As Matt Kuchar was walking up to 17 green, a fan hollered to him, saying Stricker had just bogeyed the par-5 15th hole at Muirfield Village. Now Kuchar doesn’t usually pay attention to scoreboards during competition. He doesn’t feel like watching them can help him play any better.
But on rare occasions, like yesterday when he was in contention at the Memorial, he did start looking at the boards because he needed to adjust his strategy according to where he stood.
“No, I think at that point I had become a scoreboard watcher,” said Kuchar when I asked if the unsolicited info from the fan affected him. “Normally I don’t feel like watching a scoreboard can help me play. When I was two shots back, Steve had a couple tough holes. I know 16 is a really tough hole and I heard a big, big roar. I might have been walking middle of 18th fairway.”
Added Kuchar: “Speaking of which, they should be on the clock. I think he should get maybe penalized a couple shots. We need to go look into that straight away.”
Suddenly, it got really quiet. The looks on our (the few other reporters) faces were priceless. I couldn’t figure out if he was serious or joking for a second because he said it with a deadpan expression. (Which is also what made it hilariously amazing, especially coming from Kuchar since I’d never seen him pull off a joke like that so well.)
Kuchar finally couldn’t cracked a smile, saying, “At least I think two shots would be an appropriate penalty. I’m pretty sure.”
When he arrived to the 18th tee, Kuchar pulled out driver for the first time that week on the closing hole. In the three previous rounds, he had taken the more conservative approach and hit 3-woods.
“Being two shots down, I knew I needed to make a birdie,” he said. “Steve is a solid player.”
Kuchar attacked the pin with a 9-iron, but came up just a few yards short and his ball found the greenside bunker. He managed to get up-and-down for par.
I probably followed Kuchar the most last week. I walked with him for most of his round on Saturday and then for part of his back nine on Sunday. And from what I saw, I was impressed with his US Open-style strategy under the extra firm conditions on Saturday.
He hit only six drivers on Saturday, opting to take an even more conservative approach and hit more 3-woods and irons off the tee than usual. I realize other players took less club, too, but Kuchar is an average-length hitter, while Rory McIlroy, who is considered one of the longer hitters, also hit six drivers.
“I played some great golf for four days,” said Kuchar. “They’re hard to control. You walk away from this week awfully happy with — I gave it what I had. I played some great golf, and you can’t control what the other guys do. I just try to control my thoughts, my process, and it’s been going well. I’m awfully pleased.”
Who else is liking his chances at Congressional next week? I reckon we’ll see him in contention.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)