76 to tie for seventh, five shots behind. I n t h e s i x y e a r s s i n c e T h e Pl ay e r s Championship moved from March to May and featured faster conditions, the 54-hole leader has never won and has never shot better than 74 in the final round. The average score for the thirdround leader since 2007 is now 76.3. Few of the others faced a week like Na, especially hearing it from the fans. “I deserve it,” he said. “I mean, I’m being honest. But is it fair? No. You put an average guy in between those ropes, trust me, they won’t even pull it back.” HKGOLFER.COM

Kuchar finished on 13-under 275 and earned US $1.71 million, the largest pay day in golf. He goes to career-best No 5 in the world ranking, and more importantly, to No 3 in the United States Ryder Cup standings. Curtis, who started the season without a full PGA Tour card, now has three top 5s in the last month, including a win at the Texas Open. He was slowed by a double bogey on the par-three eighth, and simply couldn’t catch up. Even though Laird is the only player who actually tied for the lead at one point, Fowler generated the biggest buzz in his all-orange attire and free swinging ways. He got in the mix with two birdies in the opening four holes, only to take a double bogey on the 5th and a bogey on the 7th. Even so, he ran off four birdies after that never went away until missing the short birdie at the end. “The last few holes were a lot of fun,” Fowler said. “It’s a rush out there. Get yourself in contention Sunday at The Players, it’s a lot of fun.”

The PLAYERS Championship Final Standings 1 Matt Kuchar 2= Ben Curtis Rickie Fowler Zach Johnson Martin Laird 6 Luke Donald 7= Bo Van Pelt Kevin Na Jhonattan Vegas 10= Carl Pettersson David Toms 12= Blake Adams Jonathan Byrd Geoff Ogilvy

68 68 69 70 68 71 70 68 72 69 66 70 70 66 73 68 65 73 72 67 72 69 72 66 71 70 70 69 67 69 68 76 68 74 68 70 71 72 69 69 69 74 73 65 66 73 72 71 68 70 72 72 70 73 70 69

275 277 277 277 277 279 280 280 280 281 281 282 282 282

US$1,710,000 US$627,000 US$627,000 US$627,000 US$627,000 US$342,000 US$296,083 US$296,083 US$296,083 US$247,000 US$247,000 US$199,500 US$199,500 US$199,500

Top tenners (clockwise from top): Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na, Martin Laird and Ben Curtis HKGOLFER.COM

HK Golfer・JUN 2012

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1206Players Champ