* Runner-up Taylor drives into water at unlucky 13th
* Kuchar’s first win in seven years
(adds quotes, details)
NEW YORK, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Matt Kuchar won the Turning Stone Championship on the sixth hole of a sudden-death playoff Monday after fellow American Vaughn Taylor hit his tee shot at the par-four 13th into the water.
Kuchar made par on the 439-yard hole, while Taylor took a double-bogey, to win a $1.08 million top prize in Verona, N.Y., for his second tour title after his maiden victory at the 2002 Honda Classic.
Kuchar and Taylor, who tied on 17 under par through 72 holes of regulation, played two sudden-death holes Sunday before failing light forced a suspension of play.
A tap-in par on the fourth hole of the day ended Kuchar’s seven-year victory drought and lifted him from 59th to 25th on the tour money list, putting him inside the top 30 that will earn automatic berths to the Masters and U.S. Open championships.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been since 2002,” 31-year-old Kuchar said about getting back in the winner’s circle.
Taylor made no excuses about his costly mistake off the tee. “Just made a bad swing,” the 33-year-old twice tour winner said. “Nothing more than that.”
Golf success came early for Kuchar, who won the U.S. Amateur title in 1997 after Tiger Woods ended his three-year reign to turn professional.
Kuchar, as a Georgia Tech student, took advantage of his 1998 invitation to the Masters by finishing 21st and followed that with 14th place at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club.
He turned professional in 2000, yet after winning the Honda Classic in 2002 went through a long dry spell.
“The game of golf can just beat you up, beat you up,” he said in a TV interview after his winning putt. “There’s nothing quite as sweet as the joy of coming in on top for a week, and a week like this, to battle so hard, is pretty special.”
Both golfers had opportunities to win after returning to the Atunyote course on a windy, cold and damp morning in upstate New York.
Kuchar grazed the right edge of the cup on a four-foot putt at Monday’s first playoff hole to squander a chance to end it. Kuchar bounced back to stay in the playoff by sinking a 23-foot putt for birdie on the next hole that forced Taylor to drain his six-footer to stay alive.
Taylor then left a 20-foot birdie putt inches short of the cup that would have won it for him on the fifth playoff hole.
Writing by Larry Fine, Editing by Justin Palmer