Kuchar fits the bill
Matt Kuchar has every reason to believe he can go on to win The 146th Open.
It is not just that the former US Amateur champion from Sea Island, Georgia, shares the first round lead on 65 with compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, but also that he fits the identikit of the modern major champion.
Let’s consider the evidence.
Kuchar is currently 39 and five of the last six Champion Golfer of the Years have been that age or older. That’s one box ticked.
The last seven major championships have all been first-time winners so he would fit that bill too. And, for good measure, he is a world top-30 player and no fewer than 18 out of the last 19 major winners have come from that exclusive club.
Kuchar himself will tell you he does not take much notice of such statistics. He prefers to let his clubs do the talking and in the first round of his third Open at Royal Birkdale they were positively shouting from the rooftops.
The American came within one stroke of equalling Denis Durnian’s nine-hole record (set on the same opening nine at Royal Birkdale in the second round in 1983) when he raced to the turn in five under par 29 and then fired nine consecutive pars coming home to knock three shots off his previous best score in the championship. No wonder he was pleased.
“I don’t pay attention to that,” he said. “It's not something I think about but I was pleased with my game. I felt like I had a good feel for the golf course. I certainly never expected to go out in five under par on the front nine at a The Open, but I took my opportunities when I got them. The backside I stayed aggressive. I had a couple of opportunities that I wasn't able to convert but, sitting here at five under par, I'm awfully pleased.”
Kuchar was asked whether the quality of the first round leaderboard said something about the standard of the golf course but he was unwilling to get ahead of himself.
“I always think you can judge a lot about a golf course by its leaderboard (on) Sunday afternoon,” he said. “Sunday is the proper four-round test. This is Thursday so we'll wait until Sunday and see what the leaderboard looks like.”
However, he did admit playing last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open did enable him to acclimatise to traditional links conditions.
“I was real happy with my performance last week at the Scottish Open. We had a couple awfully challenging days there but at one point on the 12th hole Saturday, when I had 129 yards to the pin and was hitting a 6-iron in, I thought to myself, ‘I am glad I'm over here, glad I'm doing this’. The conditions were extremely difficult conditions, not something I can ever remember experiencing in the States, but I was getting a feel for playing the different shots that you are required to play over here.”