My Shot: Matt Kuchar
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I'D HEARD RUMORS of big business deals being executed on the golf course but didn't believe them. All I'd seen were guys playing golf and then having lunch. But working as an investment banker, I saw stuff happen. Powerful guys would trade ideas, give opinions from their area of expertise, recommend ventures where one guy's company would be a good fit. That opened my eyes. Golf is a very good arena for business.
AS A KID, I wanted to be a pro tennis player. I was pretty good; at the tennis academies I attended I always "played up" against older age groups. One day, Andre Agassi gave a clinic at our club. From the baseline, he hit a drop shot that cleared the net, took one bounce and spun back on his side of the court. It's the type of shot a good amateur, with no pressure, can make in one try out of a hundred. But Andre, after watching us go "Oooh," did it again. It didn't make me think I had no shot at tennis, but it made golf look a whole lot better.
WHEN I WAS ABOUT 12, our family joined Heathrow Country Club in Florida. It was there that I had two major advantages in making it to the PGA Tour. First, Heathrow was one of the first clubs to have unlimited range balls. As a kid, this meant I could hit balls all day without breaking the bank. Second, Heathrow was home to several PGA Tour players, including Chris DiMarco, Jim Thorpe, Donnie Hammond and several others. Chris would organize a game every day he was home. When I got old enough and good enough, Chris started to invite me and another friend, Jeremy Anderson, to join the game. We could never, ever beat Chris, but we were inspired to get better.
YOU HEAR PLAYERS talk about how there's no offseason in golf anymore, how with tournaments running year-round that it's hard for them to catch their breath. Well, after a busy December, my wife, Sybi, and I came up with a plan. We decided that I would play the first two tournaments in Hawaii and then stay for another four weeks. We'd stay at Kuki'o Golf and Beach Club, one of the most exotic places on the planet, and just have a blast. After the Sony Open my plan was to not touch a club for two weeks, then slowly start preparing for the Northern Trust Open the final two weeks. There are so many temptations, with invitations to play spectacular places like Nanea Golf Club, with great people. There's competition, a good, informal pro game, and it's just too much fun to say no. But thankfully there were many other distractions, like swimming with a 30-foot whale shark, surfing, hiking and spearfishing. So am I rested? Not sure, but I sure did have fun.
I WON'T NAME NAMES, but there are players on tour who I don't think love golf all that much. They're good at it, but they don't love it. Maybe the game has beaten them up. It's definitely harder than it looks, physically and mentally. It makes me grateful to have the enthusiasm and makes me even more determined to maintain it. At 35, I can see myself playing the Champions Tour 15 years from now. That kind of desire isn't rare, but I might be in the minority.
DURING "The Haney Project" season with Michael Phelps, we dropped by the pool where Hank and Michael were doing a segment. I'm a decent swimmer—I did a mile swim out in the ocean here in Hawaii yesterday. What I noticed about Michael was the distance he covered in four strokes took me about 12. He's super-efficient. If swimming were golf, he wouldn't have any loops in his backswing.
IN SWIMMING, efficiency results in speed. In golf, efficiency can mean more clubhead speed as well as the ability to get the ball in the hole in fewer strokes. I think I'm efficient that way. When I think of guys who are efficient with effortless power, I think of Ernie Els. I remember playing with Ernie a few years ago. It was pouring rain. By the first green he had already taken off his hat; it was so saturated the rain was dripping on the ball. I noticed that his umbrella was in his bag, but he wasn't using it. I asked why, and he told me that when he started playing with the old boys on the European Tour they had told him when it rains to just get yourself a good rainsuit and get on with it. Now that's efficiency.
THE MICHAEL PHELPS encounter was in China. Sybi and I are a little different in that we enjoy traveling with the entire family. Before the Presidents Cup in Australia, we went to Bora Bora and New Zealand. We've been to Fiji and Hawaii. All over the world, really. How do we manage it with young children? [Cameron is 6, and Carson is 4.] We bring along a tutor from near our home. She sets up a little classroom with a desk, maps on the wall, the whole thing. She teaches them four hours a day.