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Our thought was that a photograph of Matt Kuchar swinging an illuminated six-iron in a darkened room would be way cool. So we got permission to erect a black-fabric cube in the ladies' locker room at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. We strapped a high-powered strobe near the ceiling (to freeze Kuchar's follow-through), and we put the camera on a tripod, about knee-high, facing the open side of the cube. We borrowed the six-iron from the Colonial pro shop; to make it cool, we strapped a cluster of blue LED lights to the head.
Kuchar's only concern, when he stepped onto the set, was that he might not have enough headroom to swing freely. (He's 6' 4".) It turned out that he had two or three inches to spare on the backswing, so a photo assistant flicked the wall switch. The room went mine-shaft black. Nothing was visible but the LEDs, glowing like a jarful of lightning bugs.
"Start at the top of your backswing," the photographer said, "and when you hear the shutter click, make a slow-motion swing and hold the finish. Ready?" The shutter clicked, Kuchar made a slow-motion swing, and the clubhead tracked a blue loop in the dark until the strobe flashed, followed by a second click of the shutter.
"Matt, I don't want you to do anything unnatural"—the photographer again—"but could you look a little more to the right and up at the end?"
"Like this?" Kuchar posed in the beam of an assistant's flashlight, his chin elevated, his eyes tracking an imaginary pop-up to rightfield.
Kuchar flashed his trademark grin. "That's my 'Oh dear' look."
The crew laughed.
It's hard to tell in a blackened room, but Kuchar seemed to be enjoying himself. He chuckled. He cracked wise at his own expense. When we asked him to adjust his setup or change the pace of his swing, the PGA Tour's most consistent performer quietly complied. The shutter clicked, the clubhead left a trail of blue across the black canvas, the strobe popped. The shutter clicked again.
"Ben Hogan did something like this." The voice came from behind the photographer. "You can see how Matt's backswing gets wide, and then on the downswing it gets narrow. And you can see the lag." The speaker was looking at one of our time exposures on the camera's screen, which showed how Kuchar's wrists stayed cocked as long as possible, the clubhead trailing like a balloon on a string. "Amateurs love lag," the voice explained, "because most of them do the opposite. They take it back narrow and go wide coming down."