Nice Guys Don’t Have to Finish Last

In almost every Hollywood movie, it’s the nice guy who always finishes last.  The nice guy is always there to lend an ear when his best female friend, who he’s secretly in love with, is having problems with her boyfriend. She says, “Why can’t he be more like you?”  But, the nice guy can’t compete with the bad boy who turns his life around to become the perfect man.  I’m here to tell you though that the movie screen is not the only place where the nice guy can fall short.

Matt Kuchar is known as one of the nicest players on the PGA Tour, as well as one of the most consistent.  He introduced himself to the golf world at the 1998 Masters as a fresh-faced young phenomenon who took home the low amateur award and finished in the Top 30 overall.  Kuchar turned pro in 2000 and won his first pro tournament in 2002 at the Honda Classic.  He fell on hard times in 2005 when he lost his tour card and had to earn his way back on the Nationwide Tour.  Kuchar fought and got his game to a point where he is the currently ranked as the 5th best player in the world according to the world golf rankings.  Since 2010, Kuchar has five wins, 45 Top-10 finishes, and has earned over 20 million dollars on tour.  There is no doubt that Kuchar is one of the top players on the PGA Tour today but like a lot of good golfers playing today, the major championship victory has eluded him to this point.

Photo by Jay Laprete/AP

Photo by Jay Laprete/AP

The fact that there are so many big name players on the tour today that also do not have a major championship under their belt should make Matt Kuchar feel like he is in good company.  Jason Day hasn’t been consistent for all four days.  Sergio Garcia has said it himself that he doesn’t have the mental game.  Lee Westwood’s short game has failed him more times than I can count.  Brandt Snedeker cannot close on a Sunday when it counts the most.  Dustin Johnson has problems managing the courses, case and point the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits – we all know what happened there.  I could go on listing the guys who have come up short and why they haven’t been able to close, but the point is, these guys are still all considered the top players in the world despite no major championship titles between them.

The seemingly always smiling Kuchar has had his toughness questioned at times, but big wins at the Players in 2012 and the WGC-Match Play earlier this year have shown he’s made strides as a competitor.  He also has a T3 at the 2012 Masters, T6 at the 2010 US Open, T9 at the 2012 Open Championship and T10 at the 2010 PGA Championship.  The 2014 Masters, Kuchar was in great position coming into play on Sunday, down just one stroke to the leaders Jordan Spieth and eventual winner Bubba Watson.  It looked like it was going to be his day when he birdied two of the first three holes, but a double bogey on the Par 3 4th hole killed all his momentum and finished shooting a final round 74 which was good enough for a share of 5th place.

I can’t say Matt Kuchar will be the next marquee player without a major title to finally get over the hump and win one.  But, he can play the game of golf at an extremely high level and maybe one day soon this nice guy can finally finish first at a major.

Who will be the next Tiger woods?

Tiger Woods First Masters

IMAGE: DAVE MARTIN/FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

We live in a country where it seems nearly impossible to keep up with the latest trends. The reason being that we as a culture are always looking for the Next Big Thing. The sports world is not immune to this and as fans we are constantly debating who will be the next great superstar. Since Michael Jordan finally hung it up with the Wizards in 2003, what’s been the question every NBA fan has asked? Who’s the next Michael Jordan? Is it Kobe? Is it Lebron?

Tiger Woods has been a household name since he was 22 years old and dominated the competition at the 1997 Masters. What was the first question we all asked? Is he the next Jack Nicklaus? My answer is no! I believe that Tiger Woods is the first Tiger Woods not the next Nicklaus. Even if Tiger was to accomplish his lifelong dream of 18 major titles, I still would not say he’s the next Jack because their careers have been completely different.

The golf landscape today looks a lot different than 20 years ago; the modern golfer has become an athlete. You don’t see many successful players on tour these days with a gut. The days of Craig Stadler, John Daly, and Mark O’Meara are gone. Tiger Woods is an athlete and his workout routines have become stuff of legend in golf circles. Players like Rory McIlory, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Zach Johnson have all helped change the image that the world has of a professional golfer.

Even as these golfers become stronger and longer off the tee than ever – Bubba Watson recorded a 362 yard drive at the 2014 Masters – the great equalizer is and always will be on the greens. The putting green has stolen more hearts than all the actresses in Hollywood combined. When Tiger Woods was at the top of his game, there was no one you feared more to be paired with on a Sunday than Woods. The back nine on a Sunday for Woods almost became like his own personal curtain call, being that he was so automatic. In the 53 times Woods has held or shared the lead going into the final round of a PGA Tour event, he has won 49 times. Retief Goosen is the only player to come from four or more behind Woods and beaten him, which he did at the Tour Championship in 2004. Tiger has that killer instinct that every great athlete has had from Joe Montana to Michael Jordan.

I know you might feel that I’m taking the easy way out by saying that there will never be another Tiger Woods. That’s fine, but do me a favor: Take three of the best young golfers in the game today and ask yourself, “Do you really think that these three golfers combine will win 14 major titles?” I thought so.

But, what do you think? Who do you think could be the next golf pro as dangerous on the greens and as successful at the majors?