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Matt Kuchar --- What a Swing!

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May 16, 2012
By Michael Williams, Contributing Columnist







While golf is a precise, technical sport that tests every flaw in a player’s
game, sometimes controversial changes can bring about amazing
results. While those adjustments can lead to the problems experienced
by Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar is an example of the success that can
occur when a swing matches the abilities the golfer.

Rise and Fall

A two-time All-American golfer from Georgia Tech, Kuchar added his
name to a prestigious list by winning the 1997 US Amateur
championship. He joined the Professional Golf Association tour in 2000.
He recorded his first tour win two years later, picking up the title at the
2002 Honda Classic.

In spite of his early success, Kuchar would begin to struggle with his
game. He bottomed out in 2005, earning only $403,000, dropping to
159th on the money list and losing his tour card. Kuchar’s decline
continued in 2006, when he failed to regain his tour card at qualifying
school, forcing him to spend the season on the Nationwide Tour.

Changing the Downswing

That year also brought about the change that would transform his
fortunes, as he began working with swing coach, Chris O’Connell. The
two men found an instant chemistry, as O’Connell stated, “We hit it off
straightaway because I was the first to tell him I loved his backswing
and our focus would be on the downswing.”

While Kuchar had a reputation for possessing one of the more non-
traditional swings on the tour, O’Connell was not buying it. He said of
Kuchar, “I think he is no where near the flattest swing in professional
golf,” pointing to the golfer’s hip thrust and long arms as reasons why
this is not true.

Keeping the Good Parts

Focusing on Kuchar’s large, 6’4” frame and his excellent body
movements, O’Connell chose to rely on adjusting his swing more than
its plane. The coach stated that they focused nearly 80% of their work
on his downswing, with 5% on backswing and “the other 15% dealing
with how the body movement works.” The key to their efforts has been
utilizing Kuchar’s balance and his length to get more power into his
swing, while at the same time maintaining the deadly accuracy of his
short game.





























Much of O’Connell’s early work involved getting more power from
Kuchar’s hips, keeping his weight balanced on his trailing leg. This
allowed Matt to put his right buttock “through the wall,” or rotate his
hips so that he could break through the rear vertical plane. This kept
Kuchar’s back foot firmly planted, and gave him the ability to generate
more power in a balanced swing, and eliminating his tendency hook his
shots to the left.
Because of its smooth, natural movements, O’Connell was able to use
Kuchar’s flat swing to his advantage. By allowing him to drop his head
and rotate his hips, this swing addressed the ball at a higher angle,
avoiding the common problem of hooking while adding power to his
game.

Seeing Results

The first year, their work equated to an increase of 8 yards per drive,
pushing his average to 277 yards and 188th place on the tour. In
2012, Kuchar is averaging nearly 285 yards, making him one of the top
70 drivers in the game. What is more important, Kuchar has managed
to maintain is outstanding short game and putting, allowing him to
secure a spot as one of the best golfers in the game.
As instructor Wayne Defrancesco says, “Watching Matt Kuchar swing
should be enough evidence for anyone paying attention to prove that
just about any combination of backswing arm, hand and wrist positions
can be utilized to play great golf.” This statement is a testament to the
work that Kuchar and O’Connell have invested in the golfer’s swing and
the dividends it has paid.

Putting His Money Where His Swing Is

The best dividends for Kuchar, however, have come on the money list.
After spending 2006 on the Nationwide Tour, the golfer regained his
PGA card and never looked back. Armed with his new swing, Kuchar
would climb to 115th in 2007 and 70th in 2008. The next year, he
would find his way back to championship form, winning the 2009 Fall
Classic on the way to an impressive $2.5 million haul for the year.
Kuchar’s comeback would reach critical mass in 2010. The golfer would
claim the title at The Barclays. That championship, along with top-10
finishes at the US Open and the PGA Championship, would propel
Kuchar to the claim the Vardon Trophy, the Byron Nelson Award and a
spot on the United States’ Ryder Cup team. Since then, he has
continued to excel, winning more than $7 million in the past two years
and holding a leading spot in the PGA rankings for nearly a year.

A Real Success Story

Utilizing the flat stroke that so many pros avoid, this exciting golfer and
his brilliant coach have created the perfect approach. The new swing
allowed Kuchar to play to his strengths, writing a success story along
the way. The biggest pay-off came this week, when Kuchar won the
2012 TPC at Sawgrass.

The history of Matt Kuchar’s pro golf career could be made into a
Hollywood movie, as he rose, fell, and then soared to great heights.
More importantly, the work that he and coach Chris O’Connell did to
rebuild a championship swing stands in stark contrast to the struggles
of Tiger Woods since he changed his form. It has been a great swing of
fortune for Kuchar, and an impressive run against the best golfers in
the world.


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Kuchar cpatured the 2012 TPC at Sawgrass. Does
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