Accenture Match Play interview: Matt Kuchar

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February 24, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: WGC-Accenture Match Play transcript archive

LAURA NEAL: We'd like to welcome Matt Kuchar to the interview room, our 2013 World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship winner. How does that sound? It's been a long day but worth it in the end.

MATT KUCHAR: I'll tell you, Laura, I'm not sure I can explain how excited I am to have won this tournament. Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure. It seems like each hole there's so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole. To come out on top after six matches of playing guys, the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling.

Q. You touched on this a couple years ago when your regrowth sort of started. You had a great amateur career and a win early on as a pro, then everything went bad for a while. What happened and how did you rebuild it to this point?

MATT KUCHAR: I've really got to say the credit would be in finding an instructor, Chris O'Connell. He really helped rebuild my game. That was in 2006, I found my way back on the Nationwide Tour, got introduced to Chris O'Connell, we started working, and he's turned me into the golfer I am today. I mean, just my work with him, I've become so much more consistent of a player. I was good in my younger days but streaky. I could be really good for a while and then struggle. And now I feel like I'm a golfer that can hit quality shots week in and week out, day in and day out.

So I owe a lot of credit to Chris O'Connell.

Q. Two questions: What club on 12?

MATT KUCHAR: 8‑iron.

Q. Secondly, for a guy with a 4‑up lead, there wasn't a dull hole on the back nine. I wonder if you could talk about how it felt to have a four‑shot lead with Hunter almost challenging to take the momentum away at every turn.

MATT KUCHAR: He played a fantastic back side, just really kind of put the pressure back on me. You could feel Hunter gaining the momentum. I had that 4‑up lead on the front, and then every hole was just so difficult with the conditions the way they were today that there was just a bogey around any corner, and Hunter made a couple birdies there to put some pressure on me. Fortunately he slipped on his approach shot, or not slipped, he missed his approach shot on 13 to kind of give me the advantage there, and then bounced right back and stuffed it on 14, and it looked like we were having just a fight to the end.

A lot of credit goes to Hunter for staying and fighting the way he did. That 4‑down deficit had to be tough for him at the turn where things could have easily gone quickly to finish the match out had he not put the pedal down and really started playing some good golf.

Q. Which hole and which shot was the most critical for you on the back nine?

MATT KUCHAR: I think the putt on 12. I think making that birdie on 12, I knew Hunter was going to make his. The shot was certainly good, but the putt was really crucial, and when that went in, I felt like I was still in control of the match. Had that putt not gone in, it would have been only a 1‑up lead, and I think the match was in anybody's hands at that point.

Q. You talked about there being so much pressure, but you looked unflappable out there. How do you internalize the pressure?

MATT KUCHAR: I think I was hiding in my ski cap and ski mitts and did a good job of covering up any sort of nervousness.

I did a great job today of being excited to hit the next shot. I was ‑‑ I knew that if I was to have a lapse of any sort mentally, physically, just to have a little lapse that the match could swing, momentum could swing pretty quickly. It's easy to go astray here.

So I enjoyed being out there, I had a great time, but I was also very focused on what I was doing. Match play, you can't get too far ahead of yourself. It's just every hole is so key that I think it keeps you a little bit more in the present, and I think that probably helped me a bit today.

Q. You talked a little bit about your struggles and finding your swing back. Does a win like this have more significance to you because of those struggles and do you appreciate those wins more?

MATT KUCHAR: I absolutely do. Winning on the PGA TOUR is really difficult. The guys just ‑‑ you don't win that often. So to win it all is a real thrill, but to have battled the battles, to have gone down to the Nationwide Tour I think makes you appreciate things all that much more. I went seven years between wins. I won 2002 real early in my PGA TOUR career, then went seven years before I won again in 2009. And so I understand and I appreciate the effort that goes into it and the challenge and the climb you have to make to get back to that winner's circle. So I absolutely ‑‑ I think these are ‑‑ the wins are more special because of the hard times.

Q. Considering your record here and at the U.S. Amateur, what makes you such a good match play player? What's in the DNA?

MATT KUCHAR: I can't tell you any secrets. I play match play, my game plan is to start off as much like stroke play as I can, play the golf course, forget about what the opponent is doing unless the opponent does something, either hits one to gimme length or hits one where he cannot make a par from a situation. It may change strategy a little bit. But for the most part I am playing the same, so feel pretty comfortable in just trying to play the golf course, try to hit the middle of the fairways, try to hit greens.

I don't really adjust strategy unless something out of the ordinary has happened. That's the only thing I can tell you about the way I play match play.

Q. You both birdied 15. What happened on 16? Did you hit the wrong club? And then what were you thinking going to 17 tee?

MATT KUCHAR: It was funny, 12, I watched Hunter step up and hit 8‑iron, and so that really helped my club decision. That's a big guesswork on 12 trying to figure out the right club. So I watched Hunter hit 8, I hit 8, we both hit it probably as good as we can, and we're very similar in distances with the irons.

Hunter hit a flat 4‑iron on the 16th hole, so it was perfect 4‑iron. I was going to hold it up a little bit more towards the right, I wasn't going to be quite as aggressive, and the wind just died. It was one of those things that you go, that's not right, and you have to just ‑‑ those situations happen. You have to accept them, and I think I just accepted it, tried to get up‑and‑down, and then it looked like things were continuing to be exciting with just a 1‑up lead with two to go.

Q. Do you think a lot of players come here and they embrace ‑‑ do you think they embrace this tournament?

MATT KUCHAR: I think everybody looks forward to it. I think everybody likes a little bit of a difference from stroke play, from four rounds of stroke play. Now, after the first round, guys might say differently. But I think when we show up and we see the draw, I think there is an excitement in everybody's minds that this is going to be a different week and in that rite a fun week.

Q. Two questions: The times you finished against Sergio and ended on 17, did you play the 18th all week?

MATT KUCHAR: No.

Q. Except for the practice round, or did you play it in a practice round?

MATT KUCHAR: Played it in a practice round.

Q. As foolish as this may sound, which win was more stressful for you, this one here or '98?

MATT KUCHAR: The '97 amateur. Yeah, the '97 amateur was ‑‑ I had never been in a situation quite like that, never had any sort of real media attention. That was my first time qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, so that was my first time playing in a major championship. I feel like now in 2013, I have a lot more experience, and so I think experience helps so much with comfort. In '97, I was way out of my comfort zone. I was telling guys, I made the semifinals, and there were three Walker Cupers and me, and I was thinking, I'm out of my league, I'm just glad to be here.

The difference today I think is just all that experience now. I step up to a first tee and I feel confident and I feel like I belong out here. Back in '97, I was so new to it, I was ‑‑ I wasn't sure I belonged. I loved being out there, but it was a ‑‑ I was way more nervous than I am today.

Q. You got paid more today.

MATT KUCHAR: I think the extra bonus about today is there's a lot more money at the end of the week than there was back in '97.

Q. Based on what you saw today, how would you and Hunter be as teammates on Presidents Cups or Ryder Cup teams?

MATT KUCHAR: Hunter and I get along really well. We have similar games. And I don't know if you want guys with similar games or different games in Presidents Cups, Ryder Cups. I played a lot with Dustin Johnson in my Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups and we have definitely different games, but I think we make a good team.

I love the way Hunter plays. I'm always impressed by his game, and really get along well with Hunter, with his caddie, John. I think there's a good chemistry between all four of us, player and caddie and player and caddie. I think we'd make a great team.

Q. I'm interested in the front nine. You went to 6 2‑up and then stuffed that tee shot in there, and I just thought that was an emphatic affirmation of which way the momentum was going. What was your sense of that?

MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, the holes were playing awfully hard up to that point. I think, what was it, No. 5, the up tees, I still hit driver and 3‑wood to get to the green, so I was able to sneak away with a couple par wins.

And then on 6, just got the right yardage, hit a great shot up there to basically gimme, and could really feel the momentum on my side at that point to stuff one in there. At that point, at 2‑up, you're trying to go 3‑up. You get to 3‑up, you're trying to go 4‑up. And it was certainly a great shot and a great opportunity to go 3‑up and try to keep the momentum going.

Q. Do you remember much about missing those cuts in the old Tucson Opens?

MATT KUCHAR: Not much. Not much. I think that's probably one of the good things about my golfing makeup is my memory is not great. I know most people tend to remember the bad more than they remember the good. My mental makeup, I pretty much leave the bad in the past pretty easily.

I certainly remember going down to the Nationwide and climbing back up, but fortunately I remember the good times a lot more.

Q. You've won THE PLAYERS, now you've won your first WGC title. How do you compare the two achievements?

MATT KUCHAR: Tough to compare with the match play difference, but you've got two fields that are the strongest fields in golf. You've got the best players in the game of golf showing up, and to be a champion at an event where you've beaten the best in the world is just a ‑‑ it's an amazing feeling.

Winning THE PLAYERS, so many things were so cool to me about winning THE PLAYERS. I look at THE PLAYERS as having the strongest field in the game of golf on one of the most difficult courses. It also finished on Mother's Day. My mom had never been to a tournament that I had won. So to have all those things kind of come together was just a really special week.

But to be here to win my first World Golf Championship in this format, to win six matches, to win two matches Saturday and two matches Sunday is just an amazing feeling.

Q. How much did it help, I think you were behind on only four holes for the entire week? How much do you think that helps in the length of the week?

MATT KUCHAR: I think it's ‑‑ I don't know if it's ever easy being up or not. You know, having a 1‑ or 2‑up lead doesn't ever feel secure. I don't know if you feel secure until you're dormie at 4 or 5, do you ever feel really secure. So it just seems pressure all the time.

Now, the pressure of being 4‑down at the turn has got to be a lot tougher than being 4‑up at the turn. It's kind of hard to believe the stat somebody told me about Hunter not being down in a match since last year his first match maybe is just amazing. And it certainly helps to win. Not being down, you keep moving on if you keep staying in that position. So having that advantage is helpful.

Q. Did you know that about Hunter before you teed off?

MATT KUCHAR: No, I just heard that on the car ride back. That's amazing.

Q. And secondly, just for the record, can you explain or tell us about any time that you've ever been really, really angry on the golf course, just so we believe it? Give us something.

MATT KUCHAR: I have. I have been angry. I can remember as a kid getting in big trouble. I remember throwing my club into the water and having to be made to go fetch it out of the water, and then my clubs were taken away from me. I remember that being just a terrible punishment, when my clubs were taken away. I've learned my lesson. Even since I know I've been angry enough to slam and curse and do the things that we all do as human beings.

Q. Details?

MATT KUCHAR: Those are the details.

Q. What happened on the 9th hole?

MATT KUCHAR: The 9th hole I hit a 3‑wood off the tee for the first time this week. I hit driver every day, and I think had made it into the first cut of rough through the fairway once. The wind was strong enough helping that I went down to a 3‑wood, hit it too good, I guess it was just so much help that I hit it through the fairway into the desert, and was able to luckily have a shot to get it ‑‑ I was trying to get it anywhere over the green. I knew chipping back into the wind was going to be the easier thing.

Hunter missed the fairway, as well, so coming out of the rough downwind was going to be nearly impossible to stop the ball on the green. His ball rolled through, my ball rolled through, and we each hit incredible chips to save 4.

Q. Did somebody pick up your ball?

MATT KUCHAR: I heard somebody did. It went down into the ‑‑ I don't know what, the wash area where the fans would walk through. Now, that's down where I couldn't see, but I guess somebody did pick it up. They were told you can't pick it up, put it back where you found it, so they put it back. I was told this, the rules official said you now have to take a drop, which I wasn't real excited about, because dropping with kind of soft desert sand, it kind of sat down a little bit. But still lucky enough to have enough of a shot to make a play.

Q. Can you just talk about the week of weather we've had?

MATT KUCHAR: Amazingly different conditions we had from Wednesday. The snow came, was that Thursday or Wednesday?

Q. Wednesday.

MATT KUCHAR: Wednesday, yeah. Practice rounds were beautiful. I think even Friday or Saturday got up to nearly 70. So we had all sorts of conditions. It was quite crazy. I know my kids were here two years ago when it snowed on Sunday, and they came back last year and wanted it to know again, and I said, I don't think it's going to snow, this is Tucson, it's probably not going to snow. And they came back, and they still remembered two years ago this year, and they said, is it going to snow, when is it going to snow. I said, it's Tucson, it's not going to snow. And we got the huge dumping on Wednesday, and they just think that's the greatest thing.

We ended up having a lot of fun. Having the kids around makes any situation so much more enjoyable, just their outlook on things is just so fun to have them around. So we played in the snow and had a great time kind of having as much fun as we could.

But amazingly, the difference in weather. I know Tucson is known for great weather, and I think generally we would expect great weather here. But I guess if you want some bad weather, just have a golf tournament.

Q. So are you going to bring toboggans and sleds for the kids next year?

MATT KUCHAR: We might have to put that on Hulka's trailer.

Q. You would be a poster child for how you could comply with the new USGA regulations on using a long putter. What's your feeling about how this whole thing should unfold?

MATT KUCHAR: I don't have a real feeling on should. I actually tried the belly putter last year. I used it early on in the year through this tournament, and I think I had a terrible putting round versus Hunter in my quarterfinals match. And with that I did away with the belly putter.

I gave it nearly six or eight weeks of real work and played four tournaments probably, four or five tournaments with it. I used it because I thought I'd be better with it. I thought it would make me a more consistent and better putter.

Now, I've always considered myself to be a really good putter, short putter, long putter, forearm putter, you name it. I try to just continue to improve, and I thought belly putting might be a way to improve. It didn't help me improve, and so I look at this situation from the side of it's definitely a learned skill. The anchored putter is a learned skill. You don't just all of a sudden stick a putter in your belly or under your chin and all of a sudden start making putts.

I don't have a real great say on the ruling. I'm going to play by the rules. Whatever they tell me to do, wherever they tell me to show up for the tournament, I'm going to show up and I'm going to play by the rules they tell me to play by and try to get the ball in the hole in fewer strokes than the other guys.

Q. (Inaudible.)

MATT KUCHAR: I'm going to play by whatever rules at whatever tournament I have to show up for. If PGA TOUR has a set of rules, I'm going to abide by those, and if it's a different set of rules, I'm going to abide by those. When I show up at the U.S. Open, I'm going to abide by whatever rules and figure out a way to try to outplay everybody else.

LAURA NEAL: Great playing this week. Congratulations. Thanks so much.

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