Originally written on The Victory Formation  |  Last updated 11/16/14

In Part 1, we looked at three golfers who, if they get their games razor sharp, COULD dominate any tournament they enter.

That’s the great thing about golf…there are such a wide variety of skill set profiles and so many different variables that go into winning a golf tournament that every week can produce an entirely different pool of contenders.  One week could be at a place like Doral, where it’s long and straight and the bombers have a distinct advantage and then tee it up at Colonial a few weeks later where the short, accurate golfers have a leg up, but that’s just talking about horses for courses.

Like the Ferrari Golfers that can win any time their games are in synch, there are a set of players out there that have seemingly no holes in their games and contend so frequently that their aforementioned frequent leaderboard visibility leads us to believe they’re onto bigger and better things.

Before we get into the list, lets take care of a housekeeping note on the criteria we’re using here.  These golfers are classified into two distinct groups…the vets and the prospects.  While evaluating these guys based on a shared ideal of consistency and performance in a few key areas, it’s almost impossible to classify a veteran who is in the top 10 seemingly every week with the hungry young player that does the same, even if statistically the two players are identical.  Two players we’ll be discussing later are Matt Kuchar and Jason Day, two players who finished in the top 10 quite frequently and finished 6th and 9th in all around ranking respectively (average rankings in scoring, putting, birdie %, eagle %, driving distance, driving accuracy, GIR’s, scrambling and sand saves), but while Kuchar was solid in seemingly every category, Day rode his elite driving, short game and putting to the leaderboard in spite of his well below average play on approach shots.  It’s simply the difference in eras between Kuchar, who’s been on Tour since 2000, and Day, who’s 11 years younger.

More after the jump.  Speaking of what’s after the jump…would you be willing to stay tuned if I promised there’d be links to some hot ladies in there?  Yes?  Well **** you, now I feel cheap…but seriously, stay for the links.

The Vets

Luke Donald

Lets just make this nice and easy…in 2011, Luke Donald made the cut in 17 PGA Tour events and finished in the top 10 in 14 of them.

As impressive as that is, what’s even more impressive is the list of statistical categories Donald finished in the top 10 in (rank in parentheses)…strokes gained putting (1), birdie average (2), scoring average (1), sand save % (5), GIR from fairway bunkers (5), par 3 performance (2), par 4 performance (4), overall birdie or better (3), final round scoring average (1), scrambling (8) and 3-putt avoidance (1).  There’s a really easy lesson to be learned here for your own games…if you want to get good, be amazing at everything.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  See, Donald is a bit of an outlier in that he’s a well below average driver of the ball, and in this era, you can be short or crooked, but not both.  Well, if you want to know how good Donald is, and how he overcomes his shortcomings with the big stick, look no further than his accuracy stats where he ranks in the top 15 from the distance ranges of 75-100 yards, 100-125 yards, 125-150 yards, 150-175 yards and 200-225 yards.  He’s just as dominant from a variety of ranges on the greens as well…being ranked in the top 10 from putts inside 5′, from 5-15′ and from 15-25′.  That’s absolutely, nutballs insane.

So yea…Luke Donald should win a major in 2012.  Will he, is another question entirely and, unfortunately, I think he’s left out again this year, but should be stellar otherwise.

Steve Stricker

Stricker had a down year in 2011…and by “down year” I mean he won twice and had 15 top 25 finishes and made almost $4 million.

Stricker and Donald are very similar players in that they’re not all that great off the tee, but are razor sharp everywhere else.  In fact, I don’t think it’s that big of a stretch to say that Stricker and Donald are two of the very best wedge players and putters in the game, with apologies to Freddie Jacobson, Brian Gay and Jason Day.  Much like Stricker himself, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about here that you don’t already probably know…Stricker’s deadly accurate from everywhere and is rock solid with the putter.  He’s becoming more and more of a fierce competitor the more confident he gets, and if he’s healthy and back to his form from 2009 and 2010, you’ll keep seeing his name on leaderboards all year long.

In fact, even despite his neck injury, I think this is the year Stricker gets his first major…I’m guessing the British but Stricker’s game travels so it could be any of em.

Matt Kuchar

More of the same…Kuchar is as boring statistically as it gets.  He doesn’t do anything poorly, and if he made more of the putts that he used to always make in the past in 2011, he would’ve had a win.  I feel like he needs to ditch the experiment with using a longer putter to brace against his front arm and go back to the more conventional, left hand low method he was using in the past, but really, it’s just picking nits.

And now, instead of boring you with more analysis, here’s an awesome shot!

In 2012 Kuchar gets a couple wins, contends in a major or two, and really just keeps on doing what he’s been doing.

The Young’n's

Jason Day

No wins in 2011, but after finishing runner up at both the Masters and US Open, as well as top 10 finishes in two WGC events, the Players and two FedEx Cup events, Day emerged as a player that’s clearly on the rise, despite his lackluster performance at the President’s Cup.  He’s entering his sixth season as a professional despite not turning 25 until November, and his career has had a steady upward trajectory ever since he first made news by calling out Tiger.  We laughed at his audacity back then, but not anymore…he’s truly a world class player.

Ah, but there’s a heel, as there usually is with the youngsters.

Day is one of the Tour’s best putters and has an exceptional short game for a player his age, and even though he doesn’t hit that many fairways, he’s very long off the tee.  This makes him dangerous in any major.  What’s keeping him from making the leap from weekly contender to elite is his approach game, where he’s a woeful 110th in GIR’s.  His shortcoming here is entirely due to his swing.

Simply, Day cannot hit partial shots.  Every swing, he swings all out, which works great for those soaring high mid-to-long irons that need to stop on a dime, but leads to horrible contact and poor accuracy whenever he’s forced to take something off.  Golf at the PGA level is a game of precision, and as important as hitting those wonderful rocketballs are, hitting those 3/4 shots with no spin that leave the ball in the right spot on the greens is more important, and the only part of Day’s game that’s missing.  Despite that weakness, Day’s still a player to be reckoned with at the big events because the entire field misses more greens on these tougher courses and Day’s wedges and putter give him more of an edge than he already had.

Dude was one of only four players to finish in the top 10 in more than 10 times in 2011 and he’s the youngest player on that list by two years, so obviously, he’s doing something right.  I don’t see him getting a major quite yet, as he does have some refining to do, but it’s coming shortly and it’s hard to see him winning only one.  Day’s wise beyond his years, a fiery competitor, and has improved every single year he’s been a professional.  For my money, I’d take his long term prospects over Rory McIlroy’s.

And yes…he has a hot wife. ******, they all have hot wives.  I’m not sure why Day’s so special that everyone remembers him for his hot wife…do you recognize Parker McLaughlin’s wife Kristy or Will Mackenzie’s wife Ali?  Well you will now, so you’re welcome.

Webb Simpson

This guy is an absolute ******* monster.

(And, yes, he has a hot wife too.)

He drives the ball well…reasonably long and reasonably accurate.  24.26% of the time, Webb Simpson finishes a hole under par, and on the rare occasions he cards a bogey, 27% of the time, he follows that up with a birdie.  He’s 16th in par 3 performance and first in both par 4 and 5 performance and the one metric where he’s weakest, putts gained, he’s still a respectable 57th overall and made enough clutch putts in 2011 to make you not really give a flying ****.

Much like Matt Kuchar, when you see a guy with a somewhat strange looking swing perform this steadily at this kind of level, you know that guy owns their swing and it will hold up under pressure…and few golfers were as money under the gun as Simpson was in 2011.  You can tell by watching Webb play a couple holes that he’s confident and in complete control of his considerable game, and if his raw performance wasn’t enough to raise expectations to a stupidly high level, he also has the luxury of having one of golf’s best caddies on his bag in ex-Vijay looper, Paul Tesori.

Like I said…expectations are high.  I expect Webb to contend in at least half the majors, finish in the top 5 on the money list and win at least three tournaments.

Think that’s ridiculous?  No more unbelievable than what he’s done on Tour in a year and a half.  Last year was pretty much his first full season on the PGA and look what happened.  There have been plenty of outrageously talented youngsters that have had all the game in the world, but were missing that one piece, be it confidence (Adam Scott) or maturity (Sergio and Rory) and I don’t see either being a problem for Webb any time soon.  The sky is the limit, and I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but we might be looking at the next Lanny Wadkins (who just happens to be a fellow alum of Wake Forest).

Nick Watney

In 2011, in events where he made the cut, Nick Watney finished outside of the top 25 only three times thanks to an all-around game that has no weaknesses.  He’s an exceptional driver and very solid ballstriker with an above average wedge game that compliments his elite putting and, from all accounts, has no problem with putting in the work necessary to get to that next level.  It looked like 2011 was going to be his breakthrough year as in 2010, he had three strong finishes in majors, but for whatever reason, he couldn’t capitalize on that.

I’m not saying that Watney doesn’t have any balls and shrinks during big moments, because that’d be straight up false considering he won a WGC event and another well attended tournament on a major-worthy course at the ATT National and a fourth place finish at the Players, but he didn’t have a good year in the majors in 2011.  So it only makes sense to include him on this list of guys that are right there on the cusp but just need to get over the hump.

Watney’s got the game to be a truly elite player for a long time out on Tour, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him grab a PGA or US Open at all, but as we saw with Steve Stricker over the past few years, it takes a little time and experience for the stoic, unflinching players to get that killer instinct in the heat of the moment.  I think he’s well on his way there and see his 2012 looking much like 2011, only he’ll be hanging around on a couple of major Sundays.


If you’re looking for a young guy who will no doubt find himself amongst these established players, keep an eye on Kyle Stanley.

While some might consider him more of a Dustin Johnson type player, Stanley’s much more technically sound and every bit as long off the tee despite giving up five inches and about 60 pounds to DJ.  Stanley’s weakness is his putter, but as 2011 went on, he got better and better.  Stanley was 174th in putts gained and 156th in scrambling, yet, in his first year on Tour, finished 2nd in total eagles and 6th in total birdies and his accuracy metrics from a variety of distances are surprisingly good.  That portends well for Stanley’s future, assuming he continues his improvements with the putter, because if he improves his scoring, he’ll absolutely tear courses apart with his elite driving.  And the only thing keeping him from being a bigger name in the sport was Steve Stricker ripping his heart out with that ridiculous 18th hole at the John Deere, where Stanley was absolutely on fire during the final round.

Comparing Stanley to another rookie bomber that saw success, Keegan Bradley, Stanley’s got the superior metrics almost across the board…his putter just never got hot at precisely the right time.  But long term?  I’ll take Stanley.

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