Clemson, S.C.—Former Clemson All-American Ben Martin defeated former Georgia Tech All-American Matt Kuchar, 1-up in the first match for each player at the World Golf Championships Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Martin won the match in dramatic fashion as he took a 1-up lead on the 17th hole when he made a hole-in-one from 239 yards out with a hybrid club. The ball rolled about 20 feet straight into the cup for his first ace in a PGA Tour event. It was the first hole-in-one for any player in this tournament since 2006 when Ben Crane made one.
It was an interesting matchup in light of the fact that alma maters of the two players had tied for the ACC Men's Golf Championship at the end of regulation on Sunday. Georgia Tech then won a two-hole playoff.
While Martin's ace was a surprise to all, Martin has been outstanding on par three holes this year. He stands third on the PGA Tour in percentage of birdies recorded on par three holes. It was the longest hole-in-one on record by a former Clemson player on the PGA Tour. Jonathan Byrd had the previous longest when made a 231-yard hole-in-one on the 11th hole at the Deutshe Bank of Boston in 2006.
Martin never led in his match against the No. 14 ranked player in the world until he made the ace on the 17th hole and was as many as two-down on the front nine.
This was the first of three matches for Martin in the new format for this event. The field of 64 players was grouped into 16 four-man sets. The players have a round-robin schedule within their grouping Wednesday through Friday. Martin will play former Oklahoma State All-American Hunter Mahan on Thursday at 4:40 pm eastern time. Mahan defeated Stephen Gallacher in his first match 7 & 6.
“Under the circumstances, that has to be the best shot I have hit,” said Martin in an interview with the Golf Channel after the match. “I had about 235 yards into the wind and hit a hybrid. I didn't see it go in, it was too far away.
“I tried to stay on an even keel for the 18th hole because the hole in one just gave me a one-hole lead. I still had to finish on 18. I tried to forget about it and concentrate on the 18th hole and I think I did that pretty well.” Martin and Kuchar both made par five 18th hole, giving Martin the victory.
Martin was one of the last players to get into the field for this event. He is ranked No. 67 in the World Golf Rankings and is seeded No. 61 overall for this tournament. The winner's share is $1,570,000, one of the highest prizes on the PGA Tour.
The native of Greenwood who graduated from Clemson in 2009 and helped the Tigers to a No. 5 NCAA finish in 2008 is 16th on the PGA Tour money list with year with $1,707,822.