Kuchar shrugs off Masters letdown, grabs early Heritage lead

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 17, 2014 3:44 PM

(Reuters) - Matt Kuchar shrugged off his Masters near-miss last week to surge into the clubhouse lead during the opening round of the RBC Heritage in South Carolina on Thursday.

Kuchar, who contended in Sunday's final round at Augusta National before slipping back into a tie for fifth, put that disappointment behind him and shot a five-under-par 66 on a cool, breezy morning at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island.

"Once I got out there this morning, I was ready to go," the six-times PGA Tour winner told Golf Channel after finishing in style with a 15-foot birdie at his final hole.

His flawless round came on a morning when nobody else shot better than 69. Among the large group of players tied for second was recent Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Matt Every.

"I didn't miss many shots. I found the fairways a lot, not only the fairways but the right (correct) side of the fairways to have a good approach," said Kuchar.

"I had very good control off the tee and found a lot of greens (with my irons). This morning was tricky, so to shoot five birdies, no bogey, was really good."

Kuchar has been the hottest golfer on tour the past three weeks, finishing no worse than fifth, though he has conspicuously failed to close the deal, most notably at the Houston Open where he bogeyed the final hole of regulation before losing a playoff.

He said he would guard against mental and physical fatigue in his fourth consecutive tournament by avoiding the practice range for the rest of the week, instead spending his off-course time relaxing with his family.

After the demands of the first major of the year, Hilton Head Island can be a relaxing change of pace for the players, not that Harbour Town itself is easy.

It is one of the tightest layouts on tour, with the smallest greens, and the inevitable winds add another challenge.

The solid field this week includes Masters runner-up Jordan Spieth, as well as golfing greats Nick Faldo and Tom Watson.

Six-times major champion Faldo, back at the scene of his first PGA Tour victory 30 years ago, could not conjure up the old magic as he struggled to a 77.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)