|Matt Kuchar shot 68, 68, 69 and 70 to win The Player’s Championship. (Keith Allison)|
“WHY ARE THEY BOOING HIM?” my wife asked while we watched the closing holes of The Players Championship. She was speaking about Matt Kuchar. Exactly. Why would anyone boo a player with a face that always seems to radiate pure joy? What’s not to like about the omni-pleasant 1997 U.S. Amateur champion?
“That’s not booing,” I answered. “They’re saying ‘Kooch, Kooch,’ his nickname.”
Kooch slipped by a twitchy, fading Kevin Na, the 54-hole leader, and outlasted the charges of Martin Laird, Zach Johnson, Ben Curtis and Rickie Fowler to win The Players Championship by two shots. It’s the biggest win of Kuchar’s 12-year pro career. His other three wins came at the Honda Classic, Turning Stone Resort Championship and The Barclays.
“I’ve very happy with what I’ve become as a golfer,” Kooch said. “Like I said, to walk down that Tunnel of Champions and know I’m part of that, it’s just an incredible feeling. I’d love to have that feeling every week.”
If Kuchar looks tall on television, it’s because he is. I noticed it at last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional. I’m fairly tall myself—6 feet 4 inches—and I remember how tall Kuchar looked when I walked near him as I crossed a fairway. He is the same height. But, trim and genial, he is not physically imposing. He did, however, demonstrate a certain grind-it-out toughness with Sunday’s huge victory.
There have been some long dry spells in a career that began with such great promise. That’s history now. Kuchar is still only 33. Maybe things will take off from here.
After a T3 at this year’s Masters and the win at TPC Sawgrass, you have to figure Kooch will contend at the majors. He tied for 14th at the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club—as an amateur. That was a long time ago. The Open returns there next month.