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Kuchar beats Mahan, wins WGC-Match Play

Matt Kuchar tees off on No. 16, one hole before clinching the Match Play Championship final.

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Matt Kuchar tees off on No. 16, one hole before clinching the Match Play Championship final.

MARANA, Ariz. — Even in the most stressful form of golf, Matt Kuchar and his easy smile made the Match Play Championship look like a weekend game with his buddies on Sunday.

It was fun when he built a 4-up lead at the turn. And when Hunter Mahan threw his best golf at him on a wild back nine at Dove Mountain, Kuchar never looked rattled and never lost the lead.

Kuchar had four birdies on the back nine, the last conceded on the 17th hole for a 2-and-1 victory and his first World Golf Championships title.

"Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure," said Kuchar, 34, a native of Winter Park and a former Georgia Tech star. "It seems like each hole there's so much momentum riding and so much pressure. To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling."

Mahan, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the Match Play Championship, had gone 169 holes without trailing, dating to the opening round last year, until Kuchar won the fourth hole of the championship with a par. And every time Mahan cut into the deficit, Kuchar answered — a 15-foot birdie on the 12th hole with Mahan in tight, and a 10-foot birdie on the 15th with Mahan poised to cut the lead to one hole.

And he did it all with that warm smile on a day so frigid they traded golf hats for ski caps.

"He does it differently," said Mahan, who beat the ultra-intense Ian Poulter in the semifinals. "He's more like a fuzzier Peter Jacobsen kind of guy who likes to talk. He's super competitive, there's no doubt about it."

Mahan let his fellow American win consecutive holes with pars and fell further behind when Kuchar hit pitching wedge to 3 feet for birdie on No. 6 and Mahan hit a poor second shot that kept him from matching birdies with Kuchar on No. 8.

In the morning semifinals, when the wind chill hit 37, Kuchar had no trouble against Jason Day in a 4-and-3 win. Mahan hit a series of remarkable wedge shots in beating Poulter, 4 and 3. He twice hit difficult chips inside 5 feet to win holes, then seized control with a chip-in from about 70 feet on No. 12.

Putter ban: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem threw a big wrinkle into the plan to outlaw anchored putters, saying the tour opposed the ban because there was not enough evidence to suggest they lend an advantage. "We hold the USGA in highest regard as a key part of the game of golf," Finchem said. "It's just on this issue, we think if they were to move forward, they would be making a mistake." In November the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club proposed prohibiting players from anchoring the club to the body.

LPGA: Inbee Park of South Korea took advantage of overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn's triple bogey on the last hole to win the LPGA Thailand in Chonburi. Jutanugarn blew a two-stroke lead on No. 18 when she first had to take a drop, then missed a 3-footer to force a playoff. The 17-year-old Thai, who had an ace earlier in the round, cried after the putt lipped out. Park shot 67 for 12-under 276. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (74) finished 13 strokes out; Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse (77) was 17 behind.

Kuchar beats Mahan, wins WGC-Match Play 02/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 24, 2013 10:47pm]
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