Kuchar starts Hawaii vacation with a victory

HONOLULU (AP) – Matt Kuchar conquered three early bogeys who led him with faultless golf and two major birdies on the back nine to close with a 4-under 66 and win the Sony Open for his second PGA Tour title this season.

It was not as simple as his fourfold victory over Andrew Putnam would indicate.

After having made only one bogey by 54 holes to build a lead of two shots, Kuchar had three bogeys in his first opening on the fifth hole Sunday and one shot behind Putnam, and he had to make a birdie putt of 10 make a foot to prevent him from falling two shots behind.

Kuchar caught him with an aggressive hill on the slope on the par-4 10th hole. They stayed connected to five holes to play when Putnam made bogey from a deep bunker to the left of the 14th green and Kuchar made a couple of 12-foot birdies on the next two holes to take control.

Similarly, his lead was three shots, which made a pleasant walk on the par-5 18.

Kuchar became the first multiple winner of the PGA Tour this season after ending a drought of more than four years when he conquered the Mayakoba Classic last November in Mexico. It was only the second time in his career that Kuchar won twice in the same season. He won the Match Play Championship and the Memorial in 2013. Now he has the meat of the season before him.

Matt Kuchar holds the champion trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, January 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar holds the champion trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, January 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

"I want to see how good this year can be," said Kuchar.

He finished on 22-under 258, the third-lowest total in Waialae history behind the PGA Tour record of 253 from Justin Thomas in 2017 and Jimmy Walker's 72-hole score of 257 when he won in 2015.

Putnam, who won his first PGA Tour title last summer during the Barracuda championship, did not blink before entering the bunker that led to his only bogey, and he could not make enough putts to stay close to Kuchar, the rest of the way.

He finished with a 68 and went to the top 50 for the first time in his career.

Corey Conners of Canada, who entered the field via a qualifier on Monday, had a 64-64-weekend and was one of four players who were right for third place, although no one had a serious chance to challenge what came down to a race with two players at the top.

Nevertheless, the execution was great for Conner, who missed a complete PGA Tour card last year. Together with his second place in the Sanderson Farms Championship last fall, he has almost as many FedEx Cup points as last year when he finished at number 130.

Marc Leishman (64), Hudson Swafford (64) and Chez Reavie (67) also finished third.

Davis Love III, who played the Sony Open for the first time in 1986, missed the lowest 72-hole score of his career with one shot. His 64-65 weekend earned him a draw for the seventh and he is now on his way to Singapore with the hope of finding a spot in the British Open.

But this day eventually belonged to Kuchar, who won for the ninth time in his career.

He finished the 2018 season earlier than he wanted, because he was unable to enter the Touring Championship for the first time since 2009 and ended his game on eight straight teams in the Ryder Cup of Presidents Cup.

He won again in Mexico on a Sunday that was much tighter than he had chosen, and had a few nervous moments at the start in Waialae. He went long from the second green, leading to bogey. The other two were sloppy – a three-well over the back of the fourth green, and a wedge to number 5 that he begged to go down as soon as he left his club. He jumped into the bunker and missed an 8 foot footstool to lose control.

From there Kuchar had a birdie chance on the last 13 holes he made.

Kuchar and Putnam sat in a bunker shortly before the green on the par-5 ninth. Putnam went first and it rolled to 2 inches for birdie. Kuchar came out weakly, but made the 10-foot birdie putt. They exchanged birdies on the 12th and 13th and Kuchar took over from there.

"It was so unusual for me," said Kuchar, referring to his three-putt and bad wedge at No. 5. "But I kept joining, and I knew that good things would happen … To win two of three is crazy to understand. "

Matt Kuchar will play at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar will play at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar will play at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar hits the 13th tee during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar hits the 13th tee during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar hits the 13th tee during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar holds the champion trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, January 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar holds the champion trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, January 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar holds the champion trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, January 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar swings after saving par on the 18th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar swings after saving par on the 18th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Matt Kuchar swings after saving par on the 18th green during the third round of the Sony Open golf tournament on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam responds to missing a birdie putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam responds to missing a birdie putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam responds to missing a birdie putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam beats at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam beats at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Andrew Putnam beats at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu from the first tee at the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour Golf Event, Sunday, January 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Marc Leishman hits the 18th green bunker during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Marc Leishman hits the 18th green bunker during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

Marc Leishman hits the 18th green bunker during the third round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Saturday, January 12, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo / Matt York)

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