Kuchar's Augusta challenge shows his time may yet come

AUGUSTA, Georgia Mon Apr 9, 2012 9:15am IST

Matt Kuchar of the U.S. reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 11th hole during final round play in the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 8, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Matt Kuchar of the U.S. reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 11th hole during final round play in the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Matt Kuchar achieved his best finish at a major at the Masters on Sunday and indicated he might yet deliver on the promise he first showed at Augusta National in 1998.

The American finished tied for third just two shots behind eventual winner Bubba Watson and the runner-up in the playoff Louis Oosthuizen after making a strong challenge on the back nine.

The 33-year-old eagled the par-five 15th to briefly get himself into the lead but then a bogey on the 16th and pars on the last three holes left him just short.

It was a great recovery from the blow of a double-bogey on the ninth which could easily have knocked him out of contention.

"It was a good run," said Kuchar. "I so wish I could have hole nine over again.

"I three-putted from about seven feet. Felt like I hit my approach shot in a place I couldn't get up-and-down, and as I was walking off with a double, it was a real killer. But I stayed in it."

The Floridian, from Winter Park, has shown that ability to stick with it throughout a career which has yet to really live up to high expectations.

Back in 1998, Kuchar played the Masters as an amateur and finished tied for 21st, a result which prompted his move into the professional ranks where he was viewed as a talent of the future.

Yet the decade that followed was one of missed cuts and failed attempts to qualify for majors sprinkled with a couple of wins on the PGA Tour.

A belated breakthrough year came in 2010, when he finished tied for sixth in the U.S. Open and tied for 10th in the PGA Championship.

"I've always felt like I was never going to give up," he said.

"I've played a lot of rounds of golf where things weren't going well and I stuck with it knowing that there was going to be a situation and a time like this ... it was great to see those efforts pay off.

"Those amateur days were a real treat. That was a special time. To be an amateur, to have a shot, to be playing well in the Masters was really special, and especially for a first time.

"When I come back here, I still feel like that same 19-year-old kid, and now to be back and to have a chance to win the title was really exciting."

(Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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