Number crunching: Streelman up, Slocum down

Kevin Streelman

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UP: Kevin Streelman

Ranking/movement: +62 (No. 119 to No. 57).

Why the rise? There isn’t a lot of flash and sizzle to Streelman’s game, just a huge amount of consistency and perseverance. Streelman has put together four seasons that virtually mirror one another. While nothing jumps out at you, neither does anything set of off alarms that there is something horribly amiss with the 33-year-old’s game.

If in some respects 2011 was a small step backward (Streelman’s earnings dropped from $1,472,349 to $1,300,006, for instance), in other ways he continued to make steady progress – especially on the greens. He was 27th in strokes gained – putting, and “the year before I was 94th, so that’s a huge improvement; I felt as if I started every round a couple shots ahead.”

Indeed, Streelman’s putting – especially from shorter distances – was perhaps the biggest factor in his rise in the rankings. He climbed from 70th in 2010 to 32nd in total putting, making more putts inside 5 feet (improving from No. 159 at 95.43 percent to 43rd at 96.97 percent) and from 5 to 10 feet (from 95th and 55.33 percent to 15th and 60.96 percent). In turn, that helped his standing in the scrambling category (getting up-and-down), where he jumped 90 spots (from 127th in 2010 to 37th in ’11).

“I’m a tinkerer, but I made a commitment to stick to one putter (Odyssey 2-Ball blade) and to simplify my practice routine,” Streelman said.

“I used those metal putting clips and if you don’t hit the putter on the sweet spot, the ball can deflect anywhere. It can make you look embarrassing, but it made me strike the ball consistently clean and I think it helped promote a natural stroke.”

Streelman says: “It was a solid year. I’d give it a B, because I made a lot of cuts. I finished well on the money list, but I have higher aspirations than being top 70 on the money list. That doesn’t give me the high that I truly play for. I want to be in contention more.”

• • •

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Heath Slocum

DOWN: Heath Slocum

Ranking/movement: -176 (No. 37 to No. 213)

Why the fall? Slocum’s short game – normally his strong suit – was a bit off this year. He neglected it while trying to make improvements to his swing early in the season.

“There’s just enough time in the day that I wasn’t putting as much effort into the putting as I would have liked,” he said. “Some weeks I putted it OK and couldn’t chip it close enough. Some weeks, I just couldn’t make it in the ocean.”

Slocum finished 32nd or better on the money list in 2007, ’09 and ’10 and posted victories in ’09 and ’10. This year, he fell to 112th on the money list with $767,216. He’d made more than $1 million for seven consecutive seasons.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, the ball just doesn’t go in the hole,” he said. “It’s been a crazy year in that way.”

Slocum finished second on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation (71.40 percent) and second in driving accuracy (74.92 percent). Even that was a struggle, though, he said.

“The stats were good, but it was a fight every single swing, every single week, where in the past I could just step up, see my shot, hit my shot,” he said.

He was 147th in putts per green in regulation (1.798). He switched to the claw putting grip after the PGA Championship. His poor putting led to zero top 10s this year. His 12 missed cuts this year were 10 more than he had in 2010.

Slocum says: “My putting and chipping, but mostly the putting, has been very below average for me this year. It seems like I’ve almost neglected it trying to get my ballstriking early in the year back to form, and it’s just been like a little cycle.”

• • •

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.

PGA Tour (Dec. 22): Gary Woodland powered his way up the rankings, while Sean O'Hair dipped considerably. Story.

LPGA/Futures Tour (Dec. 23): Tiffany Joh jumped significantly in 2011, while Song-Hee Kim had a year to forget. 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.

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