There are numerous reasons why Matt Kuchar is the most consistent player on the PGA Tour over the last five years, why he has missed only two cuts in his last 63 starts and why he capped off a remarkable four-week run of top-five finishes with a one-shot victory at the RBC Heritage Classic Sunday. But when you break down Kuchar's remarkable lack of holes in his game, one thing stands out.
"In fact, if you had to put money on any player to get up and down from 40 yards, you'd lay it on Matt Kuchar," said Bruce Patterson of Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, Ill., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
Patterson breaks down Kuchar's pitching prowess in Golf Magazine's newest instruction book - PLAY LIKE A PRO (Time Home Entertainment Inc., 2013; $29.95, Hardcover). In PLAY LIKE A PRO, Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers - the nation's most elite group of golf instructors - analyze the techniques and moves of the game's elite and make them accessible to the average player.
One of the featured PGA TOUR pros in the book, Kuchar's chapter is on pitch shots. His knack for knocking the ball close with time-tested fundamentals allow him to seal another one of the game's troublesome gaps in his own game and give him the confidence to know an up-and-down is forthcoming should he miss a green.
"To say that Matt Kuchar knows how to pitch the ball close is a huge understatement," Patterson writes. "He's consistently in the Top 15 in the Scrambling statistic category and is an expert at judging how the ball will behave once it hits the green. His performance abilities from short range are the polar opposite of the ones executed by amateurs, the majority of whom have no clue how to create the right trajectory and distance for expert pitches."
Not that Kuchar needed much scrambling magic en route to his seventh career victory. He led the field in greens-in-regulation (53-72). But one of the three he missed Sunday came on the 18th hole, when Kuchar's approach found the front greenside bunker. After telling his caddie he was due to hole one of these, Kuchar did exactly that, holing out from the bunker for birdie and finish off the 7-under-par 64 he shot in blustery conditions.
Kuchar currently rests 16th in Scrambling. He hasn't finished lower than 14th in that category since 2008. In 2012, Kuchar pitched the ball 24 percent closer to the pin from 30 yards than the average TOUR pro. This gave him a 16 percent better chance at scrambling for par than the average TOUR player - a vital weapon, especially on demanding courses that rebuff scoring.
Two of Kuchar's top-five finishes - where he is averaging a birdie every four holes -- came in tournaments where the winning score was only 8-under - the Valero Texas Open (T4) and the Masters (T5). During the last four weeks, Kuchar's scoring aveage is 69.6. The field scoring average in those events is more than three shots higher per round (72.7).
The average golfer will never know what it's like to don a plaid jacket, emblematic of the RBC Heritage victor, but in PLAY LIKE A PRO, they can know how to capture some of "Kooch's" short-game magic.
In the book, Kuchar's pitching fundamentals are broken down and analyzed by several Top 100 Teachers. Practice drills that reinforce consistency, show how to stop the ball with spin and to rotate the club to vary spin and trajectory are also included by Patterson and fellow Top 100 Teachers Brian Manzella (English Turn Golf & CC in New Orleans), Dom Di Julia (Jericho National G.C., New Hope, PA.) and Nancy Quarcelino (Kings Creek G.C., Spring Hill, Tenn.).
Pictures of DiJulia's club-rotation drill and Quarcelino's pitching-to-a-golf-umbrella drill are ready to scan to video.
"The simply way pros like Matt Kuchar control pitch shots is to alter the way they rotate, or don't rotate, the clubhead as they swing into the finish," DiJulia writes.
"I believe in a golfing god. I thought, 'If I keep plugging away, things are going to go my way,' " Kuchar said on Sunday.
GOLF MAGAZINE: PLAY LIKE A PRO
By GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
Edited and Introduction by David DeNunzio, Managing Editor-Instruction, Golf Magazine
Publisher: Time Home Entertainment Inc.
Publication date: October 22, 2013
$29.95, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-60320-239-8
About the Authors:
GOLF MAGAZINE, one of the most widely read golf publications in the world, presents award-winning features and articles every month to help golfers stay on top of their game. Golf.com provides up-to-the-minute news from the professional tours, live scoring, and course and equipment ratings that can't be found anywhere else. Its video instruction library features hundreds of score-saving tips and drills from the Top 100 Teachers in America.
THE TOP 100 TEACHERS IN AMERICA, Golf Magazine's team of instruction professionals, are recognized as the best coaches in the game. There are more than 28,000 PGA of America members, and the magazine selects only the 100 most elite among them to help golfers lower their scores, improve their swing, hammer the ball longer and putt lights-out. For more information, visit golf.com/instruction.
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