- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The voice belonged to Chris O'Connell, the Dallas-based coach credited with overhauling Kuchar's swing. Without O'Connell's help, we had been told, the former Georgia Tech star might still be languishing on the Nationwide tour. Instead of, you know, swanning around as the PGA Tour's reigning money champ ($4.9 million last year) and 2010 Vardon Trophy winner for low stroke average (69.43).
Whispering, we asked O'Connell how he had rebuilt Kuchar's swing. He responded with a self-effacing snort. "It's funny, but I don't believe in swing overhauls. I think they're ludicrous."
Yes, but hadn't he—
"These guys on the Tour," he interrupted, "are the best. Every golfer does a few things right, and these guys do a lot of things right. So I don't change a Tour player's grip or his stance. In fact, I don't believe in changing the golf swing. I believe in fixing golf swings."
O'Connell couldn't see us, but we nodded.
"Ready?" asked the photographer. Click...flash!...click.
I had a couple of lessons growing up," Kuchar said, walking to the Colonial practice range with a long, cardboard carton tucked under his right arm. "But it was pretty much trial and error. I had a homemade swing."
It was Tuesday afternoon at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, so Kuchar had to stop to sign autographs and shake hands with people he sees once a year. The sun seemed doubly bright after the dark room, but Kuchar didn't squint. He's not a squinter. When he meets someone, his eyes widen and he grins.
"I had a good grip and setup," he continued, ambling down a cart path. "But I didn't have a good understanding of swing fundamentals."
It wasn't a bad swing, his old one. You don't win the 1997 U.S. Amateur, shoot even par in your first Masters and finish 14th and nab low-am honors at the 1998 U.S. Open—all before your 21st birthday—with a bad swing. In fact the camera loved that swing. Shaft parallel to the target line at the top. Butt of the club pointed at the target line on the way down. Classic follow-through. That swing produced a second- and a third-place finish in Kuchar's abbreviated rookie season on the PGA Tour, in 2001. That swing won the 2002 Honda Classic and made him a millionaire by the age of 24.