Matt Kuchar swings his arm in a flat angle, but his shoulders are steep. (Franklin/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Kuuuuuuch! Even with a little snow and cold weather in the desert, Matt Kuchar continued his great play with yet another win on the PGA TOUR. Kucher is a player that, at first glance, doesn’t do a whole lot the conventional way, from his putting style with the belly putter to his very flat backswing.
At the TOUR Academies, we get a lot of questions about the shape and appearance of Kuchar’s backswing. Matt and his swing coach Chris O’Connell have done some great things with Kuchar’s game over the years. The most apparent was Kuchar’s dramatic change in his backswing, that saw his lead arm swing much more in (and around) his body.
These movements resulted in the lead arm -- to the eye -- appearing very flat because the lead arm at the top of the swing was under the right shoulder. Most TOUR players will see their lead arm cover the right shoulder at the top, where again Kuchar's is well under it. Counter these movements with Kuchar’s tall frame and extreme forward bend at address, and you have yourself what many call the flattest backswing on the PGA TOUR.
The reality is that Kuchar is still able to maintain efficient clubhead path and clubface numbers at impact from this position at the top. One would think because he looks so flat, that he would swing extremely from the inside on the downswing. However, Kuchar doesn’t, because he is still able to hit down on it through impact with a swing direction that is square, or even maybe a bit to the left.
The counter to Kuchar’s flat left arm movements is how he uses his shoulders and hips during the backswing:
1. Kuchar's shoulder turn is what we refer to as a steep shoulder turn. Again, he is very bowed forward at address, and then turns around this angle so his shoulders are tilted well towards the ground, rather than the horizon. A good rule of thumb is if you swing flat with the arms, then the shoulders need to turn steeper so you can maintain an orientation to the ground that allows you to hit down on it. Conversely, if your shoulders turn flat to the horizon, then the lead arm needs to work more up and down to gain the similar leverage and angles back to impact.
2. In addition to the change of the lead arm and shoulder plane, Kuchar also had to learn how to use his hips differently. You may have noticed how Kuchar really stays in his spine angle as a result of keeping his hips back during the swing. If you were to slide a chair under Matt’s rear end at address, he would push that chair slightly up off its legs as a result of his right hip moving up and back during the backswing, and then again through impact because of the left hip clearing and staying back on the chair. These movements really allow for Kuchar to stay in his spine angle through impact and still get the clubhead to exit relatively left through impact.
So even though Kuchar’s lead arm is flat at the top of the swing, his shoulders and hips are steep, resulting in a combination that still achieves efficient alignments through impact.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
Rory McIlroy is one of four players to finish double digits under par at PGA National during The Honda Classic.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
To say the least, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan showed the importance of the short game at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Clutch putting and chipping stood out at Dove Mountain. And no doubt, Kuchar used plenty of it to defeat Mahan. But the biggest reason for Kuchar's success in 2013 might surprise you. Let's take a look at some match play stats and the upcoming Honda Classic by going inside the numbers ...
0.898 The number represents how many strokes Hunter Mahan is picking up on the field average in putting per round in 2013. (His strokes gained-putting number). That’s good enough to rank 15th in that category. ... Mahan’s short game looks pretty sharp so far and it’s a big reason for his early success. Always a solid ball-striker, putting has been the biggest key for him. Last season, Mahan finished 111th in SGP, losing .077 strokes to the field average each round. Over the course of a tournament, that’s a big turnaround from -.077 to .898.
3 Number of players that reached the Final Four at Accenture that ranked inside the top 20 in scrambling at year-end of the 2012 season. … Ian Poulter (2), Kuchar (7) and Jason Day (19) all have tremendous short games and it’s no secret that being able to get up-and-down like Tin Cup works brilliantly in match play. Even Mahan, who ranked 157th in scrambling last season showed tremendous touch around the greens in both Sunday matches – including his amazing 67-foot chip-in on the 12th hole at Dove Mountain.
4.30 That’s the par-5 scoring average for Kuchar, which ranks third on TOUR this season. … Kuchar already has four eagles in 2013 – all on par 5s – compared to five for the entire 2012 season. He was T84 in par-5 scoring at 4.67 last season. Not surprisingly he's off to an impressive start, with three top 10s in five events. Most of his stats are similarly solid when comparing the past few seasons. But Kuchar is really benefiting from the par 5s. He’s T13 in eagles per hole compared to 133rd in that category in 2012.
5 Number of top-five finishes for Poulter in WGC events. He has two wins (2010 Accenture Match Play, 2012 HSBC Champions), a T2 at the 2006 Cadillac Championship and a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Accenture Match Play. … Poulter has six other top fives in his career on TOUR, most notably runner-up finishes at the 2008 British Open (Royal Birkdale) and in THE PLAYERS Championship in 2009.
15-3 Kuchar’s record at the Accenture Match Play. Since losing in Round 2 of the 2010 event, his first appearance, Kuchar has finished 3rd (2011), T5 (2012) and won (2013). … Maybe it’s time to crown him the king of match play?
106 Total number of players who have finished under par after four rounds in the six years that The Honda Classic has been played at the Champion Course at PGA National. Only four players – Rory McIlroy ('12 winner), Woods ('12), Tom Gillis ('12) and 2010 champ Camilo Villegas have finished at double digits under par … The Bear Trap is no joke. It’s routinely ranked as one of the toughest tracks on TOUR. In fact, it’s been in the top-10 most difficult in five of the six years — which includes major championship courses. It was the second-most difficult course on TOUR in 2011 and 2010. It ranked 11th most difficult last season.
$1,809,003.58 Career earnings for Luke Donald at The Honda Classic. Donald has three top 10s in six events, winning in 2006 and finishing second in 2008. … The golfer in second might come as a bit of surprise. It’s Y.E. Yang, who has cashed $1,668,952.50, getting a win in 2009 and a runner-up in 2011. Yang is in the field this week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Matt Kuchar's love for the game is a big reason for his success. (Getty Images)
By Gio Valiante, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Matt Kuchar, winner of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, is the perfect role model of a great mental game for a variety of reasons, three of which I’ve highlighted below.
First of all, he is a model of resilience. While most fans remember Kuchar’s stellar amateur career at Georgia Tech and his early win at The Honda Classic in 2002, many are unaware of the adversities that he faced. Even after winning his rookie season, Kuchar lost his PGA TOUR card two years later and was demoted to the Web.com Tour.
As I teach my clients, every golfer faces adversity, and it is how you deal with that adversity that defines a career. Rather than get upset, embarrassed, or angry, Kuchar simply reinvested himself in his game and worked harder. It was through his continued efforts that he first met his swing instructor Chris O’Connell, and they began building a game that would sustain. Thus, resilience through adversity is the first lesson Kuchar illustrates.
Second of all you never see Kuchar get angry on a golf course. Anyone who has followed Kuchar over the years knows the story behind that smile: as a junior golfer, Kuchar had gotten angry on the golf course and threw his clubs. To teach him a lesson, his parents took away his golf clubs.
Even today, Kuchar makes references to this as an important formative experience. As he said last week at the World Match Play, “I can remember as a kid getting in big trouble. I remember throwing my clubs into the water and having to be made to go fetch it out of the water, and then my clubs were taken away from me. I remember that being just a terrible punishment, when my clubs were taken away. I've learned my lesson.”
Indeed, anger in golf is not only bad etiquette; it is also bad form since it leads to the sort of muscle tension that can undo even the best golf swing. Thus, Kuchar’s easygoing demeanor on the golf course should not be mistaken for lack of competitiveness, but rather a strategy he has developed to make him play his best golf. As he has often said, golf will beat you up. You don’t need to help it by beating yourself up.
The third reason that Kuchar is a model for golf has to do with his motivation. You see, psychologists judge motivation not only by the amount, but also by the quality. Anger, jealousy, embarrassment, and fear can all provide a great amount of motivation, but it is not necessarily the type or quality of motivation that can fuel excellence over the long haul.
The best types of motivation are competitive excellence and … love. Kuchar has both of these qualities. Anyone who has ever played him in tennis or pingpong knows that he is ultra competitive in those as well. The other great motivation is love of the game of golf. In 2010, Kuchar gave an interview that illustrates his mindset for golf, and what his motivation is. This summarizes the approach that I believe everyone should take to the game of golf:
“I love the game. I love playing golf. 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."
So, what is the true secret to Kuchar’s mental game? He has become more resilient through adversity, he practices an attitude of gratitude, and that he’s never fallen out of love with the game of golf.
Gio Valiante is a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and the author of “Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game.” His clients, which includes Matt Kuchar, have won more than 40 PGA TOUR events. He can be reached at www.fearlessgolf.com.
MARANA Ariz. -- A year ago, Hunter Mahan eliminated Matt Kuchar in the quarterfinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
On Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club the two met again and this time Kuchar turned the tables on the defending champion, beating Mahan 2 and 1 to win a title of his own.
Kuchar has now won 14 of his last 16 matches in this global event and he has a 15-3 record overall. It was Mahan's first loss in 12 matches and his record overall is now 15-5.
Kuchar, who won THE PLAYERS Championship 10 months ago, got the upper hand early Sunday afternoon. Mahan was his own worst enemy starting out, making four straight bogeys to hand his opponent a 3-up advantage when the two walked off the sixth green, where Kuchar also happened to make his first birdie of the day.
When Mahan bogeyed No. 4 to start the string of three straight holes won for Kuchar, it marked the first time the defending champion had trailed in an amazing stretch of 169 holes. The streak dated back to the sixth hole of his opening match with Zach Johnson last year.
Kuchar then took a 4-up lead when he made a 3-footer for birdie at the eighth hole. But what looked like it was turning into a runaway changed dramatically on the back nine.
Kuchar made bogey at the 10th hole to surrender part of his advantage. Then Mahan finally started making birdies again -- four in a five-hole stretch starting at the 11th hole to pull to 2 down.
The brisk wind then died down just as Kuchar hit a 4-iron on the par-3 16th hole. The ball ended up next to a hospitality area and Kuchar proceeded to make bogey, and suddenly his lead was a tenuous 1 up with two holes to go.
But Kuchar secured the 2-and-1 win when Mahan's second shot at the 17th hole landed in a bush. He was able to advance it about 4 feet but when he didn't hole his fourth shot, Mahan conceded to Kuchar who looking at a 5-footer for birdie.
"I'm not sure I can explain how excited I am to have won this tournament," Kuchar said. "Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure. It seems like each hole there's so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole. To come out on top after six matches of playing guys, the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling."
Mahan, on the other hand, was at a loss to explain the unusual streak of bogeys on the front nine.
"I just didn't play good golf there," he said. "It just wasn't good. ... Kuch is a good player, he's a solid player. You saw today how he can get up and down and hit good quality shots and didn't put himself in the desert at all really. I just put myself too far behind the eight-ball. ... I gained some momentum on 10 and started playing a lot better after that, but it was just too little, too late."
SCORECARD STATS: Kuchar made five birdies and three bogeys. Mahan made four birdies and four bogeys. He conceded the final hole to Kuchar.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won six holes. Mahan won four holes.
Matt Kuchar continued his solid play this season by winning the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship with a 2 and 1 victory over Hunter Mahan on Sunday in Marana, Ariz.
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MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar has finally played his way into the title tilt at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time.
Kuchar has come close each of the last two years. He lost to eventual champ Luke Donald in the 2010 semifinals and went on to finish third when he beat Bubba Watson in the consolations.
A year ago, Kuchar was eliminated in the quarterfinals 6 and 5 by the eventual champ Hunter Mahan, the man he'll face in the championship match.
"This has been a lot of golf, and it's fun to continue to survive," Kuchar said. "... So excited to make the championship match, won five matches now, but it's a thrill. To have a chance to win the title here at the Accenture Match Play is pretty exciting."
Kuchar traied briefly when he made a bogey at the second hole. But he squared the match with a par at No. 4 and took a 1-up advantage when he rolled in a 13-footer for birdie at No. 6.
Another birdie at the eighth, this time on a 23-inch putt after Kuchar just missed the green on the par 5, put him 2 up. He and Day traded wins on the next two holes, then Kuchar went 3 up when he parred the 13th.
Kuchar closed out the match with a 5-footer for birdie at No. 15. Day's drive traveled 291 yards on the par 4 that was playing 312 but he chipped short and couldn't convert from 22 feet to extend the match.
Day, who beat two former major winners on Saturday, was disappointed but still saw the glass half-full.
"I think the whole week in itself is a positive week for myself," Day said. "I played good golf against great golfers, and I've got one more match to go against probably one of the most feared match play players."
SCORECARD STATS Kuchar made three birdies and three bogeys. Day made four bogeys and one double bogey.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won six holes. Day won three holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Kuchar plays Hunter Mahan, who beat Ian Poulter 4 and 3 in the other semifinal. The championship match will begin at 2:15 p.m. ET (12:15 p.m. MT). Day will play Poulter in the third-place match beginning at 1:55 p.m. ET (11:55 p.m. MT).
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MARANA, Ariz. -- Robert Garrigus came to Dove Mountain to play in his first Accenture Match Play Championship brimming with confidence.
Matt Kuchar, though, had the experience and his steady game won out over the go-for-broke-style of Garrigus.
Kuchar never trailed in this quarterfinal match, winning the second hole with a 4-foot birdie after Garrigus missed from 6 feet. He went 2-up when Garrigus made bogey at the third hole but Kuchar did the same at the fourth.
Kuchar's birdies at the sixth and ninth holes gave him a 3-up advantage at the turn and he went one better at No. 10 when Garrigus made bogey. But Garrigus won the 12th hole with a par when Kuchar couldn't get up and down from the greenside bunker and the 13th with a 25-inch birdie putt to claw his way back into the match.
Kuchar then made a 4-footer for birdie at the 15th hole to get back to 3 up, and the win was assured when the two men halved the 16th with pars.
Kuchar has lost to the eventual champ last two years -- bowing to Luke Donald in the 2011 semifinals and Hunter Mahan in the quarters last year. He has a 13-3 record at this event.
"It's nice to be still alive and playing tomorrow," Kuchar said. "Robert today gave me a couple holes early. I got off to a nice lead and then I stumbled a little bit there kind of three-quarters into the round and kind of felt like we were back in a battle again.
"I was pretty excited to hit some good shots on 14, 15 and 16 to be able to close him out and be able to hopefully go home soon and get some rest."
Garrigus said he thought he lose focus in the afternoon match after beating Freddie Jacobson 3 and 2 in the morning. His left wrist also locked up on him on the first hole.
"I still had a chance with making all those bad swings and hitting it in the bushes three or four times," he said. "If I kept it in the fairway in the afternoon, I would have been fine, but I kept hitting it in the darned desert.
"It was disappointing to lose the match, but all in all, it was a great week. Another top five in front of the stage that I wanted it in front of. It's not in Puerto Rico or México, this is a World Golf Championships, and it's all good things. I played well, Matt played well, we had a good time today, and that's about it."
SCORECARD STATS: Matt Kuchar made five birdies and three bogeys. Garrigus made three birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won six holes. Garrigus won three holes
NEXT OPPONENT: Kuchar plays Jason Day, who beat Graeme McDowell 1-up in the quarterfinals.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar birdied three of his first four holes and never looked back as he beat Nicolas Colsaerts.
Kuchar was 2 up after that early run, then won the seventh hole with a par and got up and down from beside the green at the par-5 eighth. His lead at the turn, though, was 3 up after he couldn't save par at No. 9.
The two opponents halved the next five holes with two birdies and three pars. When Colsaerts missed the green at the 15th hole along with a 9-footer for par, Kuchar had the win.
"I feel really good," Kuchar said. "Got off to a great start, birdied 1, 3, 4, and kept things going really well, put the pressure on. I tried not to give any holes away. Excited about the way I'm playing and looking forward to this afternoon."
Kuchar has reached the consolation final and quarterfinals the last two years. His record is now 12-3.
SCORECARD STATS: Kuchar made six birdies and two bogeys. Colsaerts made two birdies and two bogeys.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won six holes. Colsaerts won two holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Robert Garrigus, who beat Fredrik Jacobson 3 and 1
MARANA, Ariz. -- Kuchar never trailed in this tightly contested match. At the same time, he never led by more than one hole until he made a 30-inch birdie putt on the 17th hole for the win.
After the two parred their first five holes, Garcia finally flinched and bogeyed the par-3 sixth to give Kuchar the 1-up lead. The two halved the par-5 eighth with birdies but Kuchar bogeyed No. 9 and the match was square heading into the back nine.
Kuchar made a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th to get back to 1 up but Garcia squared the match with an 8-footer birdie at the 13th. Kuchar finished with three birdies in his last four holes, though, winning the 14th to go 1 up and halving No. 15 before ending the proceedings with the final one at the 17th.
"It was a good battle with Sergio," Kuchar said. "I felt like around this course, his power and driving ability was a big advantage, being able to take it over some of those cross bunkers. He's, I think, one of the best drivers in the game. It can make golf courses pretty easy driving it as well as he can.
"We had a good match that was kind of 1 up, 1 down, all the way through about hole 14. ... And then I had a great approach to two-and-a-half feet on 17 to be able to close the match out 2 and 1."
SCORECARD STATS: Kuchar made five birdies and one bogey. Garcia made three birdies and one bogey.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won four holes. Garcia won two holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Nicolas Colsaerts, who beat Justin Rose 4 and 2.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar left the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain with a comfortable 3-up advantage through over Hiroyuki Fujita when play was called on Wednesday afternoon. A pair of routine pars at the 15th and 16th holes were good enough for the victory on Thursday.
Kuchar, who shot 1 under, atually had a chance to end things earlier but he missed an 11-footer for birdie to go 4 up at the 15th hole. He will play the winner of the match between Sergio Garcia and Thongchai Jaidee.