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April 8, 2013

Matt Kuchar


CLAUDE NIELSEN:テつ Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, it's a real pleasure to welcome back to Augusta National, Matt Kuchar.テつ This is his 7th appearance.テつ Matt collected his best Masters finish at the 2012 Tournament when he tied for third place.テつ He and champion Bubba Watson were the only two players to break par all four rounds last year.
Matt started the 2013 season with a pair of Top‑10 finishes in Hawai'i.テつ He then collected his first win of the 2013 season at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
Matt, welcome back to Augusta, and before we get underway with Q&A, why don't you make a few opening remarks.
MATT KUCHAR:テつ All right, thank you very much.テつ It is so exciting to be back here.テつ It's certainly one of my favorite places to come.テつ I have such great memories here.テつ But it's still hard to believe that it's already Masters week that is upon us.
I know after the Match Play I was asked a number of times about getting ready for the Masters and I said, that's a little too far away for me, I have several other tournaments I'm looking forward to playing, and the Masters will come around when it does.テつ It's hard to believe that it's here.
It's such an exciting week.テつ We got in late last night from San Antonio, and I'm giddy to get going (smiling).

Q.テつ Have you played the course today?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I played the front nine today, yeah.テつ It's in fantastic condition.テつ I didn't make any trips pre‑tournament.テつ This is my first time seeing it, 2013.テつ I had heard it was in great shape.テつ I heard the grass was kind of extra full this year, which the fairways are just fantastic.テつ The greens already have some firmness and quickness.
It seems every year when I play practice rounds, you kind of get a feeling that the greens get quicker and quicker each day.テつ They are already quick.テつ They are already firm.テつ I'm a little nervous to think what awaits us on Thursday.

Q.テつ Can you talk about your first trip here, I don't know if that would have been after the Amateur win or at Georgia Tech, and what were your first impressions?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ My very first trip was as a freshman at Georgia Tech.テつ The team came every year, hosted by a couple members, and so excited. テつAs a college kid, you never iron clothes or prepare the night before, but when you come to Augusta National, you iron clothes and you lay everything out the night before.テつ You just can't wait for that morning to come and make that drive down I‑20 over to Augusta and sit outside across the street from the entrance and wait for the member to arrive so you can get it.
It's just one of those magical memories.テつ I remember playing and I remember every hole seeming to go by so fast and all of a sudden being in the clubhouse having a cheeseburger and couldn't believe that the round was already over.テつ It still kind of goes by that way to me.テつ It's just one of those places where you have such anticipation for each upcoming hole, and then before you know it, you finish with a round and you just can't believe that you're already done with a round at Augusta National.テつ It feels like you never want it to end.

Q.テつ As somebody who had success early in the amateur level, and among the perks was it got you to here and to the U.S. Open, can you get your mind around a 14‑year‑old qualifying and playing in the Masters?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ No, no.テつ I did it at 19, and I can remember teeing it up with Tiger Woods, and the first tee, being glad I got the ball to balance on the tee (laughter) being so nervous that that was like a big moment that it just stayed down without falling down and me trembling so bad that I didn't knock the ball off.
And at 14‑‑ maybe 19, I could have been too young to know what I was really in for.テつ At 14, you may be too young to know what you're in for.テつ That's amazing.テつ I'm excited to wish him well and congratulate him on qualifying.

Q.テつ Kind of on that note, what are your recollections of your first year here in 1998, playing as an amateur and doing so well, kind of your breakthrough on a national stage?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I had so many really cool experiences.テつ Staying in the Crow's Nest is one of those things that you never forget.テつ I mean, college is such a fun experience, and it's kind of like a glorified college dormitory experience up in the Crow's Nest.テつ It's tight quarters, but it's with guys that have qualified as amateurs, and I remember going to the amateur dinner that was hosted when I was playing by Charlie Yates, who was a Georgia Tech graduate, Georgia Tech alumni, had become a friend of mine.テつ So to have a guy that I knew so well and had such respect for host the Amateur dinner gave me some comfort straightaway.テつ Had some great stories.
You finish that amateur dinner, and you really feel like this tournament is for you, as an amateur.テつ This is what it's supposed to be.テつ You feel like you can go out and win the tournament.テつ It feels like this is‑‑ Bobby Jones designed it with amateurs in mind, and they couldn't wait to have some amateurs have some real success.
So it was‑‑ I had so much excitement, and so many great memories.テつ I remember every day walking up the 18th with Dad caddying for me and kind of pulling back for a minute and just trying to soak it all in, kind of slowing down the walk as we get close to the 18th green going, can you believe we played another round and made our a way around Augusta National and the Masters.テつ Just try to enjoy every moment.
There were great memories, and'98, it's been a long time ago, but it feels like yesterday to me.

Q.テつ Now that you're such an old hand here, I'll ask you a question, maybe hard to answer because it answer might vary according to conditions.テつ If you had to think right away, what is the toughest shot out here?テつ Is there one shot where you say, this is the toughest shot at this place?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I think if you're going for the green in two‑ 15.テつ I think even if you lay up, I think the approach shot into 15 is one of the hardest.テつ I think even from a wedge distance, it's a hard shot.テつ You're on a downslope that kind of pitches with the ball above your feet, but you take that back to 220 yards, 250 yards away, trying to judge the distance with that much downhill with water in front and water in back.テつ I think the approach into 15 is probably the hardest.

Q.テつ Everyone talks about experience being so key here.テつ What did you learn about yourself, your game last year with a top three finish that if you had to do it over again or can maybe help you go into this tournament this year?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ You know, I'm not sure how much experience or course knowledge helps.テつ I feel like the idea about course knowledge only helps if you hit it where you want to hit it.テつ If you're in full control where you are hitting the ball, then course knowledge helps.
But if you're not, you kind of throw that out the window.テつ So last year, it just gives me confidence knowing that I can contend in major championships; that I can be there late on Sunday.テつ It was my first real chance to win a major coming down the stretch late on Sunday.テつ I had been there, kind of early on in the week, but never so late.
So it just feels like to me, one of those steppingstones into continuing to contend and winning majors, just having that experience that I've been there; and the more times you're there, the more comfortable you get with it.

Q.テつ Other than the disappointment of not winning, what was your reaction to Bubba not winning last year; the way he stood up to that pressure and came through?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I'd still like to see where he hit that shot from.テつ I don't know if there's any sort of ‑‑ I don't imagine there being a plaque, but there must be a thousand divots from the place, probably dug a hole with all of the people trying to replicate the shot.
I think he's a great fit to play well around this place.テつ As far as he hits it, as high as he hits it, lefties being able to kind of hit the fade, which I feel like there are more right‑to‑left holes, you have a little more control with the fade being a lefty. テつI think he's a good fit and a guy that if you're in a pool, you'd be glad to have him picked as your guy for having a chance to win the tournament.
But I was excited, having a guy come through‑‑ I don't know, maybe it was last year, or two years ago, there were not many Americans winning majors and now it seems like they have settled down that conversation, which is pleasant (chuckling).テつ Certainly happy for Bubba.

Q.テつ You just referenced getting in contention here last here.テつ Having won the WGC this year, do you feel like the next step for you is a major?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Yeah, I'd like to have a year with multiple wins.テつ I mean, I think the more comfortable you get winning tournaments; I've now got five wins, and I'd like to continue that going.テつ But majors are certainly on my radar.
I think all of us try to peak for major championships.テつ Everybody wants to get their game in the best shape possible for majors.テつ To me I always felt like it was hard to turn things off and on.テつ I would like to kind of be on with regularity and play well week‑in and week‑out, and I felt like that was the best preparation and just continue playing well and let that carry into major championships and just keep the good play going.
So I've been pleased at kind of the trajectory of my career the last couple years.テつ Been playing some really good, consistent golf kind of week‑in and week‑out.テつ You just don't want to hope that you happen to be timing it well for a certain week.テつ I'd like to be able to kind of roll out of bed, know that I'm going to be hitting it good and have a good chance when I tee it up.テつ I felt like my game has progressed that way.
I hope that a week like this in major championships that you kind of get the breaks and the putts go in that week.テつ I'm certainly looking forward to contending more in majors and hopefully getting my chance to win a couple.

Q.テつ Today did you notice any changes on the course, 14 green or anything like that?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I just played the front nine, so I did not‑‑ it seemed like a couple bunkers had more sand than I remember in past years.テつ I think there's maybe just a little bit more sand than I remember in the last year or two.

Q.テつ You mentioned a few moments ago about the first time coming here, the ball trembling on the tee.テつ Russell Henley said he came here so nervous and jacked up and excited; is there a time in the tournament where the nerves settle down?テつ I know it's not just another tournament, but you kind of get in your zone a little bit?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Is there a time?

Q.テつ How long did it take for you to, I guess, overcome just being at the Masters?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ It's funny, then I would have said it took me probably three, four holes to feel like I could get the ball to balance on the tee without any problem.
Now, I think as with anything else you do in life, if it's giving speeches, if it's doing whatever, you're nervous your first few times.テつ And now I feel like I've had so many first tee opportunities, so many‑‑ every week, we tee it up again and again and again.テつ You get more and more comfortable.
Now, major championships, certainly are special and are different, but you get more and more comfortable with the first tee just having done it time and time again.テつ I feel like I'm more and more comfortable, certainly the butterflies will be there.テつ And when you get in contention, they continue to be there.テつ But just with experience and just getting to do something with regularity, those things thankfully come down a little bit.

Q.テつ I apologize in advance for asking a question about the Bulldogs.テつ But Russell is having a good year.テつ Harris English has had his moments and looks like he's here to stay.テつ With what Bubba did; do these guys have anything in particular in common?テつ Are they coming out of the Georgia program a little bit more ready‑made for this?テつ Are there things that they do well in common that you can see?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I'd like to say that Georgia Tech has got about as many alumni out here as possible.テつ I don't know the head‑to‑head count, but, I certainly speak with more authority on the Georgia Tech team.テつ I think they provide a great program, and maybe some of the matchups that we have against those guys, it's some great golf teams.テつ Tech has had probably a Top‑5 or Top‑10 team for 15 years.テつ I'd say Georgia has been pretty close to the state.テつ There's been a handful of other schools, maybe Oklahoma State, and I don't think of any others that have consistently top‑notch teams.テつ I don't have any ‑‑
Q.You see so many of those guys at Sea Island all the time, I'm sure you've gotten to know them a little bit better through that.
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Yeah, I don't have any good reason as to why you've got a bunch of young guys coming out of Georgia right now doing well.テつ I'd have to say, competition helps.テつ I'd have to say you get a handful of guys that motivate each other to do better.テつ Could be the only thing I can think of.

Q.テつ I mean, obviously any major victory would be tremendous.テつ But with the way you've connected with galleries here, playing at Georgia Tech, do you think this would mean any more to you and the people here at this tournament if you were able to put that green jacket on Sunday?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ This one is the most special and I feel like I've got the biggest connection.テつ I don't know if that would be said across the board.テつ It's the one major that everybody does have the most connection because it's the same course.テつ It's the only major that's played on the same course every year.テつ So you build up a real knowledge and intimacy with this place.
But being at Georgia Tech, following kind of the Bobby Jones footsteps, the Charlie Yates footsteps, there's a lot of connections for me; State of Georgia is home.テつ It's a special place for sure.

Q.テつ Playing any practice rounds with anyone else and any plans for the Par 3 on Wednesday?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I don't know yet, practice round.
Par 3, tried my best to get Steve Stricker to sign us up early.テつ Every year I seem to get one of the last four or five tee times.テつ I don't know how you get anything earlier than the last four or five tee times, but somehow you do.テつ So I'm off at 3:44 with Steve Stricker and Mike Weir in the Par 3, having my boys caddie for the first time, see how that goes, they are three and five years old.
Fortunately the Par 3 Contest, if the kids don't behave like proper caddies should behave, that's part of the fun and I know the boys are excited and looking forward to it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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