By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
KOHLER, Wis. -- No one can really be surprised to see Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder's name at the top of a scoreboard at a major championship. The only question may be, what took them this long?
Almost a decade after they finished their illustrious careers at Georgia Tech, Kuchar and Molder are both in position to contend for a major championship. Kuchar is the clubhouse leader at the 92nd PGA Championship and Molder is only three strokes behind his pal.
Kuchar returned Friday morning to finish the final three holes of his first-round 67 and then added a 69, leaving him at 8-under 136. Molder completed his opening round in 72, then put together a second-round 67. Perhaps it's time to break out the yellow and white party hats.
"We thought it would happen a little sooner," Molder said. "Things happen. This game is tough. There's a lot of really good players. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out how to play your best, how to maximize your efforts out here. I feel like he's just hitting his stride and I feel like I'm doing the same."
Kuchar was a three-time All-American and won the U.S. Amateur in 1997. Molder was a four-time first-team All-American. Each won the Fred Haskins Award, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for college golf. Both were expected to leave the campus and take professional golf by storm. Somehow it didn't quite work out that way.
"I think most people would have expected the two of us to be doing this earlier on in our career," Kuchar said. "But I remember talking to some guys when I was fresh on tour, talking to them about a 10-year learning curve out here. Here I am 10 years into it and I feel like just now, maybe there is something to this 10-year learning curve."
Kuchar quickly earned his PGA TOUR card and won an event, only to lose his playing privileges after a couple of non-productive years. He went to the Nationwide Tour in 2006, became associated with instructor Chris O'Connell, regained his car and has been getting steadily better each year. This year he's No. 8 on the money list and has a TOUR-best eight top-10 finishes.Kuchar is on the verge of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the first time.
Molder finished 12th his first PGA TOUR event, but wasn't able to earn his full playing privileges. He spent 2002-2006 on the Nationwide Tour, got his card for 2007 but couldn't keep it. He survived another season on the Nationwide Tour in 2008 and got another shot at the TOUR. This time he made it, finishing 63rd on the money list in 2009. This season he's been even better; Molder is No. 50 on the money list and has six top-10s. He's come close to winning on two occasions this year.
"Everybody, we're finding out, has trouble throughout their career at some point or another," Molder said. "I think 15 years from now I'll feel like I was fortunate to do it early and learn and be humbled by the experience and enjoy the rest of the journey."
Kuchar said, "I think it's golf. I think that's what happens. There aren't many people here that play this game that don't have ups and downs. I went through some stretches of not having it, but have kind of dug my way back out."
On Friday Kuchar continued his consistent play during the second round. This didn't surprise Molder, who played practice rounds with his buddy on Tuesday and Wednesday and saw him make 13 birdies over 27 holes. Kuchar has hit 23 of 28 fairways and used only 52 putts in the two rounds. His 69 included three consecutive birdies starting at No. 11.
"I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing," Kuchar said."It's been a great year."
Molder, playing one group in front of Kuchar, had a 32 on the final nine holes, a round that ended on a sour note when he made a bogey at 18 after failing to extricate a shot from the think rough around the green.
"Fortunately I got on a run at the right time," Molder said. "I hit some good shots. I hit a couple shots that were just OK that ended up good. And I made everything. That kind of combines to make some good scoring."
And that would make it a good weekend for a couple of Ramblin' Wrecks.