Needing two putts from 20 feet to hold off a late charge from Kevin Chappell, Kuchar punctuated a remarkably steady final round by making the birdie putt for a 4-under 68 and a two-shot victory at Muirfield Village. He joined Tiger Woods as the only players with more than one win this year on the PGA Tour.
Kuchar, who goes to a career-best No. 4 in the world, won the Match Play Championship in late February.
Tiger Woods made another triple bogey — two shots from a bunker, three putts from 15 feet on the fringe — at the par-3 12th and had to rally for an even-par 72. Woods came into the Memorial having won three times in his last four starts, and left with the second-highest score of his career at 8-over 296.
The final round was a snoozer until the very end, when Chappell birdied three of his last four holes. His approach to the 18th settled within tap-in range for birdie, putting a little extra pressure on Kuchar. When the putt dropped, he flashed that easy smile and thrust his fist into the air as his 3-year-old son Carson gave Nicklaus a high-five.
“This is such an amazing feeling. This never gets old,” said Kuchar, who won for the sixth time in his career. “To have Jack Nicklaus congratulate me is a real treat. This is as special as it gets.”
Chappell, who missed four birdie attempts inside 10 feet on the front nine, closed with a 4-under 68.
“He’s world class with that putter, and I figured it was over with,” Chappell said of Kuchar’s final putt.
Kyle Stanley ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch to end the front nine and pull within one shot, but he fell back with a bogey on the par-5 11th and never caught up. Stanley fell out of a tie for second on the 17th hole, and it was costly. A runner-up finish would have put him inside the top 50 and allowed him to skip 36 holes of U.S. Open qualifying on Monday. He closed with a 71 and finished alone in third, which will move him to just inside the top 60.
The top 60 after next week are exempt to the U.S. Open.
“Mentally, I’m pretty drained right now,” Stanley said. “I would have shot a million this week if I didn’t make putts. So I’m really happy about that.”
Kuchar finished at 12-under 276 and will be looked upon as one of the favorites in two weeks at the U.S. Open. He was runner-up last week at the Colonial.
Woods had little to cheer in what can only be written off as a most peculiar week. He was the defending champion and a five-time winner at Muirfield Village. He had won three of his last four tournaments — the exception was a tie for fourth at the Masters — and then he turned in some shocking scores. Woods had a 44 on the back nine Saturday, the worst 9-hole score of his pro career. He tied for 65th and was 20 shots behind, the largest deficit in a full-field event.
Woods was 30 shots behind at Firestone in 2010 at the depth of his most recent slump, and he was 20 shots behind in the 1996 Tour Championship at age 20. Both those tournaments have limited fields without a cut.
“It happens. It happens to us all,” Woods said. “Go home next week and practice.”
He attributed this week to his putting, and it was hard to argue. Woods is leading the tour in the key putting statistic, and he was 71st out of 73 players this week. He had a pair of three-putts from inside 5 feet.
Rory McIlroy closed with a 72 and finished 18 shots behind.
Kuchar was at his best off the tee. He didn’t miss a fairway until the 17th hole, when he found a bunker to the right of the fairway. Chappell, coming off a 10-foot par save on the 16th hole, made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th to get within two shots. Kuchar had to make a 5-foot par putt to keep the two-shot margin, and Chappell kept coming at him. He started walking after his approach to the 18th when he hit it.
“There at the end, it got scary,” Kuchar said. “He made a great run at the end.”
Kuchar never looks as though he is under much stress, and for so much of Sunday, he wasn’t.
Starting the final round with a two-shot lead, he made a 15-foot birdie putt on the opening hole and was at least three shots clear until Stanley made birdies on the eighth and ninth holes to pull within one shot going to the back nine.
Stanley wasn’t a threat for long, though.
Two holes later, Kuchar hit a nifty wedge to a tight pin for a short birdie on the par-5 11th, while Stanley ran into trouble off the tee, missed the green well to the right with his third shot and took bogey.
Chappell came to life with a birdie on the 13th hole, and he narrowly missed a 20-foot eagle putt on the 15th. Even so, Kuchar kept his distance all the way until he rolled in that last birdie putt that only counted toward the final margin.
Scott Stallings matched the low score of the final round with a 67 and tied for fourth with Bill Haas, who had a 71.