Model Swing

And just like that, it’s Februrary! So much for New Year’s resolutions. I had planned to write about this (and a couple other topics) at the start of the year.

Anyway.

As I always do at the end of every calendar year, I take a long hard look at the stats on the PGA Tour website to see if I can learn anything new. (Yes, I still try.)  There is one guy who always seems to be there year in, year out.

He’s won a whopping $52 million in career earnings, 4th all time. He has finished 2nd twice, 4th twice, 7th twice and 12th twice on the money list in the last 10 years. His scoring average of 69.3 ranked 3rd last year.

His swing is one of the most recognizable on the planet. But I doubt if anyone would try to emulate it or even be associated with it.

His name is Jim Furyk.

Check out his stats.

Last year, he averaged 263 yards on the fly with his driver (169th). I know some amateurs who hit their 3-woods farther than that. He hit the  fairway more than 70% of the time though, making him one of the most accurate. He also ranked 3rd in a category called “proximity”, with his approach shots finishing a little under 33 feet away from the hole on average.

Amazing.

furyk backswingfuryk downswing

Amazing because in this day and age of high tech training methods and biomechanics research, that swing shouldn’t even have a chance. To date, Furyk  has 16 victories under his belt. 24 runner-up finishes. 154 top 10 finishes.

Which begs the question… why is he so successful despite having a swing that’s so, uh, unique? Obviously, it helps to be among the best in scrambling, sand saves and 3-putt avoidance.  But it doesn’t explain why he’s such a good ball striker.

I showed Furyk’s swing sequence to some students and posed the same question. How can a swing that is supposedly “ugly” possibly produce such beautiful results again and again? The unanimous answer I got was: “Because it’s repetitive.”

Right.

Just like the dozens of people who come to practice everyday at the range where I work. Repetitive, yes; remarkable, definitely not.

Is it possible that there’s really nothing wrong with Furyk’s swing? Could the real problem be our perception of what’s correct or acceptable?

I wish there was a way to go back in time and watch Furyk as a young golfer. I’d like to know how he developed that massive loop… and why nobody had been able to “fix” him. Were there physical limitations or environmental constraints that forced him to adopt such a “method”? I’d like to know what his father, the only coach he’s ever had, taught him. Most of all, I’m curious about the social, cultural, religious, psychological and maybe even economic factors that influenced his character. Because I’m pretty sure the answer we’re looking for isn’t something that a camera can capture.

Imagine the pressure of performing at the highest level of competition, under the scrutiny of a golfing world that often makes assumptions based on appearances. To survive for as long as he has is just incredible. He had to be really secure about himself, don’t you think?

Self-belief. Confidence. Courage. Heart. Of course, they’re difficult to quantify so we’ll never know. Maybe he was just blessed with this rare kind of hand-eye coordination. His short game seems to indicate that.

Maybe he just practiced harder than everyone else.

Or… maybe the energy drink he’s endorsing really works.

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