But then the swing stopped working. From 2003 through '05 Kuchar had only two top 10s in 72 starts, missed the cut 42 times and finally lost his Tour card. That's how he wound up playing the Nationwide tour with a surprisingly good attitude and a swing that needed a complete overha...well, that needed to be fixed.
It was a pretty swing," O'Connell said, standing in the shade of an oak on Colonial's 18th hole. "It wasn't a real reliable swing. Matt used his forearms to square the club face, and that limited him. He'd play good three or four times a year instead of 10 or 12 times."
Same day, but earlier. Three pros were in the fairway finishing their practice rounds. Can't say who, but it's a good bet that none of them had a better 2011 scoring average than Kuchar's 69.56 (second on Tour) or had as many top 10 finishes (eight).
"What he'd actually do," O'Connell said, "was aim left, try to hold on, and block the ball. He tried to stay down the target line, but too often the club would flip over on him and he'd hook it." Taking us for experts, he added, "It was a club face issue, not a swing-path issue."
Kuchar engaged O'Connell in the spring of '06 on the recommendation of former Georgia Tech teammate Matt Weibring. "He didn't come to me with a lot of scar tissue," O'Connell said, watching Kuchar banter with a fellow pro in the fairway. "He wasn't a broken-down journeyman looking for a miracle."
O'Connell is said to be a proponent of the one-plane swing, but his initial sessions with Kuchar focused on one simple idea. "Matt already came at the ball from the inside," he said. "My job was to get him swinging back to the inside after impact. Swinging down the line, you miss left too much." He kicked at a twig. "Golf is all about predicting the outcome. Billy Casper hit a low ball all the time. Jack Nicklaus hit a high fade. Tom Watson hit a high draw. But they all knew where it was going, and they hit it solid."
Having learned from the travails of Tiger Woods about how difficult it is to make swing changes, we asked O'Connell how Kuchar had coped with the inevitable frustrations of his makeover—the wayward shots, the months of fruitless practice, the crises of faith.
"Oh, Matt got it right away," the coach said, looking surprised. "His next Nationwide tournament, he finished second." O'Connell gave a nothing-to-it shrug. "If he hadn't gotten better right away, he'd have moved on to another instructor."
Kuchar's "fixed" swing, the photo shows, is much flatter than you'd expect for a player of his height. Or it would show that, if we had gone for the down-the-line, from-behind angle that O'Connell recommended. "Matt's backswing will go inside, but his downswing will come outside," he said, a voice in the dark. "People will think, Oh, wow, his backswing is on a different plane than his downswing!"
That would be cool, we told the coach, but not way cool. The strobe would light up the back of Kuchar's head.