Each birdie slap in the face for Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson at Zurich

AVONDALE, LA - APRIL 27: Matt Kuchar reacts to their birdie putt with Bubba Watson on the 15th hole during the second round of the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana on April 27, 2018 in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Rob Carr/Getty Images

Each birdie slap in the face for Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson at Zurich

PGA Tour

Each birdie slap in the face for Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson at Zurich

AVONDALE, La. – Since high-fives and fist bumps are sort of played out as far as team golf celebrations go, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson are trying something different this week at the Zurich Classic.

They’re slapping each other in the face after birdies.

“Everybody has got something,” Kuchar said. “Some sort of handshake, some sort of fist bump, some sort of tap on the hiney. I figured this was a good opportunity for me to slap Bubba in the face. Everybody wants to do that, and I talked him into it.”

 

The bold strategy paid off Friday. Kuchar and Watson were in danger of missing the cut after a 4-under 68 in Thursday’s best ball, but they bounced back with a 5-under 67 in Round 2 alternate shot at TPC Louisiana. It’s pretty rare to see a team go lower in alternate shot than best ball since the format is much more difficult, but the duo pulled it off to move into contention entering the weekend.

“Obviously we can make birdies and yesterday sucked, but we thought this was going to be our best format,” Watson said. “We thought we could keep it under control and keep the ball in play.”

This is a competitive event, but players are clearly enjoying themselves more than usual compared to a regular 72-hole stroke play tournament. Kuchar was supposed to play with Dustin Johnson last year, but Johnson’s back injury before the Masters meant it was a no go. Kuchar’s caddie, John Wood, jokingly told Johnson that he owed him for the lost wages later in the year.

Watson called Kuchar last December to recruit him for the 2018 installment, and they both figured they’d be a tough team to beat given their contrasting styles. Watson’s driving ability and Kuchar’s stellar short game came to fruition Friday. So did their eccentric personalities, in the form of two grown men slapping each other in the face throughout the afternoon.

Watson said it gets them fired up to try and make more birdies. Whatever works.

“What was sad about yesterday was we missed so many putts,” Kuchar said. “I was hoping to have a bruise at the end on my face, you know, but we missed so many putts. So today we made putts and hit some quality shots, so hopefully we’ll have a bruise tomorrow when we get done.”

The duo was four shots back of leaders Michael Kim and Andrew Putnam on Friday afternoon, well within striking distance. Maybe this whole slapping thing will really take off.

“Oh for sure, yeah,” Watson said. “Punch him in the face. If we ever make an eagle it’s a double slap, but we haven’t made an eagle yet.”

Also unique to this event is the walk-up music players get to pick for the first tee shot. Kuchar and Watson have kept theirs under wraps, but it sounds like they’ve got something good in store as they look to make another big move in Saturday’s Round 3 best ball.

“You guys just enjoy tomorrow,” Kuchar said. “I can’t wait.”

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