After missing the cut in three of his first five PGA tournaments this season, Matt Kuchar started seeing some promising signs that his game was coming around.
Then he made a mess of the first three holes in Thursday’s first round of the Masters Tournament, with bogeys in a variety of ways: from a greenside bunker at No. 1, on a three-putt at No. 2 and after a fairway bunker shot fell short of the green at No. 3.
“I was telling my caddie (John Wood) that the last two weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve really been playing good golf, but not scoring well,” Kuchar said of a tie for 30th at the Dell Match Play and a tie for 22nd at the Valspar Championship. “I came in here very excited because I knew I was doing a lot of things really well. Then I started off with three straight bogeys and I thought, ‘son of a gun … I think I’m playing well.’ It was frustrating.”
Kuchar found a way to right the ship, beginning with a long-distance two-putt at the fourth hole that started a streak of nine pars in a row.
The St. Simons Island, Ga., resident then dropped in birdie putts between 6 to 8 feet at Nos. 13, 16 and 17 and made a nifty up-and-down par at No. 18 to finish at even-par 72.
Kuchar’s streak of 15 bogey-free holes in a row was the second-longest in the first round, exceeded only by Sergio Garcia, the only player with a bogey-free day. Kuchar hit a respectable 10 fairways and 12 greens.
Playing partner and defending champion Danny Willett, who had his own rough start by playing the first two holes at 3-over before finishing with 73, said it was a pleasure walking the fairways with Kuchar.
“Kuch is always a great guy to play with,” Willett said. “He never gets too annoyed, always stays even-keeled, knows there’s something around the corner that can happen, and if it doesn’t, he doesn’t get upset either.”
Kuchar took the blame for not finishing with a chance for birdie. Kuchar vetoed Wood’s recommendation, which was to hit a hard 7-iron. Kuchar believed an easy 6-iron was the play, and the ball went right over the flag on No. 18 and onto the back fringe, nearly into the first row of the gallery.
Since the ball was on a slight downslope, Kuchar elected to putt. This time, his instincts were correct as he got the ball to within 4 feet, and made the putt.
“The caddie had the proper club. I overruled him and wrongfully so, but I was glad to get that up-and-down,” Kuchar said.