2006: Johnson regains winning touch
It had been a long time since Kevin Johnson last won a Nationwide Tour event. Six years to be exact. His confidence was waning, and he was wondering if he had a future in the game.
But all of that changed July 30 at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, where he calmly two-putted the 72nd hole for his fourth consecutive round in the 60s and his first title since the 2000 Permian Basin Open.
“I haven’t been confident in a long time,” said Johnson, 39. “I’ve been awful. You miss (eight) straight cuts and a lot of things start going through your head. I was honestly questioning whether I should stay out here. It beats up on you when you’re not performing like you feel you ought to. This gives me confidence to know I don’t have to change my golf swing.”
Matt Kuchar began the final round with a one-stroke lead and looked as if he would earn his second Nationwide title this season. But a Kuchar bogey on the 13th, followed by consecutive Johnson birdies on Nos. 14-16, would make the distance too much to overcome.
“K.J. played a great round of golf,” Kuchar said. “That is what champions do. There are a few things I wish I could take back, but all in all I played good today.”
Johnson’s $90,000 check vaulted him 110 spots on the money list, from No. 139 to No. 29, thanks to a victory his family’s been longing for him to achieve.
“My oldest daughter is 6 years old so she has never seen me win a golf tournament,” Johnson said. “She just thinks I’m driving around the country playing golf tournaments.”
Now he’s winning them, too.
Right choice for Kuchar: Since Matt Kuchar’s victory May 21 at the Henrico County Open, his best finish in four tournaments was a tie for 18th.
Kuchar could have played at the PGA Tour’s U.S. Bank Championship instead of in Wichita, but thought it wise to try and better his No. 22 ranking on the Nationwide money list.
“I realize this is the place I need to be,” Kuchar said. “My attitude is, I don’t feel disappointed to be out here. I’m having a good time.”
In the end, the decision paid off thanks to Kuchar’s second-place finish, which earned him $54,000 and moved him to No. 11 on the money list.
Short shots: The purse for the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship was increased to $750,000, making the limited-field event among the circuit’s richest. After nine years on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the finale moves to The Houstonian Golf & Country Club in Richmond, Texas, this year. . . . Heavy overnight rains led to lift, clean and place rules being in effect during the first two rounds. Thunderstorms delayed the start of Round 1 by about an hour. A second delay eventually caused first-round play to be completed Friday, with 39 players still on the course when play was halted due to darkness. . . . The Wichita Open is one of four events that date to the tour’s inaugural season in 1990. . . . The cut came at 4-under 138, with a season-high and tournament-record 76 players advancing to the weekend. . . . Winner Kevin Johnson was one of five players who also played in the first Wichita Open in 1990. He finished in a tie for seventh that year. . . . Brandt Snedeker, who finished T-21, eagled the final hole of the final round for the fourth time in his past five events. The one event Snedeker didn’t finish with an eagle, he finished with a birdie. . . . Erik Compton (T-5) had his third consecutive top 10 in Wichita. . . . Steve Collins’ bogey-free streak ended at 55 holes when he bogeyed the par-3 17th.
On the tee
Next up: Xerox Classic, Aug. 7-13, Irondequoit Country Club, Rochester, N.Y. 2005 champion: Rick Price.
The buzz: Price is hoping for a copy of last year’s performance to jump start his season. He has only one top-25 finish in 17 events this season.