New Jersey: American Matt Kuchar hit a spectacular recovery shot to win a playoff against Martin Laird of Britain at the first hole to claim the Barclays title on Sunday in the opening leg of the FedExCup playoffs.
After hitting his drive into heavy rough on the left side, Kuchar punched a low approach shot that landed short of the firm green, hopped on and rolled to the back before turning left and following a slope down toward the cup.
Kuchar, 32, sank the three-foot putt for a winning birdie at the 470-yard par-four 18th and raised his arms in triumph. "That shot came out beautifully," said Kuchar. "That was an exciting way to cap off this tournament." Kuchar came from five strokes behind to reach the playoff, posting a bogey-free five-under-par 66, while overnight leader Laird shot level-par 71 at Ridgewood Country Club for his 12-under-par 272 total.
Laird had opened the door for his rival when he bogeyed the final hole of regulation, three-putting from 23 feet after missing a seven-footer for par. Kuchar, who claimed his third U.S. Tour win, guaranteed himself a place in the 30-man Tour Championship with a victory that moved him to the top of the FedExCup list.
"There's nothing like the feeling of winning a PGA Tour golf tournament," said Kuchar, who succeeded Tiger Woods as US Amateur champion in 1997. "You feel like you are the best player in the world for this week." Americans Steve Stricker (66) and Kevin Streelman (68) tied for third place on 10-under-par 274, while Woods ensured his place in next week's FedExCup Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston by shooting 67 for 277 and a tie for 12th.
The top 100 in the FedEXCup standings advanced to next week. The overall leader at the end of the series will pocket a $10 million bonus. The 27-year-old Laird, who led by three strokes after the third round, looked on his way to victory when he birdied his first two holes on Sunday before falling back with double-bogey at the par-five third hole and another bogey at the next.
The Scot two-putted for birdie at the par-five penultimate hole to reclaim a one-stroke lead over Kuchar before his bogey at the last hole of regulation.
"Obviously not the finish I was looking for," said Laird, who won last year's PGA stop in Las Vegas, and vaulted from 95th place to third in the FedExCup standings. "But I'm very proud of the way I played today. I didn't feel like I had my best game." It was the first win of a sterling season for Kuchar, who will make his US Ryder Cup debut after registering 10 top 10 finishes this year, including a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open and for 10th at this month's PGA Championship.
"It's been an awesome year," said Kuchar. "I knew if I kept putting myself in contention that I would break through."