Matt Kuchar's magic bunker chip clinches RBC Heritage title
American rallies from four shots behind the pace to overhaul Luke Donald for his first trophy since the Memorial in June last year
Associated Press in Hilton Head, South Carolina
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 towards the bunker, "there are a lot worse places to be."
For Kuchar, there was no better place - and no better shot in the tournament.
He holed-out on the closing hole for a one-stroke victory on Sunday, hitting it solid and watching it rattle home to end a run where he came close, but missed out on titles.
"I heard the crowd go crazy," Kuchar said. "Then I went crazy."
The 35-year-old American shot a 64 for an 11-under total of 273 to overhaul Luke Donald, who had his third runner-up and fifth top-three finish at Hilton Head in the past six years.
It was Kuchar's seventh career PGA Tour victory. He earned US$1.044 million and his first trophy since the Memorial at the Muirfield club in Dublin, Ohio, 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 play-off 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.
The No 6 ranked player could have taken a break like other top competitors, but hoped the momentum would carry into Harbour Town.
"It's awfully sweet to have another chance," Kuchar said.
He made up four shots on Donald with seven birdies in his first 10 holes.
Then nearly gave away another tournament when he three-putted from less than eight feet at the par-3 17th, a bogey that dropped him into a share of top spot - and set up the dramatic 72nd hole.
"I was in a bit of shock," Kuchar said. "But I did a good job of shaking things off."
Donald had two holes to catch Kuchar, but could not do it. He missed a 28-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole, then saw his attempt 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 two-shot lead is enough to get it done. It's tough to win out here and hats off to Matt for a superb round."
Ben Martin, who turned pro in 2010, shot 67 to finish tied for third at 9 under with John Huh, who shot 68.
The final day finally brought the sunshine the event 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.
"When I made that putt, I knew it was going to be a really good day," he said.
That Donald was in the chase again at Hilton Head was no surprise. The steady Englishman, once No 1 in the world, said Harbour Town's tight fairways and small greens were a perfect layout for him.
Donald said a gust of wind in his swing led to him driving the ball way left out of bounds on the sixth hole for a double bogey.
He climbed back into the hunt with birdies on the seventh and ninth, but hooked his drive into the water left of No 10 for a bogey.
"It was just a poor swing," he said. "I flipped it."
Donald kept charging, though, and drew within a stroke of Kuchar's lead with consecutive birdies on the 11th and 12th holes. He could get no closer, finishing his round with six pars.