Matt Kuchar breaks PGA Tour Drought by Winning Mayakoba Golf Classic
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
One of the most upbeat players on the PGA Tour broke a four-and-a-half-year winning drought! Matt Kuchar won for the eighth time as a PGA Tour pro by winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico. The win came after he started the day four strokes to the good at one of the most scenic courses on the PGA schedule.
But, by the end of the day, his comfortable margin narrowed dramatically following several uncharacteristic bogeys. Kuchar, from Winter Park Florida, had only carded two bogeys in the first 67 holes played during the Classic. Then, during Sunday’s final round, he went back to back bogeys while Danny Lee made a run up the leaderboard with well-timed birdie putts.
Kuchar was then forced into playing error-free golf during his remaining holes – which he did. The 40-year-old player got back on the win list by making par on the last three holes to finish two-under for the day at 69 for a one-stroke win over Lee. Kuchar finished the event twenty-two under overall. Kuchar admitted that his game plan for the final round didn’t include having to play things safe.
“That was some of the best ball-striking I've had, and through 60 some holes, awfully good putting,'' Kuchar said of his game before hitting the rough patch on Sunday. “And then the putter kind of went a little bit on the fritz there coming in. Thrilled to be the champion here. It's been a long time for me. It feels extra sweet right now.”
Even with the win, Kuchar’s putter was something to be concerned with as he made par on his remaining holes. He could have closed with several birdies but missed putts allowed Lee to keep within reach. Kuchar rolled a birdie putt on 17 almost three feet past the hole.
Then, on hole 18, his birdie putt came to a stop three feet short. If he failed to make either follow up putts for par then Lee could have forced a playoff. But, Kuchar salvaged par on both holes for the win.
“I didn't want a 3-footer on the last hole,” Kuchar said. “I was hoping to have a three or four-shot lead for some wiggle room. But man, that felt awfully good.”
It was Kuchar’s first win since carding the victory at the RBC Heritage 115 tournaments ago in 2014. Since then he’s faced some challenges in maintaining his tour card while falling off the top-70 money list. His struggles also kept him off the Ryder Cup Team. Kuchar noted the issues he’s faced over the last year, and more, following his win at the Classic.
“My 2018 wasn't what I wanted,” Kuchar said. “This is a high note. It's an amazing thing to get a win.”
Players Fade Back
Danny Lee showed the power of his long game and the finesse of his short irons as he closed on Kuchar during the final round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Lee, of South Korea, came close to carding his second win on the Tour after finishing round four at 65 while going 21-under for the tournament. His level of play earned sole possession of second place while keeping many of the top players on the Official World Golf Rankings below him. Ricky Fowler, a favorite coming into the event, fell all the way back into a five-way tie, which included Tony Finau, at T16 on the leaderboard.
Cameron Champ, the rookie who won the Sanderson Farms Championship earlier this season, launched a ball into the mangrove forest and carded a double-bogey finishing T10 overall. Now, with the victory, Kuchar has qualified for the Sentry Tournament of Champions and secured a place on the PGA Tour for the next several years.
The Kuchar Caddy Side Stories
The Golf Classic had two unique stories develop involving caddies – both involving Kuchar. Kuchar’s regular caddie, John Wood, could not make the event as Kuchar had added it to his schedule at the last minute. Wood had already made other plans which he could not cancel. Kuchar then hired a local caddy who worked at the club in Mexico named David Giral Ortiz, better known as “El Tucan,” around the local golf world.
Ortiz, who is the director of caddies for the El Camaleon Golf Course, had earlier caddied for Armando Favela of Mexico who won an earlier event to qualify for the Classic. “El Tucan” got his nickname from his love of dance which he relayed to Kuchar. The two then used it as a good luck charm to sink more “tucans” or birdies.
“I’m so happy, full of emotion,” Ortiz – aka “El Tucan” said. “We were very solid, to achieve our objective. We went step by step, getting more birdies!”
The other story was that Kuchar's wife, Sybi, jumped into action for Zach Johnson. When Johnson’s regular caddy, Damon Green, was overcome by the heat. Sybi, who has caddied before for Kuchar, was in the crowd and soon carrying Johnsons bag while wearing floral beach shorts and a hot pink tank top.