Matt Kuchar keeps calm before storm with 71 at British Open

Matt Kuchar-British Open AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Matt Kuchar keeps calm before storm with 71 at British Open

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Matt Kuchar keeps calm before storm with 71 at British Open

 

SOUTHPORT, England — Matt Kuchar put on a shotmaking display and now he’s going to sit back and enjoy the show. 

Kuchar, 39, put up a morning 71 in difficult Royal Birkdale condition. It may end up looking like a leading score if the day unfolds as the weatherman predicts. Kuchar finished his second round at -4 and in third place, though there is a good chance he’ll be near or atop the British Open board once the rain and 40-mph winds have passed through.

“I think that’s one of the cool things over here, whether it’s Thursday or Friday, whatever your morning round is, getting to go back to the room, put on the TV and watch the guys play in the afternoon, and particularly in tough conditions,” Kuchar said. “I think that’s kind of what we know about The Open and I think that’s what people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there. 

Kuchar continued with a trademark golly-gee grin.

Matt Kuchar says Friday was “my day” at the British Open. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

“Today is my day,” he said. “I get to kick back in the afternoon and watch the guys just try to survive is pretty much all you can do.”

Given the windy conditions, his 7-of-14 fairways hit should be an excellent number by day’s end.

“It felt like every hole was a crosswind hole.” Kuchar said. “It felt like you had to play for so much curve on the ball. The wind was so strong. It was quite a trying, challenging day.”

His 30 putts on the greens looks fairly mediocre on paper. But Kuchar appears confident of making anything inside 5 feet. So much so that caddie John Wood, who helps with longer reads, is usually charting the next day’s hole location as Kuchar mops up what others might call knee-knockers.

That consistency on the shorter putts allows Kuchar to often under-club into greens where the gentle openings leave generally easy up-and-downs. One of his lone hiccups came at the par-4 eighth where he hit a “lousy chip” and had to work for his two-putt bogey.

“They give you room in front of the greens,” he said. “I think it’s just a well-designed, very fair test of golf. And certainly a demanding test of golf.” 

According to on-site gauges, the wind peaked with a 42-mph gust as he was playing the 16th hole. Kuchar struck a perfect drive there and pulled his approach shot, setting up his third bogey of the round. While Kuchar doesn’t flight his shots low, he instead throws shots at his normal trajectory and lets the wind move the ball toward the hole. No shot was prettier than his 5-iron at the 162-yard, par-3 12th. 

“I pulled 5-iron,” he said. “And there’s a hill right of the green with nasty, weedy grass that you just don’t want to be in. So I must have aimed 30 yards left of the pin into the crowd, hit a shot, started at the crowd, and stayed at the crowd for a long time before finally the last, I’d say, 20 yards started drifting over, and ended up in the middle of the green.”

While he just missed the birdie putt, Kuchar didn’t let the miss spoil his enjoyment of the shot. Nor will the thought of what might have been affect his ability to savor watching some British Open theatrics.

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