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February 18, 2014

Matt Kuchar


LAURA NEAL:テつ We'd like to welcome our defending champion, Matt Kuchar to the interview room.テつ Aside the boys being disappointed there's no snowmen, tell us what it means to come back and defend your title.
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Awfully excited to be back.テつ It's funny, the last couple of years, to have snow the last two or three years, my boys expect it when we come here.テつ So now seeing the forecast is great, I think they're still planning on it snowing here.テつ I think the rest of us are awfully happy to see proper Tucson weather, what everybody comes here and stays here and lives here for weather like this.
It's great to be back.テつ I got a couple of early practice rounds in.テつ The course is in fantastic shape.テつ The greens are firm and fast.テつ This should make for another fun week.

Q.テつ After blithely top 10 go your way through the entire season, how do you process missing the cut last week in LA?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I take a lot of pride in showing up and playing good golf every week.テつ I feel that's been something I've been able to do, something I do take a lot of pride in.
Disappointing last week to miss the cut and miss the cut in the fashion I did.テつ I don't know if it was lack of preparation, trying to juggle the new Tour schedule with the fall, the wrap around schedule, trying to get a break, is kind of something I'm learning, and I think most of us will learn how to work it.
I decided this year that after Sony I was going to take a mini off‑season, take a four‑week break.テつ We stayed in Hawaii; we basically just lived the Hawaiian life.テつ Did every activity possible, had a great time.テつ It was not something I regret at all.テつ It's something I look back on as one of my favorite places we've been, favorite trips we've taken.テつ We had an amazing stay.テつ And one of those things I look back on, how many opportunities do you get to take a trip to such a memorable place, spend four weeks in a place like the big island of Hawaii.テつ It was fantastic.
I came to LA a little under‑prepared, but had a couple of meetings with my instructor Chris O'Connell, and we worked a week before the tournament on some new stuff.テつ I put it right into play.テつ I liked it.テつ And I'm excited about it.テつ I just don't think I knew exactly how to control the misses.テつ I think I just didn't have enough time to put something new in play.テつ But at the same token, I'm going to keep it in play, because I know it's going to be better in the long run.テつ I know it's a thing whereas golfers we all constantly try to get better.テつ And I know this is a path towards getting better.
So not real concerned.テつ Certainly had a lot of pride in not missing a cut in over a year, but time to start a new streak, I guess.

Q.テつ Seems like there's a pretty fair amount of first‑timers here this year.テつ What do you remember from your first time playing this event and any of the big takeaways you have as a first‑timer here?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ It's a unique event, match play.テつ You never know what to expect.テつ It's such a cool place and such a cool event.テつ I remember just being so excited to qualify.テつ You've got to make that top 64 and kind of‑‑ I can't remember if I was on the bubble or not, but I'm sure I remembered looking at whether it's the top 64 or top 50 or whatever going, Golly, it would be great to just get inside that so I can make one of the World Golf Championship events.テつ And for a guy to make it is a big deal, awfully exciting.テつ In match play, it's one of those things you never know, anything can happen.

Q.テつ If they could start over with this event, changing the format, whatever, what would you do, if anything?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I love the format.テつ I think it's good.テつ I think it's good for golf.テつ I think it makes for some real exciting matches, makes for something just different than four rounds of 72‑hole stroke play.テつ I don't think I'd change it.

Q.テつ There's a feeling of 32 guys going home on Wednesday.テつ And if you could ensure a way that everyone at least gets a couple of rounds in, do you buy into that or do you like the fact that half the field is gone after one day?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ It's interesting.テつ I don't know that much about a whole lot of other types formats, like hockey and the Olympics.テつ I haven't quite figured out how that pool play worked.テつ I just didn't look hard enough.テつ I still have been asking a number of people exactly how it worked, how‑‑ once you're the top two in your pool, group, then it's not knock out.テつ Some teams get a buy.テつ I couldn't quite figure out.テつ It wasn't like to the quarter finals, to the Sweet 16.テつ It was something I didn't quite figure out.テつ So I'm not sure, maybe that system is good.テつ I haven't paid enough attention.テつ I typically know a draw, whether it's tennis, whether it's golf, as being just a straight knock out.テつ But it seems like soccer does some sort of pool play and then into a proper draw, Olympic hockey.テつ I don't know enough about the exact format, but it seems like people are using it and using it well.テつ If it's in the Olympics, if it's in World Cup soccer, it's probably a pretty good format.

Q.テつ Since your match play record has been so good between amateur golf, I'm curious what some of your most memorable matches are, whether at this event or early in your career?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ The U.S. Amateur is still one of the most special events for me.テつ Being so young, to win a tournament that could arguably be called a Major championship, that was unique.テつ The semifinal and the final matches, I remember really clearly, and I remember knowing that the night before the semifinal match, knowing that if I win the semifinal, I'm in the Masters.テつ These huge carrots that are out there, to potentially have, and at that age, I think I'm 19, to have the potential to play in the Masters, I couldn't have been more nervous.テつ I don't think I slept but about an hour that night and probably about an hour the next night.テつ So those are really special for me.
Some of the matches I've played in the team competition, the match play format, had some great team matches that are quite memorable to me, quite special to me.テつ Winning a World Golf Championship, winning the Match Play Championship here last year, it's something I'm still‑‑ I still haven't gotten the draw, I've asked a couple of people that I'd like to have a draw made up from last year.テつ I have one at the U.S. Amateur at the house.テつ It's fun to look at the names, to go through the best 64 players in the world, to kind of go through and look at all the names that you were able to get by and that you basically beat that week, is a pretty amazing thing.テつ So I'm anxious to still get my hands on that draw, because the win here was very special.

Q.テつ What were some of the swing changes that you put into play last week?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Just trying to open the club up a little more and lay it off a little more.テつ They all result in kind of the same thing.テつ My work is to always get the club lower, tighter, more around to the left in the through swing.テつ So it's‑‑ we haven't really touched my backswing much in the seven years I've worked with Chris.テつ And the few times I have, we've actually had some good success.テつ And we went back that way.テつ I put it in play because I was just flushing it.テつ But I don't think I quite was ready to know how exactly to play it, what shot shapes, what misses I'd have just yet.テつ So got a lot of extra time kind of on the course.テつ Range time is only so good.テつ I think you've got to be on the course to hit those side hill lies, the three‑quarter shots, to kind of know what shots are going to come and what misses may come and how to avoid certain misses, as well.

Q.テつ So what was it that caused you to realize that you needed to make a swing change?テつ Would you consider this minor?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I think we're always striving to get better.テつ It's not a‑‑ there's no need, it's just a constant attempt to get better.テつ And it seems like there's always going to be some little tweak.テつ And this little tweak, I just didn't have enough time with.

Q.テつ Just your thoughts on Eisenhower's tree being gone, how much different that's going to make it.テつ What would you do if the club asked you, which they won't, going forward?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I think I'd fall in the same category as Eisenhower.テつ I'm glad to see it go.テつ I've hit it far too many times.

Q.テつ How much different is it going to be?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ There's so many more trees now.テつ I think I've flown Eisenhower tree enough times and hit the one right behind it, there's a sneaky little one right behind it.テつ I don't think it's going to be that big a difference.
17, in Eisenhower's day, it was pretty much the only tree there.テつ Now it's kind of a forest on the left and a forest on the right.テつ So I don't think there's going to be that much of a difference with that tree gone.

Q.テつ You mentioned earlier in this news conference that you love the format of match play.テつ How much does that help you this week compared to some other guys who maybe don't love the format, do you think that helps you mentally at all?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I would think it has to.テつ I would think if a guy doesn't like playing in the rain and it's raining out, his chances of success probably aren't that great.
The one difference‑‑ I mean I could love the format, play great, Wednesday morning, and still go home Wednesday afternoon.テつ It's one of those unique, interesting formats.テつ But it's match play, everybody knows what it is.テつ You've got to beat your opponent, play better than your opponent that day.

Q.テつ So I'm still curious about the swing change in LA.テつ Can you talk a little bit about‑‑ did it cause you to have to play thinking more about your swing or do you think about your swing anyway when you play?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ No, I always have a mechanical thought.テつ There's always something.テつ It's normally a downswing thought.テつ Thinking backswing is different for me.テつ We've had a couple of tweaks with great success on the backswing, but pretty much 97 percent of our work has been downswing related.テつ And that's the part that hits the golf ball.テつ So I found it easier working on a part that hits the golf ball than a part that doesn't.テつ I'm excited about it.テつ It's not something that I think, golly, I wish I didn't do it.テつ It's something that is going to be better, and I know is better.テつ I'm hitting the ball higher, farther, cleaner.テつ I just haven't figured out kind of my parameters and how to avoid area shots.
I think back to last week, I had a situation, I can't remember the whole‑‑ dog leg left at Riviera, backside, 13.テつ I hit a great drive.テつ Only got a 9‑iron into a front left pin and missed it left.テつ I mean, you just know that you can't miss it left there.テつ It's zero chance.テつ It's one of those mistakes that I would never make, just having a new swing wasn't quite ready to avoid areas like that.テつ There's shots where you can be aggressive and the standard flat lie that you get on the range, I can make it repeat and repeat and repeat.テつ The ball is above your feet, kind of a little downhill lie, working on something, and I just wasn't quite sharp enough to figure out, well, whatever you do, you can't go left here.テつ But that being said, the shot came out of the center of the club face, felt good, I just looked up and said, Oh, that needs to hang on just a little bit.テつ So it just requires, I think, a little more time with it.

Q.テつ (Inaudible.)
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Kind of had some fun with Hunter.テつ Hunter gave me a pounding a few years ago.テつ It was nice to get him back.テつ He's one of those guys that I like.テつ I admire.テつ I think a lot of.テつ I'm kind of fortunate that we've only squared off kind of late in the tournaments.テつ I can't think of any early round matches where I've had somebody really, a close friend, to go up against.

Q.テつ Rather play a close friend or someone you don't like?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ I like everybody, Doug (laughter).
Somebody I don't know well is probably easier to play than somebody I know well.

Q.テつ What advice would you give someone who is trying to find their swing, what works best for them?
MATT KUCHAR:テつ Someone that's trying to find their swing?テつ I always slow my swing way down, trying to just make good contact.テつ So kind of you dial it back to maybe a 50 percent, like a half swing, and start making good contact and the shot you want, then build up to 75 percent and trying to hit that same shot that you're visualizing, whether it's a draw, a frayed or straight ball, whatever it is.テつ And then build up to where you can go 100 percent and more and still repeat that same technique and same result.
LAURA NEAL:テつ Thanks so much.テつ Good luck this week.

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