American Matt Kuchar said he was “crushed” after he lost out by three strokes to compatriot Jordan Spieth in a classic head-to-head battle at the British Open on Sunday.
The 39-year-old, who has never won a major, had played solid and consistent golf throughout the week and took the lead after Spieth’s bogey on the 13th hole of Royal Birkdale.
Although the Floridian did almost everything right — with birdies on the 15th and 17th — he entered the final hole two strokes behind after a sensational run down the stretch by Spieth.
The 23-year-old shot birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, after his slip-up and left Kuchar trailing in his wake.
Kuchar’s bogey on the final hole, after an unlucky plug lay in the greenside bunker, counted for nothing more than a little salt in his wounds.
The wounds were still fresh when he was asked to look back on his day.
“It’s hard to explain. It’s crushing. It hurts. And it’s an excitement and a thrill to have played well, put up a battle, put up a fight. “You work so hard to get to this position. And to have a chance to make history and win a championship. You don’t get that many opportunities. And to be this close, to taste it with five holes to go, it’s a hard one to sit back and take,” he said.
Predictably, thoughts turned to whether Kuchar would be able to use the experience to push himself further towards a maiden major win and although he answered in the affirmative, as any professional would, his sigh before responding said more than his words.
Equally inevitably, Kuchar was given words of encouragement from his family and his caddy John Wood as he contemplated his loss but they did not quite succeed in getting him to brush off the defeat.
“I think everybody’s doing their best to put a positive spin on it. I played well. I had four good rounds of golf. I was close. And so I think everybody around me is doing the best to put the most positive spin on this week as possible,” he said.
Spieth himself said he witnessed the emotional impact the outcome had on a player he has frequently stated his admiration for.
“I noticed it when I walked up and saw his family hugging him and I think Cameron is his oldest that was in tears. At that moment I’m so happy. And at the same time I see that and I thought to myself, man, put this in perspective, he’s a dad.
“Matt didn’t lose the tournament at all today. He played well down the stretch. I mean, I just had my long putts go in, his didn’t. That was simply it,” he said.
“I could tell he was emotional once he had sat down in the scorer’s tent. “I believe Matt Kuchar will win a major championship. And I believe that he’ll do it sometime soon. He’s a great champion and he’s such a great person. And he’s a great individual to look up to. “He’s one of these guys, when I talk about having great role models on the PGA Tour, and I’m fortunate in that, he’s at the top of the class. And you’re able to see it with how he handles that kind of situation right after just a crazy day.”