The swing's the thing for McLachlin


POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TORONTO » It was at the Reno-Tahoe Open, almost exactly one year ago, when Parker McLachlin won his first PGA Tour event.

It was a time to celebrate, soak in the adulation, and take pride in a remarkable achievement.

But something wasn't right.

He may have won, but after firing 68, 62 and 66 in the tournament's first three rounds, the Punahou School graduate slipped to a 74 as he faced the pressure of playing in the final pairing on Sunday.

He realized it wasn't the first time he had struggled with a tournament on the line. He blew a six-shot Sunday lead in a Nationwide Tour event. And, after putting himself into contention at a PGA stop in Atlanta, he had a horrendous final four holes to squander any chance at victory.

In each of those final rounds, McLachlin felt mentally strong and focused, and he was quite pleased with a solid short game. But there was something about his swing—he was convinced that it just wasn't able to hold up under pressure.

“;I get a little more excited, a little more nervous, and then all of a sudden I can't find the club face, and to me the golf swing shouldn't be like that,”; the 30-year-old said. “;It shouldn't be all about timing. So I said there's got to be a better way.”;

McLachlin approached Sean Foley, one of the tour's most popular swing coaches, who works with several PGA players such as Sean O'Hair, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose. After a 2-hour phone conversation, McLachlin liked what he heard about how he could have a more efficient golf swing, with fewer moving parts that could go awry under pressure.

“;I thought, 'I've got a two-year exemption (because of winning in Reno). I want to use this time to set up the next 10 years of my career,'”; McLachlin said. “;I had just won a tournament, but that's not my main goal.

“;I want to play on Ryder Cup teams and win majors. With my swing as it was, I could have been finishing 100th on the money list every year for the next five or six years. That doesn't really do it for me. I wasn't really brought up to be mediocre.”;





        » Age: 30

» Birthplace: Honolulu


» Education: Punahou and UCLA


» Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 165


» Turned pro: 2003


» PGA Tour win: 2008 Reno-Tahoe Open


» Best 2009 finishes: T17 FBR Open, T24 Mercedes-Benz Championship, T24 U.S. Bank Championship.


» Career PGA Tour earnings: $2,207,800


Source: pgatour.com


So in the latter part of 2008 and early part of this year, McLachlin worked with Foley to rebuild his swing from grip to follow-through and everything in between. And he didn't do it by disappearing for several months, only to return when he felt the swing was ready. He continued to play in PGA Tour events, week after week.

“;It's tough, but we needed to see how it (the swing) holds up. Unfortunately, it's on a big stage, and everyone can see the trials and tribulations, but it's just something that you've got to suck up and do,”; said the former UCLA Bruin, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife Kristy.

The missed cuts came—six in a row at one point earlier this year, and another string of five leading into July. But then, just a few weeks ago, something clicked.

“;I think I started to turn a corner at Tiger's (Woods) event in Washington (AT&T National),”; McLachlin said. “;It was at a U.S. Open golf course, Congressional, and I really hit the ball well. I didn't putt well and I didn't score well. I missed the cut by one shot. But I had really nice control of my golf swing.”;

At the next tournament, two weeks ago in Milwaukee, McLachlin broke through with a top-25 finish—his first since early February. And his encouraging play continued in the first round of the rain-plagued Canadian Open, where he shot a stellar 66 to sit near the top of the leaderboard. Then, after an even-par 72, he comfortably made his second straight cut. Unfortunately, after a third-round 74, he ballooned to a 79 in Monday's final round to end in a tie for 62nd place.

“;It was just one of those days with a bad five-hole stretch,”; he said after the round. “;Obviously, it's pretty frustrating to finish this way, but definitely I saw some good stuff this week. I still feel like I'm hitting the ball nicely.”;

Foley spent some time with McLachlin on the range this week and said he likes what he sees right now.

“;Parker's really starting to go up and up and up with it,”; Foley said. “;It's more natural to him now. It's not so cognizant. There's a difference between learning and performing. He's kind of at that phase where he's moving to performance. He just needs to keep doing what he's doing,”; Foley said.

In two weeks, it'll be on to Reno, where McLachlin will defend his title with a brand-new swing and finally, some confidence.

“;It's funny, it was just this time last year in Canada when I started to get some nice feelings going,”; McLachlin said. “;I wasn't scheduled to play Reno. I was planning on taking the week off, but on Tuesday I decided to go play because I had felt so good about how my golf swing was feeling.

“;But now it's a different kind of good feeling, not based on my timing feeling good. It's just based on: 'OK, I'm starting to understand my swing.' I'm starting to really feel like I've got a grasp of what it is that I've been working so hard for the last eight or nine months. Now I can start saying, 'OK, how big can I dream?' I think that's something I'm going to start looking at in the next couple of weeks.”;