Matt Kuchar continued his impressive run as one of the best American golfers in the world on Sunday afternoon in Arizona, beating Hunter Mahan in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Kuchar, who has yet to win a major, adds a WGC title to a career resume with four other PGA Tour wins on it, including last year's Players.
While it doesn't match his win at Sawgrass, the WGC Match Play victory is certainly another career-defining achievement for a player who has been on the first page of leaderboards for the past four years. Kuchar rolled through the poor weather week to get to Sunday, where he finished things well ahead of the 18th green in both the semifinals and finals.
Mahan had not trailed in a match at this event since early in the first round of last year's edition, but Kuchar quickly put him in the hole early in the finals. Mahan made consecutive bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes, yielding a 2-up lead to Kuchar. The lanky Kuchar would then double that lead by the turn, making a birdie on the par-3 sixth hole and getting up-and-down on the ninth hole to save par and push the lead to four.
With that four-hole margin at the turn, it looked like the title match might end early on the back side. But Mahan continued to battle to keep the match alive, getting it to 1-down by the 17th tee. It all come undone on the penultimate hole, however, as Mahan went wandering in the desert. He put his drive on the sand, and then chopped out his second shot into a bush still in the waste area. Kuchar, on the other hand, hit his approach shot within 10 feet of the stick and forced Mahan to eventually concede before he ever struck a putt.
At the start of the match, Mahan was the likely favorite, as he was the only golfer to play under par in the nasty weather during the morning and was on an incredible two-year run at this event. But it became clear early that Kuchar would grind things out against the defending champ, putting his shots in good positions to avoid costly bogeys and win holes with pars. It was classic Kuchar, steadily working his way to the top of the leaderboard, or in this case, wiping out his opponent and taking advantage of mistakes.
Kuchar is still without a major, but that could be on the horizon, given his track record at some of the biggest annual events. The Georgia Tech product figures to be in the mix at Augusta, and this WGC title in a field with 64 of the world's best will add to the momentum as the season's first major approaches.
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