|Kuchar rallies, chips in for RBC Heritage win|
|Sunday, April 20, 2014 8:00 PM|
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Matt Kuchar saw his well-struck 5-iron on the 18th hole at the RBC Heritage come up way short of the target and settle in a front bunker.
“Well,” he thought as he walked toward the shot, “there are a lot worse places to be.”
For Kuchar, there was no better place — and no better shot in the tournament.
He followed with a stunning chip-in on Harbour Town Golf Link’s closing, lighthouse hole, to overcome a 4-shot deficit for a 1-stroke victory and end nearly a month of Sundays where he came close to a title only to lose at the end.
Kuchar shot a 64 to finish at 11-under 273, one stroke ahead of Luke Donald, who had his third second place and fifth top-three finish here in the past six years.
Donald’s latest chance ended Kuchar’s winning chip. He hit it solid, felt it was a good line and watched it rattle home.
“I heard the crowd go crazy,” Kuchar said. “Then I went crazy.”
Kuchar punched the air to celebrate, grabbed his cap and swung it around to the cheers of the crowd. It was Kuchar’s seventh career PGA Tour victory. He earned $1.044 million and his first trophy since the Memorial last June.
It also followed a stretch of golf were Kuchar was in contention nearly every week.
He was two shots behind winner Steven Bowditch at the Texas Open on March 30, then lost a playoff at the Houston Open a week later on Matt Jones’ 42-yard chip in.
Kuchar was in the mix at Augusta National a week ago, having a share of the lead on Sunday before a four-putt double bogey at the fourth hole dropped him from contention.
Kuchar, at No. 6 in the world the highest-ranked golfer here, could’ve taken a break like other top competitors but hoped the momentum would carry into Harbour Town.
Kuchar made up the four shots on Donald with seven birdies in his first 10 holes. Then nearly gave away another tournament when he 3-putted from less than eight feet away at the par-3 17th, a bogey that dropped him into a tie for the top spot — and set up the dramatic 72nd hole.
Donald had two holes to catch Kuchar after the chip but couldn’t do it. He missed a 28-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole, then saw his own try at a chip-in birdie slide past the cup.
“Finishing second isn’t what I was hoping for,” he said. “Disappointed, obviously, not to have won. Usually a solid 69 on a windy day with a 2-shot lead is enough to get it done on Sundays. It’s tough to win out here and hats off to Matt for a superb round.”
Donald was at 10-under 274 after his 69.
Ben Martin, who turned pro in 2010, shot 67 to finish tied for third at 9 under with John Huh, who shot 68.
Sunday finally brought the sunshine the tournament had lacked all week. Players got the bonus of easy, softened greens from three days of moisture.
The birdies were flying from the start and Kuchar took full advantage. He birdied the first and second holes, then added a third from 20 feet or so at No. 4.
That Donald was in the chase again here was no surprise. The steady Englishman, once No. 1 in the world, says Harbour Town’s tight fairways and small greens are a perfect layout for a player such as him who isn’t the longest hitter on tour.
Martin, who had missed seven cuts in his past eight tournaments, reached 10 under with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.
Martin’s run ended when he couldn’t squeeze through some pine trees after driving into the rough at the par-5 15th. His ball struck a tree and scooted into more trouble across the fairway. He took bogey to drop two shots off the lead.
Jimenez closes with 67 to win Greater Gwinnett
DULUTH, Ga. — Miguel Angel Jimenez quickly shifted his focus back to the Ryder Cup after winning his first Champions Tour event.
Jimenez held off Bernhard Langer to win the Greater Gwinnett Championship on Sunday, becoming only the third player to lead from start to finish in his debut on the 50-and-over tour.
Jimenez, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Masters, closed with a 67 to finish two strokes ahead of Langer. Jimenez finished the tournament with 32 consecutive holes without a bogey at TPC Sugarloaf.
The Spaniard said he can’t make a commitment to the Champions Tour this year because his goal is making the European Ryder Cup team.
Langer, the defending champion, shot his third-straight 68. Jimenez and Langer were tied at 10 under before a 2-shot swing on No. 8. Jimenez needed only a short putt for a birdie and Langer fell two strokes behind with his bogey.
After that, Jimenez avoided mistakes down the stretch, leaving no opening for Langer or Jay Haas, who shot 67 and was third, four shots off the lead.
Jimenez stretched his lead to three strokes before he showed that on this day even his mistakes brought no harm. He hit his tee shot on No. 15 into a tree — but it bounced back into the fairway. From there, he hit his next shot into a bunker but still salvaged par.
The win assured, Jimenez tipped his visor to the fans as he walked up the 18th fairway. He then winked and blew a kiss to a TV camera.
He brought his victory cigar to his postgame press conference.
Langer said he doesn’t expect to see Jimenez on the Champions Tour again this year.
Fred Couples, in the final group with Jimenez and Langer, shot 70 and was fourth. Langer tied for eighth and Couples tied for 20th in the Masters.
Steve Pate, Duffy Waldorf and David Frost tied for fifth. Willie Wood shot 66 and was in a group tied for eighth.
Jimenez became the second straight player to win in his debut on the Champions Tour, following Jeff Maggert in last month’s Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
Rod Funseth (1983 Hall of Fame Tournament) and Bruce Fleisher (1999 Royal Caribbean Classic) are the only other players to lead from start to finish in their first Champions Tour events.
Westwood wins Malaysian Open
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Lee Westwood ended a 2-year winless drought with a 7-shot victory at the Malaysian Open on Sunday.
After a 4-hour delay due to the threat of lightning in the middle of the final round, Westwood went on to shoot a 4-under par 68 to complete an 18-under 270 at the Kuala Lumpur Country Club course for his 36th career victory.
Westwood led from start to finish in the co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event that he also won in 1997.
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen (68), the 2012 champion, along with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts (70) and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (67) shared a distant second place on 11 under.
The win will not only improve Westwood’s ranking but also help him improve on his current 20th place in the European Ryder Cup standings.
Westwood, who turns 41 next week, went into the final round leading by one having let slip a 4-shot second round lead.
But the 36th-ranked Englishman — and highest-ranked player in the field — again found himself four clear after only two holes where nearest rival and playing partner Andy Sullivan triple-bogeyed the second hole after finding water with his tee shot.
Westwood’s drive to victory was then halted mid-afternoon when the threat of lightning stopped play and his lead at four through 11 holes.
He returned to the course after a delay of four hours and 13 minutes to birdie the 13th for a 6-shot lead.
Westwood then underlined his class with a birdie on the last.
Youngest winner on Japan women’s tour at age 15
TOKYO — Japanese 15-year-old Minami Katsu became the youngest winner in the history of the Japan LPGA tour by shooting a 4-under 68 on Sunday to take out the Vantelin Ladies Open.
The amateur had five birdies against a lone bogey at Kumamoto Airport Country Club to finish at 11-under 205, one stroke ahead of South Korean Lee Bo-mee.
Katsu held a 2-stroke lead heading to the par-5 18th. Her third shot found the greenside bunker but she chipped out to eight feet and made the par putt.
Her victory was secured when Lee’s third shot on 18 landed 10 feet from the hole.
South Korean Kim Hyo-joo was the previous youngest winner in Japan when she captured the Suntory Ladies Open in 2012 at the age of 16.
Katsu, a first-year student at Kagoshima High School, started the final round tied for second, one stroke behind Mami Fukuda who shot a 66 on Saturday to top the leaderboard.