Updated: June 5, 2013, 2:16 PM ET

Kuchar set for U.S. Open, with help from Nicklaus

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Matt Kuchar and Jack NicklausAllan Henry/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kuchar got a win at the Memorial and some wisdom from host Jack Nicklaus.

Among the cool perks associated with winning the Memorial Tournament is not only getting a congratulatory handshake from founder and golf legend Jack Nicklaus, but also sitting next to the Golden Bear during the winner's news conference.

Now perhaps this might bother somebody who doesn't get it, but to sit alongside Nicklaus in such a situation would have to rank pretty high. And it never hurts that the game's greatest winner undoubtedly will offer some wisdom.

So there was Nicklaus on Sunday at Muirfield Village Golf, first listening to winner Matt Kuchar, then waxing on the virtues of getting in plenty of practice rounds prior to a major championship at the tournament venue. It seemed to serve Nicklaus, winner of 18 majors, quite well, and he was making his point when he turned to Kuchar.

"I don't know what you're doing [this] week," Nicklaus said to laughter.

"I'll be going to Merion," Kuchar said.

And that is exactly what Kuchar, who has won three times in the past 13 months, was scheduled to do this week in preparation for next week's U.S. Open.

Even before his victory at the Memorial, Kuchar figured to be a good bet on a historic course with tight fairways but one that is not overly long, measuring less than 7,000 yards. Kuchar has not missed a cut this year, and has six top-10 finishes, including two victories, the first time in his career he's won twice in the same season.

And while he might not be doing any one thing particularly well, Kuchar seems to not have a weakness. He played beautifully last weekend at Muirfield Village, especially on Saturday, when swirling winds made things difficult, and made solid ballstriking imperative.

"I do like to take pride in myself in that I don't feel like there's any real weakness in my game," he said. "I love the fact that the game gives you so many avenues to improve on. I love the quest to try to get better. I love the quest to try to become a better driver of the ball, better wedge play, better putter. I love that about the game of golf."

Among his goals for the year, Kuchar said he wanted multiple victories and a spot on the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup, which will be played at Muirfield Village in October. And the next logical step is a major.

"Golf's a fickle thing," Kuchar said. "You can only control what you do. I can't control what the other guys do. I certainly feel like I'm ready to show up and play some really good golf. I'd love it if I could show up and play good enough to win a major. It's something that is up there, No. 1 on the list. I want to do it and feel like I'm ready to do it. But I can only control so much of that equation."

One thing Kuchar can control is his preparation, which is why Nicklaus' advice seemed so timely.

"I would go there [early] to get rid of my nervousness," Nicklaus, 73, said of heading to major championship venues in advance. "Worrying about the rough or about the narrowness of fairways, worrying about the speed of the greens, firmness of the greens, and just being the U.S. Open.

"I'd go there and spend a few days until I was comfortable with the golf course and comfortable with what I was doing ... Everybody else is coming in on the week of the tournament, I had all those problems out of the way and all I had to do was go play golf."

Listening to Nicklaus, Kuchar could only reply: "I'll be there Tuesday until an unknown time. Until I get used to it."

Bob Harig | email

ESPN Senior Writer

An idea for shorter rounds

The LPGA Tour had to scramble a few weeks ago in the Bahamas when weather made parts of the course for the Pure Silk event unplayable. Officials got creative, coming up with a 12-hole layout to be played in three days for a total of 36 holes. The tour made the most of a tough situation.

Which got us to thinking  ... why don't the tours consider doing something similar -- on purpose -- every year?

The USGA, PGA of America and Golf Digest are all behind a grow-the-game initiative to promote shorter rounds, especially nine holes, as a way of getting people to play more -- the notion being that nine holes is better than none. And that there is nothing wrong with playing shorter rounds if it gets you playing.

What better way to do it than to have an annual event that is played with fewer holes? In the case of the PGA Tour, the key would be to have the event count for the FedEx Cup standings, have a full purse and a full field. You could not keep scoring records, but every other statistic would still be in play.

At most courses, a 12-hole route could be configured. In theory, you might be able to add players to the field, which allows for more playing opportunities. And who wouldn't want to have a shorter workday, and still get paid the same?

It should be noted that the first 12 Open Championships were played on a 12-hole layout at Prestwick in Scotland. Competitors played the course three times for a total of 36 holes. Prestwick didn't expand to 18 holes until 1884.

The Open also was played six times at Musselburgh Links, which had just nine holes and was played twice.

So there is a long-ago precedent for shorter rounds, one that might be met with a lot of interest.

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