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Opinion & Analysis

Mighty Matt Kuchar

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Matt Kuchar isn’t a fan favorite on Tour because of exuberantly combative fist pumps like we see from Tiger Woods. And he’s not a fan favorite because of dominating, record-shattering performances like we’ve seen from Rory McIlroy.

The always smiling Kuchar is a fan favorite for a much simpler reason. “Mighty Matt” genuinely loves the game of golf and is grateful for everything around him.

“This is such an amazing feeling,” Kuchar said after winning the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village this weekend. “This never gets old. To have Jack Nicklaus congratulate me is a real treat.  This is as special as it gets.”

And the Tour’s “Smiling Assassin” is proving that nice guys do finish first.

Click here to photos of the clubs Kuchar used to win the Memorial.

Kuchar hasn’t missed a single cut in 14 events this season, and only missed one cut in 22 events last year.  Since 2010 — the year he ranked first in scoring average and was the Tour’s money leader — he’s notched a Tour best 35 top-10 finishes.

Kuchar’s victory at “Jack’s Place” was his sixth career Tour win, and second of the season – including his February triumph at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.  Throw in Kuchar’s two previous victories: the The Barclays in 2010 and 2012 Players Championship, and he’s quietly building quite an impressive resume that makes it seem likely that a major championship could be next.

But not so long ago Kuchar was barely noticeable on Tour.  Two years after his rookie season, the 1997 U.S. Amateur champion lost his Tour card and competed on the Nationwide Tour to regain his playing privileges. It taught Kuchar valuable lessons, the first of which was learning to deal with adversity.

“I wasn’t going to let [losing my Tour card] bother me,” Kuchar said. “I think some guys look at it as an insult. Some guys it bothers. Some guys don’t recover. I knew this is where I belonged. I was just going to say I was going to do my job down there and get back out here. So I look back at it and a lot of things came out of it.”

You never see Kuchar lose his temper on the golf course. You never see Kuchar brooding, throwing his clubs, cursing after a poor shot, or looking confused or angry or lost. You only and always see Kuchar smiling, even in the face of adversity.

Instead of becoming one of the Tour’s “whatever happened to” players, Kuchar became a model of consistency — in large part because he maintains his composure, is patient and plays smart.  As Kuchar himself once said,

“Golf will beat you up. You don’t need to help it by beating yourself up.”

During this time Kuchar also decided to overhaul his swing.

“I love that golf is strictly performance based, and I hadn’t performed well enough,” Kuchar said of going back to the Nationwide Tour.

So Kuchar worked on developing a more consistent swing he would be comfortable with and confidently rely on. A flatter one-plane swing taught by Chris O’Connell, his teacher since 2006.

Matt Kuchar Memorial Tournament Pappas TheGreekGrind 3

Today the 34-year-old’s swing is widely considered one of the most repeatable on Tour, and often draws similarities to that of Ben Hogan. And with the U.S. Open at Merion this year, the site of arguably the greatest shot in golf history — Hogan’s immortal 1-iron in 1950 — Kuchar hopes the similarities run even deeper. Hogan was also 34-years old when he won his first major.

But perhaps the greatest lesson that came out of Kuchar’s time on the Nationwide Tour was learning just how much he loves the game and how grateful he is for all it’s given him.

“I love the game,” Kuchar said in a 2010 press conference. I love practicing. I love everything about it. I love having chances. And even when the chances don’t go your way, I think it makes you tougher, makes you stronger.  If you don’t get beaten up by it, if you keep on stepping forward, all those close calls, they’re going to make you better for opportunities in the future. It’s fun. I have a great time out here. I enjoy life as a professional golfer. I think it’s a great life. And I feel awfully fortunate.”

Matt Kuchar Memorial Tournament Pappas TheGreekGrind 1

Sunday evening after the Memorial Kuchar candidly admitted there were a couple things missing from his pedigree when the season began. One was winning multiple times in a season. He can check that off his list. The other? A major championship.

Kuchar is known for smiling big and often, and for good reason.  But if he can win the U.S. Open in two weeks at Merion, Kuchar will also be known for winning big and often.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Anita Southwell

    Jun 12, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Matt Kuchar is a jolly player. He is also a polite man. As a golfer he is also successful person. In this week he has won the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. All the best.

  2. Ronald Montesano

    Jun 4, 2013 at 7:14 am

    “Who wouldn’t be happy making millions of dollars playing golf every week. I know I would!”

    Some folks aren’t, believe you me. The pressure, the physical,emotional and intellectual demands to keep up, the vagaries of the game that spin a putt out of the hole and bound a ball into the rough…these add up. What Kuchar has is an inner peace (hackneyed, I know) that allows him to pass through difficult runs. Having wealthy parents from the start probably helped, too.

  3. Troy Vayanos

    Jun 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    You’re spot on Pete, Kuchar’s demeanour on tour is second to none. He’s living the dream life for most of us and it shows on his face.

    Who wouldn’t be happy making millions of dollars playing golf every week. I know I would!

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Opinion & Analysis

Pick three golfers to build the ultimate scramble team. Who you got?

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It’s officially scramble season. Whether it’s a corporate outing or charity event, surely you’ve either been invited to play in or have already played in a scramble this year.

If you don’t know the rules of the scramble format, here’s how it works: All four golfers hit their drives, then the group elects the best shot. From there, all four golfers hit the shot, and the best of the bunch is chosen once again. The hole continues in this fashion until the golf ball is holed.

The best scramble players are those who hit the ball really far and/or stick it close with the irons and/or hole a lot of putts. The point is to make as many birdies and eagles as possible.

With this in mind, inside GolfWRX Headquarters, we got to discussing who would be on the ultimate scramble team. Obviously, Tiger-Jack-Daly was brought up immediately, so there needed to be a caveat to make it more challenging.

Thus, the following hypothetical was born. We assigned each golfer below a dollar value, and said that we had to build a three player scramble team (plus yourself) for $8 or less.

Here are the answers from the content team here at GolfWRX:

Ben Alberstadt

Tiger Woods ($5): This is obvious. From a scramble standpoint, Tiger gives you everything you want: Long, accurate, and strategic off the tee (in his prime). Woods, sets the team up for optimal approach shots (he was pretty good at those too)…and of course, arguably the greatest pressure putter of all time.

David Duval ($2): I’m thinking of Double D’s machine-like approach play in his prime. Tour-leader in GIR in 1999, and 26th in driving accuracy that year, Duval ought to stick second shots when TW doesn’t and is an asset off the tee.

Corey Pavin ($1): A superb putter and dogged competitor, Pavin’s a great value at $1. Ryder Cup moxy. Plus, he’ll always give you a ball in the fairway off the tee (albeit a short one), much needed in scramble play.

Brian Knudson

Rory McIlroy ($4): I am willing to bet their are only a handful of par 5’s in the world that he can’t hit in in two shots. You need a guy who can flat out overpower a course and put you in short iron situations on every hole. His iron play is a thing of beauty, with a high trajectory that makes going after any sucker pin a possibility.

Jordan Spieth ($3): Was there a guy who putted from mid-range better than him just a couple years ago? If there was, he isn’t on this list. Scrambles need a guy who can drain everything on the green and after watching 3 putts to get the read, he won’t miss. His solid wedge game will also help us get up and down from those short yardages on the Par 4’s.

Corey Pavin ($1): Fear the STACHE!! The former Ryder Cup captain will keep the whole team playing their best and motivated to make birdies and eagles. If we have 228 yards to the flag we know he is pulling that 4 wood out and giving us a short putt for birdie. He will of course be our safety net, hitting the “safe shot,” allowing the rest of us to get aggressive!

Ronald Montesano

Dustin Johnson ($4) – Bombmeister!!!

Lee Trevino ($2) — Funny as hell (and I speak Mexican).

Sergio Garcia ($1) – The greatest iron player (I speak Spanish, too).

Tom Stickney

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Lee Trevino ($2)

DJ is longer than I-10, Seve can dig it out of the woods, and Trevino can shape it into any pin.

Andrew Tursky

Dustin Johnson ($4)
Jordan Spieth ($2)
Anthony Kim ($1)

Are all the old timers gonna be mad at me for taking young guys? Doesn’t matter. DJ has to be the best driver ever, as long as he’s hitting that butter cut. With Jordan, it’s hard to tell whether he’s better with his irons or with his putter — remember, we’re talking Jordan in his prime, not the guy who misses putts from 8 inches. Then, Anthony Kim has to be on the team in case the alcohol gets going since, you know, it’s a scramble; remember when he was out all night (allegedly) before the Presidents Cup and still won his match? I need that kind of ability on my squad. Plus AK will get us in the fairway when me, DJ and Spieth each inevitably hit it sideways.

Michael Williams

Tiger Woods ($5)
Seve Ballesteros ($2)
Corey Pavin ($1)

Tiger is a no-brainer. Seve is maybe the most creative player ever and would enjoy playing HORSE with Tiger. Pavin is the only $1 player who wouldn’t be scared stiff to be paired with the first two.

Johnny Wunder

Tiger Woods ($5): His Mind/Overall Game

Seve Ballesteros ($2): His creativity/fire in a team format/inside 100

Anthony Kim ($1): Team swagger/he’s streaky/will hit fairways under the gun.

A scramble requires 3 things: Power, Putting and Momentum. These 3 guys as a team complete the whole package. Tiger is a one man scramble team but will get himself in trouble, which is where Seve comes in. In the case where the momentum is going forward like a freight train, nobody rattles a cage into the zone better than AK. It’s the perfect team and the team I’d want out there if my life was on the line. I’d trust my kids with this team.

Who would you pick on your team, and why? See what GolfWRX Members are saying in the forums.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is equipment really to blame for the distance problem in golf?

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It’s 2018, we’re more than a quarter of the way through Major Season, and there are 58 players on the PGA Tour averaging over 300 yards off the tee. Trey Mullinax is leading the PGA Tour through the Wells Fargo Championship with an average driving distance of 320 yards. Much discussion has been had about the difficulty such averages are placing on the golf courses across the country. Sewn into the fabric of the distance discussion are suggestions by current and past giants of the game to roll back the golf ball.

In a single segment on an episode of Live From The Masters, Brandel Chamblee said, “There’s a correlation from when the ProV1 was introduced and driving distance spiked,” followed a few minutes later by this: “The equipment isn’t the source of the distance, it’s the athletes.”

So which is it? Does it have to be one or the other? Is there a problem at all?

Several things of interest happened on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s, most of which were entirely driven by the single most dominant athlete of the last 30. First, we saw Tiger Woods win four consecutive majors, the first and only person to do that in the modern era of what are now considered the majors. Second, that same athlete drew enough eyeballs so that Tim Finchem could exponentially increase the prize money golfers were playing for each week. Third, but often the most overlooked, Tiger Woods ushered in fitness to the mainstream of golf. Tiger took what Gary Player and Greg Norman had preached their whole careers and amped it up like he did everything else.

In 1980, Dan Pohl was the longest player on the PGA Tour. He averaged 274 yards off the tee with a 5-foot, 11-inch and 175-pound frame. By 2000, the average distance for all players on the PGA Tour was 274 yards. The leader of the pack that year was John Daly, who was the only man to average over 300 yards. Tiger Woods came in right behind him at 298 yards.

Analysis of the driving distance stats on the PGA Tour since 1980 show a few important statistics: Over the last 38 seasons, the average driving distance for all players on the PGA Tour has increased an average of 1.1 yards per year. When depicted on a graph, it looks like this:

The disparity between the shortest and the longest hitter on the PGA Tour has increased 0.53 yards per year, which means the longest hitters are increasing the gap between themselves and the shortest hitters. The disparity chart fluctuates considerably more than the average distance chart, but the increase from 1980 to 2018 is staggering.

In 1980, there was 35.6 yards between Dan Pohl (longest) and Michael Brannan (shortest – driving distance 238.7 yards). In 2018, the difference between Trey Mullinax and Ken Duke is 55.9 yards. Another point to consider is that in 1980, Michael Brannan was 25. Ken Duke is currently 49 years of age.

The question has not been, “Is there a distance problem?” It’s been, “How do we solve the distance problem?” The data is clear that distance has increased — not so much at an exponential rate, but at a consistent clip over the last four decades — and also that equipment is only a fraction of the equation.

Jack Nicklaus was over-the-hill in 1986 when he won the Masters. It came completely out of nowhere. Players in past decades didn’t hit their prime until they were in their early thirties, and then it was gone by their early forties. Today, it’s routine for players to continue playing until they are over 50 on the PGA Tour. In 2017, Steve Stricker joined the PGA Tour Champions. In 2016, he averaged 278 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour. With that number, he’d have topped the charts in 1980 by nearly four yards.

If equipment was the only reason distance had increased, then the disparity between the longest and shortest hitters would have decreased. If it was all equipment, then Ken Duke should be averaging something more like 280 yards instead of 266.

There are several things at play. First and foremost, golfers are simply better athletes these days. That’s not to say that the players of yesteryear weren’t good athletes, but the best athletes on the planet forty years ago didn’t play golf; they played football and basketball and baseball. Equipment definitely helped those super athletes hit the ball straighter, but the power is organic.

The other thing to consider is that the total tournament purse for the 1980 Tour Championship was $440,000 ($1,370,833 in today’s dollars). The winner’s share for an opposite-field event, such as the one played in Puerto Rico this year, is over $1 million. Along with the fitness era, Tiger Woods ushered in the era of huge paydays for golfers. This year, the U.S. Open prize purse will be $12 milion with $2.1 million of that going to the winner. If you’re a super athlete with the skills to be a golfer, it makes good business sense to go into golf these days. That wasn’t the case four decades ago.

Sure, equipment has something to do with the distance boom, but the core of the increase is about the athletes themselves. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golf swing videos: What you absolutely need to know

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Let’s start with a game. Below are 5 different swing videos. I want you to study them and decide which of them is the best swing. Take your time, this is important…

Please, write your answer down. Which one was it?

Now, I am going to tell you a little secret; they are all the exact same swing filmed simultaneously from 5 various positions. JM1 is on the hand line but higher, JM2 is on the hand line but lower, JM3 is on the foot line, JM4 is on the hand line and JM5 is on the target line. Same swing, very different results!

So, what did we learn? Camera angle has an enormous impact on the way the swing looks.

“If you really want to see what is going on with video, it is crucial to have the camera in the right position,” said Bishops Gate Director of Instruction and Top 100 teacher Kevin Smeltz. “As you can see, if it is off just a little it makes a significant difference.”

According to PGA Tour Coach Dan Carraher: “Proper camera angles are extremely important, but almost more important is consistent camera angles. If you’re going to compare swings they need to be shot from the same camera angles to make sure you’re not trying to fix something that isn’t really a problem. Set the camera up at the same height and distance from the target line and player every time. The more exact the better.”

For high school players who are sending golf swing videos to college coaches, the content of the swing video is also very important. You have 5-15 seconds to impress the coach, so make sure you showcase the most impressive part of your game. For example, if you bomb it, show some drivers and make sure the frame is tight to demonstrate your speed/athleticism. Likewise, if you have a great swing but not a whole lot of power, start the video with a 5 or 6 iron swing to showcase your move. Either way, show coaches your strengths, and make sure to intrigue them!

Now that you have something that represents your skills, you need to consider how to format it so coaches are most likely to open it. I would recommend uploading the swings to YouTube and including a link in the email; a link allows the coach to simply click to see the video, rather than having to mess with opening any specific program or unknown file.

When formatting the email, always lead with your best information. For example, if you want a high-end academic school and have 1550 on the SAT lead with that. Likewise, if you have a powerful swing, lead with the YouTube link.

Although these tips do not guarantee responses, they will increase your odds!

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