Matt Kuchar (pre-championship)
BETH MAJOR: We would like to welcome Matt Kuchar to the interview room. He's playing in his 10th U.S. Open. In 1998 also here at Olympic Club he had a very memorable appearance in the championship, earned low amateur honors and finished tied for 14th. Matt, can you believe it's been 14 years since that U.S. Open and can you talk about what you remember from that week?
MATT KUCHAR: That still amazes me to be 14 years ago. I feel like it was only a year or two ago. I have such vivid, such great memories of being here in '98. Particularly with playing some great golf, being in contention, finishing tied for 14th. Having championship Sunday fall on my 20th birthday, which also happened to be Father's Day, just a lot of special times with my dad caddieing for me. So some great memories. It was a fantastic way to kick off my introduction to U.S. Open golf.
I do remember that year I played well in the Masters earlier that year and had such a great time walking around playing Augusta National. I can remember finishing rounds of golf being in the clubhouse having lunch and being so disappointed that the round of golf was over. I was so excited to have played there, so just the place was so special.
And then coming here I played even better. I remember finishing rounds of golf and just being flat out exhausted. I remember just such a different test of golf here. Where it just tested everything. And then I came back last week and played practice rounds for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. And I remember that same feeling of being exhausted. I know the course seems every bit as hard maybe harder than '98, but it might have something to do with that walk up 18 to the clubhouse that makes you just really tired as well. That is a tough one.
But it's a lot of fun to be back.
BETH MAJOR: You've been playing extremely well, won the PLAYERS Championship earlier this season. Can you talk about how you're playing coming into this week and what it means to be playing well coming into the U.S. Open?
MATT KUCHAR: I feel like my game's in great shape. It was so exciting to have won the PLAYERS Championship. To have beaten maybe the best field in golf on one of the toughest golf courses we play all year. So that helps a lot with confidence with coming to a championship like this, with coming to a course that's this difficult and a field that's this good, to know that I've kind of been there and done it.
However, you come to a U.S. Open and you may be feeling good about your game and you get out there and it's hard maybe to stay confident because the course is so hard. You just don't make the birdies, you don't end up shooting scores that make you feel like you're playing good. You feel like you're just surviving.
I played these practice rounds Wednesday and Thursday of last week and I played Wednesday, did all my hitting extra shots, chipping, putting. I played Thursday, I played for score. And I wasn't able to make a birdie. I thought I played really good golf, only made two bogeys, but to walk off the course and I played some really good golf, I shot 2‑over. Doesn't quite feel like I played really good golf and shot a 65, where you feel like you know you've played good golf. Here I feel like I played really good golf and shot 2‑over and it's a bit humbling.
BETH MAJOR: We'll open it to questions.
Q. One of the stories that we're going to be talking about is obviously the 14 year old that's going to be golfing in the U.S. Open. What are your thoughts on that?
MATT KUCHAR: Quite amazing. I started my introduction to golf at 12 years old. So at 14 I was maybe trying to break 90.
I think that's quite amazing. It sure will be fun to watch.
It will be interesting, a 14 year old playing a course like this. I think that a course like this takes so much mental strength and interesting to figure out of a 14 year old one has the mental strength. And also playing out of this rough takes a lot of physical strength. It's quite the test for all of us. But in particular a 14 year old, this is a demanding championship and I'm certainly excited to see how he does.
Q. You talked about comparing the golf course to '98. Can you just kind of run through the changes? Obviously there's been a lot of changes to the golf course. From your eye having played it the last couple, what are the biggest and most striking?
MATT KUCHAR: From my couple practice rounds I remember the rough being more of chip out rough in '98. I remember the course being a little bit softer. Right now it's very firm. Fairways are firm, greens are really firm. I don't remember it being quite as fast as a golf course. So the course is playing faster and that makes the course shorter. But around here it almost may make it more difficult in that the fairways become much more narrow. It seems like the ball just runs through these doglegs, as much slope as there is on the fairways and as firm as these are. It becomes really difficult to keep the ball in the fairway. The things I noticed the most are those.
The holes that are changed, the first hole into a par‑4, the 17th into a par 5. Couple of length on a few extra holes. But with the course playing faster, that's kind of the biggest change I see.
Q. For about four years now you've sort of been in contention just about every time you tee it up. You've been one of the most consistent players out there. Given how even keeled you are, do you think a U.S. Open, particularly on a venue that you've had past success on, is your best opportunity for that first Major?
MATT KUCHAR: At the moment I like to think that it is my best opportunity for a Major. The next one on the list is this one.
I think my temperament, my game, is suited very well for a U.S. Open. I think that I drive the ball accurately. I think I'm a guy that also can manage my game well enough to make a bunch of pars and not get on bogey trains or eliminate some of the bigger holes, bigger scores. So I definitely like my chances. I think a U.S. Open is a good fit for me.
It's exciting to be back where I've got good memories and see how that goes. It's also nice to have played well in a Major Championship. I think I finally had some success this year at Augusta, some getting in contention this year. Ended up finishing third, but got there tied for the lead with the momentum on 15 on Sunday. And so there's just that extra bit of confidence, knowing that I've played some great golf over the last couple years and been in contention a good bit. But to have gotten into contention in a Major was helpful, that certainly was a big help going into the PLAYERS Championship and then to win the PLAYERS, yeah, I've got some confidence and I think my mentality and my mental makeup is definitely well suited for a U.S. Open.
Q. Seems like the USGA's made two kinds of fringes around these greens. Real thick cabbage, of course, and then they have really shaved off some. What's more treacherous and how conscious do you have to be obviously of where you're placing the ball just to avoid those two things?
MATT KUCHAR: The thick stuff I find a little more manageable, you kind of know you just make a big explosion out of it. You know that the ball's not going to go too far from ‑‑ if you just miss the green it's going to stay pretty much where it hits in that thick rough. So it doesn't end up rolling down 20 or 30 yards from where it may have landed.
So I think some of those shaved areas become difficult when you have 20 or 30 yards to navigate and if you don't quite hit it hard enough it's coming right back to you. Those are ‑‑ that's a difficult position to be in.
I think that 17th is an example of where that right side is shaved off and it goes down at least 20 yards into some rough where trying to navigate back up there is difficult. And it's one of those that's quite the fantastic risk reward because left is a terrible place to be, right might be even worse to be. And I think if you don't pull off a good shot from the fairway, you're going to be wishing you had laid up and just had a wedge that you can hit the green with. So they have got a fun hole there that is very reachable and one of those exciting risk reward holes.
Q. Can you talk about these subtle adjustments in the air here, the couple of the golfers have talked, especially with experience on this course that the air forces to you adjust your yardages and it does play much longer than the yardage might say?
MATT KUCHAR: Yeah, I think that's going to be a big key in seeing somebody get used to these yardages. The course ‑‑ when you've got a typical 200 yard shot that may be a 6‑iron or 5‑iron for some, it's going to become an 5‑ or 4‑iron for those guys and for everybody.
It seems to play a lot longer. It's cooler and heavier and it takes some adjustment to. I think that most of us get more used to adjusting the other way, adjusting to altitude or heat where the ball goes further. Seems to be maybe tougher just because we don't do it that often to adjusting where the ball just doesn't go quite as far.
Q. Notice any difference playing this course early in the morning versus late in the afternoon?
MATT KUCHAR: I think that it can completely change depending upon how the fog rolls in. I think you get fog in the afternoon and it completely changes the course. So I'm not sure that morning or afternoon makes a difference it's more that marine layer and temperature, I would say.
Q. USGA they like to do whimsical things with parings, we have three Brits together, we have three guys with long putters together, we have Tiger and Phil together. Like Tiger and Phil playing together is that an advantage for them a detriment to them or is it a wash?
MATT KUCHAR: You would have to ask them. It is exciting. It seems to me that most of the time you get them paired apart and it helps TV that one of them is finishing late on Thursday the other is finishing late on Friday so everybody kind of gets to see them. And for fans if you don't have a ticket one day, you kind of can go see one of them at the time that you are able to get to the course.
I think they will be used to playing with each other, I think they have probably been paired together a fair bit in final rounds, not so much early rounds but I think it will be certainly make for exciting TV for those guys that are sitting at home watching.
Q. Wanted to ask you about the first six holes obviously that's been a point of discussion this week. Can you talk about the difficulties of those six holes and what you might want to do at the end of 72 holes?
MATT KUCHAR: The first six holes, I mean, I continue going further. The first 18 holes are extremely difficult. (Laughter.)
So the first six are nothing really all that different than the last 12. But the first hole, I remember it as a par 5 and got here and was surprised to see it as a par 4 on Wednesday. Hit a driver and a 3‑wood thinking this is not much of a par four here. But begin I see par as being relative. They could say it's a par two and it doesn't really make a difference we're all just shooting for a number. Par is just a completely relative term.
They're difficult holes, but I don't think the course really gets that much easier once you get past No. 6. There's still, it seems like it's hard holes one after the next. So, yeah, after 72 holes I'm going to look forward to making more birdies after 72 holes, for sure.
BETH MAJOR: Matt, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate you spending some time with us and we wish you well this week.
MATT KUCHAR: Thank you.