American Matt Kuchar torched Harbour Town for a final round 64, including a chip-in birdie on the 72nd hole, to win the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday afternoon. Kuchar posted a winning score of 11-under-par 273 to hold off Englishman Luke Donald by one shot. Americans Ben Martin and John Huh completed the podium alone in third one further shot back
After four consecutive weeks of being in the mix on Sunday, Matt Kuchar finally cashed in for gamers this week with his victory on Hilton Head Island. He actually “Matt Jones’ed” himself on Sunday as he three-jacked from four feet on No. 17 for a bogey before holing his bunker shot on the sand for birdie on the final hole. That two-hole stretch has summed up his last four weeks but his 64 today will be the real story. He busted out with birdies on seven of his first 10 holes to establish a three-shot lead before Luke Donald righted the ship to eventually tie him when Kuchar three-putted No. 17. Kuchar exorcised his demons with the bunker shot on 18 and posted the round of the tournament with 64. Not a bad way to end “the streak”!
Boy, did I screw this up. I removed Kuchar from my lineup on Thursday morning to “save” him for another day. Please take two lessons from this: One, NEVER change your line up last minute. I’ve done this twice now and lost a 60 from Keegan Bradley in Dallas and now a victory, albeit unlikely as 64s on Sundays don’t grow on trees, from Kuchar. Two, Kuchar has proven there is NO POINT in saving starts on players that are WHITE HOT.
I screwed up two ways this week and I want you, the gamer, to learn from it. One, I pulled Kuchar from my lineup because I’m an idiot. Two, I “saved” Kuchar for “down the road” in One-and-Done (OAD). Now, I’m out bonus points in Yahoo! and will have to find another tournament (maybe the NEXT one?) to play him in OAD. Fortunately for gamers, Kuchar plays really well on most tracks.
Kuchar is drafted annually by gamers in season-long games that want stability. Well, for all gamers who were complaining the last three weeks that he couldn’t get it done, SHUT UP. Kuchar is fantasy gold and has been for the last five years. He bangs home top 25 when he enters; he picks off top 10s almost weekly and he’s now won four times since 2012 and three times since February 2013. This was his seventh victory on TOUR.
With his victory, Kuchar collects $1,044,000, 500 FedExCup Points and the lead in the FedExCup standings.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 19 of 23 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every and now Matt Kuchar have cashed for the red, white and blue. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have accounted for the other four victories. We’re still waiting for Europe to hit the board. Let’s hope they’re not saving it for the Ryder Cup…
Matt Jones joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season with his victory over Kuchar at the SHO. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 23 events so far in 2014. Ben Martin gave it a shot this week but finished just short (T3).
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 11 of 22 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday. Luke Donald began the day with a two-shot lead but finished runner-up AGAIN at Harbour Town.
Graeme McDowell was T23 so only Payne Stewart, DL III and Boo Weekley have defend their title in 46 editions of the RBC Heritage.
Since 1982, only SIX players have won this tournament without playing at Augusta. This just goes to show that guys who play the week after the Masters aren’t “tired” or “emotionally drained”.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 of the season. Matt Kuchar, 35, joins this list this week as he racks up his seventh career win.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
The Old Guys were led by Jim Furyk who was right in the action after 66 on Friday but his 71-70 saw him drop to T7. John Senden is lonely as he’s the only 40-something to lift the trophy this season.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Luke Donald: Make that THREE seconds in the last six years to go along with his two thirds. I don’t care if Donald shows up next year playing left handed, he’s going in my lineup. Donald, who hasn’t won since Tampa in 2012, has rung the bell this season on courses where he’s had excellent course history and this week was no exception. Mark your calendars for another Pete Dye track, THE PLAYERS, to get Donald into the lineup.
Ben Martin: I was high on him when the 2013-14 season started because of the way he played on the Web.com Tour last season. He won the money title and was ranked No. 1 in the all-around, plus he had been on TOUR previously. Gamers that have patiently waited were rewarded this week as Martin, a Clemson grad, only made his fifth cut in 14 events this season. The last cut he made was also a third place in Puerto Rico. After four consecutive MCs entering this week, I’ll forgive you for not having him on your short list. Some guys need more reps to get it going. Let’s see what this does for his confidence moving forward.
John Huh: Entering the week, Huh had made seven cuts out of 13 events and had exactly one top 25 finish, last November at Mayakoba. He made three cuts in nine events in 2014 and his best finish was T35 at Riviera. Each week, this happens on TOUR. Guys from nowhere play great and are in the top 10. Let’s pay attention to them moving forward but I don’t suggest running out and buying just yet.
Scott Brown: This was his first top 35 in 10, full-field, stroke-play events in 2014, yet this is his third top 10 of the wraparound season. Weird. With top 10 at McGladrey on Sea Island and T5 this week at Harbour Town, it’s time to start looking at Brown on Atlantic Ocean courses! His super week involved fantastic ball-striking and putting so this wasn’t an accident! He made seven birdies during his 67 on Sunday so he’s moving in the right direction.
Brian Stuard: Gamers had suggested that he feasts on easier, resort-style courses and his record supported that with a second at Mayakoba, sixth at Sony and fifth at Humana. In his next eight starts, he racked up exactly one top 25 (T24, Honda) and missed three cuts. Players like Stuard, Brown, Huh and Martin are what make fantasy golf awesome and impossible all at the same time. Stuard now has four top 10s and is comfortably inside the top 30 of the FedExCup standings at this time.
Brian Harman: The Sea Island resident hit another top 10 (T7) on the Atlantic coast this season as he only carded six bogeys and fired three rounds in the 60s. After MC in consecutive events at WMPO and Pebble, he’s played the weekend in six of seven and has two top 10s in that stretch. He also has two, top 25s as well in that stretch. The Georgia Bulldog is getting closer to joining his mates in the winner’s circle and plays tons of events. #buy
Jim Furyk: My OAD pick for the week because I had burned Donald and was too stubborn to take Kuchar, only made NINE birdies on the week to finish T7. Please read that sentence again. There is so much going on in there that I don’t want gamers to miss out. If you would have told me that Furyk would have made NINE birdies before the tournament started, I would have taken my preview, where I listed Furyk No. 1 and burned it. Alas, Furyk made 60 pars (of 72 holes, remember) and THREE bogeys. He hit almost every fairway and green but he was second-last in strokes gained-putting. What a crazy, but successful, formula! Moving forward, it looks like his “late” start to 2014 is not hindering his performances at all.
William McGirt: His superior putting saw him bookend rounds of 66 to finish T9 and hit the top 10 for the first time in six events since his final round 73 at NTO. His best finish before this week in that stretch was T29. He had never fired a round in the 60s at Harbour Town in nine previous rounds. Have putter, will travel.
Rory Sabbatini: After having a rib injury and a pinched nerve recently, I was surprised Sabbatini was teeing it up this week. I guess he’s healed because he finished T9! I looked the other way this week because of the injury problems but he’ll be in the lineup if he’s healthy next year. Finishes of T8, T14, T17, T9 and T9 this year are his results in five career starts. #automatic
Russell Knox: The only first-timer in the top 10, Knox took home T9 and made the weekend for the fourth straight event since his P2 at Honda. Of those four starts, three of them have been T26 or better. Knox has been steady all season with weekend appearances in 12 of 14 events and three top 10s. His full season in 2012 has prepared him well for this year and it’s showing. He’s currently 11th in the all-around category.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Jim Furyk: T7, see above.
Luke Donald: Second, see above.
Matt Kuchar: Win, see above.
Jordan Spieth: Another week another very solid finish with T12. Now, he didn’t contend this week but after last week’s learning lesson, his bounce back was just as impressive. I’m afraid he’s just going to be an automatic selection for years to come if he’s in the field. He’s done nothing to show me that he doesn’t deserve that consideration.
Zach Johnson: Blistered the fairways, as expected but was just middle of the pack in GIR and putting. His THREE doubles on Sunday killed any chances of rallying as he finished T61.
Harris English: His final round 68 tried to cancel his Saturday 75 to see him finish T31. His putter and driver weren’t cooperating this week but he still found plenty of GIR. His only MC this season was the Masters. I’ll let him slide.
Kevin Na: He made two birdies, none on Friday, en route to MC. Each week, there is a guy who all four of us have factored in that doesn’t make the cut. Take a bow, Kevin Na! Don’t lose fact of his great season based on ONE result. That’s not very smart.
Russell Henley: Plenty of up and plenty of down comes with young players and this week Henley was on the down side of things with 76-78.
Charley Hoffman: He began Sunday in 22nd but his closing 40 made for sour grapes for the second year in a row coming home. His 33 on the front side won’t ease the pain of that slide to T38.
Graeme McDowell: The defending champ put up a decent fight in finishing T23. His ball-striking was premium but his putter was chilly as he finished a shocking T74 in putts per GIR.
Will MacKenzie: He was scraping near the bottom as well with 75-79. He made 10 bogeys and a triple. Good grief.
Matt Every: He began Sunday T7 but three birdies and three bogeys dropped him back to T12, missing the top 10 by one shot. His excellent play continues and it’s time to get on board.
Chris Stroud: Stroud? Oh, I thought I typed Stuard here J. Stroud hit it all over the shop but his putter was the saving grace. That’s six in a row and this was his first one NOT in the top 31.
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