Matt Kuchar was delighted to be able to watch his Open Championship rivals battle for survival in the worst of the conditions late yesterday, safe in the knowledge he had come through his own trials unscathed at Royal Birkdale.
Kuchar was tucked up in an armchair in his rental house in Southport, his work for the day done, as his 18-hole co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka teed off for their second rounds.
He had got the luck of the draw, teeing off in the best of the day’s weather yesterday morning but that is not to say the American had it easy.
Kuchar, 39, had joined his compatriots Spieth and Koepka on five-under-par overnight after shooting a fine 65 on Thursday, which had bettered his previous low round at The Open in 2012 by two strokes. That 67 five years ago at Royal Lytham had led to his only top-10 finish in the oldest major, a tie for ninth that Kuchar is edging closer to beating in his 13th start in the Championship.
As he retired to the warmth and calm in front of his television set Kuchar was more than satisfied with his second-round, one-over 71 that left him a shot behind Spieth and Koepka at four-under as they strode out into ever moodier skies and gathering wind speeds.
It had been tough enough for the morning starters with the breeze gusting up to 25 miles per hour.
“Conditions were really hard today, certainly what we expect coming over here, having some really challenging, trying conditions,” Kuchar said. “Nearly opposite wind of what we had yesterday. So the course played completely differently. And this wind, it felt like every hole was a crosswind hole. It felt like you had to play for so much curve on the ball. The wind was so strong. It was quite a trying, challenging day.”
As one of the PGA Tour’s most consistent performers and a veritable birdie machine on the manicured parkland courses that provide the platform for so much of his work, the Birkdale winds provide a shock to the system, even for a player who finished tied for fourth at last weekend’s Scottish Open.
“What stood out to me was the 12th hole, it was a par three. I think it was playing about 162 yards today. Wind was in off the left. I pulled five-iron. And there’s a hill right of the green with nasty, weedy grass that you just don’t want to be in. So I must have aimed 30 yards left of the pin into the crowd, hit a shot, started at the crowd, and stayed at the crowd for a long time before finally the last, I’d say, 20 yards started drifting over, and ended up in the middle of the green.
“There’s a whole lot of trouble to be had and trying to hit solid shots that the wind is going to affect the least is challenging. I feel like I hit that shot on 12, I feel like if there was no wind it would have gone dead straight; it probably moved 30 yards. It’s really tricky, really trying to try to figure out.”
No wonder Kuchar was relishing the opportunity to watch his rivals suffer later in the day as heavy rain joined the blowing wind.
“100 per cent,” he agreed. “I think that’s one of the cool things over here, whether it’s Thursday or Friday, whatever your morning round is, getting to go back to the room, put on the TV and watch the guys play in the afternoon, and particularly in tough conditions.
“I think that’s kind of what we know about The Open and I think that’s what people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there. Today is my day. I get to kick back in the afternoon and watch the guys just try to survive is pretty much all you can do.”
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