Kuchar assesses 'best year', fatigue and Woods

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Just like Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar did not play well at the season-ending Tour Championship after succumbing to a hectic schedule but the American can still reflect on the "best year" of his career on the PGA Tour.

Kuchar won two big events on the U.S. circuit during 2013, including his first World Golf Championships (WGC) crown, and was especially proud of his consistency as he made the cut in every one of his 23 starts.

The tall American world number eight piled up earnings of $5,616,808 to end the season ranked third in the PGA Tour money list, with only Woods and Swede Henrik Stenson above him.

"It's been my best year to date, having a multiple-win season, a lot of top-10s and no missed cuts," the softly spoken Kuchar, who is one of five nominees for the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award to be announced on Friday, told Reuters.

"It was a very solid year and I take a lot of pride in not missing a single cut this year. I think that's a difficult thing to do and shows a high level of consistency.

"I feel like I nearly played well every week and to come to Atlanta (for the Tour Championship) and to not play well was very disappointing but looking back at the year as a whole, I certainly have a great taste in my mouth."

Kuchar finished in a tie for 26th out of 30 players in the PGA Tour's elite season finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta where Woods, his playing partner in the final round, ended up joint 22nd.

Asked what had been the biggest difference in his game during 2013, Kuchar replied: "Little by little, I think my game has just gotten better each year and that's been a great progression.

"I don't know how many guys can say, year after year, that they continue to get better. In 2010, I had my best year to date with a win at the Barclays Championship and I also won the money title and the scoring title.

"In 2011, I might have been winless but I still had a very good year, and then in 2012 I won the Players (Championship)."

PGA TOUR RECORD

In 2011, Kuchar recorded nine top-10s, including two runner-up finishes, and set a PGA Tour record for the most money won in a single season without the benefit of a victory.

"And now in 2013 to have won two titles, including a World Golf Championship, it seems like it has just been a continued progression of better and better golf," said the American, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.

Kuchar concedes, though, that his form suffered at the Tour Championship as he ended a hectic run of eight big tournaments in just 10 weeks, starting with the July 18-21 British Open.

"I'm not sure that you saw the highest level of golf out of most of the field in Atlanta," he said.

Woods closed with a three-under-par 67 at East Lake but had shot himself out of contention with opening scores of 73 and 71. Kuchar felt that the world number, who typically plays a limited schedule, also paid the price for a busy late season.

"He is kind of at the end of his leash as far as time he has spent playing golf," said Kuchar. "He is one of those guys who works his schedule so that when he shows up, he shows up ready to go and fully prepared.

"It's hard for everybody to be at their best form right now, and he kind of falls into that category."

Woods ended his 2013 campaign with a season-high five victories and is widely expected to be voted the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Yet there are some who still believe he has under achieved, having not won a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.

"He is certainly held to an incredibly high standard, like no other," Kuchar said of the 14-times major champion who has won a mind-boggling 79 PGA Tour titles during his career.

"People just expect him to come and win every week and to dominate, and for a long time he did. But a five-win season? Jeez, that's amazing. He has set the bar so high that when he doesn't play well, people are surprised."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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