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Matt Kuchar putts his way to 3-shot Genesis Invitational lead

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PACIFIC PALISADES – Matt Kuchar came to the 18th hole, his ninth of the day, and rolled in a 30-foot birdie up the hill.

He came to the eighth hole, his 17th.

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“And I made a 35-footer down the hill,” he said.

That’s a lot of elevation changes for a straight-line round. Kuchar used them to shoot a 7-under-par 64 and take a 3-stroke lead in the first round of the Genesis Invitational.

“We got lucky today,” Kuchar said. “There was hardly a breath of wind. Then I made a couple of putts that you can never count on.”

Kuchar has played here 13 times and has missed only one cut, with a high finish of eighth in 2010. In this round, he had no bogeys, was 4-for-4 in scrambling for par, and made 119 feet of putts. He seized the biggest 18-hole lead at Riviera since 2016.

He has nine wins on the PGA Tour, with two last year, and won an Asian PGA Tour event in Singapore last month.

Generally popular, Kuchar was heckled periodically at last year’s Genesis, after a mini-flap over how much he had paid his young Mexican caddie when he won at Mayakoba.

Russell Henley, Harold Varner III, Adam Schenk, Wyndham Clark and Kyoung-Hoon Lee were three shots behind Kuchar, at 67.

Rory McIlroy had two eagles in a 3-hole span (the 17th and first) to overcome two bogeys and shoot 68.

Tiger Woods, who sponsors this tournament but hasn’t won it, shot 2-under-par 69.

“I haven’t had time to practice,” he said. “I hit balls for 10 minutes yesterday, warming up for the pro-am. I was shaping some shots on the front nine but didn’t do it on the back.”

Woods hit only 11 greens and seven fairways in regulation.

However, he eagled the first hole from 24 feet, eight inches, which redirected a lot of thoughts back to Kobe Bryant.

Brooks Koepka, who recently lost his No. 1 ranking to McIlroy, returned to the U.S. after some events in the Middle East. He wore purple-and-golf golf shoes that were designed last summer for this tournament, but he admitted he was struggling with Bryant’s death.

Koepka and his girlfriend attended a Lakers’ game Monday night.

“There was a different vibe there, he said. “We were out to dinner that night and there were ‘Kobe’ chants in the restaurant. There was a lot of respect and camaraderie in Staples.”

Brooks Koepka’s shoes are seen honoring Kobe Bryant on the practice range during the first round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) 

Koepka said he was hoping to give Bryant a pair of the shoes “for him to see the impact he had on me” but had forgotten about the L.A. connection when the crash happened.

Like Koepka, Bryant was disinterested in befriending the opposition.

“Nike does a great job creating all these stories, what message we want to send,” Koepka said. “I think there’s a little bit of correlation with just the attitude going into things, and, I guess you could say, embrace the hate as well.”

But he had no trouble acknowledging how much this hurt.

“You hear it and you think, is it true, is it not, is it rumor?” he said. “I’ve never cried over anybody I never met. This was the first time.”


Source: East Bay Matt Kuchar putts his way to 3-shot Genesis Invitational lead

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