Gillis uses hot putter to lead Tour in birdies
Our annual number-crunching package looks at players who made significant moves – up or down – during the past year in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Ranking/movement: 59 (+39)
Why the rise? Historically a poor putter, Gillis shined with the flat stick in 2010, finishing 14th in putting average on the PGA Tour and No. 1 in birdie average (4.06 per round).
Check back to Golfweek.com every day through the end of the year to take a look at players who made significant moves – up and down – in 2010.
If Gillis lacks in any category, it might be ballstriking, hitting only 65.98 percent of greens in regulation (131st). But his dependable short game often got Gillis out of trouble successfully in 2010, when he made 21 cuts in 27 starts. The Michigan native posted eight top 25s, including a tie for fifth at the Deutsche Bank, and finished 43rd in FedEx Cup points and 76th in earnings ($1,166,146).
Gillis’ 2010 campaign was a direct result of his performance on the Nationwide Tour in ’09, when he posted eight top 10s and 11 top 25s in only 15 events. After posting his first career victory at the Nationwide Tour Players Cup in June 2009, Gillis finished second in scoring average at 69.04 and was fifth on the Nationwide money list.
Gillis says: “I’m not totally satisfied with (2010). I thought I would have had more chances to win. But to attribute my year to something, me and my coach (Jeff Leishman) had a plan, and most of it was confidence coming off a good Nationwide Tour campaign in 2009.”
– Alex Miceli
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Ranking/movement: 79 (-39)
Why the fall? For Sutherland, it was a case of making cuts but never getting in the hunt.
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He hit a career-best 71.96 percent of greens in regulation, which was the second-highest percentage on the PGA Tour. Proving that hitting greens doesn’t necessarily translate into better scoring, Sutherland’s scoring average rose a tick, up to 70.60 from 70.56.
Sutherland, 46, placed the blame evenly on two parts of his game. Despite all those birdie chances, he struggled on the greens, especially from 5-10 feet. He ranked eighth from that distance in 2009 (62.13 percent) and fell to 175th this season (49.82 percent). That was a big reason why his putts per round climbed to 29.90, ranked 166th on Tour, his worst performance in the past five years.
Sutherland juggled putters and switched between long and short models without finding his comfort zone. Just as problematic for Sutherland, when he missed greens, he paid a stiff price.
“I had too many penalty strokes this year,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not so much the good shots you hit as where your bad shots go. I made too many doubles and stuff.”
Sutherland did manage to keep an impressive streak going. Despite not winning since the 2002 Match Play Championship, Sutherland has finished inside the top 125 on the money list every year. He ranked 118th in earnings in 2010 after jumping off to his usual hot start on the West Coast with three top-20 finishes in his first three starts. But he only recorded one top 10 all year, a T-10 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Sutherland says: “I shot 62 (at the RBC Canadian Open). That was probably my season highlight. I didn’t really have a great tournament. There were too many times I made the cut but finished back of the pack.”
– Adam Schupak