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Matt Kuchar wins Match Play Championship

Matt Kuchar kisses the Walter Hagen Cup after

Matt Kuchar kisses the Walter Hagen Cup after defeating Hunter Mahan 2 and 1 in the final round of play during the Match Play Championship golf tournament. (Feb. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

MARANA, Ariz. -- He was the prospect who became suspect, a golfer who lost his swing and his confidence. Now a decade after the fall, Matt Kuchar is back at the top.

Kuchar won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Sunday, defeating Hunter Mahan, 2 and 1, in a final played in winds and chill so severe at Dove Mountain Club above Tucson that both players wore ski caps and occasionally used heavy mittens to keep their hands warm.

Mahan, last year's champion, had gone 169 holes -- since his opening match in 2012 -- without trailing in this event, but Kuchar took the lead by winning the third, fourth and fifth holes.

It was a long, difficult day for both finalists; their semifinals began about 7 a.m. Sunday in temperatures that hovered in the low 40s. Kuchar defeated Jason Day of Australia, 4 and 3, and Mahan beat Ian Poulter of England, 4 and 3.

In the consolation final, Day was a 1-up winner over Poulter, who previous to the loss had a 19-2-3 record in match play, including the Ryder Cup, over the last four years.

Kuchar, 34, a onetime star at Georgia Tech, won the 1997 U.S. Amateur and the next year was low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open.

Known for his ever-present smile, he turned pro and won on the PGA Tour in 2002. Then the troubles started. He lost his card and had to play in the minor leagues, now called the Tour.

"I went seven years before I won again," Kuchar said. "I understand and I appreciate the effort that goes into it and the challenge and the climb you have to make to get back to that winner's circle."

He gave credit to pro Chris O'Connell, who rebuilt his swing, "and turned me into the golfer I am today . . . These wins are more special because of the hard times."

Kuchar won The Players Championshp in May and now has his first World Golf Championship. "To come out on top after six matches against the top 64 guys in the world," said Kuchar, who never played the 18th hole in any match, "it's an incredible feeling."

Mahan, 4-down at the turn, won the 10th hole with a par and the 11th with a birdie to trim the margin to 2-down. Then Mahan, facing just 4 feet for birdie on the 219-yard, par-3 12th, first watched Kuchar hole an 8-footer for his own birdie.

"The putt was crucial," Kuchar said. "Had it not gone in, I think the match was anybody's . . . [Mahan] played a fantastic back side. He really kept the pressure on me. You could feel him gaining momentum."

The previous two years, Kuchar had lost to the eventual winner -- in 2011 it was Luke Donald in a semifinal; last year it was Mahan in a quarterfinal.

Anchors OK with Finchem. Commissioner Tim Finchem told the media that the PGA Tour opposes the USGA ban on anchored putters that has yet to go into effect.

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