Matt Kuchar stays hot, in contention again after Round 2 of Phoenix Open

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Matt Kuchar stays hot, in contention again after Round 2 of Phoenix Open

PGA Tour

Matt Kuchar stays hot, in contention again after Round 2 of Phoenix Open

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The roar coming off the 18th green sounded normal at first. Loud cheers for a tight approach. After a second or two, it was clear to all in the vicinity who was responsible.

“KOOOOOOOOOOOOOCH.”

That would be Matt Kuchar, who stuffed his second shot to six feet and drained the birdie putt as the majority of fans were heading for the exits late Friday afternoon in Round 2 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Kuchar finished the day with back-to-back birdies and shot 6-under 65. That got him to 10-under for the week and T-4 overall, just three shots back of solo leader Rickie Fowler going into the weekend.

After a disappointing season that didn’t include a spot in the Tour Championship, Kuchar is back in business in a big way.

“I think a change in the calendar year made all the difference,” caddie John Wood said. “We got off to a rough start last year and we were chasing all year long. It’s tough to play when you’re chasing. I think that win at Mayakoba sort of relaxed him. Even before that I think it’s like, OK, we’re starting over now. Everybody’s tied. … Getting off to a great start now makes the year a lot easier to play.”

Wood wasn’t on the bag when Kuchar won for the first time in more than four years at the Mayakoba Classic in June. Bad luck for a pre-approved week off. But he was there less than two months later, at the Sony Open in Hawaii, when Kuchar did it again and blew past the field to win at 22-under.

It was Kuchar’s ninth career Tour win and the first with Wood, who joined in 2015 after years of working for Hunter Mahan.

“Any win anywhere with anybody is special. It’s hard to win out there,” Wood said. “Just doing that and seeing the whole family out there with his boys and (wife Sybi) and everything, it was very meaningful for sure. It’s always meaningful to get any win, but your first with a new player is – I don’t want to say it’s a relief, but it’s like, ‘Yes. Here we go now.'”

With two wins over his last four starts, Kuchar is right there yet again entering the weekend. The 40-year-old made seven birdies with just one bogey Friday at a course he’s owned in recent years.

He was T-5 in 2018 and T-9 the year before that, with a total of three top-10 finishes in nine starts.

Now he enters the weekend No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings with a chance to grab yet another win in Scottsdale after a season he’d like to forget.

“Obviously he’s gaining a lot of confidence every day,” Wood said. “He’s playing great.”

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