MARK STEVENS: We’d like to welcome back Mark Kuchar to the RBC Heritage. It’s great to hear the sponsor on the front of the tournament. Last year it was a lot different scenario. You just came off a T3 finish at the Masters. Talk about your thoughts coming into this week and then we’ll have a few questions.
MATT KUCHAR: I’m excited to be here. Hilton Head, this tournament, the Heritage is one of my favorite events of the year. I always look forward to this. To have one of my sponsors, the Royal Bank of Canada to step up and put their name on this to save the event, and hopefully keep it running and keep it just a great event, I’m really pleased to be associated with the group, with the Royal Bank of Canada.
And my game has been good. My last four events have been great events. I’ve had a lot of fun, a spectacular week last week at Augusta. And hoping to keep the good form going this week.
Q. When you look back to the last week, what do you take away from that, the near miss or all the good stuff?
MATT KUCHAR: Sunday night was a tough night’s sleep. There’s so much adrenaline still going. We got home, we got back to Sea Island, Georgia, and spent a night at home. And I figured it would be great to have a night in my own bed, and it was just not an easy night’s sleep. There was all the things replaying in my head as to the day being two shots back at the end of the tournament, being that close.
I think one of things you learn in this game is it’s not real helpful to look at Monday morning’s paper and say, what if I played just one shot better, or two shots better. I think those early days in your career you always think, I would have made this much more money if I was just two shots better.
Now I feel like I’m at a position where that’s not I don’t try to protect a top 10 or a top 5 now. I feel like I’m in a position where winning is the important thing. And I had a chance on Sunday. It was an exciting place to have a chance. I kept replaying in my mind all the great shots. And then the couple missed opportunities.
But I don’t think at Augusta you can ever take advantage of all the opportunities. I just don’t think that happens. The course is so difficult that you just can’t be offensive that much, and particularly the way I hit it compared to the way a Bubba Watson or Phil Mickelson hits it.
Take the first hole, for example, the front left pin I played it a little cut shot is my normal shot. I couldn’t be aggressive with that pin; that was one. And I know you get out of the gate and you want to get out to a good start, and you play to the middle of the green, take a 25 footer, and I’m hitting a 6 iron in, where I think some of the bigger hitters are probably hitting 8 or 9 irons in. You can be more aggressive with an 8 or 9 iron.
So I was conservative. I had a few chances. 8 I missed a 5 footer for birdie. But one of those new pin locations, a tricky downhill putt. It wasn’t one that you could be aggressive with.
And then 9, chipped up past the hole about six or seven feet, and had one of those really tricky downhill putts that you’re just never sure how aggressive you can be. I tried to keep a little bit of speed on it and it rolled three or four feet by, and I missed that putt.
So looking back, to have that double bogey on 9, it’s too bad. But I take a lot of pride in coming back on that back nine the way I did, making a great run and getting there, for a moment being tied for the lead after an eagle on 15. It was just a real thrill.
So I take a lot more positives. That was my first major really being in contention, really having a shot. And I played great on the back nine. It was I think mostly good stuff. I take a lot of good things away from last week.
Q. If there’s one or two shots that not that you regret, but you could have back or go back, what would they be, and what would you do differently?
MATT KUCHAR: The chip shot I hit on 9, I was in a good spot to get up and down. I drove it in the left trees. I chipped out to just kind of pin high right of the green. It was in some fluffy grass where the spectators had been. I think chairs had been all around, so nobody was standing in it. It hadn’t gotten tamped down, it was a fluffy cut of grass. I didn’t get any check on the ball. Generally that was a chip I think I could make or cozy up, and I chipped it seven feet by and three putt from there. I think that chip shot is one that I know I can improve immensely upon.
Like I said earlier, you try to not really go back and do the what ifs. I think we all have what ifs at every tournament. And I could probably go through when you do look back at those, there’s four rounds of golf. The first round counts as much as the last round. Every shot is equal. So there were lots. When you only think of one or two shots, how many times you can go back and pick those up. There’s a lot of opportunities.
Q. As close as you were here last week, is it hard to get up for this week? Is it difficult to follow it up, because of coming so close?
MATT KUCHAR: I’ve always looked at golf on the PGA Tour that every week is a big week. I get just as jazzed up to play the tournament in Tampa, the Transitions tournament, as I would for any. And I think that mentality, I try to use that mentality to make Majors a little easier, not put so much pressure on Majors. I show up and I want to win when I come to Hilton Head. This is a favorite course of mine. I’ve had great results. I want to win this tournament. And the more I can make every tournament really important, I think it makes prep for the Majors much easier.
So there’s never going to be a place like Augusta. There’s never going to be anything that replicates the roars and excitement you get from being in contention on the back nine on Sunday. But for me coming here, there’s no be lack of excitement coming here. I’m excited about the way I’m playing. I think I should have a good opportunity come Sunday around here, and hopefully get a different color jacket.
Q. Harbour Town is a favorite of many Tour players, can you talk about what makes it special to you?
MATT KUCHAR: It’s so unique, Harbour Town, as far as everybody seems to stay within the confines of Sea Pines. You never really need to leave Sea Pines. I don’t know that there’s any other place where people don’t leave the general resort area. You have a lot of dinner options inside here. And if you want to have some evening fun the marina, the harbor is just such a great social area that it’s so unique to have everything to close where you can just bump into so many people down at the harbor, having a good time, enjoying themselves, players out having a good time. I think most of the time people go their separate ways to dinners, to different hotels. And I think here it’s also such a fun family place. People rent condos, it’s nice to have a kitchen and living room when you’ve got kids around, than just trying to live out of a standard hotel room.
We stay with friends who have a home here. It’s a big second home community for Atlanta folks. All our time in Atlanta, we got to know a number of people that loved coming here so much that they had second homes and let us stay with them. So it’s unique from the perspective of everything being right here.
And then the golf course is really so much fun to play because there are so many shots that have to be hit. Even if you’re in the fairway every hole, you’ve got to play different shots, whether it’s little fades, little draws, low hooks, low cuts. It’s something that requires so much skill. And I think you heard Bubba Watson talking about driving it in the trees, and how he actually feels better in the trees because it forces him to hit one particular shot, and he can pull off one particular shot. And that’s kind of the way I think you’re given shots around here, and kind of test your skill and pull off these shots. You get to feel a little bit like Bubba Watson for the week.
Q. Looks like you made some adjustments to your putting stance. What’s the genesis of that or what are you trying to do?
MATT KUCHAR: It was that way what was my last tournament? Tampa. I tried early this year, I tried belly putting. I went through the first round of Doral before I gave up on belly putting. This off season I thought there might be something to anchoring it. And I gave it a legit shot and it didn’t work out for me. So I went out to putting with the putter at my forearms, which I did all last year. I opened up my stance a little bit. Crouched down a little bit more over the ball. I feel like it locks me in. I worked with an instructor named Mike Shannon, Mike is down on Sea Island. His theory is keeping your elbows tight into your body and letting the bigger muscles work with your elbows tied in and not your arms hanging straight down and having too much room to move.
So when I crouch down a little more over it, it feels like everything tightens up and kind of locks in. So I spent a good bit of time working with Mike Shannon, sharing some of my thoughts with him and kind of picking his brain. And I tried it in Tampa, went back to the forearm putter at Doral, putted great over the weekend, and kept going in Tampa and then tried to really hone it in for Augusta.
Q. You made your breakthrough as an amateur in ’98. Played well in Augusta and Olympic Club. Have you been back to Olympic Club since ’98?
MATT KUCHAR: I have not. We made a number of trips out to San Francisco. One time I did try to go and Olympic Club was under renovations at the time I tried to go.
I’m not sure if I’ll be heading there early at all. I’m very much looking forward to it. I know last week at Augusta there were so many things that bring back so many memories of ’98 for me, when I’m just walking on property. I still feel like that same 19 year old kid. There’s something about Augusta that seems to never change, even though the course has had ongoing minor renovations, little tweaks here and there. It still feels basically the same as it did when it was 1998. So it’s easy for me to turn back the clock and still feel like I’m that 19 year old kid walking around Augusta National.
Going to Olympic Club, I can remember the difference in that same year, that ’98 year. I can remember walking off the course at Olympic Club and just being dead tired after my rounds at the U.S. Open. And I remember my rounds at the Masters feeling like I was walking on clouds, feeling like I had so much fun, I didn’t want the round to end. At Olympic Club I was more, boy, I’m glad this rounds is over with, I don’t know if I can take anymore punishment.
I imagine there will be some great memories come back to me when I get back to Olympic Club. I turned 20 on that final Sunday, I think it was Father’s Day and my 20th birthday on that U.S. Open Sunday. I have a lot of fond memories and am very excited to get back.