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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

Slow players: step aside! A reflection on pace of play by a fed-up golfer

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I’m just gonna say it: You are more than likely, in my opinion, a slow player.

This has nothing to do with handicap, riding vs. walking, or (most likely) the course—it’s about attitude and habits.

Where does this blanket statement come from, you might ask. Well, I consider myself a quick player. Alone and walking on a normal-length (6,500-6,800 yard) course, I can get around in about two hours with nobody in front of me—easily. I don’t run, I walk at a normal pace with intent to get to my ball see what needs to be done, and I hit the shot. When playing alone in a cart, I make it around in under an hour-and-a-half regularly, which makes for either an early day or 36 holes before 10 a.m.

Now before going any further, I need to make a few things clear

  • I’m not an anti-social curmudgeon who gets no pleasure from playing golf with others. I actually prefer to play with other people and talk about golf and whatever else is going on.
  • I’m NOT a golf snob. I mean in some ways I can be, but on the other hand, I’ll take a cart, drink beers, blast music, have fun, pick up short ones, and pay little attention to score. It all depends on the situation.
  • I’m still there to play well. Playing fast and playing well are NOT mutually exclusive. The two can be easily achieved during the same round of golf. Too many people going over too many things is only creating more problems…but I’ll get to that.

So where does this all begin? Like many things, on the putting green before an early round of golf. It is my personal belief that if you are one of the first groups off for the day, you should play in around 3-3.5 hours max. Regardless of handicap, it should be one of those “unwritten” rules of golf—like not randomly yelling in someone’s backswing or walking through someone’s line. I have no problem with a round taking more than four hours at 2 p.m. on a busy Saturday afternoon in July when the course is packed—because the chance of me being out then is pretty close to zero anyway. It’s about the golf course setting expectations with the players especially early in the day and making sure that players understand there are expectations. A marshal tip-toeing around a slow group instead of just asking then to let faster groups play through is the bane of my golfing existence.

Based on previous life experience, it’s actually very similar (but in a weird way opposite) to the restaurant business. A group at a table should never just sit around on a Friday or Saturday night at prime time when there is a lineup, and they have already finished their meal and paid the check. That table is real estate, and if you want to occupy that space, you better keep paying, it’s inconsiderate to the next guests waiting and to the servers that make money from the people they seat—it’s called the restaurant business for a reason. If you want to go on a quiet lunch date and sit and chat with a friend when there are plenty of empty tables, by all means, take your sweet time (and hopefully tip generously), but at the end of the day, it’s about being aware of the situation.

On a wide-open course with everyone behind you, as a golfer, you should be mindful that you should play quickly. If its 7 a.m. and the group behind has been waiting in the fairway for five minutes while you plumbob that six-footer for triple with nothing on the line, maybe it’s time to move to the next tee, or be mindful and let the group behind play through. Don’t think for a second I’m just playing with a bunch of scratch golfers either. I play with golfers of all skill levels, and when I play with beginners I always make sure to politely explain any etiquette in a nice way, and if we “fall behind” to let anyone waiting to play through—it’s common courtesy. Usually, these rounds are played later in the day when we can take our time but if a group comes up we let them on their way as soon as possible.

With so much talk about golf in the UK thanks to The Open Championship, it’s crazy to me how the culture of golf is so different in North America where golf is meant to be social, enjoy the day, take your time, a place to do business (please just pull my hair out now), etc. While in the UK, it’s about playing for score and socializing after: that’s the reason for the 19th hole in the first place. They often employ match play to keep pace up vs. putting everything out too. Golf was never meant to be a full-day event. It’s a game to be played and then one with your day.

I realize we have a problem and instead of just complaining about it, I want to make some simple suggestions for helping things move along a little faster

  • If you are going to use a distance-measuring device have it ready.
  • If you for sure lost a ball, don’t waste time: just drop one—on that note if you are on the other side of the hole, don’t walk across to help your friend look in three inches of grass, play up to the green.
  • Place your bag, or drive your cart to where you will be walking after you finish the hole. It was one of the first things I was taught as a junior and it still amazes me how many people leave their clubs at the front of the green or opposite side of where they will be walking next.
  • Play from the proper tees!!!! I shouldn’t have to explain this.
  • If you are playing with a friend, try match play or Stableford—it’s amazing how this can speed up play.

Golf should never be an all-day activity! If you choose to play early, be mindful of the fact that you hold the power to keep the course on time for the rest of the day. Be respectful of the other players on the course who might want to play quicker—let them through. If you want to be slower and you know it’s going to be a social outing, try to pick a more appropriate time of day to play—like late afternoon.

We all play golf for different reasons but be honest with yourself about your reasons and hopefully, we can all get along out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Talking about slow play

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Ryan has guest Rob Miller, from the Two Guys Talking Golf podcast, to talk about slow play. They debate on how fast is fast, how much time should 18 holes take, and the type of players who can play fast and slow.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

If Jurassic Park had a golf course, this would be it

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I have had the good fortune of playing some unbelievably awesome tracks in my time—places like Cypress Point, Olympic, Sahalee, LACC, Riviera, and a bunch of others.

However, the Bad Little 9 is the most fun golf course I have ever played…period.

Imagine standing on the first tee of a 975-yard track and praying to God almighty you finish with all your golf balls, your confidence, and more importantly, your soul. Imagine, again, for example, standing on a 75-yard par 3 with NOWHERE to hit it beyond an eight-foot circle around the flag, where any miss buries you in a pot bunker or down into a gully of TIGHTLY mown grass.

Sound fun?

I have played the BL9 twice at this point, with the first time being on a Challenge Day in November. It was cold, windy and playing as tough as it can. My playing partners Chris N., Tony C., and I barely made it out alive. I made four pars that day—shot 40—and played well. Do the math, that’s 13 over in five holes on a course where the longest hole is 140 yards.

It’s a golf course that makes zero sense: it’s punishing, it’s unfair, it’s crazy private, and on “Challenge Day,” it’s un-gettable even for the best players in the world. Rumor has it that there is an outstanding bet on Challenge Day for $1,000 cash to the individual that breaks par. That money is still yet to be paid to anyone…keep in mind Scottsdale National has PXG staff playing and practicing there allllll the time. To my knowledge, James Hahn has the lowest score ever at one over. That round apparently had multiple 20-foot par putts.

The Jackson/Kahn team which is responsible for the two big courses at Scottsdale National (Land Mine and The Other Course) were tasked with a challenge by Mr. Parsons: create a 9-hole course with ZERO rules. Take all conventional wisdom out of it and create an experience for the members that they will NEVER forget.

In this video, you will get a little context as to how it came together straight from the horse’s mouth, so I won’t get into that here.

I will end with this before you get into the video.

The Bad Little 9 sits in a very exclusive club in North Scottsdale, most will never see it. HOWEVER, what the idea of it represents is a potential way into bringing more people into the game, making it more accessible, saving real estate, playing in less time and having an experience. Hell, YouTube made short-form content a necessity in our culture. Perhaps the idea behind the Bad Little 9 will inspire short form golf?

I’m in.

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