PARAMUS, N.J. — Matt Kuchar's fortunes took quite a turn Sunday, and so did his golf ball.
Kuchar beat Martin Laird in a
playoff at The Barclays with a 7-iron out of the rough that rolled
toward the back of the 18th green, then caught enough of the slope to
turn back toward the hole and stop 30 inches away for a birdie.
It was a stunning conclusion to the first FedEx Cup playoff event.
Kuchar closed with a 5-under 66,
and it didn't look as though it would be enough. Laird had a one-shot
lead and needed two putts from just inside 25 feet for the victory, when
he ran his putt 7 feet past the hole. He missed the par putt, setting
up the playoff.
The timing could not have been better for Kuchar.
His first victory of the year
came two weeks after he made his first Ryder Cup team, and the win can
only give him a shot of confidence. Kuchar moved to No. 1 in the FedEx
Cup standings by winning the first playoff event, giving him a good shot
at the $10 million prize. And his third career win is likely to move
him to a career-best No. 10 in the world ranking.
"Even if I had shut it down
without a win, I would have felt it was a great year," Kuchar said. "To
win, it's an incredible year."
Tiger Woods continues to make progress, which in this case means he gets to keep going.
Woods, who started these playoffs
at No. 112 in the standings, closed with a 4-under 67 to easily make
the top 100 who advance to the second round next week at the Deutsche
Bank Championship. Woods tied for 12th, his best finish since June, and
moved up to No. 65.
Laird, who recovered from a shaky start, looked just as shaky at the end, especially with his putter.
He was tied with Kuchar when he
had a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 17th, only to roll it nearly 8
feet beyond the hole. He made that birdie putt to take the lead, then
repeated his mistake on the final hole in regulation.
This time, the comeback putt
never had a chance. Neither did Laird in the playoff after Kuchar's shot
stopped so close to the cup. Laird hit out of the rough to about 50
feet and made par.
"Obviously, not the finish I was
looking for," Laird said. "But I'm very proud of the way I played
today. "I was kind of battling all day, and probably holed two or three
of the biggest putts I've ever holed just to be where I was."
The only consolation for Laird
was being safe through next month in the playoffs. He was at No. 95,
hopeful of advancing to the second round, and his runner-up finish puts
him at No. 3 and virtually guarantees he'll be among the top 30 at the
Tour Championship who compete for the $10 million prize.
Steve Stricker closed with a 66
to tie for third with Kevin Streelman, whose parents grew up in this
neighborhood and whose grandparents are buried in a cemetery next to the
seventh hole. Two years ago at Ridgewood, Streelman narrowly missed a
playoff. He also was on the bubble, starting at No. 102, and moved up to
Rory Sabbatini had the low round of the day at 64 and tied for fifth.
The other big winner Sunday was
Andres Romero of Argentina. He made back-to-back double bogeys to fall
well outside the top 100, then made a stunning charge with four birdies
over his last five holes. Romero holed a 40-foot putt on his final hole
to finish at No. 100 in the standings and advance to Boston.
"After the double bogeys, I figured it was lost," Romero said. "I knew I had to make birdies to have a chance."
Woods thought he had a chance,
despite starting the final round nine shots behind. Practicing a drill
on the putting green to keep his eyes over the ball, he took that to the
course and played another solid round. It wasn't nearly enough – he
finished five shots behind – but he was encouraged by his play heading
into next week at the TPC Boston.
"I haven't won all year," Woods
said. "But this is a week that I was very close. I felt that if I would
have putted better for all four days, I would have been right there.
Looking forward to next week."
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