MARANA, Ariz. — Even in the most stressful form of golf, Matt Kuchar and his easy smile made the Match Play Championship look like a weekend game with his buddies.
It was fun when he built a 4-up lead at the turn. And when Hunter Mahan threw his best golf at him during a wild back nine Sunday at Dove Mountain, Kuchar never looked rattled, never felt as if the match belonged to anyone but him, and never lost the lead.
Kuchar kept momentum on his side with four birdies on the back nine, the last conceded on the 17th hole for a 2-and-1 victory. He captured his first World Golf Championship and put his name in the conversation as among the most lethal players in match play.
In his case, looks are deceiving.
“Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure,” Kuchar said. “It seems like each hole there’s so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole. To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world, it’s an incredible feeling.”
Mahan, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the Match Play Championship, had gone 169 holes without trailing dating to the opening round last year until Kuchar won the fourth hole of the championship with a par.
Mahan never caught up, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort. Every time he cut into the deficit, Kuchar answered the challenge — a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole with Mahan in tight, and a 10-foot birdie putt on the 15th with Mahan poised to cut the lead to one hole.
And he did it all with that warm smile on a day so frigid they traded golf hats for ski caps.