Swing Sequence: Jhonattan Vegas
Bio: 26, 6-feet-2, 230 pounds | Hometown: Maturin, Venezuela | Driver: Nike VR Pro STR8-FIT | Ball: Nike One Tour D | Driving distance (rank): 296.9 yards (20th) | Birdie average (rank): 4.9 per round (third)
"He hadn't been in the United States for very long and was playing golf at the University of Texas," Kirk says. "He starts hitting drives, and he's getting up to 125 miles an hour. Everyone was in awe. Then the other kids start asking him to step it up. All of a sudden, he's swinging 136, 137--monstrous." Even more amazing, Kirk says, is that Vegas was still hitting it pure and staying in balance.
That's almost as impressive as the time Vegas was handed a lefty driver. On his first swing with the club, he launched a ball about 250 yards.
"I think it just comes naturally to me," says Vegas, who went from swinging broomsticks at rocks as a kid in Maturin, Venezuela, to winning the Bob Hope Classic in January in only the second start of his rookie season on the PGA Tour. "Guess I was born with it. If I'm hitting my driver well, I'm going to play well."
Practice sessions with Kirk mostly focus on fundamentals: grip, posture, alignment and so on. But one thing they keep an eye on is the connection between Vegas' arms and body. Sometimes he extends his arms out too much at address, as if reaching for the ball. When his arms get too far away from his body, Kirk says, his swing becomes narrow and steep. That produces a ball flight that's too high and has too much backspin.
"He's so big and strong and athletic, he can get away with some poor mechanics," Kirk says. "But when his swing is really on, it's a sight to see. He hits it as straight as anyone, and when you combine that with his length, he's got a huge advantage over a lot of guys out there." — Ron Kaspriske