Wednesday 22 November 2017

Kuchar enjoys super Sunday after miracle birdie

Matt Kuchar celebrates on the 18th green during the final round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links
Matt Kuchar celebrates on the 18th green during the final round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links

William S Callahan

MATT KUCHAR made a miraculous birdie out of a greenside bunker at the windswept final hole at Harbour Town to seal a one-stroke win at the RBC Heritage and banish any suggestion that he’s a Sunday matinee misfit.

After squandering cast-iron victory chances with final-round bloopers at San Antonio, Houston and Augusta National, Kuchar stumbled to yet another surreal blunder on the par-three 17th hole yesterday.

One ahead on 11-under and standing over a 52-inch putt for birdie after a sublime tee shot into the penultimate hole, Kuchar somehow three-stabbed, made bogey and went up one of the

toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour shell-shocked and tied for the lead.

In the greenside bunker in two at 18, few gave the American any chance. Yet he redeemed his reputation brilliantly by holing his shot from the sand to round off a fabulous final-round 64 and claim his seventh PGA Tour title.

Luke Donald had led by two overnight but Kuchar breezed past him with seven birdies in his first 10 holes.

Though the Englishman hooked his drive out-of-bounds for a double-bogey at six and made bogey at 10 after pulling his tee shot into water, a fighting 69 left him one shy of the winner and in second place at Hilton Head for the third time.

Graeme McDowell rounded off his title defence with a frustrating three-putt, bogey five at 18 for a closing 70 and a share of 23rd on two-under after a tantalising weekend on the greens at Harbour Town.

Meanwhile, Lee Westwood posted a timely notice of intent to Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley yesterday as he romped to his first victory in two years at the Malaysian Open.

Westwood, who turns 41 on Thursday, brilliantly followed up his top-seven finish at The Masters with a whopping seven-strokes victory at Kuala Lumpur Country Club. The Englishman sealed the deal with a rock-steady, bogey-free 68.

This win also endorses his decision to reappoint master caddie Billy Foster and work with coach Mike Walker seven weeks ago. Significantly, Walker’s a disciple of Pete Cowen, Westwood’s swing instructor until the 2012 US PGA. Michael Hoey banked €23,469 in 18th after a final-round 69 lifted him to six-under, while Simon Thornton slumped to 60th (worth €5,340) with a closing 78.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, 50, won from pillar-to-post on his Champions Tour debut, finishing two clear of Bernhard Langer in the Greater Gwinnett Championship on 14-under after a closing 67 . Despite this senior success, Jimenez now will focus solely on the European Tour and his race for a Ryder Cup place.

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