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Opinion & Analysis

Mighty Matt Kuchar

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Matt Kuchar isn’t a fan favorite on Tour because of exuberantly combative fist pumps like we see from Tiger Woods. And he’s not a fan favorite because of dominating, record-shattering performances like we’ve seen from Rory McIlroy.

The always smiling Kuchar is a fan favorite for a much simpler reason. “Mighty Matt” genuinely loves the game of golf and is grateful for everything around him.

“This is such an amazing feeling,” Kuchar said after winning the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village this weekend. “This never gets old. To have Jack Nicklaus congratulate me is a real treat.  This is as special as it gets.”

And the Tour’s “Smiling Assassin” is proving that nice guys do finish first.

Click here to photos of the clubs Kuchar used to win the Memorial.

Kuchar hasn’t missed a single cut in 14 events this season, and only missed one cut in 22 events last year.  Since 2010 — the year he ranked first in scoring average and was the Tour’s money leader — he’s notched a Tour best 35 top-10 finishes.

Kuchar’s victory at “Jack’s Place” was his sixth career Tour win, and second of the season – including his February triumph at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.  Throw in Kuchar’s two previous victories: the The Barclays in 2010 and 2012 Players Championship, and he’s quietly building quite an impressive resume that makes it seem likely that a major championship could be next.

But not so long ago Kuchar was barely noticeable on Tour.  Two years after his rookie season, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion lost his Tour card and competed on the Nationwide Tour to regain his playing privileges. It taught Kuchar valuable lessons, the first of which was learning to deal with adversity.

“I wasn’t going to let [losing my Tour card] bother me,” Kuchar said. “I think some guys look at it as an insult. Some guys it bothers. Some guys don’t recover. I knew this is where I belonged. I was just going to say I was going to do my job down there and get back out here. So I look back at it and a lot of things came out of it.”

You never see Kuchar lose his temper on the golf course. You never see Kuchar brooding, throwing his clubs, cursing after a poor shot, or looking confused or angry or lost. You only and always see Kuchar smiling, even in the face of adversity.

Instead of becoming one of the Tour’s “whatever happened to” players, Kuchar became a model of consistency — in large part because he maintains his composure, is patient and plays smart.  As Kuchar himself once said,

“Golf will beat you up. You don’t need to help it by beating yourself up.”

During this time Kuchar also decided to overhaul his swing.

“I love that golf is strictly performance based, and I hadn’t performed well enough,” Kuchar said of going back to the Nationwide Tour.

So Kuchar worked on developing a more consistent swing he would be comfortable with and confidently rely on. A flatter one-plane swing taught by Chris O’Connell, his teacher since 2006.

Matt Kuchar Memorial Tournament Pappas TheGreekGrind 3

Today the 34-year-old’s swing is widely considered one of the most repeatable on Tour, and often draws similarities to that of Ben Hogan. And with the U.S. Open at Merion this year, the site of arguably the greatest shot in golf history — Hogan’s immortal 1-iron in 1950 — Kuchar hopes the similarities run even deeper. Hogan was also 34-years old when he won his first major.

But perhaps the greatest lesson that came out of Kuchar’s time on the Nationwide Tour was learning just how much he loves the game and how grateful he is for all it’s given him.

“I love the game,” Kuchar said in a 2010 press conference. I love practicing. I love everything about it. I love having chances. And even when the chances don’t go your way, I think it makes you tougher, makes you stronger.  If you don’t get beaten up by it, if you keep on stepping forward, all those close calls, they’re going to make you better for opportunities in the future. It’s fun. I have a great time out here. I enjoy life as a professional golfer. I think it’s a great life. And I feel awfully fortunate.”

Matt Kuchar Memorial Tournament Pappas TheGreekGrind 1

Sunday evening after the Memorial Kuchar candidly admitted there were a couple things missing from his pedigree when the season began. One was winning multiple times in a season. He can check that off his list. The other? A major championship.

Kuchar is known for smiling big and often, and for good reason.  But if he can win the U.S. Open in two weeks at Merion, Kuchar will also be known for winning big and often.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Anita Southwell

    Jun 12, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Matt Kuchar is a jolly player. He is also a polite man. As a golfer he is also successful person. In this week he has won the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. All the best.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Jun 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    “Who wouldn’t be happy making millions of dollars playing golf every week. I know I would!”

    Some folks aren’t, believe you me. The pressure, the physical,emotional and intellectual demands to keep up, the vagaries of the game that spin a putt out of the hole and bound a ball into the rough…these add up. What Kuchar has is an inner peace (hackneyed, I know) that allows him to pass through difficult runs. Having wealthy parents from the start probably helped, too.

  3. Troy Vayanos

    Jun 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    You’re spot on Pete, Kuchar’s demeanour on tour is second to none. He’s living the dream life for most of us and it shows on his face.

    Who wouldn’t be happy making millions of dollars playing golf every week. I know I would!

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

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Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

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