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January 5, 2011

Matt Kuchar

MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Matt Kuchar to the call. He just had a long day in a pro-am out in Hawai'i. You had a busy year in 2010. You led the TOUR in official money, which was the Arnold Palmer Award. You also had the lowest adjusted stroke average, which came along with the Nelson Award and the Vardon Trophy. You finished second in the FedExCup, won Barclays and had a Tour-best 11 top 10s last year and moved to Sea Island on top of that. What have you done in this off-season to keep that going into next year, and what are your goals for next year?
MATT KUCHAR: It was an incredible year last year. All that stuff was great stuff. I played McGladrey, so my final tournament of the year was I think the first week in October. I took the rest of October and November completely off.
I was excited I got an invitation to the Chevron World Challenge, was excited to finally qualify for the event. I got to looking at the schedule and thinking how am I going to be best ready to have a good 2011. And it meant taking October and November off, and I was not prepared at all for Tiger's event but it was a great way to start getting ready for the 2011 season. I played that and I played the Shark Shootout as ways to get back into the game, play a little bit more, and hopefully come ready for this first week in January.
The game is coming back slowly, but basically had an easy time taking October and November off as we moved down into a new house, and with the unpacking and with two little boys, days disappeared pretty quickly.
MARK STEVENS: You starting off the season of course out at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and going to follow up that with the Bob Hope Classic and the Northern Trust Open on the West Coast Swing.
MATT KUCHAR: I'm going to play Sony, as well, so I'll go the first three, Hyundai, Sony and the Bob Hope.
MARK STEVENS: What are your expectations starting off the year?
MATT KUCHAR: Always hard to know. I think the first couple are kind of getting a feel for it, and I've always enjoyed going to the Hope and using that as kind of a tournament to get a feel for my game and kind of how things stack up. You can always count on really good weather, and you get four competitive rounds in. I like playing out at the Bob Hope, love coming to Hawai'i. It's a great place to come to kick off the year.
This week, the Hyundai at Kapalua is a tough course. The wind blows, the undulations in the course are just different from anything we regularly play. So this one I think we all look at as a great treat and reward to come here. But you never really know how your game is going to stack up the very first week of the year on this type of golf course.
Let's see, and then really not -- I go into the early part of the year without a whole lot of expectations.
MARK STEVENS: You finished second last year at the Bob Hope. Did the Hope really get your season going last year do you feel?
MATT KUCHAR: I had a nice showing here at Kapalua. I think I finished third. And then finished second where I put a great run on Sunday at the Bob Hope. It's funny, I always used to look at keeping my card early as one of my goals, always trying to make that number to stay in the Top 125 and get somewhere close to a million dollars, and after a good week here at Kapalua and then a great showing at the Bob Hope, it's like, all right, I've kind of got that pretty well taken care of and now moving onward to really try to have a great year. So that was a confidence booster and kind of a way to mark a notch off the checklist of kind of the goals for the year.

Q. One correction. You made that big run on the back nine on Monday last year. We lost that day to rain.
MATT KUCHAR: That's right, it was Monday.

Q. So much for that good weather we keep talking about out here. You talked a little bit about coming into this year, and obviously you did a lot of great things last year, but you talked about maybe this would be a year to concentrate on doing better in the four major championships. How exactly does one do better in the four major championships? Is it just a matter of concentrating on those golf courses, getting playing in early, or are there other things that you do to prepare yourself for those kind of things?
MATT KUCHAR: I think it may be a similar situation to just getting used to life on TOUR, and I now show up and you kind of get used to the routine of how a tournament goes and you get more and more comfortable. It gets easy when you play 20 events on TOUR during the year; you get used to that routine. When you just play four majors a year, they seem a little bit different. But if you do that enough years in a row, hopefully you get a little more comfortable.
I think back to last year, and I had a pretty solid showing at the four majors. Made four cuts, had a couple good showings at -- the U.S. Open I think was sixth; I think at the PGA might have had another top 10 there, maybe just outside the top 10; made my first-ever cut at a British Open. So kind of some highlights for me at majors. Certainly still a lot of room to improve, but I think just being there more often you get a little more comfortable.
And hopefully your game just continues to improve. It's hard to try to get yourself to peak for one week, but I think if you can just be consistent week in and week out, then show up at the majors and hopefully be comfortable enough to put on another good showing at major championships.

Q. Is that the next goal? Obviously you've won tournaments and now you've won money titles and scoring titles. Is the next goal to win a major?
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, I'd like to have a year with multiple wins and definitely like to win a major championship or win major championships. It's definitely a next goal and a next kind of step, I think, for me. Certainly what I'd like to achieve in golf, we try to put our stamp in history, and with major championships it is putting your name down in history. It would be a great thing to be a part of.

Q. Could you talk about the challenges of playing five days on four different golf courses with three amateurs at the Hope, especially if you're playing on Sunday at the Sony?
MATT KUCHAR: I always used to skip the Hope because of that. I felt like how am I ever going to get practice rounds in. It seems like it's just a little too much to handle. I think I started one year, decided to start my season, so before I went to Hawai'i I went to Palm Springs for a week to practice. I knew the weather would be good there and I had a opportunity to get a couple practice rounds in at a couple of the Hope courses.
I just loved it out there. I had a great experience in Palm Springs. You wake up in the morning and it feels like they're pumping oxygen out there. It's a little cool in the morning and it turns out to be a perfect day. You feel like you're playing inside a dome. I enjoyed my stay so much, I thought, this is a great opportunity to get ready for the Hope.
I've enjoyed it. I think playing in that tournament requires a certain personality. For me playing with amateurs is not a difficult thing. I think for some people they may feel like the amateurs may get in their way and it may be difficult for them to be really competitive. But when I'm at home I play a lot of golf. I play a lot of golf with just members at the club and see good to bad shots and good to bad golfers and kind of get used to it.
I feel like I may be a little more of a people person and don't mind playing with the amateurs.

Q. Do you feel you are your own tough act to follow now that you're coming off your career year, and are you thinking that you have to live up to that?
MATT KUCHAR: I haven't really thought too much about trying to follow up next year -- follow up last year's performance. I've just fortunately been busy enough at home with the move and getting settled in that I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to it.
I've been told about the awards. I still haven't received any awards, so it doesn't really feel like anything. I know it's an honor to have the low stroke average. I still don't know what -- what do they call it, an adjusted stroke average; it has some sort of name that I'm really not sure how it's figured out. I figured stroke average was stroke average, but it seems like there's some sort of adjustment in there. I don't really know how that works, but I'm excited to have that. Having the low stroke average I think is really an honor. Amazing looking back at having one of the best years on TOUR in 2010; it was a memorable year for me.
To follow it up will be tough. But the beauty about the game of golf is there's so many areas where you can improve and get better, and I think we all as golfers, we look to always get better. So there's a year end and you look at what to improve on, and you may take some of my stats of money leader and low stroke average, and hard to beat those two, but when you break it down further into some ball-striking categories, putting, chipping, there's no end how good you can be around the greens.
You can always improve. Whether you're the best guy out there or not, there's always room to improve your short game. And then certainly with ball-striking, it feels like the game of golf, you're never quite on your swing, and you work to refine it and get better and try to own it. So there's definitely room to get better with ball-striking.
That's more what I look at. I look at just becoming a better golfer.

Q. I wanted to ask you, is there a vibe this year that there are a lot of young golfers ready for really big breakthroughs? Is there a different sense because of Tiger may not quite be Tiger and just how well guys like Fowler and Watson and you guys did last year?
MATT KUCHAR: I've certainly heard a lot of that from fans and from people outside, people that kind of watch the golf world. It seemed like there was a lot of excitement about the young guys, and I think it's great for the game. As far as talk on TOUR, I'm not too involved with any sort of gossip on TOUR, but it seemed like from the outsider's point of view it was a really exciting year for the game of golf because you saw the guys with a whole lot of potential come up, challenge Tiger, beat Tiger, win tournaments. It seemed to be an exciting year for what the future of golf may hold.

Q. Do you consider yourself a young guy now?
MATT KUCHAR: I still do. I still feel nearly like a rookie. I know my way around most places. I showed up at Tiger's event first week in December at the Chevron; I had never been, and I definitely felt like a rookie. It's a funny feeling when you are pulling into the parking lot and you're not sure which way the contestant parking is and you're not sure which way the locker rooms are and you kind of have to get pointed around by five different people just to find out where registration is.
It's nice to have that now at most places behind my back and know where to go. But I still have the excitement, I think, of a rookie. I still get to events and am excited to be there. Life on the road can be a little grueling, but I think there's an excitement to life on the road. Kind of one week goes by and you get ready for the new week, and it's all new and fresh again and last week is forgotten about and you have a new opportunity to do something great. I feel like I still have the excitement of a young gun or rookie or whatever you want to call it.

Q. I want to go back over to your opening remarks where you talked about preparation for the year, and I'm just really wondering, with heading into your first competition of the year, how do you judge the state of your preparation? And then following that, what specifics -- you had a pretty awesome year last year. What specifics inside your game would you like to improve on this year?
MATT KUCHAR: I take the first couple weeks without a whole lot of expectations like I talked about. I put some work in last week. I definitely know I'm not as sharp as I was come the PGA Championship and kind of the last quarter of the year last year. It takes some competitive golf to kind of fine-tune some of the scoring ability, some of the ball-striking things, just remembering how to play the game. I think it's tough to come out of just hitting balls at home. Even playing at home, it's hard to come out and be really competitively sharp.
I think most of us will suffer a bit of that. Some guys will have it. Some guys will be just on; it's the nature of the game where you just have it for the week. But I don't look at these events as ones that -- I know I'm not going to be as sharp as I could be later on in the year.
But I took a lot of time off in hopes of having a consistent 2011. I like the fact that last year I had led the TOUR in top 10s. I thought that was a great category to lead in. I'd like to strive to do something like that again this year, and I think it required taking a good amount of time off and making sure I was fresh and ready to go for a long year.
And then the areas to improve on, like I said earlier, the short game, there's no end to how good your short game can be. Even if you putt like Steve Stricker, you can still putt better. So those are things -- I spent some time working on the short game trying to improve some things there.
And then with ball-striking, I've continued to work with Chris O'Connell, my instructor, and know there's still a lot of room to improve there. So we're kind of refining the swing and also paying attention to short game because that's an area where you just can always get better.

Q. I wanted to follow up with you about the Bob Hope, what you said about playing four guaranteed rounds at the Bob Hope. Does that weigh heavily in your decision when you're making your schedule and playing there versus say at the Farmers Insurance Open?
MATT KUCHAR: No, I've just really come to enjoy my time in Palm Springs. It's early in the year, and I like going to an easier course. The Bob Hope courses are a little easier. You get good weather. I think it's a pretty good way to kind of figure out how your game stands. I think sometimes we come out these first events in Hawai'i, you get really windy conditions and you get some grainy greens and you hit some different shots you just aren't used to normally hitting. It's not always the best barometer for how good you're playing.
You go out to a place like Palm Springs, the weather is great; the courses are fairly simple; you can get a pretty good estimate of how things stack up and maybe what to work on to get ready for the remainder of the year.

Q. And I think this is the fifth year in a row you're going to be playing in the event. Any of the previous four years, any interesting stories, maybe playing with a celebrity or maybe one of the parties after a round perhaps?
MATT KUCHAR: I have not been with the celebrity draw. I have been on the opposite side of the celebrity draw. You kind of think that's the worst side of the draw you can get when you're on the celebrity rotation, which is generally the slowest of the rotations. I think they take up let's say the front nine and I've always been on the back nine, so you know they're going to be doing some antics and signing autographs and it's just going to be a slower go of it. You'd just as soon, if you were in the slower go, just be hanging with the celebrities and seeing what stunts they're pulling or get a good chuckle or hear some stories.
But no, I kind of keep quiet there. The family comes out. We stay with some friends that live in Palm Springs and we have a great, quiet week. It doesn't get real crazy. We just really enjoy going out and being in Palm Springs in January. It's hard to beat.

Q. Just a quick follow-up to that, as the one who's going to be the highest ranked player in the world playing the Bob Hope, have you had a chance -- you'll likely be in the celebrity field. Have you looked at the list for somebody you'd like to meet or play with?
MATT KUCHAR: I have not looked at the list. I think one of the neat things about the Bob Hope is the rotation of amateurs or celebrities, so you'll be with a different group every day. I play the Pebble Beach tournament every year, and I've always played with the same guy and I enjoy going to the Pebble Beach event because I really enjoy the company of the amateur I play with. But I think one of the neat things about the Bob Hope is you've got new people every day, and I think if I was an amateur I'd love playing in the Bob Hope just to play with four different pros.
For me, some days you may get a grouping that may not be as much fun, but you know it's just one day, and the next day you'll probably get a bunch of fun people. And generally when it comes to the Bob Hope, guys are there to have a good time. I can't even recall having a group that I was looking forward to the day ending. Most of them I have a good time with.
MARK STEVENS: Matt, best of luck this week and for the rest of the year, and thank you for taking the time.

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