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Matt Kuchar leads FedEx Cup with Barclays Win

Matt Kuchar really has something to smile about now.

Tiger Woods is pretty happy, too.

Kuchar, one of the most affable players on the PGA Tour who flashes a grin about as often as he hits a shot during a round of golf, made birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday to topple Martin Laird and win The Barclays, the first of four postseason events in the FedExCup playoffs.

Kuchar, who took over the top spot in the FedExCup race for the $10 million grand prize, knocked his second shot out of heavy rough from 190 yards on Ridgewood Country Club's 18th hole to just 2 feet and knocked in the winning putt. He shot 5-under-par 66 to finish at 12 under and won for the third time on Tour. It was his 10th top-10 in 22 starts this season.




"It's been an awesome year," Kuchar said. "I knew it was a matter of time. It was one of those things that I knew if I put myself in contention enough times I was going to break through."

Laird, who shot a final-round 71, let victory slip from his hands when he three-putted from 23 feet on the final hole in regulation to fall into the playoff. Still, he jumped from 95th to third in the FedExCup race and most likely secured a spot in The Tour Championship in Atlanta, the final event of the playoffs.

"To be honest, I thought I would be a lot more gutted than I am right now," Laird said after Matt Kuchar won the tournament with a birdie on the first playoff hole. "I'm really happy how I played today. I really didn't have my game going great off the tee but I holed a lot of putts out there for par just to stay in the position I was."I'm going to take a lot out of this week. The way I'm playing, I don't see why I can't be in contention the next few weeks."

Woods, too, moves on to Massachusetts for the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second playoff event. The world's No. 1 player began the week 112th in the points race but finished with a final-round 67 that left him at 7 under, in a tie for 12th, and "very pleased."

Although he is winless in 10 starts this season — the longest drought to start a season in his professional career — he'll head to the second round of the playoffs in 65th place and as optimistic he has been all year.

"I certainly haven't won all year. But this is a week that I was very close," Woods said.

Woods has won at all three of the remaining golf courses that host the playoffs — outside Boston, Chicago and Atlanta. And he feels his work with swing coach Sean Foley is paying off.

"If I just putt well this week or for all four days, I'm right there," Woods said. "The way I hit the golf ball all week, drove it pretty much on the string all week. And really controlled my irons. Unfortunately didn't putt well in the middle two rounds."

No one, however, is happier than Kuchar, who finally knocked down victory's door after nine top-10s this season. He made up a five-shot deficit with a final-round 66 and shot 68-69-69 his other three rounds. He also moved up to No. 1 in the FedExCup playoffs and No. 10 in the world golf rankings.

"I love the game," Kuchar said. "I love playing golf. I love practicing. I love everything about it. I love having chances. And even when the chances don't go your way, I think it makes you tougher, makes you stronger.

"If you don't get beaten up by it, if you keep on stepping forward, all those close calls, they're going to make you better for opportunities in the future."

•Dustin Johnson, who started the day three shots behind Laird but in the final group, shot a 1-over 72. He also was in the final group his last time out, the PGA Championship, and that ended with a two-stroke penalty knocking him out of the playoff. Not to mention the final group of the U.S. Open, where he closed with an 82.

- USA today / image by Carlos M. Saavedra/SI

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