From world number one Rory McIlroy to Bubba Watson ranked 11th in the World Golf Rankings, they all can get better and they all know precisely which area is holding them back.
As Pro Tour Golf College co-director Lawrie Montague has documented in his last two articles, the world's top ten players are already great players.
Because the PGA Tour's Shot-link statistics has such accurate information for all areas from the shortest putting stats to the longest drives, these players can still find room to drive their scores down further. And they do so because they work harder in the area's that will make the most difference!
Lets start with Bubba Watson; we all know he bombs it miles, can maneuver the ball both ways, and was ranked 2nd in hitting greens in regulation in 2012.
So where is his weakness? It's his flat stick (Putter) ranking 158th in the strokes gained-putting statistic. He was never better ranked than 120th in 3 to 5 feet, 5 to 15 feet and 15 to 25 feet.
So is there a reason why putting is his Achillies Heel? Some will argue that he hits more greens than most so will have more putts, as his proximity to hole is further than those who miss greens and chip it close. This doesn't hold credence anymore as stroke gained-putting eliminates that and only calculates his putting against the rest of the field.
I don't have any proof or scientific backing, but I believe just like Seve Ballesteros who also loved to maneuver the ball, hitting or stoking a straight shot - which essentially putting is, does not fit their eyes.They would prefer to hit a big breaking putt than be faced with a putt with very little break in it.
Unless Bubba can work through the boredom of practicing straight putts he will not be a prolific winner on the PGA Tour and get into the top five of the World Golf Ranking.
Last year he averaged 54.31% fairways (ranked 173rd) and this year he is averaging 51.62 so he's actually gone backwards.
This translates to hitting 64.14% Greens In Regulation ranking him at 118th which makes it tough to win regularly like we are used to seeing Phil do in years gone by.
At number five is Louis Oosthuizen and he is ranked number one in putting from 3 to 5 feet but his longer putting and short game skills if improved will move him closer toward that number one spot. Last year he ranked 95th in strokes gained-putting, 144th in bunker saves and 131st in scrambling.
Like most good ball strikers like Lee Westwood, Adam Scott's short game skills tend to be his weakness. It was no more glaring than when Louis didn't get it up and down from the front edge of the 10th green at Augusta (1st playoff hole) which set the stage for Bubba to pull off that huge curving wedge from deep in the pine trees to steal the green jacket from Louis last year.
We are now with the top two golfers in the World Golf Rankings Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
Tiger toward the end of last year started to improve his distance control with his wedges and his driver although still not good his misses were more in play.
So where can he make improvements and dominate the game like he use to. It's pretty simple, last year he ranked 2nd in scoring with 68.4 but his Saturday and Sunday scoring was a full two shots higher. In 2009 when he won six times on tour his weekend scoring average was 68.4 and from 2000 to 2002 and 2005 to 2009 he was ranked one or two in final day scoring!
Why didn't he win a Major in 2012? Because his final day scores were 74,75,73,72. and the solution for him is to get into the same "performance state" that he does on Thursday and Friday and we will see him regain the number one spot in the World Golf Rankings in the not too distant future.
With the help of putting guru Dave Stockton he is now middle of the road ranked 80th in strokes gained-putting.
But if you dig deeper and have the stats to back it up as we do at Pro Tour Golf College, Rory is actually being held back with his 3 to 5 feet putting 86.67% (ranked 102nd) and pitching from 50 to 75 yards (17' 10" proximity to hole and ranked 140th) and 75 to 100 yards (17' 7" proximity to hole and ranked 100th).
When you consider the best in the above categories average 10 feet proximity to hole, he is not going to make more putts consistently from 17 feet compared to his opposition from 10 feet. Its as simple as that.
No magic, just keep good effective statistics on your game and crunch the numbers, and even when you are at the very top you can always find parts of your game that if improved will drive your competitive scoring average down guaranteed.
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College
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