Kuchar went into the final round at Royal Birkdale three shots behind playing partner Jordan Spieth, but found himself one ahead with five holes to play after Spieth’s fifth bogey of the day on the 13th.
Despite playing the next four holes in two under par, Kuchar arrived on the 18th tee two shots behind after an inspired Spieth went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie on the same stretch.
A closing bogey meant Kuchar finished where he started, three behind Spieth and admitting it was a “crushing” blow to come so close to a first major championship.
“To be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it’s a hard one to sit back and take,” said Kuchar, whose previous best major finish was a tie for third in the 2012 Masters.
Kuchar will at least have happy memories of the Canadian Open and this week’s venue of Glen Abbey Golf Course, where he was second in 2013, seventh in 2015 and ninth last year.
Course designer Jack Nicklaus was on hand to offer words of advice and condolence when Kuchar — whose last PGA Tour win came the week after he was fifth in the 2014 Masters — arrived on Tuesday.
“We talked about how I thought he played an awfully good tournament, did awfully well, and just he ran into a buzzsaw on the last few holes,” said 18-time major winner Nicklaus. “That’s what it amounted to.
“He lost by three shots as it turned out and Jordan holed putts on 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. If he misses three of them, it’s a tie. If he misses four of them, Matt wins.”
World number one Dustin Johnson has also made the trip from Southport to Ontario after following a third round of 64 in the Open with a closing 77, while defending champion Jhonattan Vegas has missed his last five cuts in succession.
“I’ve had a horrible summer, to put it the best way,” said Vegas. “But it’s always fun coming back to places where you’ve had great results, especially wins, so definitely it’s a good refresher from the past couple of months that have been a bit of a struggle.
“But it’s golf and you have to keep a positive mentality and always think that you’re going to play your best.”
Meanwhile, Patrick Reed will hope to take inspiration from his Ryder Cup team-mate Spieth as he tries to get back on track in the Porsche European Open in Hamburg.
Reed and Spieth have formed a powerful partnership in the last two biennial contests between Europe and the US, winning five points from their seven matches together at Gleneagles in 2014 and Hazeltine in 2016.
While Spieth was on his way to winning a third major title in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last week, Reed was suffering a second missed cut in succession after making an early exit from the previous week’s Scottish Open.
“I felt like I did a lot of things really well last week that I can carry over to this week and hopefully play some solid golf and get a chance on Sunday,” said Reed, who slipped from eighth in the world rankings at the end of 2016 to his current position of 26th.
“I feel like I have actually been playing better than I did last year and I’m just not getting the results I want. I have been getting a lot of top 20’s, top 25’s but haven’t won a golf tournament yet this year and haven’t given myself many opportunities to win, so hopefully this is that week that I can get it on the right side.”
France’s Alexander Levy is back to defend the title he won last at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach, where he beat England’s Ross Fisher on the second of a play-off after the event had been reduced to 54 holes.