Matt Kuchar follows his shot on the second hole during day three of the WGC-Match Play. Mike Mulholland
With the most lopsided win of his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play career — a no-doubt 7-and-6 drubbing of previously undefeated Si Woo Kim — 44-year-old Matt Kuchar won his group and, more historically, tied Tiger Woods for the most match wins in the history of the tournament. He needed two wins coming into the week to reach 36 total victories, and after getting there, on Saturday morning, against Jason Day, he’ll have a chance to set the record outright.
“That’s something I still find it hard to comprehend that I’m saying that I tied one of his records,” Kuchar said, wearing his trademark grin. “So I’m hugely proud, pleased. There’s 300 more records I’m sure, to go, but it’s a fun one to be able to say you’ve kind of got something you tied Tiger with.”
He wasn’t aware that he was so close until he was told ahead of the week, but Kuchar admitted that it crossed his mind on Thursday when he missed a five-footer for birdie to beat Chris Kirk, having to settle for a tie instead. Following that match, the transcript of his interview seems to indicate he was less than pleased with himself, and not in the best of moods:
I wasn't there for this interview yesterday after Kuchar missed a short putt on 18 and settled for a tie against Chris Kirk, but needless to say, he was much happier after beating Si Woo Kim today. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/Ynub48aDtj
— Shane Ryan (@ShaneRyanHere) March 24, 2023
Friday, things changed completely. He reflected for a bit on his career in this event — he didn’t remember that his first ever-win had come against none other than Anthony Kim — and aside from his championship win against Hunter Mahan in 2013, he pinpointed a consolation win against Bubba Watson in 2011 as his favourite match.
“Just entertaining, two completely different types of games,” Kuchar remembered. “Going through the rest — those finals, you get in the final it really stands out. And then I’ve got a final loss, which I’d like to forget.”
That was a reference to 2019, when he beat Tyrrell Hatton, Sergio Garcia, and Lucas Bjerregaard on the weekend before falling to Kevin Kisner in the championship.
Overall, Kuchar’s record is now 36-11-5, and his wins and losses since his first go-round in 2010 run the gamut of names great and small from the last decades: Jeev Milkha Singh to Jordan Spieth to Hiroyuki Fujita to Bo Van Pelt. (It seems like one of the few big names he never played was Woods himself.) The latest of Kuchar’s four top-three finishes came in 2021, when he lost to Scottie Scheffler in the semi-final but beat Victor Perez in the consolation match.
If you’re looking for an asterisk here, perhaps you could point out that Kuchar, currently ranked 71st in the world, would likely not have made the field this year without the LIV Golf breakaway, or that the current format, with at least three guaranteed matches, benefits him since Woods played more of his Match Play events in the single-elimination format. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and Kuchar is feeling bullish on his game after this result and a top-10 finish at Riviera last month.
“I’m very, very pleased, very excited about it,” he said. “I’ve got kind of this week and next week with long shot hopes of getting back into the Masters. That’s certainly a big goal of mine.”
In order to break into the world’s top 50 and reach the Masters this year, Kuchar will, at minimum, have to beat Day on Saturday and score at least two other wins and finish at least in third place. Along with that goal, there’s always the lingering question of whether Kuchar will ever get another chance to break Tiger’s record; this is the final Match Play in Austin, and even if the event resurfaces down the line (which is not at all clear at this point), there’s no guarantee that Kuchar will qualify.
It’s fitting that he’ll play Day. Along with Woods and Geoff Ogilvy, Day is the only player who has won this tournament twice, and like Kuchar, his game seems to be resurfacing after a dormant period.
The last time these players met at the Match Play was the 2013 semifinal, which Kuchar won 4 and 3 en route to his only title. The very next year, Day came back to beat Victor Dubuisson in an epic final to capture the first of his two titles.
Asked if he would trade any text messages with Woods now that they share the record, Kuchar thought for a moment.
“No,” he said. “If tomorrow goes well, I might, though.”