MOTHER’S DAY: Biggest smile in the aftermath of Matt Kuchar’s victory at The Players Championship? OK, so it’s tough to ever beat Matt Kuchar in that department, but his mother, Meg, came close.
“First time I’ve ever been here when he’s won a tournament,” she said.
OK, so she was quick to clarify that she had been there in the formative golf years, for junior wins and the like, but for the big stuff – marquee amateur and PGA Tour material? Nope, Sunday’s triumph at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, only miles from her home, was the first.
Not that she hasn’t tried, because Meg has traveled with husband Pete to many tournaments throughout the U.S. and several foreign countries. But the Honda Classic (2002), Turning Stone (2009), and Barclays (2010) just weren’t part of their itineraries. Regretfully so, too, though to be honest, Meg will tell you it hurts most to have missed Matt’s victory at the 1997 U.S. Amateur.
“I couldn’t go. I had to perform a wedding ceremony,” she said.
All right, that earned her a quizzical look and Meg Kuchar laughed. She explained that she had just become a notary public and darned if she hadn’t been contacted for a wedding.
“Only one I ever did, but it was the wrong time to do it,” she laughed.
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TOUGH VENUE: Players are starting to pay attention to a very curious aspect to The Players Championship. While up and down the PGA Tour schedule you have venues where various players have consistently played well – Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods at Augusta National, Stuart Appleby at The Plantation Course, Steve Stricker at TPC Deere Run, Ernie Els at Waialae CC, Davis Love at Harbour Town – you don’t get that at The Players Championship.
In most cases, you get a player with two or three really good tournaments, mixed in with a handful of pedestrian ones. Padraig Harrington twice has finished second, but five times he’s missed the cut. Justin Leonard has a win, but no other finish inside the top 20. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both have a win and one other bid that was close, but no other threats. Davis Love owns two wins and four other top 10s, but 10 times he’s failed to play 72 holes.
“Maybe that’s the genius of the golf course or maybe that’s the flaw of the golf course,” Geoff Ogilvy said.
He wasn’t saying it’s right or wrong, but Ogilvy offered that TPC Sawgrass is different than two courses he cherishes – Royal Melbourne in his native Australia and Augusta National.
“I grew up at Royal Melbourne, where on the greens there’s the good side and a bad side to miss and you can give up birdie and get the easy par. At Augusta you can do that all day,” he said. “You can give up making birdie at every hole and if you do that, you can make par on every hole, if you want. Here (at TPC Sawgrass), you can’t do that. There’s no relatively easy up-and-down, no ‘smart’ miss.”
Ogilvy insisted, however, that TPC Sawgrass isn’t an overly difficult course.
“It’s not as hard as something like Oakmont. Oakmont is just really hard, shot after hard shot.”
It’s just that TPC Sawgrass presents a series of confounding greens that afford you no way to miss them without having a near impossible up-and-down.
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EXPENSIVE MISS: Whether Rickie Fowler would have had a chance to win or not had he made that birdie putt at 18, we’ll never know. But we do know this: it was a $399,000 miss.
Had he made it to finish alone in second, the prize worth $1,026,000. But when he missed, Fowler shared second with three others, earning “only” $627,000.
Of course, you could do that a half-dozen times up and down the leaderboard on Sunday. One other costly finish Sunday belonged to Spencer Levin. Having torn it up with six birdies between holes 9-16, Levin was 7 under, and had he finished there he would have earned a three-way tie of 10th and $237,600.
But Levin snap-hooked his drive into the water, made double, and at 5 under he shared 15th with seven others, earning $137,987, meaning it was about a $100,000 double-bogey.
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SCORING: Some scoring oddities, highlights, and lowlights at TPC Sawgrass:
• Ben Curtis and Luke Donald were the most efficient at the 16-17-18 closing stretch, each going bogey-free and 6 under.
• Remember Rickie Fowler missing that shortish birdie putt at 18 on Sunday? It still was an improvement, for he had bogeyed that hole each of the first three days.
• Hope you had Josh Teater in your pool to play the 16th best, because he had an eagle and three birdies.
• They weren’t quite that good, but four others did birdie the 16th each of the four days – Jhonattan Vegas, Peter Hanson, Ian Poulter, and Spencer Levin.
• Then again, be gentle when you talk about the 16th with Nick Watney, because he didn’t birdie it at all and played it in 1 over.
• Martin Laird birdied the par-5 ninth all four days.
• Ultimae feast or famine at the par-5 second for Brian Harman. He did have two eagles, but he also bogeyed it twice.
• You might have seen Lee Westwood taking motion sickness medicine from holes 7-16 Sunday. He played that 10-hole stretch in 6 over, making two doubles, five bogeys, three birdies, and no pars.
• John Rollins’ problems came at the short, but tight par-4 sixth. He played it in 4 over.
• Clearly, something about the par-4 seventh didn’t sit well with Robert Allenby. He played it 5 over.
• Moving up to the eighth, J.J. Henry rode the roughest ride – four tries, four bogeys.
• You know those double circles and double squares that grab our attention? Sung Kang piled up the most – one quad, two triples, two doubles, three eagles.