Kuchar stays hot, ties for 3rd at Doral

Matt Kuchar came into this season with three top-three finishes

in his last 52 PGA Tour starts.

So far in 2010, he’s 3-for-8.

Kuchar capped off a strong weekend at Doral with a final-round

68, and he finished the CA Championship at 11-under 277 and tied

for third, seven shots behind champion Ernie Els.

“Winning last year got me back on track again,” Kuchar said,

referring to his win last October over Vaughn Taylor on the sixth

hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Turning Stone Resort

Championship.

Did it ever.

Kuchar opened the year by finishing third at the SBS

Championship, tied for second two weeks later at the Bob Hope

Classic and was in a three-way tie for third at Doral. He’s now

just over $1.4 million in earnings already this year, good for

seventh on the PGA Tour and about $550,000 behind Els.

TIGER WATCH: When Tiger Woods comes back, the PGA Tour hopes he

gives them maybe a few extra days to prepare for the inevitable

onslaught of extra attention.

“We need time to do it,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

said Sunday.

Finchem says he gets the Woods question – “When is he coming

back?” – about 300 times a day. Woods intends to remain out of

golf at least until the Masters, two people with knowledge of his

plans told The Associated Press last week. Finchem did not say when

he expects Woods to return.

“It’s going to be huge when he comes back,” Finchem said.

“And then we’ll see how … it’s going to be an interesting thing

to watch, how he re-enters the game, how he plays, how he deals

with the reaction to his statement.”

Finchem also said he believes Woods will return with “a renewed

respect.”

“I thought he set the bar for himself, and we all know what

happens when Tiger sets the bar for himself,” Finchem said. “I’m

as excited as everybody else to see him back this spring, but my

sense is, we’ll know pretty soon.”

PHIL’S PLAN: Phil Mickelson has had a different schedule than

usual this year, and that’ll continue leading into the Masters.

Mickelson says the reason he decided to add Bay Hill was twofold

– one, he wanted to get a certain number of tournaments in before

Augusta, and two, his game simply isn’t where he wants it to be

yet.

“I am not playing as, or scoring, I should say, as well as I

need to heading into Augusta,” Mickelson said Sunday, after his

final-round 68 left him at 8-under 280 for the week.

Mickelson won at Doral a year ago.

He was bothered a bit by an elbow stinger on Saturday, but said

the problem “went away” before the final round.

TOO GOOD: Since 1983, only seven players had recorded a

hole-in-one, an eagle on a par-4 and an eagle on a par-5 in the

same tournament.

Robert Allenby joined that list this week.

Pat McGowan (Andy Williams San Diego Open, 1984), Blaine

McCallister (Tucson Open, 1987), Gary Koch (Andy Williams Open,

1988), Jesper Parnevik (BellSouth Classic, 2002), Jason Day

(Turning Stone, 2008) and Rickie Fowler (Frys.com Open, 2009) all

managed the same feat that Allenby posted this week.

Here’s something else they all have in common: Even with aces

and eagles on their cards, none of them managed to win those

respective tournaments.

DORAL FUTURE: Software company CA’s deal to be the title sponsor

of the World Golf Championships event at Doral ends this year, and

it’s expected that the tournament will have a different name in

2011.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday that Doral will be

on next year’s schedule, and that the event will remain part of the

WGC series. He said CA will reveal its plans regarding the

“repositioning of some of its marketing” in the next week or

so.

Finchem said the tour does not anticipate having any trouble

finding a new sponsor for the Doral event.

POULTER’S DAY: Ian Poulter had a busy Sunday. Shoot 64, fly home

to Orlando and watch the Magic try to lock up a spot in the NBA

playoffs.

“Makes dinner taste better tonight,” Poulter wrote on his

Twitter feed.

Poulter and Alistair Presnell each shot 64 in the final round,

with Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner and Y.E. Yang each getting around

in 65. Of those five players, only Presnell cracked the top 10,

finishing in a tie for sixth.

No one shot better than 66 in the first three rounds at Doral

this year.

NOT SO EASY: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem arrived in time

to greet the last dozen players teeing off at Doral.

In the final group was Ernie Els.

Els was among the most furious when Tiger Woods ended his three

months of silence on the Friday of the Accenture Match Play

Championship, the first sponsor to drop Woods. Els wasn’t aware

that Woods was headed back to therapy and described the timing as

“selfish.” Finchem later said he should have alerted players to

what was going on.

Finchem and Els have spoken over the phone since then, but as

the Big Easy approached the commissioner on the first tee, Finchem

offered a smile and handshake and said, “Go easy on me.”

Els forced a smile in return.