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Kuchar holds nerve to edge Mahan for crown

MARANA (Arizona), Feb 26, 2013, Reuters

American posts 2 & 1 win over defending champion

Over the moon: Matt Kuchar celebrates with the Match Play Championship trophy in Arizona on Sunday. AFP

Matt Kuchar derailed Hunter Mahan's bid to win back-to-back titles at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship with a 2&1 victory over his fellow American in the final on a wind-buffeted Sunday.

Four up after nine holes on a chilly, sun-splashed afternoon at Dove Mountain, Kuchar fended off a Mahan resurgence after the turn before sealing the win at the par-four 17th where his opponent took four shots to reach the green.

It was Kuchar's fifth triumph on the PGA Tour and his first success in one of the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) events which bring together the game's leading players.


Defending champion Mahan, who had not trailed in any of his five previous matches this week, never recovered after going three down with a run of four consecutive bogeys from the par-three third.

“I'm not sure I can explain how excited I am to have won this tournament,” the 34-year-old Kuchar told reporters, grinning broadly as he sat next to the cherished Walter Hagen Cup after earning the winner's cheque for $1.5 million.

“To come out on top after six matches of playing guys, the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling.”

Both players wore balaclavas as temperatures dropped to the mid-40s (F) with a wind chill factor of 37 and Mahan faltered early, bogeying the par-four fourth after failing to reach the green in two and hitting a poor chip 20 feet short.

He also bogeyed the fifth, after taking three shots to reach the green, and the par-three sixth, where he three-putted from long range, to go three down. Kuchar went 4-up with a birdie at the par-five eighth, getting up and down from just off the back of the green while Mahan had to settle for a par after missing the green well to the left with his second shot.

Mahan clawed one hole back with a two-putt par at the 10th, where Kuchar bogeyed, before recording his first birdie of the round at the par-five 11th to trim his opponent's lead to 2-up.

As the chilly desert winds gusted up to 30 mph (48.28 kph), Kuchar did well to birdie the par-three 12th where Mahan's tee shot ended up just five feet from the pin, sinking a 14-footer to stay 2-up. Both Americans failed to reach the green in two at the par-five 13th but Kuchar pitched up to five feet and coolly sank the birdie putt to regain a 3-up advantage.

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