Matt Kuchar: On Finding the Old Swing

First into the interview room at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Tuesday was Matt Kuchar, just off a missed cut in LA after making 30 in a row. But he was also fresh off a four-week Hawaiian vacation with his family, “We basically just lived the Hawaiian life.” But the consequence of that, as rejuvenating as it was for both him and his family was that he wasn’t quite as sharp coming into Riviera. So I asked him about it:

I came to LA a little under‑prepared, but had a couple of meetings with my instructor Chris O’Connell, and we worked a week before the tournament on some new stuff.  I put it right into play.  I liked it.  And I’m excited about it.  I just don’t think I knew exactly how to control the misses.  I think I just didn’t have enough time to put something new in play. 

But at the same token, I’m going to keep it in play, because I know it’s going to be better in the long run.  I know it’s a thing whereas golfers we all constantly try to get better.  And I know this is a path towards getting better.

So not real concerned.  Certainly had a lot of pride in not missing a cut in over a year, but time to start a new streak, I guess.

Somebody else asked (which was going to be my “in-depth” question):

Q.  What were some of the swing changes that you put into play last week?

Just trying to open the club up a little more and lay it off a little more.  They all result in kind of the same thing.  My work is to always get the club lower, tighter, more around to the left in the through swing.  So it’s — we haven’t really touched my backswing much in the seven years I’ve worked with Chris.  And the few times I have, we’ve actually had some good success.  And we went back that way.

I put it in play because I was just flushing it.  But I don’t think I quite was ready to know how exactly to play it, what shot shapes, what misses I’d have just yet.  So got a lot of extra time kind of on the course.  Range time is only so good.  I think you’ve got to be on the course to hit those side hill lies, the three‑quarter shots, to kind of know what shots are going to come and what misses may come and how to avoid certain misses, as well.

So that created an opening for me to ask him why he felt he needed to make a swing change and whether he considered it a minor or major change?

I think we’re always striving to get better.  It’s not a — there’s no need, it’s just a constant attempt to get better.  And it seems like there’s always going to be some little tweak.  And this little tweak, I just didn’t have enough time with.

So I followed up a couple of questions later asking him if this work caused him to think a little too much about his swing…or did he think about his swing when he plays anyway?

No, I always have a mechanical thought.  There’s always something.  It’s normally a downswing thought.  Thinking backswing is different for me.  We’ve had a couple of tweaks with great success on the backswing, but pretty much 97 percent of our work has been downswing related.  And that’s the part that hits the golf ball.

So I found it easier working on a part that hits the golf ball than a part that doesn’t.  I’m excited about it.  It’s not something that I think, golly, I wish I didn’t do it.  It’s something that is going to be better, and I know is better.  I’m hitting the ball higher, farther, cleaner.  I just haven’t figured out kind of my parameters and how to avoid [errant] shots.

I think back to last week, I had a situation, I can’t remember the hole — dog leg left at Riviera, backside, 13.  I hit a great drive.  Only got a 9‑iron into a front left pin and missed it left.  I mean, you just know that you can’t miss it left there [in a 10-foot deep grass swale].  It’s zero chance.  It’s one of those mistakes that I would never make, just having a new swing wasn’t quite ready to avoid areas like that.

There’s shots where you can be aggressive and the standard flat lie that you get on the range, I can make it repeat and repeat and repeat.  The ball is above your feet, kind of a little downhill lie, working on something, and I just wasn’t quite sharp enough to figure out, well, whatever you do, you can’t go left here.

But that being said, the shot came out of the center of the club face, felt good, I just looked up and said, Oh, that needs to hang on just a little bit.  So it just requires, I think, a little more time with it.

There is an old ball-striking saying that goes something like, “First learn to hit it in the middle of the club face and then worry about where it’s going.” Stated the other way, you can work on hitting it where you’re looking once you know you can reliably hit it.

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