Harris English and Matt Kuchar will be the 2020 QBE Shootout champions. That’s still with a final round to be played.
But that seemed to be the consensus after the two-time champions fired an 11-under 61 in modified alternate shot at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort on Saturday.
“Alternate shot’s a tough format,” said Kevin Na, who along with playing partner Sean O’Hair is five back. “I don’t know what these guys played that are leading.”
“Best ball, the chances of having a big number and losing strokes is tougher,” said Lanto Griffin, who played with Kuchar and English and teammate Mackenzie Hughes.
“The way they’re playing, I just don’t see anyway they don’t shoot just 8 under minimum. If someone wants to take it from them, they’re going to have to go crazy low and then hope they don’t keep it going.”
Kuchar was far from ready to call it over.
“There’s still a need to make lots of birdies,” he said. “I think this best-ball format, guys are going to shoot some low scores. Whatever the lead is, pars aren’t going to be helping out very much. We’ve got to still make a bunch of birdies to try to protect the lead.”
The teams play best ball in the final round. Coverage starts on NBC at noon, and switches to Golf Channel from 2 to 4 p.m.
English and Kuchar haven’t played in the QBE Shootout together since 2017 when they tied for ninth. But they looked more like the team that won in 2013 and 2016, and was second in the two years in between.
“I feel like our games really fit this format well,” English said. “He does a lot of stuff that I’m not great at and maybe I do some stuff that he’s not great at. It’s just fun. It’s very relaxing out there.”
The pair birdied the first five holes, parred the next six, then ran off a six-birdie string on the back nine. But they really weren’t doing anything poorly during the six-par stretch.
“You never know where birdies are going to come from,” Kuchar said. “You just keep playing good golf. Harris mentioned earlier and I didn’t pick up on it, we found every fairway, found every green. In alternate shot, to hit 18 greens is pretty awesome.”
The two looked like they may threaten their 12-under 60 in the format when they won in 2013 with a tournament course record 34 under par. After the pars on Nos. 6 through 11, they got it back going with birdies on Nos. 12 through 17.
“That was impressive,” Griffin said. “They played incredible. Harris drove it down the middle all day, Kuchar hit it good and hit it close, and he had the putter going. It was impressive to watch. It made us feel like we were playing awful.”
“It seemed to be that the strategy, Harris would smash a drive out there, I’d hit an approach and he’d putt,” Kuchar said. “For the longest time it felt like Harris wasn’t hitting any iron shots and I wasn’t doing any putting. So there was I think several holes went by where I didn’t need a putter and he wasn’t hitting an approach shot.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/12/12/qbe-shootout-harris-english-matt-kuchar-lead/