Will Matt Kuchar Take His Career to the Next Level in 2013?

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Will Matt Kuchar Take His Career to the Next Level in 2013?
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Matt Kuchar has had plenty to cheer about during his career but no majors.

Matt Kuchar has earned over $23 million during his professional golfing career.

That’s just about all the money a man could want or need in a lifetime.

But that’s not what drives the 35-year-old native of Winter Park, Fla. It’s all about winning. Surprisingly, Kuchar—who is ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup points race—has just five PGA Tour victories.

Included in that total—to his credit—are the 2012 Players Championship and the 2013 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

So, what does that tell you about the man with the seemingly never-ending smile?

For starters, it tells you the man is very consistent—as in making 188 cuts in 291 starts on the PGA Tour and, in those 188, posting 103 top 25s and 53 top 10s.

It also tells you there’s something missing from his game that’s keeping a major championship trophy from his trophy case.

Even more puzzling is the fact that he has a pretty darn good major championship resume for a guy who has yet to win one.

Since 2010, he has a pair of top 10s in the Masters, a top 10 in the U.S. Open, a top 10 in the British Open and a top 10 in the PGA Championship.

Kuchar obviously knows how to get himself into contention in the biggest events, but he hasn’t figured out how to make the big shot at the big moment.

He’s been over par in four of his last 10 major championship final rounds, so it’s not likely he’s blowing tournaments on Sunday all the time.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kuchar shows off the swing that has made him a lot of money on the PGA Tour.

It seems like a far too simple explanation, but maybe it all boils down to the smile. Kuchar is truly a nice guy, a good family man and, for the most part, a guy who can flash that smile regardless of the circumstances on the golf course.

He loves playing the game and the challenges it brings.

But maybe Kuchar is one of those guys whose mental makeup is such that he just cannot get it all together in golf’s biggest events.

The killer instinct sounds simplistic, but not being able to close the deal when the heat is on goes a long way toward limiting a player’s ability to become mentioned with the game’s elite.

In major championships, chipping and putting are always critical parts of the equation.

Kuchar’s short game has basically been very good throughout his career. He is, however, a streaky putter, making the task even more difficult.

Much was expected of him when he won the U.S. Amateur in 1997, and it seemed as though those expectations might have been realized when he finished in the top 10 in a PGA Tour event in just his sixth start.

But he was a star that flashed brightly and quickly faded out. He endured a slump that almost ruined him, forcing him to change his swing almost entirely.

During that time, he saw the world, playing wherever he could from Mexico to Australia on the Golden Bear, the Canadian and the Web.com Tours.

But when he came back, his new “flat” swing served him well, and his game came back to life to the point that he was the leading money winner on tour in 2010.

He now finds himself in the middle of his golfing prime but is at a disadvantage off the tee, where he ranks 119th in driving distance (283 yards).

Combine that with him being 150th in driving accuracy and 107th in greens in regulation, and Kuchar will be tested at a place like Merion, where the U.S. Open will be held.

Muirfield will test every player in the Open Championship, especially if the weather turns ugly.

The PGA Championship at Oak Hill will be a brute because the long layout is framed by brutal rough and small greenshardly the kind of place a guy who has not been all that sharp in terms of his statistics would be expected to do well.

No, I don’t see this being a major-type year for Kuchar.

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