Matt Kuchar raises his arms in triumph at the 18th hole to win the Sony Open as a rainbow appears in the sky in Honolulu. Photo: Matt York/AP
Matt Kuchar raises his arms in triumph at the 18th hole to win the Sony Open as a rainbow appears in the sky in Honolulu. Photo: Matt York/AP
Matt Kuchar holds the champions trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt Kuchar holds the champions trophy after the final round of the Sony Open PGA Tour golf event, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Andrew Putnam reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Sony Open. Photo: Matt York/AP
Andrew Putnam reacts to missing a birdie putt on the 16th green during the third round of the Sony Open. Photo: Matt York/AP

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Matt Kuchar didn’t have the start he wanted on Sunday in the Sony Open, not with three bogeys in five holes after making just one through three rounds.

The finish was better than he could have imagined.

Kuchar seized control late in the round with back-to-back birdie putts, the second one on No 16 prompting a rare show of emotion with a fist pump.

And when he tapped in for a birdie and a four-shot victory over Andrew Putnam, he looked back across the sky at a rainbow stretching across the sky.

“It was too cool to have a rainbow appear on the 18th hole,” Kuchar said.

Better yet? Davis Love III, who still owns the best rainbow-moment from the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot, was there to greet him.

Kuchar overcame his sloppy start with flawless golf the rest of the way – he putted for birdie on the last 13 holes – and pulled away with a critical three-hole stretch at Waialae for a 4-under 66 to become the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season.

He won the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico two months ago, another finish that was tighter than it needed to be.

Not bad for a 40-year-old who ended last season failing to get to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009, and ending his streak of playing on eight consecutive teams in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

“I was pretty frustrated,” Kuchar said. “I think the frustrating thing was I felt like I was doing some good things and just not seeing results.

“That sometimes is hard to take, when you think you’re on the right course and the right path and not seeing results. Nice to see it turn around.”

This wasn’t as easy as a four-shot victory might indicate.

Trailing for the first time on the weekend, Kuchar was on the verge of going two shots down at the turn when Putnam hit a 30-yard bunker shot to inches of the cup. Kuchar blasted out weakly, and holed the 10-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth to stay in range.

He caught Putnam on the next hole with an aggressive pitch-and-run up the slope. After trading birdies, they were tied with five holes to play.

Putnam made his only mistake with a 9-iron into a deep bunker left of the 14th green, leading to bogey. Kuchar followed with 12-foot birdie putts on the next two holes, and he was on his way to his ninth career victory.

“I’m feeling a little let down right now,” Putnam said after closing with a 68.

“I’m sure when I think about it... a lot of good things have happened. Just needed to make some better swings.

“Kuch was making birdies and played great coming down the stretch. I just couldn’t keep up with him.”

Putnam, who won the Barracuda Championship last summer and was runner-up to Dustin Johnson at the FedEx St Jude Classic, moves into the top 50 in the world for the first time in his career at No 45.

It was only the second time Kuchar has won twice in the same season. He won the Match Play Championship and the Memorial in 2013.

Now, he has the meat of the season in front of him. “I want to see how great this year can be,” Kuchar said.

He finished at 22-under 258, the third-lowest total in Waialae history behind the PGA Tour record of 253 by Justin Thomas in 2017, and Jimmy Walker’s 72-hole score of 257 when he won in 2015.

Kuchar had gone more than four years since his last PGA Tour victory before he won in Mexico. He’s a winner again, and for a guy who loves Hawaii, he was thrilled to already have a spot reserved at Kapalua for the winners-only field 50 weeks from now.

“To win two out of three is crazy to comprehend,” he said.

AP