LOS CABOS, Mexico — Matt Kuchar’s game was en fuego on Saturday at El Cardonal at Diamante until suddenly it wasn’t.
Kuchar was on ‘59 watch’ as he stepped to the tee at the par-4 15th hole. He had carded nine birdies and an eagle, channeling Tiger Woods on the course Woods designed, and gone from two shots behind Camilo Villegas at the start of the day to seven shots clear of him and six in front of the field. That’s when disaster struck.
Kuchar, 45, made a quadruple-bogey eight after snap-hooking his tee shot into the jungle and a bogey at the next while Villegas, 41, went birdie-birdie and Kuchar’s lead was gone. The whole complexion of the World Wide Technology Championship changed in half an hour. At the end of the day, the two 40-something veterans were tied at the top of the leaderboard at 19-under 197. (This marked the first time that two players age 40 or older share the 54-hole lead since Stewart Cink and Ben Crane at the 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic.)
“Listen, this course has some trickiness to it,” Kuchar said. “That 15th hole is one I think we all have circled I think this could be a big number, and for me it was today.”
Kuchar didn’t even bother to look for his tee shot at 15, calling off the Golf Channel’s Arron Oberholser, who was walking with the group, from searching for the ball.
“One bad swing is probably all I made,” Kuchar said. “That’s a fairway that’s 70 yards wide. I mean, I hit that one in my sleep…and then from there 15 can kind of creep up and kind of get you.”
That it most definitely did. Kuchar’s provisional found the fairway but the wind tugged his next shot left of the green into a collection area with a steep slope to climb to reach the hole. Kuchar’s next two pitch shots both failed to have enough steam and rolled back near his feet and a penalty area.
“I’m not sure how you play that shot with that steep of a bank,” Kuchar conceded. “Clearly I did not execute it.”
So far, Kuchar had taken six shots and still wasn’t on the green.
“I was standing on the green with my caddie,” said Villegas, who used the slope of the green to perfection and hit his approach to 5 feet to set up a birdie that lifted him to 18 under. “We were going, ‘Wow, he could make six, seven, eight, nine.’ It was a tough spot there.”
Kuchar walked off with the dreaded snowman and a five-stroke swing with Villegas on the hole. It was the sixth quadruple bogey (or worse) of his Tour career…