Matt Kuchar takes 4-shot lead at Houston Open

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HUMBLE, Texas — Matt Kuchar didn’t have the result he had hoped for while playing in the final pairing at last week’s Texas Open.

Matt Kuchar hits off the tee on the eighth hole Saturday during the third round of the Houston Open. Kuchar stands at 15-under overall heading into today's final round.  PATRIC SCHNEIDER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
PATRIC SCHNEIDER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Matt Kuchar hits off the tee on the eighth hole Saturday during the third round of the Houston Open. Kuchar stands at 15-under overall heading into today's final round.

The six-time PGA Tour winner, who closed with a final-round 75 on his way to a fourth-place finish last week, will have the opportunity to show what he learned from that disappointing finish at this week’s Houston Open.

Kuchar vaulted past a struggling Sergio Garcia with 4-under-par 68 on Saturday – overcoming windy conditions at the Golf Club of Houston to match the low round of the day.

Kuchar stands at 15- under overall heading into today’s final round, four shots ahead of second-round leader Garcia and Cameron Tringale, like Kuchar a former Georgia Tech star.

“It’s a nice position to have played well last week, to have been in the last group with a chance to win and again to come back this week, completely different course, and have another shot to win,” Kuchar said.

Kuchar’s last win came at the Memorial last year, and he has eight top-10 finishes this season in 10 events.

He’ll have the opportunity add to that résumé today and fuel his surging confidence leading into the Masters Tournament, where he finished in a tie for eighth last year.

The prospect of a winner’s share of nearly $1.2-million, however, has Kuchar locked in on the Houston Open first.

“I’ve been playing some steady golf for a couple of years now and feel like my chances of playing well tomorrow are pretty good,” Kuchar said.

The golfers went off both tees in threesomes Saturday morning in anticipation of severe weather in the evening, a format they’ll use again today with hopes of avoiding a Monday finish leading into this week's visit to Augusta National Golf Club.

Garcia, who surged ahead with 7-under 65 on Friday, began the day with a one-shot lead over Kuchar. That disappeared after the Spaniard bogeyed the first to fall back to 11-under and into a tie with his playing partner, Kuchar.

Garcia later put his tee shot into the water on No. 10. He finished with 1-over 73 after matching the course’s low mark of 12-under.

"Obviously, I didn't play as well as yesterday with the difficulty," Garcia said. "... It wasn't that easy."

Kuchar, meanwhile, birdied the first to move into the lead — a spot he didn't relinquish. He added back-to-back birdies on No. 4 and 5 to move to 14 under, and he added three birdies in a row on the back nine.

He reached 16 under with a birdie on the par-3 14th before three-putting the 18th and settling for 15 under.

"It's unbelievable," said Ben Curtis, who is tied for 5th at 8 under with Rickie Fowler. "(Kuchar's) on a great roll the last few years. Obviously, he's playing very confidently, and that makes a huge difference."

Kuchar missed his first four cuts at the Houston Open, but the American finished tied for eighth in 2010 and 2011 before not playing in the tournament the last two years.

His three rounds in the 60s this week have only been matched by Tringale, who shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday while playing in the next-to-last pairing.

Phil Mickelson, after withdrawing from last week's Texas Open with a muscle pull in his right side, was inconsistent from the opening hole Saturday.

The five-time major winner left his opening two approach shots short of the green, the second of which found the bunker and caused him to slump over in the fairway. That led to the first of back-to-back bogeys, though he did recover with three straight birdies on the back nine before settling for an even-par 72 — leaving him in a tie for eighth at 6 under.

"I don't know if I'll have a good round tomorrow or not," Mickelson said. "But it's close, a lot closer than it's been."

Fowler matched Kuchar's low round in Saturday's chilly conditions, posting a 4-under 68 and moving to 8 under overall.

With rain forecast for Saturday night and throughout Sunday, the golfers will once again tee off in threesomes early on Sunday morning.

"To me, it feels like we'll come here and wait around for a lot longer, but (that's) part of the deal," Kuchar said.

LOCAL INTEREST

BRIAN GAY

Louisville, Ga.*

Score 71-70-71

Shots back 11

KEVIN KISNER

Aiken native

Score 71-70-81

Shots back 21

* former resident


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