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Don't Let the Grin Fool You
June 10, 2013
With his win at Jack's place, ever-smiling Matt Kuchar showed why he should be taken seriously at Merion
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June 10, 2013

Don't Let The Grin Fool You

With his win at Jack's place, ever-smiling Matt Kuchar showed why he should be taken seriously at Merion

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It was business as usual at last week's Memorial Tournament. There were rain delays. Jack Nicklaus wore a gray blazer and talked sense. The greens at Muirfield Village Golf Club kicked butts and took names. Tiger Woods got most of the attention, even as he struggled to a 65th-place finish.

And then there was Matt Kuchar grinning from ear to ear after he won Jack's event. He's Smiling Matt, after all, a pleasant, even-keeled guy who seemingly grins at everything. Especially when Nicklaus is shaking his hand.

It was obvious for most of a reasonably sunny Sunday in Dublin, Ohio, that Kuchar's brand of nearly flawless golf was going to wrap up this Memorial. He rolled along with a comfortable lead for most of the round until Kevin Chappell played the final six holes in four under par. Still, Kuchar walked away with a two-shot victory.

So what conclusions can be drawn after a stormy, windswept week at Muirfield Village?

This Kuchar guy is good. He looks even better given the PGA Tour's dearth of repeat winners. Tiger has four wins this year. Kuchar has two. That's it. Kuchar, who turns 35 on June 21, is getting better with age. He has six career Tour wins, and his last four are the 2010 Barclays (FedEx Cup warfare at its finest); the '12 Players (golf's strongest field); this year's Accenture Match Play (where he won six matches) and the Memorial (the House of Tiger). "There are a couple of things missing from my pedigree," Kuchar said. "A major championship is on the list and a multiple-win season was on the list." One down, one to go.

Make Kooch an Open favorite. Tiger and Kuchar are on the short list. Kooch, at No. 4, is the most unspectacular player among the top 10 in the World Ranking. His only statistical category that stands out, besides putting, is scoring average, which is the only thing that really matters. Kooch led the Memorial in greens hit in regulation and ranked second in putting. Those kind of stats win the U.S. Open. A player whose strength is having no weaknesses? Sounds a lot like Curtis Strange, who won back-to-back Opens.

Tiger is still the man to beat at Merion. Forget the back-nine Hank Aaron (44) that Woods shot in the third round en route to an eye-popping 79. Tiger blamed a gust here, a funky stance there and bad putting. Yes, he had two triples and three doubles. "It happens to us all," he said. "Go home next week and practice." Of the 73 players who made the cut, Tiger ranked ahead of only two others in putting. Yeow. The putter has Tiger's full attention. Enough said.

Rory McIlroy still isn't Rory McIlroy. He's still looking for answers. Rory fought back from an ugly 78 to make the cut, but that was the highlight of his week. McIlroy ranked a spot ahead of Tiger in putting last week. Golf is putting, putting is golf. So that's a good place to start, Rory.