ARDMORE, Pa. —
“I feel like I’m playing some good golf,” Kuchar said. “I’m looking to continue to play good golf. Certainly a major championship, a U.S. Open, is one I’m geared up for. I’m looking forward to competing and trying to put my name on this trophy.”
Kuchar was still an amateur when he played his first U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1998. His father — who drew some criticism for his exuberance — was carrying his bag and on Sunday it was both Father’s Day and the golfer’s 20th birthday
Fans sang Happy Birthday to him and yelled “Happy Father’s Day” to his father as they walked to tees, but the real highlight was a 14th place finish. It paid no money but showed Kuchar that he could compete with players a level above him.
Three years later he was a regular on the PGA Tour, making $500,000 in his rookie year. The next year he won the Honda Classic, giving him a two-year exemption on tour and marking him as one of the rising stars of the game.
Then it all started to fall apart. Kuchar began missing cuts with regularity, finally ending up in golf’s minor leagues — what was then the Nationwide Tour — while he retooled his game and tried to find a swing that worked as well as the swings of players who were on the big circuit.
“I think that out here there was a definite learning curve on the PGA Tour of just being comfortable standing on the range, hitting balls next to Ernie Els or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson and not just being in awe,” ‘Kuchar said. “And trying to say, ‘Well, I can’t hit it like that, what do I need to do to hit it like that?’ ‘’