ARDMORE, Pa. — He was the smiling kid with his dad on the bag in his first U.S. Open, eager to be himself and not the guy he was following.
Matt Kuchar never expected to be the next Tiger Woods, mostly because even then he knew it wasn’t possible. Winning the U.S. Amateur a year after Woods recorded his third straight amateur title got him into the 1998 Open, but it would be a long time before the two were in the same conversation again.
“I was never thinking because I won the amateur the year after Tiger that I was the next Tiger Woods,” Kuchar said. “That was never something that I thought about or thought I was going to follow the same path as Tiger. I knew I had a different path that was for me.”
That path was rocky at times, but Kuchar never lost faith in his talent. He rebuilt his swing, found his way back on the PGA Tour after a brief hiccup, and started contending in tournaments.
Now he’s in another conversation this week at Merion Golf Club. He’s joined a select few as perhaps the best player who hasn’t won a major championship.
“I don’t know that I’m quite in that talk yet,” Kuchar said Wednesday. “I know that a lot of people have been yelling out that they have got me in their pools and they’re picking me this week. But we hear a lot of that talk every week.”
Perhaps Kuchar should start listening more. Coming off a win two weeks ago at Memorial — where his young son got a high five from host Jack Nicklaus when Kuchar won — he’s high on a lot of lists as a possible winner at this Open.
That he’s not shying away from the talk says something about how confident he is about his game.