By Will Martin
He played in the Pro Am yesterday in Ft. Worth before addressing the media within the interview room of the Colonial Country Club. A good crowd enjoyed a wonderful plethora of sun, wind and shots. Not necessarily in that order. Earlier in the week we heard from defending champion Boo Weekley. He had himself an impressive 2013 tournament while ending a long drought.
Finishing second to him last year was a young man who bemoaned the way his putter failed him on Sunday last year. His name is Matt Kuchar and in 2014 has collected nine Top 10 finishes in 13 starts. Here’s Matt Kuchar talking Colonial and all things golf.
Matt, you never missed a cut here in seven starts. Talk about your thoughts coming back to the Colonial and what are your expectations for the week?
MattKuchar: I love coming back here. This stretch of Texas is one I always enjoy and look forward to. It’s a couple great courses. This one in particular is a favorite of mine of the year. I get to spend a few weeks with my instructor, Chris O’Donnell and always feel like I get on some pretty good form.
This event means alot to me. So much history here, you tee off on the first hole and walk by that Wall of Champions and see the great names. It’s cartainly an event I’d like to put my name on that wall. It’s a great event. I was a little bummed last year not to finish it. Boo Weekley played great on Sunday, great week all week last year, and I’m hoping I can climb up one more spot this year.
But this has been a great year. Had a fantastic run for these four weeks through the Masters leading up to Hilton Head, and now I feel like I’m getting back on some of that good form again and excited for the stretch of golf here starting out.
Matt, you mentioned moving up one more spot here at the Colonial. You’re also doing some climbing in the World Golf Rankings. You’re forth this week. What would it mean to get to the top spot? I mean. I guess it’s an outside chance this week if you win here, any thoughts on that?
I don’t pay a whole lot of attention. I think some of things that take care of themselves. I’ve always been good at focusing on the things I can control. That being said, I think the number one position is an awesome title. I think to be able to say for a while that you were the best in the world is pretty awesome. It’s a cool title. I think all of us that play here have the aspirations to be the best of the best. It’s cool, it’s attainable.
I know it wasn’t long ago that number one ranking was not attainable, and Tiger had such a long hold on it, just everybody else was so far behind. Second was the only place you could really try to get to. Now there are a number of us that are within distance and it’s at least attainable by year end to be the best in the world. So it’s pretty exciting.
You talked about working with Chris. How much has that helped you in going toward the U.S. Open? Also. how long have you been with him?
Chris and I started back in 2006. I was back on the Web.com back then. I feel like I’ve improved every year…It’s been a great progression. It’s great timing. My work with Chris is always getting better and better. So leading up to a tournament like the U.S. Open is great. I actually changed my schedule leading up to the Masters. Played both tournaments in Texas and San Antonio and Houston, which is not normal for me to make Masters week three in a row, but after two weeks with Chris, I’ve always seemed to have pretty good form. Last year a second here, had the win at Memorial next week. I always feel like I get on some good form, you know, with that time with Chris. So U.S. Open looming, it’s certainly good timing.
You mentioned, obviously, the number one spot being attainable by several guys. What do you think that does for the game when you have that? There is an attainability for different guys and different guys in the mix to be number one?
It’s exciting…A number of guys got a chance. It’s a little more fun for the guys that have a chance. There is some excitement here.
The game of golf is certainly strong. We’ve got amazing new guys coming along. It’s better as they continue good golf. It’s kind of fun to see this week’s field having some of those guys like Olin Browne and Clearwater, and some of the older guys in the field. I think that’s cool. I think it’s good for the game.
Matt, you’ve got a chance to join a pretty exclusive list of players that won both at Harbour Town and here. What similarities do both golf courses have with each other?
Certainly tight, tree-lined, lots of dog-legs, driving the ball is crucial. I think they’re very demanding driving golf courses and ones you have to shape the ball both ways, left to right, right to left. Hilton Head maybe more so than here not only being in the fairway but the proper side of the fairway. There is certainly a lot of positioning involved in each course.
But I think guys really enjoy playing because there is so much strategy whether or not to be aggressive on certain holes. You can take the third hole, the fifth hole, so many different ways to play the ninth hole. So many different ways where you can be safe off the tee and leave yourself a longer, more difficult approach shot. You can take on some challenges, and there is a good risk-reward factor on all those holes. If you take it on, you can make the hole a potential birdie hole, bugt it doesn’t come off, it’s a bogey hole. So I think a lot of great risk-reward on both courses.
You came in second last year. Can you talk about Sunday and making a run for it there?
It ranks high on my list of my tournaments I’d like to win. It was exciting. Can’t really control what the other guys do. I wasn’t my sharpest, but , still it’s hard to knock a second-place finish when you’re playing against the best guys in the game of golf. It was great to see Boo Weekley do so well. He’s a great asset to the PGA TOUR, great guy, certainly one of those fantastic ball strikers. We talked about a small club that’s won Hilton Head and here, and Boo Weekley is part of that group and deservedly so.
Matt, I’m guessing you probably never met Ben Hogan, but have you read his book? What is your history with Ben Hogan?
Certainly a huge admirer. A lot of what I do with my swing, most people think of my swing as being flat, but a lot of what I do with my swing tries to emulate a lot of what he does, particularly the impact area. I think everybody would love to do what he did with the golf swing, with the golf ball. I feel like a lot of my work with Chris tries to get as close to that as possible.
Obviously, length off the tee is not really a disadvantage out on tour, but are there places on this course where maybe being long could be a little bit of a disadvantage?
No, no. That is always an advantage.There is no reason why length is never an advantage. You always have the ability to hit an iron. You always have the ability to play shorter. There are so many places it’s just an asset. Some people have it and some people don’t. That is, I think, never a bad thing.
Is it less of an advantage here than in other places?
Hard to say…hard to say. You wonder about those long guys, if they hit a 2-iron as far as I hit a driver, is it easier to hit a 2-iron on the fairway than it is a driver? I’m not sure. It’s not something…I always feel like I have a better chance of hitting the fairway if I’m hitting an iron off the tee than a driver. But certainly there are a lot of places where they can hit driver as an advantage. I don’t ever see having length as a disadvantage.
On a typical round out there, how often will you pull driver on the driving holes?
I think quite a bit. It was interesting watching Ryan Palmer go around last year, being a local guy that plays here quite a bit. When you feel like it’s more of your home course when you’re playing just for fun, you’re not playing out of irons, irons just aren’t that much fun to hit off the tee. So Ryan is used to hitting driver off most tees. So hitting drivers off the tee, I flip-flop every now and then between a driver, sometimes as a 3-wood. Watching a local guy pull driver there, maybe there is something to it. I hit driver there a bit, but that being said, I’m not–my drive is a little different than some of the longer guys. But my driving accuracy is pretty strong. I think that’s a strength of mine. I try to use those strengths on certain holes where I can take an advantage. Maybe nine, if I’m feeling good with the driver, to make that into a birdie hole and try to turn what a lot of times to get a par and get out of there into a legitimate shot at making birdie.
For the rest of Matt Kuchar’s thoughts on the Colonial and the current state of golf here is the video visit with the runner up to the 2013 Colonial Champion…