Week 45: Kuchar back in the winner's circle

November 12, 2018

PGA Tour - Mayakoba Golf Classic

Matt Kuchar ended more than four years without a PGA TOUR victory Sunday by closing with a 2-under 69 and holding up through a few nervous moments down the stretch to win the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Kuchar had a four-shot lead going into the final round. But after making two bogeys over the first 67 holes in the tournament, he made two bogeys in two holes on Nos. 14 and 15, and his lead shrunk to one shot when Danny Lee made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 16th hole.

Lee finished with two pars for a 65.

Kuchar still wasn't entirely in the clear. His 15-foot birdie attempt rolled about 3 feet by the hole on No. 17 and he had to make that for par. And on the 18th, he left his 30-foot birdie putt about 3 feet short and had to roll that in to win by one shot.

"I didn't want a 3-footer on the last hole," Kuchar said. "I was hoping to have a three or four-shot lead for some wiggle room. But man, that felt awfully good."

The 40-year-old Kuchar had gone 115 starts on the PGA TOUR since his last victory in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in April 2014. It comes at the end of what had been a disappointing year in which Kuchar finished out of the top 70 of the FedExCup standings for the first time since 2007, and he failed to make the Ryder Cup team for the first time in 10 years.

"My 2018 wasn't what I wanted," Kuchar said. "This is a high note. It's amazing thing to get a win. I go from `Hola' to `Aloha.' I'm pretty excited about that."

Kuchar qualifies for the Sentry Tournament of Champions to start next year at Kapalua.

He finished at 22-under 262, breaking by one the 72-hole record at Mayakoba previously held by Harris English.

European Tour - Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player

Lee Westwood produced a stunning closing 64 to win his first Rolex Series title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.

The Englishman entered the final day at Gary Player Country Club three shots behind long-time leader Sergio Garcia but an eagle on the second put him at the top of the leaderboard and set up an enthralling three-way battle between those two and local favourite Louis Oosthuizen.

The heavyweight trio went blow-for-blow on one of the most entertaining afternoons of the season and it was former World Number One Westwood who birdied five of his last eight holes to get to 15 under and prevail over his Major Championship winning rivals.

Spaniard Garcia signed for a 70 to finish at 12 under, one shot ahead of Oosthuizen who closed with a 69.

England's Ross Fisher was then at eight under, a shot clear of countryman Matt Wallace and China's Li Haotong.

PGA Tour of Australasia – AVJennings NSW Open

Queenslander Jake McLeod has broken through for his first professional victory, winning the 2018 AVJennings NSW Open.

Jake McLeodStarting the day with a four-shot lead, a nervous McLeod watched that disappear across the front-9 before an eagle on the par-5 11th helped ensure the win.

Heading to the 18th tee with a two-shot lead, McLeod played it safe and recorded a two-putt par to win the title with rounds of 67, 68, 62 and 71 for a tournament total 20-under 268.

‘It was tough out there today. I started pretty average, but sort of hung in there on those par-5s on the front-9 and that eagle on the 11th hole was huge,” said McLeod.

“I had a perfect yardage for my 3-wood and hit a great shot to about 12 feet and holed the putt down the hill. I was pretty stoked, but I think the putt on 13 to save par was just as good.”

While the winning margin seemed comfortable in the end, McLeod did have to hold off Victorian Cameron John who made a charge for the title before recording back-to-back bogeys to finish in second place.

“I heard in the last couple of holes he (John) got it to 20-under and I got a bit nervous then. I thought he must have been playing really well because it wasn't easy out there today,” added McLeod.

“I was definitely nervous, but a lot less than I thought I would be. That shot into the last was pretty scary over the water, but I got away with it.

“I was just happy to get it done in the end.”

Speechless after his round, McLeod walks away with the winner's prize cheque of $72,000, Official World Golf Ranking points and full status on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia until the end of the 2020 season.

But more importantly, McLeod now has the belief in his ability to close out tournaments after coming close in the past.

KPGA Korean Golf Tour - Golfzon · DYB Education Tour Championship

Junghwan Lee won the Golfzon · DYB Education Tour Championship, his first win on the KPGA Korean Tour this season.

The victory takes Lee from World No.482 to World No. 305.

Japan Golf Tour - Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters

Tatsunori Nukaga won his first Japan Tour title, earning 18 points, moving from World No. 1269 to World No. 363.

Asian Development Tour - Combiphar Players Championship

Thailand's Varanyu Rattanaphiboonkij held his nerves to complete a wire-to-wire Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory for the second time this season at the US$100,000 Combiphar Players Championship on Friday.

Varanyu, who had led from start to finish for his maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) title in May, closed with a two-under-par 70 and a 15-under-par 273 total to win by one shot over Janne Kaske of Finland at the New Kuta Golf in Bali.

The 21-year-old Varanyu became the first player to win more than once on the region's secondary circuit this season, following his triumph in what is the penultimate event of the 2018 schedule.

His victory, which saw him take home a winner's prize purse of US$17,500, would also catapult him to second place on the ADT Order of Merit and grab one of the seven Asian Tour cards on offer for the 2019 season.

“It's unbelievable. I just signed up for the Asian Tour Qualifying School two weeks ago and now I got my card through the ADT! I thought I didn't have the chance after my front nine because I was one-over and Janne was three-under.

“But I told myself to just keep playing and try my best. It's good that I played with Donlaphatchai. I feel more relaxed having another Thai playing in the same group. That helped calm me down a bit,” said Varanyu.

After trading one birdie against two bogeys to turn in 37, Varanyu made a strong rebound with three birdies on 10, 14 and 15 before making some crucial par saves on his way home.

“I made a long par putt from about 13 feet on the 16 and I hit a good shot from a difficult lie to about five feet to save par on the par-four 17. Then on the 18th hole, I had like two putts to win,” added Varanyu, who turned professional in 2015.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica - Neuquén Argentina Classic

Through seven holes of the final round of the Neuquén Argentina Classic, Carranza opened a seven-shot lead following an eagle at No. 6 and a birdie at No. 7. He lengthened that lead to eight strokes at one point, appearing he would cruise to victory. Although he slowed a bit and was only 2-over the rest of the way, he did coast in, his slight stumble coming in still more than enough for Carranza to record his second career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title, a three-shot win over fellow Argentine Andres Gallegos. American Harry Higgs, who shot a 65 Sunday, finished alone in third.

Even with the so-so final nine, this tournament belonged to Carranza, almost from the beginning of the week. He opened with a 5-under 67 and was in second place after the first round. Carranza then took the lead through 36 holes and never gave up his advantage, finishing with scores of 69-66-69. He put everybody on notice with his approach shot on No. 1 Sunday that landed a foot from the hole. The win was worth U.S. $31,500 and moved Carranza to No. 13 on the Order of Merit. Carranza also took the lead in the Zurich Argentina Swing that rewards the top money-winner in the four Argentina tournaments. Carranza leads Thomas Baik by a little less than $7,000 with next week's 113th Visa Open de Argentina the last of the four tournaments.

“Coming into this week my goal was to make it into the final event in Miami (the Latinoamérica Tour Championship – Shell Championship),” Carranza said.