PACIFIC PALISADES, California – A clear mind for a golfer is like a 15th club in your pocket. A mind overflowing with distractions can be catastrophic.
A year before one of the most difficult weeks of his career, Matt Kuchar's existence this week at Genesis Invitational is all about golf and no outside controversy … and he wore it well on Thursday and stormed the tournament management for an opening round between 7 and 64 years.
Kuchar will have a three-shot advantage over K.H. Lee, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark and Adam Schenk, who all shot 4-67 in the second round on Friday. Several players, including Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau, are four shots back after shooting their respective 68s.
The tournament's host, Tiger Woods, is back five to two under after shooting a disappointing 69 considering that he flew his first hole, three under six holes and four under eight. Woods dropped a blow to his last hole, the 18th, with a bogey – the result of a sliced tee that forced him to throw on the fairway.
"I got off to a good start in the top nine and only got a few good shots in the bottom nine," said Woods. "I didn't have much time to practice this week, I was a little busy [as the event host], The first time I saw the range was [Wednesday] and that was about 10 minutes to warm up for the pro-am. "
As for Kuchar at this tournament a year ago, his public life has dissolved. With inexplicable zero help from his manager Mark Steinberg, Kuchar was involved in a PR disaster that destroyed his image as a good guy.
He had spent the previous month putting his foot in his mouth and apologizing for tipping his temporary Mexican club caddy at the Mayakoba Classic in November 2018 after paying that Event and won $ 1.3 million in his pocket.
When he arrived on the Riviera, the public heat had reached such an uncomfortable temperature that Kuchar finally came to his senses and issued a statement apologizing to David "El Tucan" Ortiz and promising to pay him $ 50,000.
Being classified as cheap, coupled with a poorly advised comment about Ortiz ("For a man who makes $ 200 a day, a week with $ 5,000 is a really big week.") Kuchar got upset by the media and was mocked by the fans.
Genesis week became the breaking point when he issued a statement, some of which read, "This week I made comments that were touchless and insensitive, making a bad situation worse" and promised to pay Ortiz $ 50,000.
And that wasn't the only incident that affected Kuchar's 2019. This included two wins and a profit of more than $ 6 million.
His year was also marked by an uproar with Sergio Garcia at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Garcia was upset that he hadn't received a short putt, and a questionable free drop from a divot that he had requested in the memorial, and a controversial improvement on a lie in the sand at the European Open, where he put a loose obstacle behind his ball.
These were all unforgettable moments in an otherwise spectacular year.
They are all incidents that Kuchar hopes will be in the rearview mirror forever when he tries to win on the Riviera this week.
"It was a fun, fun day out there," said Kuchar after his busy Thursday. "It's a place that I love to come to every year."
Kuchar's round was highlighted by four out of four at scramble parades to keep his bogey-free round with seven birds intact.
"To shoot a number like this, you do most things well," he said. "I didn't have much trouble."
Unlike a year ago on the Riviera, where he finished 28th and avoided distractions.
"I've got wind of [the criticism] and it was no fun, "said Kuchar recently in Kapalua." I try my best to be a man who treats people the way they want to be treated. … I was lucky to be in mine Career didn't have to deal with any problems  was certainly a difficult time. "