Storm, $10 million an attitude check for Kuchar

Anyone stuck outside in Sunday’s showers at the Tour Championship might have felt attitude-challenged. Then there was Matt Kuchar, with a golf game more “C” than “A” and $10 million at stake.

By the time he reached the 16th hole at East Lake Golf Club, rain soaked unprepared spectators. The ready ones even struggled as wind inverted umbrellas so seldom needed in Atlanta this hot season.

At that moment, the scoreboard showed Kuchar at humdrum par for the day, 4 over par for the tournament, tied for 25th. He still could have won the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus, but wasn’t helping his chances.

In the downpour, he crouched over his 17-foot birdie putt, rolled it dead center to the hole.

It stopped just short.

En route to the 17th tee, he passed a cheery gallery sign by tournament sponsor Humana: “Walking helps alleviate symptoms of depression.”

So it was for his bedraggled followers: his parents, in-laws, friends and neighbors. A drenched Mike Stone, 62, of Atlanta smiled and waved at Kuchar.

“Go Matt!” Stone said. Kuchar pointed a friendly acknowledgment and smiled.

They had been neighbors for nine years until the Kuchars moved to St. Simons earlier this week --  a major life change during an already big week.

“He always has a big smile and a wave,” said Stone’s wife, Linda, 62.

Nearby walked Sybi Kuchar, a tennis star who met her husband when both played for Georgia Tech. Kuchar was  “concentrating on his game and keeping his head down,” she said. “He looks good and seems pretty loose.”

Coming into this week, Kuchar had won $4,753,727 to top the money list. For a family with two young sons, Cameron, almost 3, and Carson, 1, the bonus was not a giant issue, she said.

“We’ve never discussed it,” Sybi Kuchar said. As she walked up No. 17, a red evacuation van rolled by and the sky darkened. “His goal all year was to be in this tournament. He’s been fortunate to play well, make the Ryder Cup and have been No. 1 on Tour. We never discussed the money side, and if he happens to win, it would be an awesome perk.”

Did Kuchar ever lose the smile?

“He really is that way,” she said. “It’s his perspective on life. We’re all healthy, knock on wood. He gets paid to do what he loves to do. This is not the end of the world. No matter which way it goes, he goes home and plays with his boys.”

So often, sports turn on timing; in this case, the bad kind. As Kuchar reached the final tee box, his wife voiced hope that he would finish the tough short hole before the storm came.

Moments later, an air horn blew. Kuchar would have to wait almost two hours.

“I certainly would have liked to have finished one last hole before the break,” Kuchar said later, as fact, not whine. “I wish we would have maybe teed off or started at 7 a.m. or 7:15, and maybe a lot more guys could have finished.”

The conditions, he said later, were fine by him until the skies opened. His problem was his shaky driver -- he hit only 47 percent of the fairways here -- and putter, which balked within the eight-foot, money-making radius.

During the storm delay, Kuchar watched football, not bothering to mull various permutations that might secure the $10 million.

After an hour and fifty minutes, he faced the difficult finishing hole with poor recent memories: bogey-bogey-par.

His approach landed 35 yards short of the hole. He pitched to eight feet. His putt grazed the left edge of the hole --  a few grass blades from lots of green, to be decided by the "nerve wracking" race  still on the course.

Kuchar left, as his wife had predicted, to see his sons just before another deluge hit. A charter flight to his first Ryder Cup would leave in a few hours. For this day, that would have to be enough to smile about.