Greg Hansen: Match Play winner Kuchar delivers good theater despite Tucson's big chill

2013-02-25T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Match Play winner Kuchar delivers good theater despite Tucson's big chillGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

One of the national golf magazines recently wrote Tucson was a destination of such dimension that you could play golf here 300 days a year.

That's a riotously low estimation, of course. You can play golf here about 355 days a year, sometimes as many as 360, and on the rare day that it snows or a menacing wind makes it feel like you're in Big Piney, Wyo., you just sip your cocoa and re-tee 24 hours later.

So what were the odds that the seventh WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain would be Big Piney times two, on Wednesday and again on Sunday?

My lasting memory from Match Play VII will forever be walking into the media center Thursday to find that front-desk volunteer Connie Sherman had updated the PGA Tour's schedule that originally called for an 8 a.m. start.

Connie crossed out 8 a.m. and entered 8:30. She later put a line through 8:30 and penciled in 9:30. And then she smudged out 9:30 and put 11. Finally, she crossed out 11 and wrote 1 p.m.

It was the Murphy's law of golf tournaments; on Sunday morning, a pack rat, or something similarly dreadful, got into Trico Electric Company's substation and gnawed a power line for breakfast.

Power was out up and down Dove Mountain until 9, almost 90 minutes after the morning semifinals began.

But seven hours later, the Tortolitas had a man to match their mountains. Matt Kuchar is not only the Nicest Guy in Golf, he played so well, taking down defending champ Hunter Mahan, that you could make a case he is the Most Consistently Good Player in Golf, or close.

The ever-smiling "Big Kooch" laughed about the weather, even though he was wearing three layers of winter golf gear and wore oversized mittens between shots.

"My kids were here two years ago when it snowed on Sunday and they came back again last year and wanted it to snow again," the 6-foot-4-inch Kuchar said. "I told them, 'This is Tucson; it's probably not going to snow.'

"And we got the huge dumping on Wednesday," he added, "and they thought it was just the greatest thing. We ended up having a lot of fun."

For the record, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, much like the sponsoring Accenture high command, thought they got a lot of positive spin from the snow.

"I think some of the visuals of PGA Tour players having snowball fights is absolutely terrific," Finchem said Sunday. "So that's good news."

The decision on whether Accenture wishes to return to Dove Mountain beyond 2014 likely won't be made until next fall, so that's a story for another time.

On Sunday, the Kuchar vs. Mahan showdown was good theater. It wasn't Rory vs. Tiger for the overnight TV ratings, but Kuchar and Mahan have become part of golf's ranking leader board.

They go way back to the old Chrysler Classic of Tucson, 2005, when they were struggling to find their way. In that '05 event, won by Geoff Ogilvy at Tucson National, Mahan and Kuchar both missed the cut.

A year later, the last year Match Play was staged in Carlsbad, Calif., Mahan finally made the cut at Tucson National, earning $10,215. Kuchar again missed the cut, tied at 87th place by ex-Canyon Del Oro High School star Ryan Hietala and former UA golfer Nate Lashley.

On Sunday, Kuchar and Mahan were paid a cumulative $2,375,000. No wonder they had so much fun.

Kuchar smiled (of course) when asked if he remembered much from the previous incarnation of Tucson golf tournaments.

"Not much," he said. "Not much. I think that's probably one of the good things about my golf makeup; my memory is not that great. My mental makeup is such that I pretty much leave the bad in the past pretty easily."

Those who put on their mittens and snowcaps and dealt with Sunday's mid-30s wind-chill, maybe 10,000 hardy souls, were treated to a compelling matchup, two entirely different dudes coming together on one of the best weeks on the golf calendar.

Kuchar is the son of an Orlando, Fla., insurance executive, a tennis standout who enabled his son to live a country club life.

Mahan is the son of an undercover drug cop, an LAPD detective - a former beach bum from Santa Barbara, Calif. - who would drive his son to various muni courses in SoCal, hitting golf balls off rubber mats.

Different strokes. Different folks. Mahan won here in 2012. Kuchar won here Sunday. Two worthy champions on any course in any country.

It was only a few years ago that our champions were Frank Lickliter II and Gabriel Hjertstedt. This was better.

Besides, the Great Thaw of 2013 should begin any minute.

Contact Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362. On Twitter @GHansen711.

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