Kuchar blows 6-shot lead with late collapse, falls into tie with Villegas in Mexico

LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) — Matt Kuchar blew a big lead with a late collapse Saturday in the World Wide Technology Championship, leaving him tied with Camilo Villegas with a round left at Tiger Woods-designed El Cardonal at Diamante.

Six strokes ahead at 24 under with three holes left on a breezy, cloudy afternoon on the tip of Baja California. Kuchar pulled his drive on 15 left into dense bushes and made a quadruple-bogey 8. He then bogeyed the par-3 16th, limiting the damage with a 12-foot bogey putt.

“Listen, this course has some trickiness to it,” Kuchar said. “That 15th hole is one I think we all have circled — `I think this could be a big number.′ — and for me it was today,” Kuchar said. “Listen, it’s golf.”

Kuchar closed with two pars — with his birdie try on the par-5 18th hitting the cup — for a 5-under 67. Playing alongside Kuchar in the final group, Villegas finished birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie for a 69 to join Kuchar at 19 under.

“Emotionally, I was pretty at peace on the golf course and made great birdies on No. 15 and 16, probably two of the holes that were playing the toughest,” Villegas said. “Matt was kind of running away, but golf is weird and he came back to us.

The 45-year-old Kuchar won the tournament in 2018 at Mayakoba. A month after that, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii for the last of his nine PGA Tour titles.

“I really like the state of my game, so here I am,” Kuchar said. “I’m pretty good at letting that stuff roll off my back. I let that one roll off my back and go try to play some good golf tomorrow.”

After opening with consecutive 65s on Thursday and Friday in calm conditions, Kuchar eagled the par-5 first on Saturday and had six birdies and a bogey in a front-nine 29. He birdied Nos. 12-14 to get to 10 under for the round and 24 under overall before the meltdown.

“One bad swing is probably all I made,” Kuchar said. “That drive on 15, tried to ride the wind. I’m not typically one to try to hit draws and I hit a hook in the junk, and then from there 15 can kind of creep up and kind of get you.”

Villegas, two strokes ahead after opening 64-64, is fighting to gain his full PGA Tour card. The 41-year-old Colombian split time between the Korn Ferry Tour and whatever PGA Tour events he could get in this year, and he stands at No. 223 in the FedEx Cup with only three tournaments left. The top 125 have full cards for 2024; the top 150 at least have conditional status.

“We’ll be back tomorrow, play good, keep staying aggressive,” Villegas said. “There’s a lot of low scores on this golf course. See what happens.”

Erik van Rooyen, who came into the week at No. 125 in the FedEx Cup, was a stroke back at 18 under after a 66.

“The fairways are wide, so everyone’s going to be hitting all of them. It’s a second-shot golf course,” van Rooyen said. "There’s lots of little pockets in the greens and it kind of suits my game. I’ve putted well this week as well, so everything’s coming together nicely.

Mackenzie Hughes (63), Will Gordon (67) and Justin Suh (68) were 17 under.

Kuchar and Villegas are the first two players 40 or over to share a 54-hole lead on PGA Tour since Stewart Cink and Ben Crane in the 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic.


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