SYDNEY (AFP) - Matt Kuchar said he was still on a high after his first PGA Tour win in four years and expected to be in the hunt again after making a mad dash to play in this week's Australian Open.
The 40-year-old American jetted into Sydney from Mexico on Wednesday morning (Nov 14) after winning the Mayakoba Classic in Playa del Carmen, which pushed him up to 29 in the world, two behind Phil Mickelson.
Kuchar is the highest-ranked player at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney after the event failed to attract any top-10 golfers because of a clash with the European Tour's season-ending event in Dubai.
Fellow Americans Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker are among Kuchar's key threats, and they are all keen to add their name to the Stonehaven Cup alongside the likes of former champions Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Greg Norman, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.
"I'm certainly on a big high. Winning definitely provides an amazing high," said Kuchar, who went straight from the airport to the course after missing a connection in Los Angeles.
"I feel like I've developed a swing that I can count on. I hope to play well, expect to play well, but don't feel any extra pressure to play well."
Along with the American contingent, Australian young gun Cameron Davis, who shot a brilliant final-round 64 to win last year, is back to defend his title.
But there are no top-name Australians with Jason Day opting out after his wife recently gave birth and Adam Scott and Marc Leishman also missing.
Snedeker, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, returns after more than a decade and has unfinished business.
"Craig Parry won in 2007. I remember I lost by a shot. Had to call a penalty on myself on Sunday and it cost me the tournament," he recalled of his near miss 11 years ago.
Snedeker made a playoff at the Safeway Open in Napa recently and has found some decent form after a few difficult years.
"I feel like I've really done a lot of hard work and made a lot of tough decisions to get myself back to being a top-10 player in the world, being where I feel I belong and win golf tournaments," he said.
Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship, is playing his first Australian Open. He grew up watching the event on television and said it has always been on his bucket list.
"It's easy for us to just stick to the PGA Tour. And I've always wanted to come down here and sometimes the schedule doesn't permit that," he said.
"But this year I had a little opening at the end of the year and I really wanted to make it happen."
And Bradley, who won the BMW Championships this year, believes he is playing well enough to win at the par-72 course.
"As long as I go out there and putt the way I've been putting, I'm playing well enough to contend," he said.