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Friday, Feb 24, 2017

Kuchar dominates in rolling to title

MARANA, Ariz. - Matt Kuchar finally put Hunter Mahan in a hole and then answered every challenge Sunday to win the Match Play Championship. Mahan had gone 169 holes over 11 matches without trailing in this event until Kuchar won the fourth hole of their championship match with a par, and Mahan never caught up. Kuchar took advantage of a series of miscues to build a 4-up lead at the turn, then held off a noble challenge by the defending champion. There was never a dull moment on the back nine. Only two holes were halved, and those were with birdies. But for all the great shots, the match ended when Mahan went from a tough lie in the bunker to a bush in the desert, and it took him four shots to reach the 17th green. Kuchar wound up winning, 2 and 1, when Mahan removed the stocking cap he used to fight the cold desert air and conceded Kuchar a short birdie putt.
It was the first World Golf Championship title for Kuchar, and it follows a year in which he won The Players Championship. Kuchar became the second player in the past three years to win the Match Play Championship without ever playing the 18th hole. Mahan was trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners, and he gave it a good shot despite the big deficit at the turn. It was the first all-American final in five years at the Match Play Championship, and Kuchar's win gave the Americans a clean sweep of the PGA Tour's West Coast Swing for the second straight year. Earlier, Kuchar polished off Jason Day in the semifinals, winning 4 and 3. Mahan hit a series of remarkable wedge shots in beating Ian Poulter, 4 and 3, in his semifinal. He twice hit difficult chips inside 5 feet to win holes, and then seized control with a chip-in from about 70 feet on the 12th hole to take command. Day beat Poulter in the consolation match, 1 up. LPGA: Inbee Park took advantage of overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn's triple bogey on the last hole to secure a one-stroke win in the LPGA Thailand. Jutanugarn blew a two-shot lead on the 18th when she first had to take a drop, then missed a three-foot putt to force a playoff. The 17-year-old, who had a hole-in-one earlier in the round, was moved to tears as the putt lipped out, while a surprised Park celebrated her fourth career LPGA win in the clubhouse with her caddie. The fourth-ranked Park finished with a 5-under 67 for a 12-under 276 total, with Jutanugarn a shot back after a 72. PGA Tour opposes ban on anchoring PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem threw a wrinkle into the plan to outlaw the anchored putting stroke when he said the tour opposed the ban because there isn't enough evidence to suggest players had an advantage by using a long putter. "We hold the USGA in highest regard as a key part of the game of golf," he said. "We don't attempt to denigrate that position in any way whatsoever. It's just on this issue, we think if they were to move forward they would be making a mistake." The U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced Nov. 28 a proposed rule that would prohibit players from anchoring the club to their body, the method used for belly putters and broom-handled putters that are pressed against the chest. Three of the past five major champions used a belly putter. The governing bodies are nearing the end of a 90-day comment period before deciding whether to adopt the rule, which would not take effect until 2016.