Number crunching 2011: Woodland up, O'Hair down
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
UP: Gary Woodland
Ranking/movement: +249 (No. 272 to No. 23)
Why the rise? Though fiercely competitive and not prone to self-promotion, Gary Woodland gives himself an “A-minus” for a 2011 campaign in which he secured his first PGA Tour victory (Transitions Championship), finished in the top 30 at all four majors and was 17th on the money list. He also teamed with Matt Kuchar to win the World Cup in China. “But compared to two years ago, it’s an A-plus,” he said.
That’s because two years ago, Woodland had failed to retain his PGA Tour card, finishing 204th on the PGA Tour money list. How he has gone from $121,031 in earnings to $3,448,591 is a tribute to his commitment to tidying things up. While retaining his overpowering length, Woodland has completely recovered from 2009 shoulder surgery to show off a new sense of direction. Whereas he ranked 107th in greens in regulation in 2009, he was 12th in 2011, and his ballstriking improved from 101st to 12th. Thus his scoring average improved almost two full strokes, from 71.84 to 69.87.
But the biggest reason for his breakthrough season? It’s not the immense power, but rather the short, deft shots around the green that consumed Woodland and swing coach Randy Smith. Woodland said a missed green in 2009 meant bogey, and sure enough, he ranked 184th in scrambling; that improved to 86th in 2011. With more than a little pride, Woodland reported that he ended the season with at least one chip-in in six of his final seven tournaments.
Woodland says: “I’ve come a long way, but I know I’ve got to drive the ball better. My length is a great weapon and I’d like to take better advantage of it, so that’s my focus this offseason.” (In 2011, Woodland hit only 58 percent of his fairways, ranking 137th.)
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DOWN: Sean O’Hair
Ranking/movement: -157 (No. 51 to No. 208)
Why the fall? For bottom-line folks, 2011 could be considered an improvement over 2010 for Sean O’Hair, simply because he picked up a victory, something he didn’t do a year earlier. But O’Hair is a realist, not a bottom-line guy. “It’s my worst year, when you look at how I’ve hit the ball,” he said of 2011.
The numbers support his contention. In nearly all the key statistical categories, O’Hair’s standing fell dramatically – from 56th to 161st in ballstriking, 61st to 153rd in total driving, 63rd to 152nd in greens in regulation and 92nd to 164th in driving accuracy. It was enough to make O’Hair cringe, because “I have been one of the best ballstrikers out here.”
Here’s one of the craziest storylines of the year: One of the reasons Tiger Woods opted to work with Sean Foley is because he loved the way O’Hair, a Foley student, swung the golf club. So what happens? Early in 2011, O’Hair split from Foley, fearing that he was becoming too much of a “stack and tilt” guy, and reunited with his former swing coach, Steve Dahlby. A win in late July at one of the tightest venues of 2011, Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, site of the RBC Canadian Open, indicates that the relationship has substance, yet what motivates O’Hair this offseason is the fact that he missed 11 cuts in 24 starts in 2011. He indicated that his focus headed into 2012 would be on his ballstriking and a renewed commitment to Dahlby, including extensive Florida practice sessions.
O’Hair says: “I just haven’t done a good job at getting (the ball) in play. The process isn’t quite there. I’m going to do it right and I’m going to get to work.”
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Other number-crunching stories
• PGA Tour (Dec. 19): Webb Simpson leaps forward, while Jim Furyk falls back. Story.
• LPGA Tour (Dec. 20): Stacy Lewis leaps forward, while Ai Miyazato falls back. Story.
• PGA Tour (Dec. 21): Cameron Tringale makes a big move forward, while Camilo Villegas drops off. Story.
• LPGA/Futures Tour (Dec. 23): Tiffany Joh jumped significantly in 2011, while Song-Hee Kim had a year to forget. Story.
• PGA Tour (Dec. 24): Kevin Streelman used a no-nonsense approach to move up the rankings while Heath Slocum struggled in 2011. Story.
• European Tour (Dec. 25): Thomas Bjorn surprised a lot of people with three wins in one season to move ahead, but Nick Dougherty and Oliver Wilson didn't have the same fortune. Story.
• Nationwide/Futures Tour (Dec. 26): Danny Lee had a comeback year in 2011, but Kathleen Ekey fell further backward. Story.