If the last half decade has shown it’s harder than ever to win on the PGA Tour thanks to an influx of young, heavy-hitting talent, Matt Kuchar just proved accuracy and experience still count for something.
The 40-year-old veteran made a short par putt on 18 to secure a one-shot win at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where Kuchar’s tee-to-green game held up down the stretch.
Kuchar carried a four-shot lead into the final round and shot 2-under 69, capping a 22-under 262 on the week at El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort.
It’s his eighth career win and first since the 2014 RBC Heritage. During that winless stretch he recorded 33 top-10 finishes and came painfully close to the elusive first career major with a runner-up finish at the 2017 British Open.
“I’m awfully excited,” Kuchar said. “My 2018 wasn’t what I wanted, but this is certainly a high note. This is an amazing thing to get a win in Mexico, to go from ‘hola’ to ‘aloha.’ Going to Hawaii, can’t wait to go … I am so excited for that.”
Kuchar was alluding to his return to the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, as he becomes the fourth player in his 40s to qualify for Maui this year alongside Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter.
The rest of the field skews much younger and includes recent winners such as Cameron Champ (23), Bryson DeChambeau (25) and Xander Schauffele (25).
Champ, a rookie who averaged 325.1 yards off the tee in Mexico, was in contention for most of the week and finished T-10 at 16 under. Danny Lee missed a lengthy birdie putt on 18 that cost him a shot at a playoff and finished second at 21 under. J.J. Spaun and Richy Werenski were T-3 at 19 under.
Kuchar was 35 yards shorter than Champ on average, but he was in the fairway more than 80 percent of the time and finished with just four bogeys on the week. Even when it seems like youth and power are the only keys to victory on today’s Tour, we’re reminded there’s still another way. Even if it’s harder than it used to be.
It was a triumphant finish to a rough year for Kuchar, who failed to qualify for the Tour Championship and missed the cut in two of the four majors (U.S. Open, PGA Championship) for the first time since 2009. He was hoping for another go on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad but ended up in Paris as a vice-captain instead, though one wonders if his game was better suited for Le Golf National than a few other qualifiers.
Kuchar figures he still has a few good years left to pursue a major title and add to his legacy, but he knows it won’t be an easy road.
“I’ve thought, man, kids are getting younger and stronger and it’s more and more challenging for a guy that plays my style of golf to win and win multiple times,” Kuchar said. “It’s definitely crossed my mind on both sides. I still love playing, I still love being out here, I love the challenge of it. I don’t see a point in time of me ever putting the sticks away. I love the game of golf, and it’s cool that my family is into it, so I can continue going for the long haul, I’m sure.”
The work still pays well – Kuchar surpassed $45 million in career earnings with the win, more than any other player without a major title. That’s still the only big hole on his resume, and he looks poised to give it a better run in 2019 after a throwback victory in Mexico. Gwk