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January 16, 2015

Matt Kuchar


JOHN BUSH:¬† Matt Kuchar joins us after a 7‑under par 63.¬† Great playing out there again today.¬† If we can get some comments on your round.
MATT KUCHAR:¬† Much improved today from yesterday.¬† Yesterday was some impressive scrambling.¬† Today I really hit it well and continued to putt well.¬† I told people that coming from Kapalua, these greens are much friendlier to putt.¬† I feel like I have really good chances to see the ball go in.¬† Last week‑‑ I love Kapalua, but the amount of slope and the amount of grain in the greens is challenging.¬† It's challenging to make putts there.¬† Here these greens are much flatter with much less grain and much less slope, and it seems like it's a much easier place to make putts now.
The biggest difference is you can make putts more easily here, but hitting fairways is a much tougher task here than it is over at Kapalua.  Here hitting fairways is so critical, and today I did a very good job of that.  There are a number of holes that can be extremely tough, that are tough holes, particularly finding the fairway, and if you don't find the fairway, you're struggling for pars.  I found a lot of fairways today and was able to take a little more advantage.  A hole can be taken advantage of when you're in the fairway.

Q.  Talking to Webb a lot about his putting and switching to the short putter, and as someone who has kind of an unconventional stroke yourself, I'm curious when you changed to that and what the change was like for you?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† For me, I saw Webb on our first hole yesterday, he made about a six‑ or seven‑footer for birdie, and I said, holy cow, Lance, mark the time and date.¬† Webb Simpson used a short putter and actually made it look pretty good.¬† He continued the day‑‑ yesterday was a beautiful day of putting, and I joked with him that the USGA might have to rethink banning the long putter because he's putting even better with a short putter, and continued that.¬† He didn't miss a single putt that he should have made in two days.¬† It was a very, very good effort.
As for me, it was‑‑ started 2011 I switched over.¬† It was due to a chat with Dave Stockton, and one thing led to another, and I kind of gripped down low on a shorter putter and kind of had it up against my left forearm, and I said, this actually feels really good.¬† I can do it this way.¬† Just made it longer‑‑ just tinkered and tinkered and tinkered until I found what felt the best to me.

Q.  You've done this Kapalua and Waialae swing before.  What's the adjustment?
MATT KUCHAR:  It's amazing how different the courses are.  I was telling the guys earlier, I putted really well for two days, and it's fun coming over here after Kapalua, putting on the greens that are so extreme with so much slope, so much grain, that putting is probably the hardest thing to do at Kapalua.  Now driving, of course, is much easier.  You've got huge, wide fairways.  You have completely different golf courses, a dead flat golf course here at Waialae, one of the hilliest covering the most terrain courses we play at Kapalua.  Driving is completely different and putting is completely different.
But for me, the putting is‑‑ it's been fun to come over here.¬† It feels like the putts are much more makeable here without a whole lot of slope and without a whole lot of grain.

Q.  I remember you talking last week at Kapalua about playing Hero and Shark Shootout and how you kind of used one to knock the rust off and you were pretty good to go by the next one.  I'm curious if you feel that way about these two weeks.
MATT KUCHAR:  Yeah, I was feeling good going into last week, but a tournament after three weeks of just being at home, you just kind of don't know how sharp you are.  I feel like I continue to improve with tournament time, with second week, third week, fourth week.  I had that great stretch of golf last kind of March, April of being there.  Felt like I kept getting better and then won Hilton Head in my fourth week in a row.  So here I'm hoping to follow a similar progression.  It's looking like I'm off to a much better start this week and feel like I'm playing pretty solidly in all facets.

Q.¬† I think you mentioned that you made that putting change in 2011.¬† That's also the first of three straight top 10s here and now this, after you've missed a few cuts here.¬† Did you have to learn something about this golf course, or how do you kind of‑‑
MATT KUCHAR:¬† I think my game has just improved, not necessarily due to putting.¬† I think my game is much steadier, much better, much more consistent.¬† I don't know that I have any extra knowledge on this course.¬† I think this course is pretty straightforward.¬† There's not a whole lot to figure out.¬† This may be one of the most straightforward courses we play all year.¬† It's tricky.¬† I mean, it's hard.¬† Generally I tell people this is the course that you think you should shoot 6‑under every time you tee it up, but you tee it up, and trying to hit some of these fairways in some crosswinds‑‑ now, we've had two days of pretty light winds is I think why we're seeing some pretty good scoring out there.¬† But this place is straightforward, but it's tricky and hard and challenging at the same time.

Q.  On TV they said you'd never birdied 13 year until this year and you've done it both days.
MATT KUCHAR:  13 is a really hard hole.  It's one where you can play a lot and you'd be real happy with not making too many bogeys there, much less birdies.  So it was good fortune for two days to make a couple birdies and just get that monkey off my back.

Q.  Did you know that before Billy mentioned it?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† I did not know that I was birdie‑less on 13, but I do know it's an awfully difficult hole.

Q.  Webb said when he first tried a belly putter he was afraid to take it back to Wake because he thought people would make fun of him.  I'm just curious the first person you saw in college using a belly or the first time you saw one, did you make fun of that person, would you have, and did you make fun of Webb when you saw him with the short putter?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† It was definitely not until I was out on TOUR that I saw a belly putter.¬† I was probably too green to make fun of anyone when I first saw it.¬† I certainly commented about Webb using the short putter.¬† I don't know if it was making fun, but he made a seven‑footer on the first hole for birdie yesterday, and I kind of stood in shock.¬† I didn't realize he was using the short putter until he actually hit his putt on the first hole, and I made a comment that we all should mark the time and date that Webb used a short putter and made a seven‑footer for birdie to start his 2015.

Q.  Can you talk about your recovery on 18 after the second shot and getting on the green there?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† Yeah, yeah.¬† Probably not the smartest shot but one I thought I could pull off, hitting that 3‑wood out of that fairway bunker.¬† I actually thought I made great contact.¬† I guess it just came out too low, which is not surprising.¬† I tend to make that mistake more often than I should.¬† I tend to generally learn my lessons pretty well, and that situation, I always think I can pull it off.¬† I had a nice lie, I had a fairly flat slope before it got to the lip of the bunker and thought I could get the ball up in the air, and even had to get it up over some palm trees that I thought I could still do, and I wasn't able to do it.¬† Kind of lucky that it stayed short enough from those palm trees that I could then still hit my third shot up over and onto the green.
It wasn't the most amazing recovery shot there.  That was kind of typical here of being in the rough.  You're going to have a flier lie, and judging the flier, I kind of have had enough of those to judge them fairly well now.  I was expecting to at least hit the green with that shot.

Q.  Regardless of what the weather conditions are this weekend, are you comfortable enough with your game, whether it blows or it doesn't blow, to continue to shoot the kind of scores you need to maybe win?
MATT KUCHAR:  Yeah, certainly if it blows we're not going to shoot the kind of scores we've been shooting the first two days, but shooting the kind of scores to be in contention to win the tournament, my game feels definitely solid enough to do that.  I'm quite pleased with the progression early on in 2015 and just where I feel and how in control I feel at the moment.

Q.  Everybody tries to get better from year to year.  How do you feel like you are better this year or how you feel like you're going to be better this year from last year?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† I look at the stats, and it's not that I dive into them and try to figure out what facets to get better at.¬† I find it pretty simple that driving, short game are kind of the‑‑ you don't need to be a genius to figure out that those need to be really good to have a great career out here.¬† Certainly the game provides no limit to how many things you can get better at.¬† It's just no matter how good of a putter you are, you can always become a better putter.¬† No matter how good of a bunker player, you can always become a better bunker player, just the amount of different shots that exist with just bunker shots.¬† You could spend years continuing to refine all the different ways to hit different bunker shots.
There's kind of no limit.  That's where I kind of continue to just chip away and try to get better with all facets.
With Chris O'Connell I feel like our progression year after year has continued to get better and made a great run now for certainly the last five years, but I'd even say he took me from the Nationwide to a top 125 guy to a top 100 guy to a top 70 guy to kind of all the way to a guy that's routinely in the top 5, top 10 in the world.
For me, again, I feel like what we do with my golf swing continues to improve my game and a lot of levels, whether it be long irons‑‑ being able to hit long irons higher in the air is one that I know will come in handy when we play major championships, when you play Augusta National and the U.S. Opens.¬† You have to be able to hit long irons higher and softer than what I did five, six years ago.¬† We've continued to kind of improve my striking of the ball so that these little things that seem simple actually go a long way to creating a better player.
We haven't said I need to focus on any sort of particular area.  We've just always kind of chipped away at every area, and with my golf swing it's been a thing where we've continued to refine it, and what he's taking it to is just a more consistent, more the kind of swing that produces the different shots that I feel are more necessary to play championship golf, the higher long irons.  I feel like my driving distance has increased over the past three, four, five years, and I think that's a huge thing to have.  If you can drive it 10 more yards, you're really helping yourself out.  If you can do anything really well, drive it like Dustin Johnson.  It's kind of hard to mess the game up when you hit a whole lot of wedges.
It really is such a huge, huge advantage and huge thing to have, to do what he and Bubba do.  It's a big advantage.  I also know better than to chase that one too far down the road.  I've seen a lot of guys run themselves off the TOUR by trying to hit it 10 more yards.  A lot of guys' games get ruined, and I feel like I've got a happy medium where I know how to play with the skills that I have but still try to make my swing more efficient yet still stay repetitive.

Q.  That being said, you're one of the more consistent guys on TOUR, a decent amount of wins, very successful, but what do you feel like is missing still from your resumé?
MATT KUCHAR:  Certainly I'm missing a major championship for sure, but I'm missing a Sony Open title from my resumé, I'm missing a Kapalua title from my resumé.  There's probably 30 of these I could go through and name.  But yeah, there's not one title that I wouldn't say I'd want to win it.
When I show up here, I give this the same amount of effort to winning the Sony Open as I'm going to put in for Augusta National, as I'm going to put in for a U.S. Open, as I'm going to put in‑‑ this is my major right here and now, and next week it will be the Humana Challenge.¬† I've never won the Humana Challenge.¬† I'd like to add that to my resum√©.¬† Certainly a major, I've had a World Golf Championship, had a PLAYERS and I'm awfully proud of those.¬† A major championship is something that we all as players know is kind of ‑‑ I feel like something we're judged by, but the list is long of things that I feel are missing from my resum√©.

Q.  It seems like a lot of younger guys are focusing mainly on majors.  They talk about majors all the time.  I'm assuming that they think these other events are important, but they seem to focus on majors.  It seems like your philosophy is somewhat old school.  Do you feel that way?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† I don't know how old school the major championship philosophy is.¬† I don't know if it was truly started with Jack or if we go back further to Bobby Jones.¬† I don't know.¬† It seems like it's every bit as much player driven as it is media driven as to what's the most important, what are we judged by.¬† But you want to beat the best fields on the best courses.¬† That seems to be the ultimate test.¬† Majors have the history‑‑ I certainly felt like THE PLAYERS Championship is beating the very best players on one of the very best courses.¬† Hard to say that should pale or be secondary to any other tournament.¬† You had the biggest field and the best field on a championship course.¬† That one I'm extremely proud of.
Major championships, I think several don't have the same quality of fields, but they have the history, and so we're judged by how we do in those, and then you certainly want to do‑‑ there's more desire to win those than any other event.

Q.  There's a 16 year old either inside or on the cut line now.  I'm curious about your thoughts on that and the first time you made a cut on TOUR.
MATT KUCHAR:¬† That's really cool.¬† I haven't kept up with the stories.¬† I'm certain he's local.¬† I think that's really cool.¬† I think that's great for Hawai'i.¬† I remember Tadd Fujikura a couple years ago, what an amazing story that was.¬† Just so exciting to see Tadd do well.¬† Anytime you get that local interest, a local boy doing well, and particularly a young kid, but I think they cheer for a mid‑am every bit as much.¬† Fun to see and fun to have hopes for a kid like that to do well, and somebody out of Hawai'i to go on and hopefully do some great things.
I remember I played Bay Hill for my first TOUR event.¬† I had won the U.S.Amateur and was going to be in the Masters later on that year and got an exemption to play Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill, and just‑‑ it was an amazing treat.¬† I can remember as a kid going‑‑ I was from Orlando, and I can remember as a kid going and watching and spectating and trying to steal range balls that would come outside the range area, and I can remember hanging out until dusk and beyond and having to walk back out the entire course back out to where we parked and sneaking under the ropes and walking on the fairway and just thinking how lush and perfect the fairways were, and then walking down the‑‑ I don't know what you'd call it, the walk paths we have from tee boxes to fairways.¬† We have like the little mow cut, and I thought how cool that was, just the mow cut, that the players didn't have to walk through the rough, that they had a cut of grass from the tee box down to the fairway.¬† I can remember so many things about a TOUR event being really cool, and then actually getting to be on the range properly hitting those balls on the range and not needing to kind of scramble to try to steal a couple.¬† It was an amazing week for me.¬† It was a cool way to kind of start my dreams to be a professional golfer.

Q.  Do you realize that you allowed Tiger to make the cut that year?
MATT KUCHAR:¬† I remember‑‑ I want to say‑‑ I don't know if they had the MDF, but somehow I got rained out‑‑ the cut was too big.¬† I remember they should have had the cut 70 and ties or‑‑

Q.  70 professionals and ties.
MATT KUCHAR:  Yeah, I didn't realize that I was one of that group.  How about that?

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