PGA – MY 2015 FRANKENGOLFER

Welcome to my 4th annual Frankengolfer column – where I choose which PGA player I want to be on the golf course in four major areas of the sport based on the stats from the previous season.

I don’t necessarily just choose the best player statistically, but close. It has to fit into my overall amateur game which, ahem, could use a little help…

Here’s what I came up with this year:

  • Driving  – HENRIK STENSON
  • The Approach – JASON DAY
  • Short Game – JORDAN SPIETH
  • Intangibles – JASON DAY

Driving –

During the 2014-15 PGA season, no player on the Tour hit the ball as far and as accurate (Total Driving) as Henrik Stenson did: 296.4 yards on average and 69.91% accuracy.

Those stats best all players in at least the last 4 years:

2013-14 – HUNTER MAHAN – 295.8 yds/65.10%

2012-13 – GRAHAM DELAET – 298.5 yds/65.80%

2011-12 – HUNTER MAHAN – 293.1 yds/67.7%

For my purposes, I love that Stenson hit the fairway almost 70% of the time.  I strive for that type of accuracy in my own game. As I’ve said in previous columns, I’d rather have the ball in play all day long rather than in the rough farther down towards the hole.

I also like that Stenson ranked 1st in Ball Striking as well, which shows that he had almost total command of where he put the ball off the tee.

Another player who came close in the Total Driving category to Stenson in 2015 was Will Wilcox, a 29 yr old American PGA Tour rookie.

If you don’t know much about him, you probably will see Wilcox come into contention more often in his 2nd year on the Tour.  He had incredible stats for his 1st year:

  • 1st – Scrambling from 20-30 yards
  • 2nd – Total Driving;
  • 2nd – Sand Save %;
  • 2nd – Ball Striking
  • 3rd – Scoring Ave;
  • 4th – G.I.R..
  • 12 of 17 Events Made Cut.

Where Wilcox stumbled a bit was in the putting category.  For Strokes Gained Putting, he ranked 32nd overall and 114th in Total Putting.   Still, not bad given the competition…

Hopefully this young American keeps his nose clean as a pro.  In college, after attending the Univ of Alabama for a year and becoming a 3x All American and 2008 Alabama Amateur, Wilcox spiraled out of control with drugs & alcohol. He hit rock-bottom when he got kicked out of college, was kicked out of his parents’ house, and quit golf due to lack of funds.  He wound up travelling around the Southeast working odd jobs. (Hence, the older age entering the PGA Tour.)

Luckily, Wilcox picked himself up, stopped the partying, and turned pro in 2009.  He made it onto the Web.com Tour in 2011 and became one of only four pros to ever shoot 59 for a round on that tour.  He also won twice including the 2013 South Georgia Classic.

Here’s a great Golf Channel video from 2013 telling his story:

With all of his promise & talent, it will be interesting to see how Wilcox does long-term on the PGA Tour.

Another player worth mentioning in this category is Keegan Bradley.  He hit the ball 306.1 yards on average with 64.85% accuracy.  This makes him the longest player with the best accuracy on the PGA Tour.

Too bad the rest of Bradley’s game is not up to the same caliber.  He seems to do fairly well with his iron play, but his short game/scrambling is below average (126th – Strokes Gained Putting; 124th – Putting Ave; 143rd – Overall Putting; 115th – Scrambling).  Of course, using a regular putter as opposed to his classic anchored putter does take some time to get used to. 

Also, something to take note of is that Bradley turns 30 next year. He is now getting close to passing his athletic prime.  Naturally, his driving stats will start to decline with age.  For the near future, he’ll need to start focusing on the rest of his game if he’ll want to compete, instead of relying on the driver to get by.

The Approach –

Henrik Stenson, again, excelled in iron play in 2015.  He ranked 1st in Greens in Regulation (73.52%), 1st in Ball Striking, 2nd in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, and 4th in Scoring Average.

However, his stats fell off when he was in the rough (141st), or the Sand (107th), and when he was Scrambling overall (25th).

Jason Day looked a better option to me.

In 2015, Day was able to sculpt his way to 2nd in Scoring Average, 1st in Birdie Average, 5th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 1st in Bounce Back, and 1st in Birdie or Better % from the Fairway despite the fact that his Driving Accuracy was 55.94% (162nd) and he had a tendency to be in the Right Rough 16.29% of the time (132nd) and Left Rough (18.56% or 181st).

Obviously, Day’s length off the tee helps him get far down on any given hole. He shot 313.7 yards on average, (3rd best), but he had great success around the greens with irons helping to put him in contention time and time again.

His technique is a major reason.  Anyone who observed Day on a regular basis can see how high he hits the ball and with great precision.

Because he is able to create excellent speed in the downswing, the result was Day could hit the ball really high, really straight, and carry distances “more predictable to get the ball to stop quicker” (according to an article Day wrote for Golf Digest in Feb 2015, called “Shoot for the Sky”).

Essentially, Day’s M.O. in 2015 was to hit the ball extremely far (whether in the fairway or not) without much of a care about accuracy, because he was a master with his irons, the bread and butter of his game.

Now, if only I can aim higher on the course with my irons, maybe I’ll get more precision and control…

Short Game –

Was there ever any question as to who I was going to pick in this category?

Jordan Spieth, of course.

Despite the fact that he only drove the ball about 291.8 yards on average with a 62.91% accuracy rate (80th); had a 67.87% G.I.R. (49th), and was only ranked 45th in Ball Striking, he was able to garner the following accolades:

  • 21 Cuts made in 25 events;
  • 5 Wins including 2 Majors;
  • Finished Top 5 in the other 2 Majors;
  • 15 Top 10s;
  • 19 Top 25s;
  • Won the FedEx Cup;
  • Finished the year #1 ranked World Golfer.

Spieth did most of this by utilizing the putter and reading the greens so very well:

  • 1st – Putting Ave;
  • 1st – Overall Putting;
  • 1st – Putts Per Round;
  • 2nd – Approach Putting Performance;

Which helped him get to:

  • 1st – Scoring Ave;
  • 2nd – Birdie Ave;
  • 2nd – Birdie or Better Conv.
  • 2nd – Birdie Ave;
  • 3rd – Bogie Avoidance;
  • 4th – Scrambling.

But, really, what helped Spieth to have such an amazing year was his ability to be clutch with the putter:

  • 1st – Late Scoring Average;
  • 1st – Putting from 15-20’;
  • 1st – Putting from 20-25’
  • 1st – 1 Putts per round.

Some stats to take note of:

  1. Spieth had 701 1-Putts in 91 rounds of golf last season. The next closest amount was 502 by Andrew Putnam. That’s almost 200 more 1-Putts than anyone else on Tour last year. Incredible.
  2. Spieth ranked 2nd in Birdie or Better Conversion in 2015. He was only 1 of 2 other player in the top 10 who hit it less than 300 yards on average (Matt Jones – 296 yards/ave) and Spieth was the shortest hitter at 291 yards/ave.

Nuff said.

Intangibles –

I could have very easily picked Jordan Spieth to be this portion of my Frankengolfer for 2015.

He had the best season of his life (so far) on the biggest stage in golf by limiting mistakes, being more mentally tough than most and tapping into his incredible feel on the golf course.

But, then I thought of the special year that Jason Day had & all the obstacles he had to overcome to get there which swayed me in my choice.

Compared with Spieth who has essentially lived a charmed life in a good setting where success came easy, Day has had many personal & professional struggles.

When he was 11 years old, Day’s Dad died of stomach cancer.  He didn’t take the devastating loss well and became an alcoholic by age 12.  His struggles continued for years where he got in trouble at school and home.  His Mom then decided to take out a 2nd mortgage on her home to put him into an international boarding school.  Things seem to stabilize after that point for Day.

But, after Day turned pro, he toiled on the Tour for almost a decade through injuries and criticism from the media about why he hadn’t won a major or done more with his incredible talent.

At least 8 times since 2010, Day was in contention for majors, but he just couldn’t get it done.

All the while, Day had to fight through an undiagnosed medical condition causing him vertigo that has affected him physically on and off for years.

Finally, in 2015, he broke through.

Day won his 1st major (the PGA Championship), had 4 other wins, 11 Top 10s, 16 Top 25s, the world’s #1 ranking in Sept, and earned over $9 million in prize money.

What ultimately made the difference for Day is hard to pin down, but for me, a marker moment in his professional playing career was his collapse on the 18th hole during his 2nd round at the US Open. That moment, when the world watched him literally (and figuratively) fall down, pick himself up and actually be in contention at the end of the weekend gave him a boost towards winning his first major just 2 months later.

“I learned a lot about how far I could really push myself, not only physically but mentally as well,” Day told CNN on September 29.

So, while I am impressed greatly by what Spieth was able to do in 2015 at such a young age, Day inspired me more by his courage and tenacity to finally get his major win & fulfill the potential we all could see in him for years.

As a golf fan, it was special to watch and inspiring.

BONUS –

2016 Player to Watch: Emiliano Grillo – There has been mucho buzz about this 23 year old Argentine who won the 1st event he played on the PGA Tour in Oct (Frys.com Open in a playoff with Kevin Na) just weeks after winning the Web.com Tour Championship.

Even more impressive is the fact that he has a slight build at only 5’7 and 170 pounds, yet drives the ball more than 300 yards on average and with a 67% accuracy.  It seems his aptitude for creating plenty of club head speed and good technique are the keys to his effortless power for such a relatively small person.

But, more notable to me is that Grillo seems to be scary good in every phase of the game.

Add in the fact that he has already illustrated his capacity to be mentally tough – We should see his name mentioned with the other twenty something world-class golfers in 2016.



Source : CBS PGA Stats

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