Golf Monthly Staff Writer Nick Bonfield assessed Matt Kuchar's chances of claiming a first major championship in the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National
Over the last few years, Matt Kuchar has quietly worked his way up the world rankings, fulfilled the great promise he displayed as an amateur and transformed himself into one of the most consistent performers in the world game.
Vindication of such a statement comes with a brief look at his recent stats: he’s seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking, he’s notched six top 10s in nine events this season and he currently ranks 15th in the FedEx Cup. Impressively, he hasn’t finished outside the top 15 in the final standings since 2009.
Last week in Houston, he hit more greens than in any other tournament in his PGA Tour career, and complemented his immense tee-to-green game with ominously good putting statistics. Indeed, he ranked 13th in Strokes Gained Putting and 5th in Putts Per Greens in Regulation.
Of course, one criticism that will be leveled at Kuchar – especially after the last two weeks – pertains to his constutution and his ability to close out tournaments.
He did, after all, lose the 54-hole lead at the Valero Texas Open and miss out to Matt Jones at the Shell Houston Open despite posessing a one-shot lead standing on the 72nd tee.
That said, I’d prefer to take a glass-half-full attitude towards his recent performances. Given his PGA Tour victory portfolio – which includes big events like the Memorial and the Players Championship – I’m prepared to dismiss his final-round collapse at the Valero as anomolous. I don’t see how you can criticise a person’s mental disposition or pedigree when they have those tournaments as collateral to counter any such argument.
And yes, he should have closed out the Shell Houston Open, but his up-and-down from 70 yards to force a play-off was extremely impressive – especially given what preceded it – and, despite the skill involved in Jones’ chip shot, only a deluded individual would proclaim luck didn’t play a significant part.
I know others will say his left-to-right shot shape will preclude him from challenging on a golf course made for those with a right to left ball flight, but Kuchar has contended at Augusta before. His record over the past four years – two top 25s and two top 10s (in 2012, where he came very close, and 2013) – bears testament to that.
This year’s Masters Tournament is wide open, even more so since Tiger Woods’ withdrawal, but Kuchar is boasts a calm demeanour, a good Augusta record, considerable experience and current form – a deadly combination in any tournament.