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PREVIEW-Golf-Kuchar embraces his Byron Nelson distractions

(Reuters) - Off-course distractions by his peers and the media were always going to be a challenge for in-demand Matt Kuchar at this week's Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, but he says he would not have it any other way.

Just three days after winning the biggest title of his career at the Players Championship in Florida, the American world number five is ready to launch his bid for a fifth PGA Tour victory at a venue where he tied for sixth last year.

"I like it here," Kuchar told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas. "My caddie is from the Dallas area, my instructor is from the Dallas area.

"The challenges are the extra distractions, but they're great distractions. I wouldn't want it a different way. Having your peers and players come up and congratulate you is a great feeling."

Kuchar, who won the Players Championship by two shots at the TPC Sawgrass on Sunday to secure a $1.71 million pay cheque, said he had to allow for at least double the length of time for his pre-tournament practice this week.

"What I generally do when I get to a tournament on Tuesday afternoon takes me three or four hours to accomplish," he added. "It's probably closer to seven or eight hours on a Tuesday now.

"To get an hour of hitting balls, it may take more like two hours to get done what I used to accomplish in an hour. A week after a win it would take more like two hours.

"Then the hour of media obligations is not a normal thing for me so there are a lot more time constraints. But they're fun stuff."

STRONG FIELD

Kuchar faces a strong field this week with American world number 10 Phil Mickelson also taking part and former world number one Ernie Els returning to the tournament for the first time since 2006.

"It's amazing how quickly time goes," South African Els said. "In '95 I won here, and I played it a lot in the '90s.

"But because of that tournament in England that had the same damn date for so many years and we redesigned the course, I had a commitment to go there."

Els helped redesign the course at Wentworth, venue for the European Tour's PGA Championship which he won a remarkable seven times.

"But I always wanted to come back here and now that they have changed the date in England, and I'm grateful for that, I'm back here," Els smiled.

Also competing this week are former major winners Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen, as well as holder Keegan Bradley who clinched last year's PGA Championship in Atlanta.

"I'm very excited to be back here," said Bradley, who was a rookie when he beat fellow American Ryan Palmer in a playoff to claim his maiden PGA Tour title here 12 months ago.

"I have a lot of very good memories, even just driving in the gates and walking up 18 again, just remembering how my life changed a year ago this Sunday.

"I went from an unknown rookie trying to keep his card to winning a PGA Tour event and locking up my future a little bit. This tournament will always be special to me."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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