Kuchar has a lot to smile about as he chases the title in U.S. Open

  • Article by: TIM DAHLBERG , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: June 13, 2013 - 7:13 AM
hide

Matt Kuchar

Photo: Jay LaPrete, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close