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Matt Kuchar prevented Hunter Mahan from securing back-to-back titles at golf’s Match Play Championship with his fifth victory on the U.S. PGA Tour.
Kuchar, 34, collected $1.5 million with yesterday’s 2-and-1 win against his fellow American in the final, meaning he held an unassailable two-hole lead with one hole to play at The Golf Club on Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona.
“To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world, it’s an incredible feeling,” Kuchar said at a news conference. “It’s such an amazing, unique format and so much fun to play. It seems like each hole there’s so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole.”
It was the first all-U.S. final since 2008 and the seventh in the 15-year history of the World Golf Championships tournament. All eight winners on the PGA Tour this season have been American. The first nine events in 2012 were won by U.S. players before Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland broke the streak at the Honda Classic.
Mahan, 30, lost four of the first eight holes and failed to join Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as a multiple winner of the Match Play Championship. Woods won the event in 2003, 2004 and 2008, while Ogilvy triumphed in 2006 and 2009. Mahan also failed to join Woods and Ogilvy as the only players with more than two WGC titles. Woods has 16 and Ogilvy has three.
Kuchar joins 2011 champion Luke Donald as the only player to win the event without playing the 18th hole. Kuchar was ousted by Donald in 2011 and Mahan last year.
Kuchar will advance 15 places to eighth in the Official World Golf Ranking, while Mahan will jump five places to No. 20 when the new standings are released today.
The final remained tied through three holes before Kuchar won three in a row and No. 8 to open a four-hole lead on a cold, blustery day on the desert course where the temperature was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius) with wind gusts as fast as 30 miles per hour.
After Mahan halved the deficit with wins at the 10th and 11th holes, Kuchar moved three up with five to play with a short putt for birdie at No. 13.
Kuchar, who won the PGA Tour’s marquee Players Championship in May, conceded a short birdie putt at the next hole and missed his own attempt for a three from a greenside bunker to leave Mahan’s deficit at two holes.
Both players had birdies at the 15th hole and a two-putt par at the next was enough for Mahan to cut the deficit to one hole with two to play after Kuchar left his tee shot at the par-3 behind a grandstand at the rear of the green.
The players dumped their tee shots at No. 17 a few feet apart in the same fairway bunker, about 160 yards (146 meters) from the pin.
Mahan’s second shot, from a semi-buried lie that prevented him from hitting the ball before the sand, squirted under a bush in the desert scrub, while Kuchar’s stopped about four feet from the cup. Mahan could only move his ball a few feet with his next shot and conceded defeat when he failed to make par. Kuchar improved his lifetime record to 14-3 in the event.
In the consolation match, Australian Jason Day beat Ian Poulter, the 2010 champion from England, by one hole.
Mahan beat Poulter and Kuchar defeated Day, both by 4-and-3 scores, in yesterday morning’s semifinals. McIlroy and Woods, the top two seeds in the tournament, both lost in the opening round.
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