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Kuchar Hopes Desert Experience Helps this Week in Humana Challenge
Matt Kuchar has been coming to the Palms Springs area for several years in an effort to soak up some sun and get his game in shape for the upcoming season. The year 2012 is no different as the No. 11-ranked player in the world looks to be in fine form for this week's Humana Challenge.
The $5.6 million tournament, the former Bob Hope Classic, starts Thursday at PGA West on the Palmer and Nicklaus courses and La Quinta Country Club. Jhonattan Vegas is the defending champion.
The early work in the California desert has paid off for Kuchar, who was runner-up in 2010 and finished seventh last year. "It's been five or six years now that I've started my year by coming out here early, doing some practicing out in the desert. I think it's just a great place to get ready for the year," Kuchar said.
"Normally I come out here before the Hawaii tournaments, this year I took a little extra time off, felt like the off-season was extra short with the Presidents Cup being in the middle of November, and I kept playing through into December, so my off-season was really short this year. I decided to start my year here instead of in Hawaii and am real excited."
Kuchar is now a member of the Vintage Club in nearby Indian Wells. "Coming out, you count on the weather being good, count on the facilities being good. We found a place that just feels like home," he added. "We have become members at the Vintage Club. Have a great place to stay over there. Just feels so comfortable. Feels like our West Coast home out here. And the formula has worked and I would like to keep it going."
The 2012 Humana Challenge has been reduced from five rounds to four, one each at the three courses with the final, pros-only round at Palmer. Each group will consist of two professionals and two amateurs - a set-up to Kuchar's liking. "I think I'm a good fit for the format, and I think everybody is going to like the new format even better," he said.
"It's been great to see the tour make these tweaks, and I think this tournament has all of a sudden become a sought-after and exciting event. I'm really looking forward to continuing the tradition of coming out here and seeing this event get better and better."
Here's what else Kuchar had to say during a session with reporters on Tuesday.
MODERATOR: Like to welcome Matt Kuchar. Matt, you've typically played well out here in the desert. If you want to talk about starting your season out here and we'll take a few questions.
MATT KUCHAR: I love coming out here. The environment, the weather, there's pretty much everything about coming out here, I just really enjoy. It's been five or six years now that I've started my year by coming out here early, doing some practicing out in the desert. I think the it's just a great place to get ready for the year. Normally I come out here before the Hawaii tournaments, this year I took a little extra time off, felt like the off season was extra short with the Presidents Cup being middle of November, kept playing through into December, so my off season was really short this year. And decided to start my year here instead of in Hawaii and am real excited. We got out here Wednesday, been practicing for a week now and just excited and ready to get going.
MODERATOR: Where do you feel your game is now after some practice?
MATT KUCHAR: Always hard to say, I've been trying to play a fair bit. Hitting balls on the range is one thing, I feel like I'm doing well on the range, it's converting well to the course. But then again there's another progression of getting it out into tournaments and seeing how it is. But happy with the way I'm striking the ball, chipping and putting, so it's shaping up to be hopefully a good week.
Q. Obviously the last few years, tied for second two years ago, tie for seventh last year, I think the only other guy whose finished in the top 10 last two years here was Bill Haas. Are these just golf courses that suit your game or do you like to fire out of the gate early and because you worked so hard your game's ready to go?
MATT KUCHAR: I think both. I think I feel like I've tried to get myself prepared in the previous years to come out and start strong. I think that I used to look at October, November as off and away from golf and December I looked at as a spring training for me and started working kind of first of December to get ready for January to come around. This year's been a little different. My strategy was basically to take most of December off. There just wasn't a lot of time off with where the Presidents Cup fell this year. It's different. I do enjoy the courses a lot, the format, I think I'm a good fit for the format. The new format I think that I'm going to like it even better. I think everybody's going to like the new format even better. It's been great to see the Tour make these tweaks, I think this tournament has all of a sudden become a sought after event and an exciting event. I'm really looking forward to continuing the tradition of coming out here and seeing this event get better and better.
Q. Talking about the format. Was it five days that was an issue or was it 12 amateurs over four days or what?
MATT KUCHAR: That's a lot.
Q. Because clearly you played very well in that format.
MATT KUCHAR: I think I'm well suited for that format. I enjoy people. I enjoy the pro am format. That may be why I did pretty well. And I like these courses. I feel like they're straightforward, there's a lot of opportunities to score. I feel like I drive the ball well, I put myself in position to take advantage of wedges and my wedge game's generally pretty good. So I think that what kept people from coming maybe in the past was the five days, was the 12 different amateurs, it's not for everybody, for sure. I think the new format is much more appealing to everybody.
Q. The idea of starting here, obviously you had a great year last year, but you didn't win.
MATT KUCHAR: Right.
Q. So you couldn't go to Kapalua. You could have on vacation, maybe. But you had such a good year and you had so many Top 10s again. When you look at that year do you go, well, it was very successful, or did you go, gosh, why didn't I win?
MATT KUCHAR: No, I had a couple good chances to win. I had a real good chance at Sony, I can't remember where I finished, I dropped back at the end. I was there with a chance. I had a great chance at Memorial and Steve Stricker just shot a million under. Really good chance at Barclays, almost defended there. Dustin Johnson played some great golf. So there were opportunities, some guys just played some amazing golf and I couldn't catch them. So all in all, yeah, winning is a goal. I would like to definitely get a win this year and hopefully have a year with multiple wins. But looking back on it, it was a good year.
Q. Johnson was just in talking about how a Ryder Cup would be a huge deal for him this year, having never done it before. You've done Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup. In the grand scheme of a year, where do those rank now on your list?
MATT KUCHAR: I got my first taste playing the Ryder Cup two years ago over in Wales. And that was my first opportunity, my first team event as a professional. And I had that taste of it and I wanted to do every team event from there on out. Don't want to miss one. I've had two team events, both have been oversees. So to play a home event would be great. So it's high on my list.
Q. Are you planning to play in Europe at all this year, apart from the British Open?
MATT KUCHAR: Not yet. I have not made plans yet to play in Europe. I'm not sure that there are a couple events I'm debating about, I'm looking at the schedule and trying to see if anything works. The British Open is on the schedule, but right now that's it.
Q. You have taken this habit the last few years of coming out here early, working over at Indian Wells. What is it about working here as opposed to trying to do those same things someplace else? Is it just that you got great weather here for the most part?
MATT KUCHAR: That was the initial idea. Coming out you count on the weather being good, count on the facilities being good. We found a place that just feels like home. We have become members at the Vintage Club. Have a great place to stay over there. Just feels so comfortable. Feels like our west coast home out here. And the formula has worked and I would like to keep it going.
Q. How old were you when you started playing golf?
MATT KUCHAR: I started playing when I was 12 years old. I was a tennis player. I wanted to be like a guy named Boris Becker when I was a kid. And we were just tennis members of the club. We were members of the country club, but only tennis members. And it was that Christmas when I was 12 that my mom gave to my father the upgraded version to the full country club membership. And dad and I went out and tried golf. He was a twice a year golfer at the time and we each tried it and got bitten by the bug and we played pretty much every day together after that.
Q. Where did you first golf?
MATT KUCHAR: I grew up in other Orlando, Florida and Heathrow Country Club was where I played my first round of golf.
Q. Where have you traveled?
MATT KUCHAR: Where have I traveled? I've gotten to go a lot of amazing places. I think the United States is an amazing country and pretty much has almost everything you could ever want to see is right here in the United States. But it's a lot of fun to go internationally. Just recently we went down to Australia for the Presidents Cup and on our way down there we stopped at an island called Bora Bora, and then went to New Zealand, to Australia, to China, and finally back home to the United States. So it was a big trip, but golf is the reason we went and had a lot of fun.
Q. What age did you start playing golf professionally?
MATT KUCHAR: I was 22 when I graduated Georgia Tech I took a job for about a year, and then turned professional I think I was 22 years old.
MODERATOR: Thanks for your time, Matt, and good luck this week.
MATT KUCHAR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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