Matt Kuchar’s year could be about to get a whole lot better.
The 41-year-old shares the lead in the $7 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. He’s chasing his third win of the season. More importantly, he’s doing it on terrain that gives him the perfect preparation for next week’s Open Championship.
Kuchar returned an 8-under-par 63 at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick to sit in a four-way tie for first with Italians Edoardo Molinari and Nino Bertasio and Romain Wattel of France.
The world No. 13 won the Sony Open at the beginning of 2019 as well as the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November. He also has two runner-up finishes, in the WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play and the RBC Heritage.
“If you’re just looking at on paper and results, it’s been a great year,” Kuchar said. “It just kind of drives me to kind of fix things and get better. But right now, when it’s going well, I’m really enjoying it.
“I feel like there’s still that excitement for the game, that love for the game where when I come to a place like this, I come to the Scottish Open and I can’t wait to play here and I can’t wait for next week.”
Of course, next week is the last major of the year, the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Kuchar heads to Northern Ireland knowing he has the game to win the game’s oldest major. He came close two years ago when Jordan Spieth pipped him to the title at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar had to settle for second place. He knows his way around courses by the sea, and the Scottish Open is the perfect appetizer for his tilt at major glory next week.
“Early on in my career, probably my first 10 years, my track record at the British Open was not very good. Always loved it, but always went home scratching my head going, ‘How do I figure this out, how do I get better?’ The Scottish Open has been great for me. I enjoy coming to tournaments that are held at great courses and getting an extra chance to be competitive on links golf.”
Whether he parlays it into a win next week remains to be seen, but not many would count him out.
Not many will count Rory McIlroy out either. In fact, most will count him in since he’s heading to his favorite course, a place where he once shot a course record 61. The start of his preparation for the Open Championship amounted to a 4-under 67. It’s a score that could have been better if not for a couple of dropped shots.
“I thought I played quite nicely,” McIlroy said. “I was 4-under through seven. Made a couple bogeys around the turn on 8 and 11. But just as the wind was picking up on the back nine, I felt like I did what I needed to do. I birdied the two par 5s. It was sort of tough to get it close to the holes coming in just because the wind had picked up.
“Overall, pretty pleased with how the day went.”