Korea’s Byeong Hun An takes his 2021 bow at The American Express golf tournament starting on Thursday, fully recharged and reinvigorated after hooking up with new swing coach, Sean Foley.
The Presidents Cup International Team star is eager to put his reworked golf swing to a test at PGA West (Stadium) in La Quinta, California, an event headlined by seven players in the top-25 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
An’s quest for a strong start will see him face the likes of Patrick Cantlay (10), Patrick Reed (11), Brooks Koepka (12), Matthew Wolff (15), Sungjae Im (18), Tony Finau (22) and Kevin Na (23), last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii champion. American veteran star Phil Mickelson is the tournament’s host.
“I had about six weeks off and it was a good. I worked with a new coach and we had a lot of things to work on. I’m all ready to go now. I can’t wait to play over the next couple of weeks,” said An, 29.
“It’s been good (with Foley). We worked hard. I got to understand most of the swing stuff and now that I’m here, I’ll try to play freely and not think so much about the swing. We’ve done the hard work and it’s time to play.”
By his own admission, 2020 was somewhat bittersweet.
After savouring a career best 33rd place finish on the FedExCup points list during the 2019-20 Season following five top-10s and four top-25s, his trademark consistency deserted him during the fall portion of the current 2020-21 Season as he missed five cuts in seven starts.
“2020 was a bit rough. It was a decent year but I didn’t make my goal which was to make the TOUR Championship and it was a bit disappointing. Hopefully this year, I can make my goal.”
The former U.S. Amateur champion feels he is getting closer to his dream of lifting a first PGA TOUR victory – An has three career runner-up finishes – and hopes his decision to switch to Foley will help him break the duck. “Definitely, the goal is getting to the TOUR Championship again and trying to get my first TOUR win. I’m always trying to play my best every week and hopefully I’ll get my first,” said An, who worked previously with David Leadbetter.
One of the swing changes which An has focused on is to minimize his wrist angle changes from the top of the backswing to the finish, which reduces clubface rotation. He will continue to work with putting coach, Brad Faxon in hope of improving his conversion rate with the flatstick.
“It feels like I’m hitting it a lot better, and I’m still trying to get better. We’ve got ways to go,” he said. “I’m happy with where we are right now and I’m quite excited with what’s ahead of us. We changed little things, not big things like the club face, rest angles here and there and working on a better set-up. He’s just helped me to understand my swing a little bit more.”
An missed the cut in his lone visit to The American Express last year and hopes to make amends in the tournament which since its inception in 1960 has generated more than US$60 million for numerous non-profit organisations dedicated to supporting Coachella Valley residents. Most recently, the Mickelson Foundation distributed US$1 million to local non-profits from the 2020 event.
“Last year, it was a pro-am format and this year it is like a regular TOUR event (due to changes made in light of COVID-19). I’m sure the course set-up will be a little tougher but there’s no rough, I guess and the greens are a bit firmer than last year. I think it’ll be a good test for the long game especially,” he said.