Even in the most stressful form of golf, Matt Kuchar and his easy smile made the Match Play Championship look like a weekend game with his...
MARANA, Ariz. — Even in the most stressful form of golf, Matt Kuchar and his easy smile made the Match Play Championship look like a weekend game with his buddies.
It was fun when he built a 4-up lead at the turn. And when Hunter Mahan threw his best golf at him during a wild back nine Sunday at Dove Mountain, Kuchar never looked rattled, never felt as if the match belonged to anyone but him, and never lost the lead.
Kuchar kept momentum on his side with four birdies on the back nine, the last conceded on the 17th hole for a 2-and-1 victory. He captured his first World Golf Championship and put his name in the conversation as among the most lethal players in match play.
In his case, looks are deceiving.
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“Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure,” Kuchar said. “To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world, it’s an incredible feeling.”
Mahan, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the Match Play Championship, had gone 169 holes without trailing dating to the opening round last year until Kuchar won the fourth hole of the championship with a par.
Mahan never caught up, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Every time he cut into the deficit, Kuchar answered the challenge — a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole with Mahan in tight, and a 10-foot birdie putt on the 15th with Mahan poised to cut the lead to one hole.
And he did it all with that warm smile on a day so frigid they traded golf hats for ski caps.
“He does it differently,” said Mahan, who had to get past the ultra-intense Ian Poulter in the semifinals earlier Sunday. “He’s more like a fuzzier, Peter Jacobsen kind of guy who likes to talk. He’s super competitive, there’s no doubt about it. He plays golf to win, and he works hard at it.”
In the semifinals, when the wind chill hit a low of 37 degrees with the wind, Kuchar had no trouble against Jason Day in a 4-and-3 win.
Day defeated Poulter in the consolation match, 1 up.
Kuchar moves to No. 8 in the world and picked up $1.5 million.
• Inbee Park of South Korea took advantage of overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn’s triple bogey on the last hole to secure a one-stroke win in the LPGA Thailand in Chonburi..
Jutanugarn blew a two-stroke lead on the 18th when she first had to take a drop and then missed a three-foot putt to force a playoff. The 17-year-old Thai golfer was moved to tears as the putt lipped out, while a surprised Park started celebrating in the clubhouse.
The fourth-ranked Park finished with a 67 for a 12-under 276 total.
• PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem confirmed what had been hinted at by a few players last week: The tour has informed the U.S. Golf Association and Britain’s Royal & Ancient that its membership opposes their proposed ban on the anchored stroke that has fed the popularity of long putters.
• Michele Redman won The Legends Tour’s season-opening Walgreens Charity Classic in Sun City, Ariz., beating Canada’s Lorie Kane by two strokes. Redman shot a 4-under 68 to finish at 5 under in the 36-hole event. She earned $30,000.