Matt Kuchar started the week at the 2013 Memorial inside the top 10 in the World Rankings, and his second victory of the season will now push the lanky American inside the top 5 in the world. Kuchar has been one of the most consistent players in the world for a few years now, but over the last 12 months, he's pushed his status and career to another level with victories at three of the prime events on Tour. It started last season with a win at golf's fifth major, The Players Championship, and continued this winter with a convincing win over Hunter Mahan at the WGC-Match Play event, an atypical format that usually draws the top 64 players in the world.
The Memorial carries a comparably loaded field, and Kuchar breezed through tough weekend conditions at Muirfield Village, holding a multi-shot cushion for much of Sunday's final round. It was the second straight week that Kuchar had played in the final group on Sunday, but he scuffled into the house and was lapped by Boo Weekley last week at Colonial. This week, Kuchar started quickly with a birdie on the first hole, setting the pace for an outward 34 that extended the margin.
Kuchar's playing partner, Kevin Chappell, added some late pressure coming in with three birdies over the final four holes. Kuchar bogeyed the difficult par-3 16th hole to keep slim hopes alive, but effectively slammed the door shut on No. 17 when he steadily put a downhill par putt in the middle of the cup to save par. That kept the lead at two as the final group walked to the 18th tee.
Kuchar put his ball in the middle of the 18th fairway, but still needed a par to hold of Chappell, who stuck his approach shot within three feet for another easy birdie to get to 10-under. But any 18th green drama was promptly ended when Kuchar went ahead and drained the downhill winder to finish with another birdie and close things out at 12-under.
The Memorial is Kuchar's fifth win since 2009, solidifying a career resurgence after a promising young amateur and early pro career went awry while fighting trouble with a hook. A win at Sawgrass, the Match Play, and now with Jack Nicklaus watching may make Kuchar the second-best American player in the world behind Tiger Woods.
Woods played a factor in Sunday's coverage, but only because the Tour sent groups off late on split tees in threesomes. Otherwise, Woods' final round likely would have finished before a camera was ever turned on. His disastrous record-setting 44 on his outward nine on Saturday completely wiped Woods out for the rest of the weekend, but he struggled again on that same nine early on Sunday. A triple bogey on the par-3 12th hole was Tiger's fourth double or worse on the weekend, a startling stretch of big numbers for the No. 1 player in the world. Tiger did eventually get it together, adding five birdies in an eight-hole stretch to get back to even-par for the day. But his private jet was warming up early in the weekend, his sights already set on the U.S. Open.
While Woods is still trying to add to his majors total of 14, Kuchar is still looking for that first major, and this win could do more harm than good given how it's nearly impossible to go back-to-back on Tour. Despite those odds, his game is certainly in form to make noise at Merion and it won't be surprising if he's on the first page of the leaderboard two weeks from Sunday.