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Matt Kuchar’s third round at the World Wide Technology Championship couldn’t have started much better. But it couldn’t have been much worse.
Kuchar, the 2018 WWTC winner, was on the heater at the start of Saturday’s round. At Tiger Woods’ El Cardonal Golf Course in Diamante, which had become a birdie fest this week, the 45-year-old veteran hit the par-5 No. 1 to take a 29-hole lead.
By the time he reached the 15th hole, he had another round with three more birdies in a row, building a six-shot lead on the day at 24 under and 10 under.
Then golf happened.
Kuchar’s tee shot on the 462-yard par-4 was pulled left and landed in an unmarked natural area, forcing him to reload off the tee. It was only the second fairway he had missed all week.
His third hit the fairway on El Cardonal’s toughest hole on Saturday, but his fourth had more problems. With the pin tilted to the left and a large slope leading toward a penalty area, Kuchar’s approach missed the left side, making it difficult for him to look up and down just to create a double bogey.
Kuchar threw himself into the slope and watched as his ball rolled past him into the penalty area. He put 5 and his ball hadn’t even reached the putting surface.
Now he was faced with an even harder, sandy attack in the penalty area. The nine-time PGA Tour winner then considered picking up a hybrid to blast the ball through the sand and up the slope. He ended up playing a lower-lofted wedge or a short iron, but remember that right now.
His sixth shot finally reached the putting surface, but not for long. The ball made a U-turn along the slope of the green and headed back towards Kuchar once more, this time landing on the flat where he played his fifth shot.
Finally, his seventh shot was carried over the slope, checked and fired to just under a foot, where he could hit for a momentum-killing 8.
Kuchar’s debacle came at the same time that his closest rival, Will Gordon, was having his own problems on the 16th hole when he hit his tee shot into a penalty area and double-shot.
The wind, which had been breathless for the first two and a half days of the event, just picked up, prompting NBC broadcasters to mention that designer Tiger Woods said the course needed to be played more difficult.
However, not everyone sensed that El Cardonal would strike back. Erik Van Rooyen birdied 16 to replace Gordan at 18 under, and second-round leader Camilo Villegas foiled his approach at 15 and made the putt to also get to 18 under. The four-time PGA Tour winner played with Kuchar and gained five shots on one hole.
But Kuchar’s fall wasn’t over yet. His tee shot failed on the par-3 16th.
“Oh dear!” he shouted almost immediately after the ball left the face.
His ball entered the penalty area and narrowly avoided disaster by getting caught in the longer grass on a steep slope.
He left the broadcast team almost speechless.
From the rough in the penalty area, Kuchar took out his hybrid again and began practicing putting through the rough.
“I don’t know what to tell you about that,” analyst Aaron Oberholtzer said as he drew the bat. “If you’re worried about that, you could easily play this like an explosion shot with your 60-degree angle [the lie].”
“I would have to think [his head] does a little racing,” Johnson Wagner added. “That’s not a shot we even practice.”
The hybrid attempt didn’t even make it halfway down the green before it caught another slope and rolled back into the penalty area, where it once again stopped short of a massive drop-off.
“I’ve never seen anything like that from Matt Kuchar,” Oberholtzer said.
As Kuchar returned to the wedge and prepared for the third, he took a deep, audible breath.
His third flew almost needle high and landed about 10 feet from the hole.
Villegas then made another birdie, which meant that despite being six shots ahead, Kuchar made a difficult bogey putt to retain the lead.
But as he told NBC after the round, “It’s golf.”
“I’m going to do my best to let the problem go and try to play some good golf tomorrow,” Kuchar said.
He made the putt and parried from there to shoot a wild 67. Villegas bogeyed 17 but birdied the 18th to move into a tie with Kuchar for the lead at 19 under.
https://golf.com/news/matt-kuchar-blows-lead-wwtc/ Matt Kuchar was the 59th guard. Then he lost a 6-shot lead on two holes