Matt Kuchar Pre-Championship
BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, here in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.. we're pleased to be joined by Matt Kuchar who has joined us coming off a very wonderful few weeks. He has his second victory of the year. Can you talk about what it means to come into the U.S. Open playing so well?
MATT KUCHAR: I think there are a few times a year you really hope to be playing excellent golf. This is one of them. It's nice to be coming off the win. That's a fantastic test of golf at Memorial and it tests everything there, driver through wedges, everything gets tested. And great to perform well, have that extra confidence coming in this week. This is again one of those tests of golf you come to a U.S. Open if you're not clicking on all cylinders, a U.S. Open golf course is going to really show that and beat you up. I'm looking forward to playing this week and hoping the good performance continues.
BETH MAJOR: Can you talk about Merion? You've been here last week and now here. Can you talk about the course both times?
MATT KUCHAR: Came last Tuesday, it was a great opportunity to learn the course, had a local caddie, was a great help, nice to have, just a quiet day to be able to do everything you want to, no interruptions. I had some help from some of the assistant pros as well, walking along, talking about some of the different holes and strategies and the course was in fantastic shape. It was actually a couple areas I thought the fescue rough was much higher. I can remember the second bunker greenside kind of 20 yards short of the green. On 2 it had fescue growing out that was just a huge penalty. It's been trimmed down since then. I think a couple other areas have been softened just a little bit. Golf course was not firm and fast last Tuesday. Golf course was very playable. Greens were I think only running at 10 and a half, very comfortable greens for a U.S. Open greens and they seem to have stayed pretty similar with all the rain we have had.
Not a huge difference. It was great to come and get kind of the learning out of the way on Tuesday. I didn't plan to come back here until yesterday, Tuesday of this week, which was good fortune not to be here Monday with that storm. Looked like a lot of guys were stressed out not to get an extra practice round in. But it was nice to get my practice round in last week and get some good preparation work in.
BETH MAJOR: Thanks very much. We'll open it up to questions.
Q. With the six inches of rain that the course has gotten, how much different do you think it will play tomorrow? And second part to that, expecting more rain tomorrow, is there uncertainty what this course may look like beyond Thursday, Friday into the weekend?
MATT KUCHAR: Still a U.S. Open course. I was amazed at hearing how much rain we got Monday to playing yesterday afternoon how dry the course seemed to be. Really still got some run in the fairways. Greens were receptive, but still had nice speed on them for the amount of slope they have got. The rough is thick and nasty. If you're playing from the rough, you have no chance of scoring here. Guys in the fairway got a few opportunities, but then there's a lot of big holes where you're hitting hybrid, 2‑irons, 3‑irons, into these greens. Still a very demanding, difficult golf course even in softer conditions.
Expectations of weather tomorrow? We don't know what that holds. It seems like this crew, this U.S. Senior Open crew has been able to do an amazing job considering the amount of rain and I kind of expect the same. I think they get so many guys here, I think they're kind of the real stars of weeks like this, that are able to make the golf course playable.
Q. If you were playing at a PGA TOUR event and you had a muddy situation where you were going to get mud balls you would almost certainly be able to lift, clean and place. You're not going to be able to do that here. What's your feeling on that? Would you be in favor of being allowed to get your hands on the ball?
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, yeah, I would be a fan of being able to clean the mud off. I think it's a ‑‑ it's one of those really rotten breaks in golf. Driving it in a divot is a rotten break, but most of us can figure it out from there. You drive down the middle of the fairway and you have mud on the ball and you have no idea what's going to happen, you have no real control. It seems like a guy might be rewarded more for missing fairways in those situations, being in the rough, not picking up the mud when you drive it in the rough.
So that's one of those situations that you would like to see good shots rewarded and it's and they're not rewarded when you have mud on your ball. So certain situations I definitely am a fan of lift, clean and place for the most part. I like playing it down, though. If it's guaranteed to be bad and muddy, yes, I'm a fan of lift, clean and place.
Q. Asking you about the 15th hole. Just for you personally how high or low is the fear factor on that hole? Do you have an obvious plan and are there what are the potential hazards ever that hole for your game?
MATT KUCHAR: 15? 15th dogleg right?
Q. Dogleg right. Out of bounds there?
MATT KUCHAR: I love it. I love playing a little fade, my tee shot, I love to hit a ball that fades five yards. It's a tee shot that sets up well for me. I think there's bunkers down the right side there, those all seem to be okay to be in, if you hit a driver off the tee you've still got a relatively short iron even if you're in the bunker, kind of a nine or 8‑iron. Which is pretty playable from those bunkers.
So it's a hole that I step up to it and I feel very comfortable on that hole. I like it. I like hitting a little fade off the tee and that hole sets up perfectly for me. So it's one that I look to take advantage of, just because it's ‑‑ you're hitting a mid to short iron into the green. I think that you tend to have a lot of holes where you're just hitting 2‑irons, 3‑irons, 4‑irons into these greens and those type of holes you're looking more for par. If you hit a good tee shot on 15, you're looking for birdie there.
Q. With the increasing success that you've had recently, of course winning at Memorial, and piling up some wins on the TOUR, in some ways you've become sort of a hot pick entering this tournament. Do you feel some of the expectations that are now being placed on your shoulders to be the next guy to win a major?
MATT KUCHAR: There's a lot of us in that boat. And the best player to not win. I don't know that I'm quite in that talk yet. I know that a lot of people have been yelling out that they have got me in their pools and they're picking me this week. But we hear a lot of that talk every week. It seems to be a more popular thing for people to say now or shout out.
However, I feel like I'm on good form. I feel like I'm playing some good golf. I'm looking to continue to play good golf. Certainly a Major Championship, a U.S. Open, is one I'm geared up for. I'm looking forward to competing and trying to put my name on this trophy. I think all of us in the field are hoping, have the same hopes. I feel like my golfing career ‑‑ I've made steps in the right direction. I've won Regular Tour events, won big TOUR events, won PLAYERS Championship, won a Barclays FedExCup event, I won a World Golf Championship, I feel like I've kind of stepped up in the ranks of winning against the best players in the world.
And we definitely have the best players in the world showing up for a U.S. Open. And you're going to be tested here, but I feel like now that I can compete with these guys for sure.
Q. How big of a challenge is it having the driving range 20 minutes away, having that time in between when you're hitting and then teeing off, and what kind of specific challenges does it present?
MATT KUCHAR: That's an interesting challenge. I think that there's a number of people who like to go straight off the driving range, hitting that last tee ball and trying to envision them being on the first tee and hitting that ‑ replicating that same tee shot. And try to make that a lot more fresh. It's going to be 20 or 30 minutes I think from the range to when you actually tee off. So there's going to be a big lag time between last ball hit and next ball hit.
So that it will be a challenge I think for everybody. But we're all in the same boat. I think the guys that have to rely less on timing in their golf swing will certainly fare better on the opening tee ball and first couple holes.
The guys that are more relying on timing and have to come straight from the range quickly to the first tee to kind of be fresh and ready to go may struggle a little more.
Q. Are there ways unseen where you guys you talked about there being a lot of guys who are on the cusp of winning Majors, maybe multiple Majors, are there ways unseen where you guys push each other in the locker room, maybe trash talk, stuff like that, about the way you guys are going to compete this week?
MATT KUCHAR: Not around me. I haven't noticed that. There's certainly ‑‑ I know that there's a great group of us playing some really good golf without majors. I think that's a great thing about the game of golf is there's no clear cut favorites. That there's kind of anybody in the field's got a legitimate chance here. So I think everybody that is teeing it up here has their eye on the prize, has their eye on putting their name on the trophy.
I kind of think that that is the beauty about the game of golf, unlike a sport like tennis where you get to the French Open and you kind of know it's Rafael's tournament to win or lose. Here, it's really anybody's tournament to win.
Q. The forecast looks like there might be rain moving in tomorrow afternoon. How do you guys deal with the fact that maybe the morning guys are in their normal rhythm, whereas maybe the afternoon guys have to finish up Friday? Is there sort of an advantage in the luck of the tee time draw? How do you deal with that element of it?
MATT KUCHAR: For most of us we're out playing 20, 30 week as year and it's going to happen a couple times a year. You get weather‑acclimated to having to deal with those situations. Nobody loves it. It's nobody's favorite thing to do. But you get enough practice at it that you know how to deal with it the best you can. And it's one of those things that you may get unlucky with the draw. I tend to feel like that those even out over the course of the year and over the course of a career you gets some good draws, you get some bad draws. But having to not finish Thursday, restart on Friday, that's a tough thing. But you never know, the course may soften up for the guys in the afternoon that have to restart and they may be at an advantage if the course really softens up and plays a lot easier after a big rain.
Q. Just continuing with one of the questions earlier, you were talking about the depth of the field and we're halfway through and I think you're the only player besides Tiger who has won twice. What does that say about the depth of the field on the PGA TOUR in general and how much has it grown if at all in your opinion since you've just came on TOUR?
MATT KUCHAR: Again going back to what I said, that's the great thing about the game of golf, anybody that tees it up has a chance to win. Every field we play on the PGA TOUR, the top to bottom, there's a lot of strength. You got a handful of guys ‑‑ Tiger Woods playing some awesome golf. Winning four times already is just amazing. He seems to be back clicking again and when he's on, he can do things that most of the rest of us can't do.
It's fun to have him playing well. It's exciting to be playing at a time where you got one of the best players of all time playing at his peak and having a chance to compete against a guy and hopefully beat a guy like that is a fun time to be involved in the game. But again, going back to the game of golf really gives everybody a shot at winning.
Q. Can you talk about, you came out of school and you referenced over here that you played the Nationwide Tour in Rochester. It took you a little while to get out on the TOUR and establish yourself. Just talk about the process you had to go through and maybe the patience you had to show, seeing other guys your age got out quick and it took you a bit to get out here.
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, kind of had a bit of an up‑and‑down. I came out, earned my card through a sponsor exemptions, did great in the seven exemptions and well enough to earn status for the next year and then won right away in 2002 in the Honda and kind of let that two‑year exemption go without doing much.
And '06 I ended up back on the Nationwide Tour and didn't think much of it other than I'm not supposed to be on the Nationwide Tour, I'm going to go down there, take care of my business and get my way back on the PGA TOUR.
It was a time that I kind of reunited with a bunch of college friends, guys I played college golf with, kind of got that comfort level back. I think that out here there was a definite learning curve on the PGA TOUR of just being comfortable standing on the range, hitting balls next to Ernie Els or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson and not just being in awe. And trying to say, well, I can't hit it like that, what do I need to do to hit it like that? I think going back to the Nationwide Tour, realizing that my game was good enough where it is, I just needed to maximize what I brought to the table.
So getting comfortable around those guys, comfortable with my own game are probably some of the things I learned from going back to the Nationwide Tour. And then feeling like my game has gotten a little bit better every year. I think all of us hope to continue to strive to get better at whatever we do. Out here the challenges are endless. That's kind of the excitement and the addictiveness of the game of golf is there's no barriers to how good you can be and then there's so many facets of the game where you can continue to improve.
So I've tried to just continue to make small steps forward and small steps add up to big things when you think about shaving a half a shot off a round, two shots a tournament, that adds up to a lot of different results. A lot of better results.
So it's just making little steps that little steps better that add up to a big difference.
Q. Brandt Snedeker, much like yourself, has a reputation for being a really nice guy, but he's the first to say he has an edge to him. Have you seen that up close during a tournament round and how would you describe him as what kind of competitor is he?
MATT KUCHAR: I think that any of us that are out here trying to make a living as a professional golfer, professional athlete, has to have a bit of an edge and a real competitive drive. I think we're out here because we love the game but we all love to compete. Snedeker I think I probably saw it most clearly at the Ryder Cup. And it's his passion for the game, for competing, being in a situation like this, the team competition and I think he had an early match with Furyk where he missed a drive or two kind of let Furyk down coming down the stretch and just was really down on himself. Fun to see guys pick him up on the team, and he got right back in the saddle and started playing some really good golf again.
So I think that's where I saw the most competitive side I've seen out of Brandt was at the Ryder Cup last year.
Q. You talked about up‑and‑down portion of your career early on. I was wondering if following Tiger after he won those three Amateurs and then you won that following year, did you put any additional pressure on yourself because he had some success?
MATT KUCHAR: No, I always ‑‑ I was never trying to beat Tiger Woods. I was never thinking because I won the Amateur the year after Tiger that I was the next Tiger Woods. That was never something that I thought about or thought I was going to follow the same path as Tiger. I knew I had a different path that was for me and it's been a good ride to here. Certainly I look back and things have gone pretty well for me.
BETH MAJOR: We hope that continues this week. We thank you so much for joining us today. We wish you well throughout the week.
MATT KUCHAR: Thank you.