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July 20, 2017

Matt Kuchar

Southport, England

STUART MOFFAT: It's my pleasure to welcome Matt Kuchar to the interview room.

Matt, you're currently tied for the lead in The Open. Bogey-free round with five birdies. You must be very happy with your first round performance today.

MATT KUCHAR: Certainly, very happy. I watched some of the golf this morning on TV. It looked awfully challenging. It looked like anything under-par was going to be a good score. Curious as the day went on, seemed like the later your tee time the better draw you got.

We had enough four, five, six holes that were certainly challenging this morning. I don't think near as challenging as the early guys. But as we got later on in the day, the sun came out and warmed up. Still breezy but certainly easier than this morning.

But for me to start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine, is a great way to start.

Q. I don't think you pay much attention to these stats, but five of the last six Open champions were won by someone that's 39 or older. And 18 of the last 19 majors were won by a top-30 player, which you qualify for both.
MATT KUCHAR: Lucky me.

Q. Is it true you don't pay attention to that stuff? And why do you think more seasoned players are successful in The Open?
MATT KUCHAR: I don't pay attention and I don't have an answer. I wish I did. It's not something I think about. Certainly if I was a betting man, certainly not going to rule Jordan Spieth out. He misses out on one of those categories. I think he's got as good a shot as anybody. So I don't have a reason, I don't know if there is a good reason.

Q. Thursday at a major can kind of be a feeling-out type of thing, getting into the rhythm of it. You got off to that blazing start. Can you take us through that, what was working so well there?
MATT KUCHAR: Been pleased with my game. Was real happy with my performance last week at the Scottish Open. We had a couple awfully challenging days there at the Scottish Open. And I remember being on the course thinking -- at one point on the 12th hole Saturday I had 129 yards to the pin and hit a 6-iron in. And thought to myself, I am glad I'm over here, glad I'm doing this. It was extremely difficult conditions, but this is not something I can ever remember doing in the States. And just getting a feel for playing the different shots that you are required to play over here.

So after last week's good performance I thought it's a perfect tune-up for coming into this week. I think everybody thinks Royal Birkdale is just a fantastic test of golf. Very fair, proper, good test. I come in having forgot just how good it was. I played in '98, played in 2008. I forget just how good of a golf course this is.

And enjoyed my practise rounds. Felt like I had a good feel for the golf course, and certainly never expect to go out at 5-under par on the front nine at a British Open, but you take your opportunities where you get them. I was presented some really good chances.

Second hole was a tough hole today. I hit driver and a 6-iron in. I think I probably only had 155 yards to the hole, but the wind was blowing hard at the time. I hit a great shot, and again it was one of those kind of feeling back to the Scottish Open, knew kind of how to play the shot pretty well; 6-iron into the hole ten feet and made it.

Hit one close on 4.

Hit a good wedge shot to ten feet on 5.

Made an incredible birdie on the 6th hole. One of the hardest holes out here. And it's just certainly my goal on 6 wasn't to tee off and make birdie. My goal was to kind of survive the 6th hole, however, made a birdie. And I just kept plotting away.

The backside I stayed incredibly aggressive, particularly off the tee. I had a couple of opportunities that I wasn't able to convert but it was -- sitting here at 5-under par, I'm awfully pleased.

Q. You can often tell the quality of a golf course from the leaderboard. You've got top names up there, yourself, and of course Jordan and Paul Casey. Does that sort of reflect this golf course, the top players are up there on the leaderboard?
MATT KUCHAR: I always think you can judge a lot about a golf course by its leaderboard Sunday afternoon. A Thursday afternoon, it's Thursday. Sunday is the proper four-round test. So we'll wait until Sunday and see what the leaderboard looks like.

Q. This is the second time in as many weeks that you've played the first two rounds with Richie Ramsay. You go back a wee bit with him. Can you talk about how much it is to play a good round of golf if you're enjoying the company of the guys you're with?
MATT KUCHAR: Certainly, I think I tend to enjoy everybody's company out here. I get on pretty well with most guys. Richie and I go back. He's the U.S. Amateur champion, played an event called the Georgia Cup at my home club, the Golf Club of Georgia. Seen him around for a lot of years. He's a guy kind of like myself, when you win the U.S. Amateur at a young age you're kind of introduced to the guys on Tour, you feel like you get a head start on a lot of your other peers.

So I've been around Richie for a long time. He's a great guy. We have a lot of mutual friends, particularly from the Golf Club of Georgia. And he's easygoing, good guy to play with.

Q. Just makes it easier out there, I take it, when you are in good company?
MATT KUCHAR: Sure. Then and I had Ryan Fox. I played with Ryan in a tournament at Fiji three years ago. And I hit it off with Ryan, a kid from New Zealand. Hits it a long way. A kid you could tell was going to make it out here, and having a great time on the European Tour this year. We had a nice round of golf, but I can't tell you that there are many that I don't enjoy the company. A bunch of good people in the game of golf.

Q. What are your memories from '98 here? What stands out there? And how long did it take you to make the adjustments to playing links golf?
MATT KUCHAR: I'm still making the adjustments. Yeah, I have a lot of memories. I remember the first tee shot being far harder for some reason in '98. It was one of the things that stood out. I remember the mound and the bunker on the left. And I remember 30-mile-an-hour crosswind and having the hardest time hitting the first fairway. It's one of those things that stands out in my mind from '98, thinking, that first fairway is impossible. I came here this week and played it and in my mind I think I made it much harder than it is. I had not near the trouble with the first as I remember as a 19-year-old.

But my other memories, I remember playing a practise round with Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart. I remember I was close to turning pro after the British Open. And most of the Tour players that I had picked their brain and said, "Matt, you seem like you're ready to go pro. You seem like your game is ready. Probably a good time to strike while the iron a hot." Payne said, "Matt, stay in school. You only have four years to be a college kid. The PGA Tour is going to be here for the next hundred years. Don't be a veteran that's been out here ten, 20 years, and wishing, 'I had those two years back to be a college kid.'"

That's certainly a vivid memory of my time here in '98.

Q. How many drivers did you hit today?
MATT KUCHAR: A lot. A lot. There weren't many driving holes that I pulled less than driver. There were a couple, but not many.

Q. You said you'd forgotten how much you love the golf course. You've played almost all the courses in the rota. Almost everyone says it's one of their favourites, if not their favourite. What makes it so special?
MATT KUCHAR: It seems so playable, so fair, well designed with the different staggering of bunkers, the fairways. You feel like if you hit it down the fairway, it's going to stay in the fairway, you're not going to get a funny kick. You feel like quality shots are rewarded as quality shots. If you get in some trouble, they give you some room to run a ball up on the green, proper links style. A handful of greens are pitched out but they tend to be shorter holes where you're hitting shorter irons, and fair enough to have to fly the ball on the green and stop it on those. But for the most part it seems to be a very, very fair test of golf.

Q. With Henrik winning last year and Sergio at the Master's, do you take anything from that, kind of like it's never too late to win one of these, maybe in a later stage in your career, that type of thing?
MATT KUCHAR: No, no. I think for all of us, I mean, regardless of your age, if you're in this field you have a dream to win the title. I think you go down this entire list of players, I think every one thinks, if I put the week together, it could be me at the end of the week holding the trophy. I know I've been around a while, but I also feel like I'm in about the prime of my golfing career. I feel like I certainly have as good a chance as anybody.

Q. A lot of people obviously here are laying back short of fairway bunkers. Are you hitting driver to hit in the same spots they are, or do you feel like you're taking on fairway bunkers and taking on risks and playing aggressive off the tee?
MATT KUCHAR: A handful. My strategy evolved, changed, adapted to the conditions, and was different. The 10th hole, dogleg left, bunker is on the left corner, most people play it down the right side. For some reason it felt like the numbers were the perfect fit for me to hit driver over the left bunkers and avoid the true bunkers on the right.

18, almost similar, and an opposite dogleg - dogleg right, bunker on the right corner. I felt like I could hit driver, take that bunker out of play. I think most people would play it up the left.

There were a handful of just kind of different plays that I certainly didn't come into the day planning on making. It's just what the conditions set up for and what looked right to my eye. What looked like was a good fit for the shots that I'm able to play. There were a couple of plays that I probably don't think many other guys in the field made that I made today. But tomorrow may be completely different and I may be way more conservative. I'm sure I'll hit a lot of drivers again tomorrow, but it may not be to try to carry bunkers, it may be because I can't reach them. I tend to hit a lot of drivers, but around here you've got to be smart. You can't just take on silly risks. These pot bunkers, they're stroke penalties. So you can occasionally take them out of play, that's a bonus.

Q. When you get to this venue and your game, what's the one biggest thing this week, the biggest key to dictate a big week for you?
MATT KUCHAR: It's got to be driving it well. The bunkers are shot penalties. If you're driving it well, you're driving in in the fairway, missing the bunkers, you've got a real shot to play well.

STUART MOFFAT: Thanks, Matt, for joining us.

MATT KUCHAR: Thank you.

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