British Open: Matt Kuchar’s runner-up finish is made more emotional by a surprise visit from his family
An emotional Sunday for Matt Kuchar got even more so when he learned his wife and two young sons had made the trip to England to watch him play the final round of the British Open.
They were waiting for him as he walked off the green after his second-place finish to Jordan Spieth. Kuchar hugged his wife, Sybi, and comforted the grade-school-aged boys, both of whom were crying.
“I talked to them last night on the phone,” he said. “Thought they were in Colorado. It was a great surprise. A teary surprise. And it’s great to have people to share things with, have loved ones here.
“Certainly my family means a lot. They’re a big support team. Golf is a selfish game, and what they go through, it’s an amazing support to help me try to be my best. It was very, very cool to have them here.”
The poignancy of the moment was not lost on Spieth.
“I noticed it when I walked up and saw his family hugging him, and I think Cameron is his oldest, that was in tears,” he said. “At that moment I’m so happy. And at the same time I see that and I thought to myself, ‘Man, put this in perspective. He’s a dad.’ I’m not a dad, I don’t think that way. And I was able to kind of get a little glimpse into what that’s like.”
A guiding hand
Among those waiting for Spieth when he walked off the green was his coach, Cameron McCormick, who likewise struggled to hold back tears.
“Words don’t describe it, really,” McCormick said. “I guess that’s the stuff legends are made of. When you’re pushed back to the wall and you’re in a corner and you keep punching … that just shows his tenacity and resilience and the heart that he has. And Michael [Greller, his caddie] as well. They work so well as a team. It fills me with pride.”
When Spieth sliced his drive on No. 13 and it appeared the wheels were coming off, McCormick couldn’t help but blame himself.
McCormick said he was thinking, “What else could I have done? Was it something I didn’t pick on with his manner in his pre-round warmup? At the same time, after what happened on 13 I looked forward and said, ‘There are some scoring holes coming up and he knows that.’
“He’s always been a player that can shift into a different gear. And this was an amazing example of that. I’m overjoyed with pride.”
The top amateur in the tournament also happened to be the only one to make the cut, England’s Alfie Plant, who shot a 73 on Sunday to finish six over for the tournament.
“High of the week has definitely got to be walking down the last [hole],” said Plant, who was awarded the traditional silver medal as the top amateur. “I think every golfer says that’s one of the best walks in golf, and it certainly is.”
China’s Haotong Li made quite an impression in his first British Open, making seven birdies in the final 11 holes to shoot a 63 and finish third overall. He is the sixth player to shoot a 63 in the final round of a major.
“It’s kind of a dream come true, you know, since I start playing golf,” said Li, 21. “And definitely got a lot support from China, from my friends, from fans, you know, just keep behave myself and play some decent golf.”
Li made a different kind of splash in last month’s Open de France. He snapped his putter in anger and flung it into a lake. Then, his mother rolled up her pants and fished it out for him.
Sunday, he expressed remorse for that.
“She didn’t know I break my putter in the lake, and she just tried to help me, that’s it,” he said. “But I was really sorry for her.”
Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished with a 67, his best round of the tournament, and tied for fourth. He has won four majors — everything but the Masters — so he has high expectations. He admits going three years without winning a fifth bothers him.
“You look at Jack Nicklaus, he went through a stretch where he didn’t win a major in three years,” he said. “I’m not comparing myself to Jack. It’s hard to win them. It’s very hard. It’s the reason especially in this generation, excluding Tiger, no one’s got above five. So it’s tough to win them.
“We have 20- or 30-year window of where we can. And I got off to a great start in my career. But, as I said, I’ve still got 15, 20 more years to add to that tally. But, yeah, look, I feel like three years has been too long. But at the same time I’m not going to rush it, I’m not going to stay impatient. I’m going to play my game. And hopefully my chance arrives at some point and I’m able to take it.”
Low score, high hopes
Branden Grace shot an even-par 70 on Sunday, a day after becoming the first player to shoot 62 in a major. An eight-stroke difference is something of a come-down, of course, but Grace was happy with his tie for sixth place.
“I must say, my wife told me this morning, ‘The week’s already been such a bonus,’” he said. “Obviously being in the history books. Now I can go out and enjoy today, whether it goes good or bad.
“Today was just a bonus day, really. And I’m looking forward to the next one, really. So now I know I’ve got that low one in me, especially in these big, big events and I’m looking forward to the PGA.”
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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