Apparently on the PGA Tour, "sandies" are worth $11 million. Jim Furyk's up-and-down from a greenside bunker on East Lake Golf Club's final hole secured him the Tour Championship victory and its $1.3 million payday. The win was also enough to overtake Matt Kuchar atop the final 2010 FedEx Cup Standings, raking in an additional $10 million. During the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits we analyzed Kuchar's extremely flat golf swing. Let's now take a closer look at Furyk's upright looping swing, which is essentially the polar opposite.
Much of Furyk's unique action is a result of his setup. He stands very close to the ball with very little distance between his hands and his legs. As a result, his hands and arms instinctively "search" for space and quickly separate from his body. The shaft and his arms track back on an extremely vertical plane, producing the most upright backswing on the PGA Tour. Furyk's left arm is well above his shoulder plane at the top, some 40 to 50 degrees more upright than Kuchar's left arm. From the top, it is now the job of Furyk's body to shallow the club into a position from which he can consistently deliver the club into the ball. Furyk begins his downswing with aggressive leg action, shifting his hips laterally and driving his knees toward the target.
Simultaneously his lower body is unwinding into an impact position where his hips are extremely open and his right elbow appears glued to his right hip. This combination of unique moves allow Furyk to find his own personal "slot." The club approaches the ball on a neutral path that produces straight shots to fades. The club then exits impact low and to the left of his body, another sign of a player who will rarely hook the ball, and very similar to that of Dustin Johnson.
There are a couple of valuable lessons that the average player can learn from Furyk's swing. The first is that if you are struggling getting the shaft to "shallow out" in the downswing, you might find success in taking the club more vertical in your backswing. Typically the shaft wants to reverse the path that it took in the backswing. Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore are two more examples of players who have vertical shaft positions in the backswing, then shallow the club significantly in the downswing. This image of the club "looping" can be very helpful to many golfers who struggle to hit the ball from the inside.
The second lesson is how insignificant your backswing position really can be. Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk are two world-class players and their backswings couldn't be more different. It is only as their club approaches impact that their swings start to look similar.
So the lesson is to find your own personal "slot," just as Jim Furyk does. It doesn't matter the path you take to get it there, as long as you can repeat it.
-- Kevin Hinton