Number Crunching 2012: Bob Estes
Who climbed and who dropped in 2012? Through Dec. 31, Golfweek.com takes a look at players who made significant moves up or down in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index this year.
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Ranking/movement: +313 (No. 405 to No. 92)
Why the rise? Renewed health (post wrist injury), new instructor (the late Jim Flick), new swing (shaft no longer laid off), new grip (stronger, interlocking) and new irons (three-quarters of an inch longer, with lighter shafts).
Estes, 46, a four-time PGA Tour winner, damaged ligaments in his right wrist when he hit a hidden rock in May 2010 at the Valero Texas Open. He played through the injury while loading up on ibuprofen, and his condition worsened until he finally got an MRI in December. Because of rehab, he didn’t start 2011 until mid-April and played only 12 events all year.
“I learned a lesson a lot of guys out here could learn from: If you think you have some sort of injury that’s keeping you from playing your best, you’d better get it checked out in a hurry to make sure you don’t lose your status out here,” said Estes, who narrowly missed the top 125 in 2010 and ’11. “I had to work hard to get it back.”
Estes made five cuts in those 12 starts last year, with only one top 25. This year, he made 16 of 23 cuts, with seven top 25s, including two top 10s. Notably, his scoring average improved from 116th to 49th and his putting (strokes gained) from 116th to 85th. His ballstriking stats also improved.
He started working with Flick, who died Nov. 5, in November 2011 and says his swing
is at a better top position after playing “my entire career with the club kind of behind me, kind of laid off and with too weak of a grip. As a result, I had a big over-the-top move to get the face on the ball.”
Estes, long known for his terrific short game, has a goal of winning with three different grips. He won three times with
a 10-finger or baseball grip and once with the overlap. But he says he has played with more confidence since switching to an interlocking grip in 2008.
Estes says: “I’m probably going to play my best golf the next five years. . . . My swing is getting better, and I’ve kept myself in shape. It’s finally fun to hit the ball more like a Tour player because most of my career, I didn’t hit it that well. Even if I was hitting a lot of fairways and greens, my ball was curving too much left to right. The swing wasn’t good enough to hit it straighter or move it right to left with confidence.”