SOUTHPORT, England (Reuters) - As an early starter on a day when the wind picked up in the afternoon, joint overnight leader Matt Kuchar was on the right side of Friday’s draw and, at 39, age may also be on his side as he bids for his first British Open title.
Five of the past six winners have been 39 or older and so what better time and place for Kuchar, who has won $40 million on tour, to shed his tag as highest earner without a major.
On the course where the American made his British Open debut in 1998, Kuchar posted a second-round one-over-par 71 to claim the early clubhouse lead on four under par on Friday.
Afterwards Kuchar made for the TV lounge, where he anticipated “some fun” watching afternoon starters Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka, compatriots with whom he shared the overnight lead, grapple with the gathering wind.
“There’s a whole lot of trouble to be had, and trying to hit solid shots that the wind is going to affect the least is challenging,” he said after completing a calmly efficient round that included four bogeys — two in the last three holes — and three birdies.
“What people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there. Today is my day. I get to kick back in the afternoon and watch the guys just try to survive (which) is pretty much all you can do.
“So in my situation, having been out there and posted a nice round, now I get to watch (which) is fun.”
After bogeying the second, Kuchar looked in danger of dropping another at the third but responded with a superb chip from off the green to bag a birdie.
A further red score followed at the short fourth before he expertly negotiated trouble at the back of the green on the sixth to save par on one of the course’s hardest holes.
“Conditions were really hard today,” he said. “Nearly opposite wind of what we had yesterday. So the course played completely differently.
“And this wind, it felt like every hole was a crosswind hole. It felt like you had to play for so much curve on the ball. The wind was so strong. It was quite a trying, challenging day.”
Under such circumstances, any score around par was creditable and Kuchar looks much better suited to dealing with tricky conditions than in his early years when he missed the cut in six of his first seven stabs at the tournament.
Last week he finished tied fourth in the Scottish Open and knows he is now well placed for Sunday’s final shakedown.
“I don’t come in with a game plan, so I did not have to make any changes,” he said. “Each hole presents new challenges and I wait until I get there to see what challenge is presented to me and try to make the best of it.”
Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ken Ferris