DUBLIN, Ohio — Most of the perks from winning the Memorial were evident to Matt Kuchar soon after his 20-foot birdie putt tumbled into the final hole Sunday.
He looked just beyond the 18th green to where three-year-old son Carson was giving a high-five to tournament host Jack Nicklaus. He had the first multiple-win season of his PGA Tour career. Kuchar went to a career-best No. 4 in the world ranking. He is all but assured of returning to Muirfield Village in October as part of the Presidents Cup team.
“To walk off the green and to greet Mr. Nicklaus and have him congratulate me, that’s something I’ll certainly never forget,” he said.
Perhaps the greatest benefit was one only Kuchar could feel — confidence.
And that’s a big deal with the U.S. Open approaching.
Kuchar missed only one fairway and held off a hard-charging Kevin Chappell over the last three holes to close with a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory. The win came one week after he was runner-up by one shot at the Colonial.
“Great golf breeds more great golf,” Kuchar said. “Winning tournaments breeds winning more tournaments. Anytime you can get comfortable playing in that final group, finishing off a tournament, winning a tournament is a huge amount of confidence. Heading into Merion, I’ll have a lot of confidence.
“I’m looking forward to my chances there at Merion.”
He sure played the kind of golf that goes a long way at the U.S. Open, which starts June 13 at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., and David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., both shot a 71 in the final round to finish tied for 21st.
Muirfield Village was such a demanding test that Tiger Woods had two triple bogeys in the same tournament for the first time since 1997 and wound up with the second-highest tournament score in his career at 8-over 296.
“It happens. It happens to us all,” Woods said. “Go home next week and practice.”
Not having Woods around didn’t make the task any easier for Kuchar.
Right when he thought the tournament was in hand, Chappell birdied three of his last four holes. Two shots behind going to the 18th, Chappell stuffed his approach to tap-in range for birdie.
Kuchar needed only two putts from 20 feet for the win, and instead he rolled the birdie putt into the hole and thrust his fist into the air as he smiled.
He’s always smiling, and he had good reason on this day. He joined Woods has the only players to win more than once this year on tour — Kuchar also won the Match Play Championship in February — and his game is peaking heading into a summer of majors, the one missing piece for the 35-year-old American.
“His bad shots hit greens. And he’s really good with the putter,” Chappell said. “And he just doesn’t make very many mistakes.”
Chappell, who missed four birdie attempts inside 10 feet on the front nine, still closed with a 68. He played his last 25 holes without a bogey.