PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — Chalk this up to one of the more bizarre injuries in golf. Matt Kuchar missed the final major of the year when his back locked up on him from having to sit too long in traffic.
Adding to this forgettable tale: He was shopping for a slip-and-slide.
Kuchar was considered among the favorites at the PGA Championship and felt his game was rounding into form after two days of practice at Valhalla. There was a party planned at the house he was staying in Louisville, and Kuchar went looking for a slip-and-slide for the kids. He tried two stores and couldn’t find one.
“Sat in the car for about an hour fighting traffic and when I got back, I thought, `Boy, my back doesn’t feel very good right now,'” Kuchar said Tuesday.
He figured it would loosen up on Wednesday after some treatment – no such luck.
“I took Wednesday off, and figured by the time Thursday comes around it will have loosened up,” he said. “Got treatment, tried to hit balls. Figured I could warm up into it and just couldn’t warm up into it. I guess I basically had gotten a little out of alignment.”
Kuchar was among four Americans with Ryder Cup chances who were injured during the PGA, leading U.S. captain Tom Watson to say they were “falling like flies.” Jason Dufner withdrew with a neck injury and failed to qualify. Tiger Woods had another back injury and subsequently took himself out of consideration as a pick. Dustin Johnson is on “voluntary leave” to seek professional help for “personal challenges.”
Kuchar, though, appears to be fine.
“The muscles kind of locked up and with the help of chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, got it straight again and feel good,” Kuchar said. “They have given me a handful of little exercises to try to help strengthen the area and help prevent this from happening again.”
RORY AND TIGER: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods made a joint appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, though it seemed more like a chance to pitch new equipment.
Woods, out until December to work on getting stronger as his back heals, didn’t swing a club. McIlroy and Fallon tried to hit golf balls through squares of glass that had images of McIlroy and Fallon painted on them.
During a brief interview, McIlroy said his recent run – two majors and a World Golf Championship in his last three starts – made him appreciate the run Woods went on from 1999 through 2002, and then from 2005 through 2008.
“I guess this little run that I’m on, it makes me appreciate what he’s done in the past,” McIlroy said. “I mean, just phenomenal to keep a run like this going and he’s done way more than me. It makes you appreciate how hard he worked and what a dominant figure he was in our game.”
BUBBA’S APOLOGY: Masters champion Bubba Watson would like to have a mulligan at the PGA Championship, and not just on the golf course.
He caused a stir by refusing to take part in the “Long Drive” competition during the Tuesday practice round, hitting a 3-iron off the 10th tee to make his point. He also was heard on television Friday using a profanity after a poor drive. Watson apologized for that, thanking those who called him out for it.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes,” Watson said Tuesday. “You learn from being selfish instead of looking at the bigger picture in life.”
Watson said his mistake was not competing in the Long Drive.
“When you look at just me as an individual, that was the selfish part because I didn’t agree with it,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things that I don’t agree with that I do.”
He also said he had a poor attitude on the golf course, a product of wanting something too badly.
Did anything go right?
“I made the cut,” said Watson, who tied for 64th. “I birdied the last hole.”
There was one act of kindness. Watson said it started raining as he finished his round, and a spectator asked him for his umbrella.
“And I was like, `You know what? That’s a good question.’ So I just gave it to him,” Watson said. “I was like, `I’m done. You need it more than I do. You’ve got to go follow the leaders around instead of us.’ So I gave my umbrella away.”
ON THE BUBBLE: Robert Allenby joined some not-so-elite company – the last man to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. He finished at No. 125 by one point over Nicholas Thompson (who at least keeps his card through the money list).
Now comes the hard part.
Only three of the previous seven players who got the last spot – Lee Janzen (2008), Troy Matteson (2009) and William McGirt (2011) – managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs at the TPC Boston. Janzen did this when The Barclays field was 144 and the Deutsche Bank Championship field was 120 (he went up to No. 119).
No one who started in the last spot has ever made it to the third round at the BMW Championship. Troy Matteson missed out by 62 points in 2009.
FORTUNE 200: Camilo Villegas became the fifth player outside the top 200 in the world ranking to win on the PGA Tour this year.
And even though only the FedEx Cup playoffs remain on the schedule, there’s a chance to add to that list because 14 players who qualified for The Barclays are outside the top 200. That starts with Andres Romero (No. 201) and ends with Robert Allenby (No. 367).
The others from outside the top 200 to have won this year: Steven Bowditch (Texas Open), J.B. Holmes (Wells Fargo), Ben Crane (St. Jude Classic) and Geoff Ogilvy (Barracuda Championship in Reno).
Villegas became the sixth PGA Tour winner this year who doesn’t have another top-10 finish.
DIVOTS: Rory McIlroy finished the regular season at No. 1 in the FedEx Cup with 2,582 points. Under the current format, Tiger Woods (2009, 2013) is the only player to crack 3,000 points. … Four players who failed to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs still retain full status for next year by finishing among the top 125 on the money list – Nicholas Thompson, Jim Renner, Mike Weir and Charlie Beljan. … Chuck Cook, Hank Haney and Bruce Devlin were among seven people elected to join the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. … The LPGA Tour says that LOTTE has extended its title sponsorship of the Hawaii tournament for an additional three years. … Fresh off his U.S. Amateur victory, Gunn Yang has accepted an invitation to play Torrey Pines next year in the Farmers Insurance Open. Yang goes to San Diego State.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Seven years into the FedEx Cup, Hunter Mahan is the only player to have never missed a playoff event. Mahan starts this year at No. 62.
FINAL WORD: “Rory (McIlroy) makes you feel like you have to go really low around tough golf courses. That’s intimidating. He’s not an intimidating guy in any way, but the scores he shoots are intimidating.” – Geoff Ogilvy.