WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: In the flow all week

Kuchar beats '12 champ Mahan to win Match Play
2013-02-25T00:00:00Z WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: In the flow all weekDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Matt Kuchar's biggest challenge in Southern Arizona this week was the 235-foot waterslide at the Ritz-Carlton pool.

Aiming to please his two sons, Kuchar rode the slide that meanders through the desert and dumps into a heated pool.

The hard part came when it was time to get out of the warmth of the pool and into 30- and 40-degree temperatures.

"You get out and it's freezing and you have to haul it to the top of the slide fast so you can get back in the water," Kuchar said.

The 34-year-old American may have struggled navigating the waterslide, but he had no problem with The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

Kuchar beat defending champion Hunter Mahan 2 and 1 Sunday afternoon to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

He won the Walter Hagen Cup in dominant fashion.

Kuchar never played the 18th - closing out every opponent before the final hole - and trailed for just four of the 96 holes he played.

"I'm not sure I can explain how excited I am to have won this tournament," Kuchar said. "Match play, I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure.

"To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world - it's an incredible feeling."

Kuchar started his Sunday by beating Australian Jason Day 4 and 3 in the semifinals and then turned his attention to Mahan.

The former U.S. Amateur champion jumped out on Mahan by winning Nos. 4-6 to go three-up. He also won No. 8 and had a four-hole lead at the turn.

Mahan made it interesting on the back nine, winning the 10th and 11th and got it to a one-shot deficit when he won No. 16.

But Kuchar won the 17th after Mahan hit his ball into a bush and closed out last year's champion in cold and windy weather.

"It's frustrating - every time I have to look at 'Kooch' now, I'll know he beat me here, so that stinks," Mahan said. "I think he deserved to win because he did a better job in every facet than I did."

For Kuchar, it's his second significant PGA win in less than a year. In May, he captured The Players Championship by shooting 13 under at the famed TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

It took him more than a decade to arrive to this point.

After winning the U.S. Amateur in 1997 and finishing as the low amateur in the next year's Masters and U.S. Open, Kuchar struggled to find consistency.

He won once on the PGA Tour in 2002, but by 2006, he lost his PGA Tour card after finishing 159th on the money list in 2005.

He couldn't get his card back at qualifying school and spent the '06 season on the Nationwide Tour.

There, he started to rediscover his game, and re-earned his Tour card by 2007. He won once each in 2009 and 2010 and has made two Ryder Cup appearances since rejoining the Tour.

This week, Kuchar continued his climb up the golf ladder, in much the same fashion as the water slide at the Ritz.

"To have battled the battles, to have gone down on the Nationwide Tour, I think makes you appreciate things all that much more," Kuchar said. "I went seven years between wins. So I understand and I appreciate the effort that goes into it and the challenge and the climb you have to make to get back to that winner's circle."

To get into the winner's circle at Dove Mountain, Kuchar had to beat Mahan - who has owned the course the last two years.

When Kuchar grabbed the lead on Mahan on No. 4, it was the first time in 169 holes Mahan had trailed at Dove Mountain. He rolled through the field last year and was strong again this year, before he ran into Kuchar.

"It was a great run," Mahan said. "I've had some good luck along the way, no doubt, but played a lot of good golf. I feel like to beat some of the guys I've beat the last two years I think is impressive and I'm very proud of that fact for sure."

Mahan will leave with pride.

Kuchar will leave with the Hagen Cup.

"To win my first World Golf Championship in this format, to win six matches, to win two matches Saturday and two matches Sunday is just an amazing feeling," Kuchar said.

Sunday's results

Championship

• Matt Kuchar (21) def. Hunter Mahan (23), 2 and 1. Building a 4-up lead through the front nine, as Mahan bogeyed four consecutive holes, Kuchar still had to sweat it out. Mahan rallied with four birds in five holes, but two errant shots, into the bunker, on 17 ended it.

Consolation

• Jason Day (41) def. Ian Poulter (11), 1 up. Day made a 7-foot par putt at 18 to avoid sudden death in a round he had led after a par at No. 9. Day's bogeys at 16 and 17 put Poulter back in it. Poulter slumped with a 2-over finish.

Semifinals

• Matt Kuchar (21) def. Jason Day (41), 4 and 3. Kuchar didn't take the lead until he birdied No. 6, and then he went on a roll, mostly because Day didn't respond. Day was 6-over without a bird on his card.

• Hunter Mahan (23) def. Ian Poulter (11), 4 and 3. Typical of Mahan on Dove Mountain, he won the second hole with a birdie, didn't trail, and put Poulter away with birds at Nos. 12, 13 and 15. Poulter didn't have his good stuff; he was even-par when the match ended.

Inside

• Jason Day: Golf helped Australian through early life

• Hunter Mahan: Runner-up has more control of his game

Pages B2-3

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4430. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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