Kuchar outlasts Mahan to win WGC-Accenture Match Play
Matt Kuchar was able to take down Jason Day and followed that up by defeating defending champion Hunter Mahan in the final on Sunday to claim the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The win gives Kuchar an incredible 15-3 record at this event, and improves his overall singles match play record to 15-6 in his professional career.
Kuchar played 32 holes on Sunday against Day and Mahan, and outside of two holes early against Day, he never fell behind in either match. Perhaps even more impressively, on a day when the conditions were tough with cold weather and heavy wind, Kuchar was 1-under par while his opponents combined to shoot 6-over. There were times, against Mahan in particular, when it looked like Kuchar would relinquish control but it never came to fruition. The turning point in the final match came on the 17th hole. With Mahan cutting Kuchar’s lead to just one hole, both players drove their balls into the bunker on the right hand side of the fairway. Mahan’s ball was sitting down in the sand, while Kuchar’s was in pretty much the best spot it could possibly be. After Mahan’s approach landed in the shrubs, Kuchar stepped up and stuck one to a few feet, allowing him to take home the Walter Hagen Cup.
Much like my regular recaps, I’m not going to give you a shot-by-shot breakdown of the five-day event, as there really isn’t much point in that. Below are my general thoughts on the event as a whole, and what we can expect to see going forward.
Ritz-Carlton GC as the host course
Obviously there will be tons of focus on the snow delay that basically wiped out the entire first day, and some of day two. Some are calling for the tournament to be moved from the area seeing as how there has been snow activity in two of the last three years, and there are definitely reasons to support that. First off, the players can’t stand the place. Last year, Golf World polled 81 current players on the PGA Tour, asking them to rank their favourite and least favourite courses, with Dove Mountain ranking in as the second-most hated course, ahead of only Liberty National. Obviously the field didn’t suffer, as only Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker were absent from the top-64 players in the world, but you’d have to think it’d make the players happy if they switched the venue. Secondly, for a “world” match play event, it’s kind of ridiculous that it’s only been held outside of the United States once. Perhaps a trip to a world-renowned course like Royal Melbourne or Royal County Down would give the event a shot in the arm.
Of course, there are things blocking the moving of the event. Ritz-Carlton is slated to host the event next year, and you’d think that even with the weather-related issues, they’re going to want to keep hosting the event. That might be a moot point if Accenture, the title sponsor of the event, decides to get involved, but it is something to think about before suggesting that the event will be moved. Also, you know that the PGA Tour will want to keep the event within the regular broadcast window, so even though it’s a WGC event, the PGA Tour will probably flex their muscle in this regard, making a move to a place like Royal Melbourne or Royal County Down unlikely.
I think what ends up happening is that the event will be moved in 2015, but those hoping that it ventures outside of the U.S. will likely be upset, as the PGA Tour will ultimately get their way.
What’s wrong with Dustin Johnson?
People are going to start asking about Dustin Johnson, and the rumblings have already started about his relationship with Paulina Gretzky being the cause of his struggles since winning at Kapalua. It’s all eerily reminiscent of the nonsense being spouted about Rory McIlroy’s struggles in 2012 and linking them to his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Of course, McIlroy ended up being just fine and while I’m not comparing Johnson to McIlroy in terms of his skill level, people need to be logical about the kind of player Johnson is. He’s always been a streaky player, as evidenced by his record after all of his previous wins:
- After 2008 Turning Stone: T15, MC, MC, T11
- After 2009 Pebble: 10th, 1st round WGC knockout, T35, MC
- After 2010 Pebble: 1st round WGC knockout, T56, MC, T40
- After 2010 BMW: T22, T9, 3rd
- After 2011 Barclays: T42, T65, T23, MC
- After 2012 St. Jude: MC, T44, T33, T9
Yes, he’s struggling. Yes, he’s switched out every club in his bag except his driver in the last two weeks. Yes, he lost to Alex Noren in the first round of the match play this week, but this is something that we’ve seen in the past. It’s difficult to follow up a win on the PGA Tour, especially when you’re as streaky as Dustin Johnson.
Rory and Tiger
Obviously a big part of the tournament was the first round eliminations of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. I don’t have much to say about either player going out early to be honest, but as usual when a top player goes out early at this thing, there’s standard shock and overreaction. Match play, at its core, is a crap shoot. When you get 64 of the best players in the world together and pit them head-to-head in match play, anything can happen. For McIlroy, it’s only the second event he’s played in this year, and the second with his new Nike clubs. He’s a little rusty, but much like last season, he’s going to be just fine. The GIF below pretty much summed up his day on Thursday. After having to play a shot left-handed just to get into the bunker, the world number one flared his next shot into a bed of cacti.
As it relates to Woods, his match with Charles Howell was one of the last to get underway on Thursday, and there was some discussion as to why Woods didn’t push for the match to be stopped when they were given the option on the 16th tee due to darkness. At that point, Howell was 2-up and it was suggested that considering Woods had never lost a single round against Howell that it’d be a good idea to let Howell sleep on the lead and think about closing him out. The problem, as Woods pointed out to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, was that he was actually playing quite well. The Woods/Howell group was the only first round match-up to go bogey-free, and Woods thought he had a chance to take it with how well he was playing, but Howell simply outplayed him. Much like McIlroy, there isn’t much to worry about here with Woods, but let’s knock it off with the talk about Woods not being a good match play player. With the loss to Howell, Woods’ record in match play events dropped to 44-14-2, which isn’t too bad.
One last note on Woods: his 14 losses in single match play events have come against 13 different players, losing twice to Nick O’Hern. His record against those players while in the same stroke play event? 3005-1142-381, or a 66.3 winning percentage. Full results below:
- vs. Constantino Rocca: 52-11-3
- vs. Mark O’Meara: 313-104-33
- vs. Jeff Maggert: 287-118-53
- vs. Darren Clarke: 244-98-32
- vs. Peter O’Malley: 84-27-17
- vs. Nick O’Hern: 162-37-20
- vs. Retief Goosen: 304-158-38
- vs. Chad Campbell: 252-90-30
- vs. Mike Weir: 383-136-54
- vs. Tim Clark: 239-81-23
- vs. Thomas Bjorn: 227-79-21
- vs. Nick Watney: 174-96-20
- vs. Charles Howell III: 284-107-37
GIFs of the week
First, Graeme McDowell can’t handle the toss from Alex Noren:
Secondly, the GIF probably won’t do it justice, but Ian Poulter’s 39-foot snake putt against Steve Stricker on Saturday was ridiculous. It’s tough to explain the level of difficulty involved in hitting one of these, but suffice to say, it’s high.
Other notes on the event
- With the win by Kuchar, Americans have now won the first eight PGA Tour events of 2013.
- Do you think Mickelson felt bad about pulling out of the event when he saw how much it snowed? Didn’t think so.
- Jason Day ended up defeating Ian Poulter in the consolation round on Sunday, although it was pretty much never shown on TV by the NBC crew.
- Before the Golf Channel switched off of their coverage on Sunday, Kelly Tilghman referred to Kuchar as the “assassin behind the smile”. I know Tilghman takes hyperbole to a new level, but good god, that’s awful. The game of golf would be a lot better off if those who covered it stopped trying to make it seem like more than a bunch of guys whacking a white ball around a field.
- Lastly, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced during the broadcast that the PGA Tour doesn’t believe that the anchored putting ban, set to be put in place by the USGA and R&A, is the right path to go down. The fact that he announced this during the event is unbelievable, but I’ll have some more thoughts on that later.