Matt Kuchar (pictured) is the overnight leader of the Northern Trust Open after the first round. He has a one shot lead over Sergio Garcia who now appears back to his best after a lengthy sabbatical from the game. Brant Jobe is a further shot back and there are three players three behind including James Hahn who continues his fine run of form.
Kuchar won the Player’s Championship last season against the strongest field of the year after the majors. The Sawgrass host course rewards accuracy rather than long hitting and Riviera Country Club is similar. Kuchar combines solid current form with outstanding course form so his opening day effort in California was not unexpected.
Sawgrass has gained its reputation as a difficult course partly due to the famous island green 17th hole. However, the 18th is also a challenging test and any player who successfully negotiates those two holes to claim the title is a worthy winner.
Kuchar had shown great potential as a college player and amateur. In 1998, he was the country’s best college player and in the same year was the low amateur at both the US Masters and US Open. After graduating he became a professional in 2000.
Within two years Kuchar had won his first US PGA Tour event but it would be another seven years before he added to his tally. In fact, he has only won four times on the US Tour but those titles include a FedEx Cup play-off event and the Player’s Championship.
The American player has been competing in major championships since his amateur days at the end of the 1990’s. He has competed in 35 major championships and has a relatively modest record in these events. He has missed the cut 15 times.
Kuchar has now recorded four top 10 finishes in the majors and all of those results have been achieved in the last three years. He is clearly an improving player who is now showing some consistency in the four biggest events of the year. He has the game and temperament to build on his lead in the Northern Trust Open and win his fifth US PGA Tour title.