Kuchar, Woods take alternate routes to 66
By Stephanie Wei under WGC

The tale of two 66s...

Tiger Woods was quick to compliment playing partner Matt Kuchar following Sunday’s final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Both Woods and Kuchar posted scores of four-under 66 at Firestone CC, but they looked very different if you were watching (and from a stats perspective).

“Playing with Kuch today was a joke,” said Woods, who moved up the leaderboard to T8, clinching back-to-back top tens for the first time since 2009.  “Twenty putts on the day is not too bad, three chip-ins.  It was amazing.  I never saw the guy all day, and we had the same score.”

Tiger continued his excellent ballstriking, finding 10 of 14 fairways and hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation — or 16 if you count the one he missed on the fringe. He was ranked tied for second in the 75-player field (three players withdrew) in percentage of greens hit. Given how many looks at birdies he had, he could have gone super low.

“I played well today,” said Woods when asked to assess his round.  “I hit a lot of good shots and never really sniffed making a bogey all day.

“My tee-to-green game today was pretty dialed in.  I was hitting it long, I was hitting it straight, and I was shaping my irons both ways in all different trajectories with the wind blowing.  That was about as absolute high a score as I could possibly shoot today.”

Woods needed 29 putts on Sunday, but he sounded happy with his putting.

“I putted well the last two days, which was good,” he said. “I made some putts, and more importantly, I hit the ball on my start lines, and that’s something I did not do the first couple days. I misread a couple, but that’s just the way it goes, but at least every putt was starting on the right line and that’s something that I’m very excited about going into next week (for the PGA Championship).”

Meanwhile, Kuchar was all over the place, relatively speaking, but carded four straight birdies on the last four holes to get to four-under. As Tiger mentioned, Kuchar only had 20 putts. He didn’t have his best ballstriking week, finding half the fairways and just eight greens. But he made up for it with his excellent short game.

Kuchar chipped in on No. 5, holed out from a greenside bunker on No. 8, chipped in from the back of the green on No. 10 and then rolled in a 25-footer on No. 17 from the front fringe (which didn’t count as a putt in the stats because he wasn’t technically on the green).

Another sneaky top-ten finish, his eighth of the year, for Kuch.

What hasn’t received that much attention — at least from me until this week — is the Ryder Cup standings. The PGA Championship is the final week for players to qualify for the U.S. team on points with the top eight earning spots.

Despite Kuchar’s finish, he dropped from No. 6 in the standings to No. 7 because Keegan Bradley winning moved him from No. 9 to No. 4.

Tiger is locked in at first, followed by Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler are the next four in the standings.

Anyway, do this week’s results at Firestone serve as a portent for the year’s final major at Kiawah Island? Well, maybe. The courses are so different that it’s hard to say, but of course, their finishes are indications of how well they’re playing (i.e., Stricker and Rory McIlroy, etc.).

What do we expect from Tiger at his last shot to break his drought at the majors? Good question. I have no clue, but he’s not going to win if he’s taking 29 or 31 putts every round. Then there’s his wedge game…

(AP Photo/Phil Long)