Number crunchers: Vegas up; Garcia down

Jhonattan Vegas

Jhonattan Vegas

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: 189 (+192)

Why the rise? Already one of the longest hitters on the Nationwide Tour (ranking third with an average of 312.9 yards per drive), Vegas earned a promotion to the PGA Tour because of a renewed focus on his short game.

Vegas, 26, who became the first Venezuelan to earn a PGA Tour card, first rose from 113th to 58th in putts per round (30.30 in 2009 to 29.65 in 2010), and from 133rd to 44th in scrambling (50.37 percent to 59.25 percent). 

Number crunching

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.

Improving in those areas was a main topic of discussion during offseason sessions with Houston-based instructors Kevin Kirk and Franci Betancourt, with whom Vegas has worked for 18 years. 

“I worked mostly on getting up-and-down from 60 yards, bunker shots, everything,” said Vegas, who finished seventh on the Nationwide money list ($336,334). “It’s about being more creative, having better hands around the greens and having the confidence to pull off those shots. Now, I’m aggressive and try to make it.” 

In 2010, his second full season on the Nationwide Tour, Vegas posted five top 10s, nine top 25s and won the Wichita Open with a final-round 64. Last year, he had two top-10 finishes in 18 starts. 

Another key factor in Vegas’ improvement: consistency on his approach shots. Despite some wildness off the tee (he hit only 59.21 percent of fairways, ranking 115th), he still was 15th in greens in regulation (73.15 percent).

Vegas says: “It’s been a really good year, and I can’t ask for anything more. When I sat down with my teachers to formally set some goals, I wanted to make it to the PGA Tour. . . . All that work on my short game has paid off.” 

– Ryan Lavner

• • •

Sergio Garcia

Ranking/movement: 89 (-70)

Why the fall? It’s hard to think of a European Ryder Cup team without Sergio Garcia, but the unthinkable happened this year. Garcia had to beg for a place on the Euro side – as a vice captain.

The Spaniard’s game was so poor he never even figured in Colin Montgomerie’s captain’s picks.

The Spaniard lost his mojo this summer. Garcia, 30, took a leave of absence after missing the cut at the PGA Championship and did not hit the fairways again until late October.

After nine weeks off, Garcia made his return at the Castello Masters on his home course and missed the cut.

The biggest difference between Garcia in 2009 and 2010 came in scoring. Garcia was a shot per round worse on the PGA Tour this year (71.08) compared with last season (70.06). He was even worse in Europe, with an average of 71.84 this season against 69.83 in 2009. In Europe, he was down in greens in regulation, too, averaging 68.69 percent this year compared to 79.79 percent last year. On the PGA Tour, his GIR was up slightly this year (66.13 in ’10 vs. 65.61 in ’09).

His much-maligned putting stroke continued to be a problem. On the PGA Tour, he ranked 159th in putting average (1.809) and 162nd in putts per round (29.88). Garcia finished the season 42nd on the European money list, marking his worst season in Europe since placing 49th in 2003.

Garcia says: “It’s getting there slowly. It’s obviously a work in process. At times it’s pretty good, but at times it’s a struggle. I think it’s been a good learning experience, that’s for sure.”

– Alistair Tait

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