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Tour Confidential: Is Rory McIlroy the new favorite to win the Masters?

Matt Kuchar
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Matt Kuchar's best finish in a major championship came at the Masters in 2012, where he tied for the third.

3. This was the second final-round disappointment for Matt Kuchar in as many weeks. Last Sunday, he shot a 75 at TPC San Antonio to finish fourth; this Sunday, he gave up a four-stroke lead after 54 holes and lost in a playoff. Does Kuchar have the fortitude to win a major or is he just a Top 10 machine?

SENS: Can't it be both? When all is said and done, I think we'll look back on Kuchar and his career as Furykian: consistently among the top handful of players in the world, with a possible major win to his credit, but even more near misses. And an equally poor record in the Ryder Cup.

PASSOV: Kuchar is better -- much better -- than just a Top 10 machine. Recent wins over the best fields in golf at the Barclays, WGC Match Play, Memorial and the Players reflect that. Because he is THAT good, he contends that often, on almost any kind of course, and that's what makes his recent snafus so surprising. I can't pinpoint it, but back-to-back three-putts at 18 on Saturday and at 1 on Sunday were really strange -- he left both first putts well short, and his yanked approach into the water at the 72nd was surreal. He didn't need to be anywhere near the water or the flag, so how did that happen? He's still got the stuff to win a major, but Houston was a real head-scratcher.

VAN SICKLE: Kuchar's deal is scoring. He gets the ball in the hole. Sometimes when the pressure is on, you need to hit perfect shots. I'd say he's in that category of guys who are successful for their scoring skills more than their ball-striking skills. When his ball striking is on, he's extremely impressive. When it's not, it's hard to make up for mistakes.

MORFIT: Certainly anyone capable of winning as much as Kuchar has can win a major. But based on what we saw in Houston I expect the usual suspects like Mickelson and McIlroy to be in the hunt at Augusta, plus Sergio and Charl and at least one first-timer like English or Reed.

LYNCH: For a 35-year-old with six Tour wins, Kuchar's major record is underwhelming, just five Top 10s. He's a classy guy, but you don't sense fire in the belly when someone sighs “Golly, Matty” after rinsing one on the final hole to throw away a routine win. Still, guys who play a steady, drama-free game tend to be a recurring presence in majors, so Kuchar's chances can't be easily dismissed.

GODICH: Kuchar has won the Players, but it will take a long time for the scar tissue to heal on the last couple of weeks. It's not just that he shot 75 last week with the third-round lead. It wasn't just that he led by four at the start of the day in Houston. It's that he bogeyed two of the last three holes and rinsed one from the middle of the fairway at the last when he needed only a par to win. How is he going to handle the pressure if he gets in the hunt at a major if he can't close the deal at a pair of petroleum opens?

BAMBERGER: If Kuchar contends enough, in majors or other events, he'll win some percentage of them. You can't expect him to win the first major he contends in. If he contends in eight, he should win one of them. That's about how it goes for most of the good-not-great players, all the Jim Furyks and Justin Leonards and Tom Lehmans. I'm not going to even bring up Fred.

RITTER: As it stands now, Kuchar is America's Luke Donald: a really good dude whose performance on the big stage hasn't quite mirrored his talent. But let's remember that Kuchar has six PGA Tour titles, including two last year. I think he'll eventually get that major, but this Masters won't be the one.

4. The last six PGA Tour tournaments have been won by golfers who earned their first Tour win in 2014. Many of them have come at the expense of some of golf's biggest stars -- Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar. Does parity help or hurt the Tour?

BAMBERGER: The issue here is not parity. The issue here is golfing manliness. Good golfers will be set for life no matter what they do on Sundays. But if you want the attention and respect of the golfing public and your lodge brothers, you got to close.

MORFIT: It's hurting. There's nothing to grab onto as we head into this Masters. Phil and Rory are the closest we've got to a narrative.

GODICH: It's nice to have the surprise winner every now and again, but this is getting a little tiresome, especially when you consider that those victories have come at the expense of potential superstars. The game needs a star or two who can dominate.

LYNCH: Sports thrive when there is parity among kings, not cobblers. Tennis has been elevated by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic facing off in almost every event. Golf needs more than a couple of dominant players, it needs a genuine rivalry.

SENS: It hurts. What applies to movies applies to sports: always better to have a strong lead character than an ensemble cast. The best narratives require outsize figures, whether they inspire our love or stir our outrage. Some fans may think of Tiger Woods as golf's Darth Vader, but the picture wouldn't be nearly as compelling without him.

PASSOV: Wins by Russell Henley, John Senden, Matt Every and Matt Jones are all well and good for themselves -- but not good for the Tour. Golf, like football, basketball and the other major sports, relies on the star system to succeed. We want our big guns to win a bunch, occasionally in exciting, heroic fashion and we'd like a few of those guys to go head-to-head as rivals down the stretch in those events. None of the four guys I mentioned moves the needle. It's nice to see a Cinderella story, but if they happen every week, it shatters the glass slipper.

VAN SICKLE: Parity is good for building new stars that the game will eventually need. Golf has always needed a compelling central figure or two, a superstar, to command attention. I'd say the same for tennis, too.

RITTER: The Tour is, like all sports leagues, most compelling when there are a few big stars. But what's happening this season feels like something other than parity -- it's the birth of the next generation of stars. Nothing wrong with that, either.

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