[PHOTO: Tracy Wilcox]
Until Wednesday, Matt Kuchar didn’t fully appreciate being the last man standing – the last player on the PGA Tour to have qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs every year since their inception in 2007 – because it was an accomplishment realised through the most mundane of purposes. At least that’s way he sees it.
“I laughed originally,” he said of learning the news. “It was 17 straight years of keeping my job. I thought that’s what we were supposed to do.”
Kuchar, 45, did what he was supposed to do yet again this season, and amid a more challenging competitive framework. Only the top 70 advanced to this week’s FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind, whereas in many of the previous years the top 125 on the points list advanced to the postseason. Largely forgotten is that the playoff field was 144 players for the first two seasons.
Thanks to four top-10 finishes, all before the Masters, Kuchar finished 60th in the standings to keep his streak intact. Adam Scott fought to join him with a furious finish at last week’s Wyndham Championship, but eventually ended up 72nd for the season.
Kuchar wasn’t inclined to pat himself on the back too much until he arrived at TPC Southwind and received a fair bit of affirmation from his peers. “I had a bunch of players congratulate me in the locker room as I walked through,” said the nine-time tour winner. “I was going, Holy cow, that’s really cool. It hit home a little more when kind of had some peers say something.
“I think when I heard it basically through the media, I chuckled a bit at it because it’s not a goal of anyone’s to be in this position and make this streak. Certainly, it’s a nice feather in the cap, but today to hear from players was a great feeling, kind of put a little more perspective to the accomplishment.”
Kuchar said he expects a few current players will surpass his streak but acknowledges that no one else can trace the mark to the beginning of the playoff concept. And even though he’s dismissive of the feat in general, the former US Amateur champion figures that he’ll remain in select company for years to come.
“There’s only so many players out here that have that potential. So the pool of us is small. It’s not like there’s thousands of guys with this chance,” he said.
A secret to his longevity and his consistency, he said, is having the right kind of goals. As you can probably guess, those goals centred on intangibles as opposed to wins or status on a points list.
“I’ve kept most things pretty simple throughout my career, and in that simplicity, the constant goal has always been to get better,” he explained. “I’ve never been one to set sights on, I want multiple wins or a major or putting definite numbers on it. My goal is to try to get better every year. If it’s one percent better, it’s better, and if you multiply that over a 20-some-odd-year career, hopefully it’s a lot better. I certainly feel like a better player now than I was. Haven’t had the results, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the process, and that continues to be the process.
“This is not something that anybody as a player shoots out to try to do,” he added. “But, certainly in my case, I love doing what I do. I love being able to play golf for a living, be out and play PGA Tour events week in and week out, and to do it for this many years has been a treat. It’s flown by, I assure you. I still feel like a kid. I still feel like I’m fresh out of college, but here I am in the 17th straight playoffs.”