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Why Matt Kuchar, a rabid Falcons fan, almost regrets playing Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A few days after the Atlanta Falcons clinched the NFC Championship, Matt Kuchar did the math.

He'd be in Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open the weekend of Super Bowl LI with no plans of missing the cut, so a flight from Scottsdale to Houston for a 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday, with an hour time change added in, just wouldn't have been possible, he decided.

Then the regret started to set in.

Kuchar, an ardent Falcons fan and Georgia Tech alum, was in the Georgia Dome to watch Atlanta clinch its second Super Bowl berth on Jan. 22. He had told friends who are part of the team's ownership group that he wanted Super Bowl tickets. When the realization set in that he wouldn't be able to see the Falcons face the New England Patriots live, he began doubting his decision to play here this week.

"I was almost regretting my commitment to Phoenix because I so want to be supporting the Falcons in Houston," Kuchar said. "But I knew that I had to honor my commitment and play here.

"If I can't make Houston, I'll be cheering loudly from behind the TV."

Kuchar took a long stride toward watching the Super Bowl from Arizona when he finished Thursday's first round atop the Phoenix Open leaderboard. Winless since 2014, Kuchar laughed when asked which would be sweeter: a win at TPC Scottsdale or the Falcons' first championship.

"Personally, a win for me would be sweeter," he said with a smile. "The city of Atlanta is so excited. That's a major deal for Atlanta. And they're legit. They're for real. I think they stand a real shot at beating New England.

"And who better to go up against than the Patriots? They're kind of the gold standard in football, and having a chance to take down the Patriots is a huge deal. It'd be a massive thing for the city of Atlanta."

Kuchar, who grew up in Florida, spent four years in downtown Atlanta at Georgia Tech and now resides on Georgia's St. Simons Island -- about 4½ hours southeast of Atlanta.

He grew up a fan of quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos, even going as far as attending Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami when the Broncos beat the Falcons in Elway's last game. But Kuchar admits he wasn't cheering for Atlanta then, having only recently arrived in the city.

"That was [the 1998 season] and I had only spent a year in Atlanta at that point -- so now, there's no chance I'll cheer against the Falcons," he said.