Each time Matt Kuchar was challenged during the final round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, the former U.S. Amateur champion responded with the kind of impeccable golf that wins trophies.
Kuchar, an easy-going and talented Georgian, fired a closing 4-under-par 68 at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 2, and won his sixth career PGA Tour title by two strokes over plucky Kevin Chappell. Kuchar completed 72 holes in 12-under-par 276 and registered his first multiple-win season since turning professional in 1999. Kuchar had won the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.
“Great golf breeds more great golf,” Kuchar said. “Winning tournaments breeds winning more tournaments. Anytime you can get comfortable playing in that final group, finishing off a tournament, winning a tournament is a huge amount of confidence.”
Just one week after a disappointing loss at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Kuchar, 35, never wavered amid breezy conditions at Muirfield Village that befuddled most of the field, including defending champion and No. 1 player in the world Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion never got untracked. He suffered two triple-bogeys in the same tournament for the first time since 1997 and wound up with the second-highest tournament score in his career at 8-over 296.
“It happens. It happens to us all,” Woods said. “It was just a bad week. Go home next week and practice.”
Kuchar began the final round with a two-stroke lead and immediately showed what kind of game he had brought to the golf course when he converted a 20-footer for birdie. Only twice did his lead dip to less than two shots. Fellow Americans Chappel and Kyle Stanley made good runs at him, the latter after running off four birdies in a five-hole stretch to end the front nine. Stanley’s bid ended, however, when he bogeyed the par-5 11th, and he ended up third after 71-281. Scott Stallings and Bill Haas tied for fourth at 282.
Playing alongside Kuchar, Chappell got in gear late to make it interesting. Winless on the PGA Tour, Chappell birdied three of his last four holes. Kuchar stayed ahead with some steely golf. He missed his only fairway of the day at the 17th and needed a five-footer for par to stay two ahead.
On the famed par-4 home hole, Chappell – who closed with 68 and played his last 25 holes without a bogey – stuffed his approach for a sure birdie. Kuchar needed two putts from 20 feet to win, but he judged the right-to-left birdie try perfectly, and when the ball rolled neatly into the cup, Kuchar raised his first in triumph.
"His bad shots hit greens. And he's really good with the putter," Chappell said. "And he just doesn't make very many mistakes.”
“There at the end, it got scary,” Kuchar said. “He (Chappell) made a great run.”
After the final putt dropped, Kuchar’s 3-year-old son exchanged a high-five with Tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus, who was seated greenside. Soon after, Kuchar received his just reward, a congratulatory handshake from the Golden Bear.
"To walk off the green and to greet Mr. Nicklaus and have him congratulate me, that's something I'll certainly never forget," he said.