Matt Kuchar has ambled through a career in golf without ever letting too much get to him in good times or bad. Occasionally his goofball philosophy contains an almost accidental Zenlike wisdom.
Consider how the 39-year-old processed missing out on his best opportunity to win a major at last summer’s British Open.
“Losing always provides motivation; winning breeds some contentment and complacency,” Kuchar said. “I certainly would love to be content and complacent, but I finished second. Lost to an amazing finishing round of golf that Jordan (Spieth) put on. I tried to use that as motivation.”
It was admittedly a hard lesson to handle. Kuchar stood for nearly a half hour in the 13th fairway while Spieth went through an excruciating ruling on a penalty drop. The Georgia Tech alum felt pretty confident he’d eventually be heading to the 14th hole with the lead, perhaps as large as three strokes.
He turned out to be only one up after his birdie putt missed and Spieth drained an 8-footer to save bogey. Then, despite two birdies on the next four holes, Kuchar found himself two down with one to play after Spieth went on a 5-under binge over the same stretch.
“I was hurting on the inside,” Kuchar admitted. “You get so close. It’s like any sport, it’s tough when you get so close and end up losing. If you get beaten and beaten badly, you kind of dust it off and go, ‘Oh, well; I got beat and I’ve got work to do.’ But when you’re that close it’s a little extra harder to swallow.
“I don’t think a whole lot about it. I came close. I had a lot of people tell me they were pulling hard for me. But for the most part I’ve moved on pretty well.”
It’s easy to forget that after a promising amateur career that included five major starts, Kuchar experienced a lost decade of his 20s at majors. After a brief fling in the financial services sector, he turned pro in 2000 and was a journeyman pro bouncing on and off the tour. In only 12 major starts from 2000-09, he made one cut and finished 48th.
His career flipped 180 degrees in his 30s as he’s become a frequent fixture on major leaderboards – especially at Augusta where he’s finished eighth or better in four of the last six Masters. He challenged on Sunday both years Bubba Watson won and tied for fourth last April.
“I’ve got some amazing memories there, winning it certainly would be icing on the cake,” Kuchar said of the Masters where he first finished as low amateur in 1998. “I’ve done a lot of fun things there, have a lot of great memories and I look forward to my week there every year.”
Seeing contemporary Sergio Garcia finally break through at Augusta last year offers another example that it’s never too late for someone of Kuchar’s generation to get an elusive major.
“Anybody in the field has that feeling,” Kuchar said. “Anyone who gets that invitation goes there with the dream they can do it. And if you don’t get the invitation, you can’t even aspire. All of us who receive that invitation think, ‘It could be my year.’ ”
With a Players Championship title, Olympic bronze medal and 10 major top-10s on his resume, Kuchar is the kind of player with the potential to pull a Sergio at any given major.
“Certainly Sergio has been a really good golfer for a long time and he was a guy carrying the mantle of best player not to have won a major,” Kuchar said. “I don’t know where I fall on that list and I’m not real concerned about it, or worry too much about it.
“A major is on my list of things I’d certainly like to accomplish. I had my best shot (at the British). Start over this year and hope I do everything right so that I have a chance to win this year.”