American Matt Kuchar will have to declare excess baggage upon his arrival into Sydney this week after breaking a four-year drought on the PGA Tour to claim the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
One of the headline acts for the Emirates Australian Open that takes place at The Lakes Golf Club from Thursday, Kuchar held off fast-finishing Kiwi Danny Lee to record the eighth PGA Tour win of his career by a shot at the El Camaleon Golf Club.
Kuchar’s last win anywhere was the 2015 Fiji International and the 40-year-old will now bring with him winning momentum as he seeks a second win on the PGA Tour of Australasia, his last appearance in Australia a runner-up finish at the 2013 Talisker Masters.
Beginning the final round with a five-shot buffer, Kuchar made steady progress until he made back-to-back bogeys at 14 and 15 to give Lee a look-in, his missed short putt at the 15th a sure sign of nerves.
Lee himself made bogey at the par-3 15th but bridged the gap to a shot with a birdie at 16, forcing Kuchar to close out on the 72nd hole to earn his way back into the winner’s circle.
A putt from the fringe left the American with a three-foot putt to complete the win, a task he was able to safely navigate before being mobbed by his wife and two sons on the 18th green.
“I certainly didn’t want a three-footer on the last to win this thing. I was hoping to have a four-shot lead and some wriggle room but that one felt awfully good,” Kuchar said immediately following his round.
“I’m awfully excited. My 2018 wasn’t what I wanted from 2018 but this is certainly a high note.
“This is an amazing thing. To get a win in Mexico and go from ‘Ola’ to ‘Aloha’, I can’t wait to go to Hawaii, I am so excited about that.”
Kuchar’s next assignment is adding his name to the prestigious list of winners of the Stonehaven Cup, conceding that after finishing tied for 57th a week ago in Las Vegas that a win in Mexico wasn’t foremost on his mind.
“I was hitting it beautifully, I felt really good, it was just a matter of having some putts go in,” he explained.
“Golf’s such a funny game. It’s hard to predict when it’s going to come around.
“Normally I tend to grow bit by bit, have a couple of top-10s and then contend but to have a 60th-place finish and then a win is pretty amazing.”
Like Kuchar, Lee was chasing his first win since 2015, a final round of 6-under 65 giving him a chance right up until the final hole.
“I had no mindset, no game-plan,” Lee said of the five-shot deficit he had to overcome at the start of the day.
“I’ve been hitting it good all week and I knew if I could putt half-decent I’m going to have a chance or get very close.
“I didn’t know what Matt was going to do or what other players were going to do.
“It was a bit windier than it was the first three rounds but it was still very doable. If you keep hitting it straight off the tee here you get a lot of birdie chances.”
The man currently in possession of the Stonehaven Cup, Cameron Davis, was the best of the Australians at Mayakoba, a run of three-straight birdies from the fifth hole the highlight of his final round of 3-under 68 that moved him up to a tie for 48th.
Matt Jones began the week with a 6-under 65 but was unable to maintain that form for the following three rounds, finishing in 71st position.
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