American Matt Kuchar defeated Hunter Mahan 2 & 1 in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Course in Marana, Arizona. Australian Jason Day defeated Englishman Ian Poulter in the consolation match 1-up. With this victory, Kuchar earns $1.500,000 and 550 FedExCup points and adds another feather in his cap as he pairs this win in the last nine months with his victory at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Kuchar, it was told to us on the telecast on the weekend, “won too fast” with his victory at the 2002 Honda Classic. After his victory he tried to adjust his game to chase Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and other and it almost made him give it up. Kuchar refocused his game to what he does best and starting with 2009 Turning Stone Resort Championship, he found a way to win again. He backed that up with a FedExCup Playoff victory at the 2010 Barclays and stepped up one more level last year by winning THE PLAYERS Championship. Kuchar, like fine wine, is getting better with age and if this string of victories is any indication, we should be seeing him in the winner’s circle at a major sooner than later. The FedExCup playoff win, THE PLAYERS Championship and the WGC-Match Play all have one thing in common: the best fields in golf. Kuchar’s next step is taking that level of play to winning a major. Fantasy owners should be very excited that Kuchar has now added winning early in the season to his resume and should also looking forward to the big events that stand in front of him in 2013.
Ah, match play. How we don’t love you so. One bad round or one bad nine holes is all it takes to send the best players in the world packing their bags. Throw in a weather delay with some snow, cold temperatures and you have the perfect recipe for a wacky week. We learned that the seeds don’t mean anything. We learned that Ryder Cup propensity also doesn’t mean anything. The only U.S. winners at Medinah in singles, the law firm of Johnson, Johnson and Dufner, all were bounced in the first round. Heck, Hunter Mahan was left off the team and he was runner-up on Sunday! It was fun to watch, sure, but I’m glad there is only one match play tournament per year. Grab yer OWGR points and grab yer cash and let’s get back to tournament play next week at the Honda!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar was the sixth all-American final in the 15 years of this tournament. The last all-American final was Tiger Woods versus Stewart Cink in 2008.
Matt Kuchar is now 15-3 lifetime in this event. Hunter Mahan, last year’s champion, is 15-5. I would write that down if I were you. In pen. Or marker.
Consolation winner Jason Day is now 8-3 and his opponent, Ian Poulter, is 22-11.
Occam’s Razor and all that for next year’s brackets!
Matt Kuchar, No. 23 in the world, is now the fifth-lowest ranked player to win this event. Only No. 91 Steve Stricker (2001), No. 65 Kevin Sutherland (2002), No. 53 Geoff Ogilvy (2006) and No. 25 Jeff Maggert (1999). How Stricker got into an event where they only allow the “top 64 players’ in is a mystery that only Rob Bolton can solve!
The last two years Kuchar was knocked out by the eventual winner. In 2011 he was defeated by Luke Donald in the semi-finals and last year Mahan clipped him in the quarter-finals.
Kuchar never saw the 18th hole this week. I guess that’s pretty good!
Kuchar joins Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods as the only players to back up their PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP with a WGC event. Strong company that.
In eighth events to start 2013, all eight winners have been Americans.
The eight winners on TOUR have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) and now Kuchar (34). We’re off to a balanced start here in 2013 as the Youth (30 and under), the Middle (30 to 40) and the Old (40-plus) are closely packed together.
Here were the last 16 standing and what we learned about them:
Runner-Up: Hunter Mahan, the 2012 champion, valiantly tried to defend his title but ran out of gas late on Sunday. Mahan has gotten off to a very solid start in 2013 and this week just confirms that when he can get his short game going, he can be a menace week in and week out on TOUR. He adds this runner-up finish to T15, T16, T16 and T8 in his last four starts. It was tiresome to hear a million times how he was left off the Ryder Cup team last year but Mahan has shown that’s he not feeling sorry for himself.
Third Place: Jason Day is getting close. If he’s in your season-long game in 2013, you should be excited as the Aussie is probing closer and closer to breaking through. Only 25, Day has now hit the top 10 for the third time in four events. DING DING! ALL ABOARD!
Fourth Place: Ian Poulter has written his name into the annals of match play for the foreseeable future with another top-four finish this year. He’s won the Volvo Match Play; he’s won a billion singles matches at the Ryder Cup; he’s won this event. He took six weeks off before teeing it up this week and it didn’t bother him one bit. I swung and missed on him. I won’t make the same mistake next year.
Graeme McDowell: After being knocked out in first round in three of the last four WGC-Match Play events, McDowell was eliminated 1-up by Jason Day in the Jones bracket final. McDowell teed it up at Riviera last week and MC after making only three birdies but it was that warm-up that helped him to T5 this week. Here’s how weird match play can be: McDowell entered the tournament as a No. 5 seed. He defeated No. 12 Harrington, No. 13 Noren and No. 16 Lowry before losing to No. 11 Day. This was his best finish ever in this event in seven events so somewhat of a surprise for me.
Robert Garrigus: I was really high on him coming into the week and he met my expectations. The only thing I projected correctly this week was that Garrigus would get to and lose the Ben Hogan bracket final to Matt Kuchar. Garrigus has been playing very solid golf this season and has shown he enjoys playing desert golf. His worst finish in five events this year is T22. Buy! Buy! Buy!
Webb Simpson: Playing in only his second WGC-MP tourney, Simpson shook off some of the early season cobwebs to also finish T5 after his first top 10 of 2013 (T6) last week at Riviera. Simpson gave Mahan everything he wanted before falling 1-up in the Gary Player bracket final.
Steve Stricker: I was torn on Stricker going into this week as well because he had not played, by choice, since the season opening HTOC. After that tournament, Stricker was found to have a herniated C5 disc. With some rest and a cortisone shot, his game was ready to go this week. He ousted Nick Watney in 21 holes so he was physically ready to compete. He knocked out Scott Piercy with a monster birdie putt, his eighth of the match, before he finally succumbed to Ian Poluter in the Sam Snead bracket final. If he’s healthy, Stricker has shown that rust won’t be an issue. I wonder what happens when the cortisone wears off, though. Buyer beware. This was his best finish in his last eight events since his victory in 2001.
Shane Lowry: The Irishman was making his first appearance at WGC-MP and took full advantage as he knocked out the No. 1 player in the world and his buddy, Rory McIlroy in the opening round. He hammered Carl Pettersson 6&5 before bowing out to the other Northern Irishman in the field Graeme McDowell in the sweet 16. Lowry was only entered in this tournament after Brandt Snedeker WD with a rib problem after his victory at Pebble Beach.
Bubba Watson: Watson wore the moniker of “highest-seeded player remaining” this week as he was the only No.1 or No. 2 seed to make the round of 16. In his third time in this event, Watson now adds T9 to his T17 and fourth place finishes at Dove Mountain. He likes it here but you would expect more for ALL the No.1 and No. 2 seeds, right? #bracketbusters
Fredrik Jacobson: Another late addition to this tournament, Jacobson continued his hot play to advance to the sweet 16 this week. He adds this T9 to his T7 at Pebble Beach and his T3 last week at Riviera. He’s now played this event four times and made the final 16 twice.
Nicolas Colsaerts: The “Dude” improved on his one-and-done here last year with T9 this week. Good job if you had Colsaerts, who has finished T44, MC and MC in his three starts this year, would run over the very warm Bill Haas 5&4 in the first round. That sums up match play.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: GFC couldn’t get any breaks last year as he barley lost to Tiger Woods as a No. 16 seed. This year, he was a No. 8 seed and won two matches before falling to Webb Simpson.
Martin Kaymer: It’ s well documented that the German’s confidence was at an all-time low heading into the Ryder Cup last September before he made THAT PUTT to win the competition. He’s parlayed that finish at Medinah into some excellent play last fall and this winter in Europe but he was MC in his only TOUR event of 2013.
Scott Piercy: Another first-timer in this event, Piercy looked more than comfortable in the desert this week. The last time he played desert golf, at the WMPO, he fired 61 in the final round to finish third. This week, he blasted Paul Lawrie 4&3. He birdied seven of the first 12 holes against Luke Donald to blow him out 7&6. He didn’t make a bogey against Steve Stricker, seven birdies to be exact, but LOST when Stricker made his eighth birdie of the day, knocking in a 40-footer on 18 for the win. Yep, that’s all it took to knock Piercy out of this tourney, eight birdies and a 40-footer! Welcome to match play!
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Anybody ranked No. 1 or No. 2 this week: If you had Bubba Watson in the pool of which No.1 or No. 2 seed would advance the farthest this week, you win.
Rory McIlroy was playing like a guy who had played about five rounds of golf in 2013 with new clubs.
Tiger Woods, and I’ve been fooled for the last time on this, cannot read the greens here as he goes out in the first or second round for the third straight season.
Louis Oosthuizen also hasn’t made it out of the second round here in four tries.
Luke Donald birdied two holes in a row against Scott Piercy and didn’t make up any ground.
Justin Rose, as I pointed out in the preview, has an awful record in this tournament as well.
Adam Scott, who mentioned in an article this week that he’s trying to take this tournament more seriously, again, could not get it together in the desert this week. He’s now lost four out five first round matches at the Ritz Carlton. Omit.
Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a live chat Wednesday at NOON ET at Rotoworld.com. We will be breaking down the field at the Honda Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.