For Kuchar, game gets better with age
Our annual number-crunching package looks at players who made significant moves – up or down – during the past year in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Ranking/movement: 3 (+43)
Why the rise? Kuchar made the best ascent in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, percentage-wise, for several reasons. He excelled using the three clubs that matter most – driver, wedge, putter. He has found a swing that works for him and continues to hone the technique taught by Chris O’Connell, his teacher since 2006.
Check back to Golfweek.com every day through the end of the year to take a look at players who made significant moves – up and down – in 2010.
Kuchar’s shoulders are on a steeper plane, but mainly he has changed his downswing, going from swinging inside out and hitting hooks and blocks to swinging his arms around his rotating body while maintaining his spine angle.
“Swinging the arms left helps stabilize the clubface,” O’Connell says.
The result is a tighter shot pattern and a career in full bloom. Kuchar made big leaps from the year before, leading the Tour in earnings, scoring average, the all-around statistic, top-10 finishes and performance on par 4s. Also, he improved from 132nd to 34th in greens in regulation, 66th to 39th in driving accuracy and 29th to sixth in putting average.
Kuchar had 10 top 10s in his first 149 professional starts, then had 11 in 2010. He had his best season the year he turned 32, which for years was the average age of a Masters champion, when a golfer’s physical and mental capablilities often peak together.
Kuchar says: “I’ve gotten better every year since I started working with Chris in 2006.. . . I’ve gotten better because I’ve gotten a better grasp as we’ve gone along. There’s a lot more consistency. I don’t have bad days anymore. My swing is much simpler, and even on an off day I’m not far off.”
– Jeff Rude
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Ranking/movement: 216 (-148)
Why the fall? “Aquaman” had his worst year on the PGA Tour since finishing 156th on the money list in 2002. Showing few stretches of brilliance with only three top 10s, Austin missed 13 cuts in 29 starts and finished 129th on the money list, ending a streak of seven consecutive seasons in the top 85 in earnings.
A schizophrenic putter at best in his career, Austin also had difficulties in all the traditional statistical categories in 2010, with his best rankinga 54th in driving accuracy.
But maybe the most telling reason why Austin had to return to Q-School was his final-round scoring average of 71.19, which ranked 112th on Tour. Austin tended to play his way out of events rather than finish them off. Only three times in his 16made cuts was his final-round score better then that in his third round.
Austin, who turns 47 in January, should get enough starts in 2011, but can he make the most of them?
Austin says: “I was making cuts but I was finishing 55th, 60th, 59th, making no putts and actually losing ground each week.”
– Alex Miceli