Golf by the numbers: With improved iron play, Beau Hossler can win on Tour

Aug 31, 2018; Norton, MA, USA; Beau Hossler and his caddie discuss his tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC of Boston. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

Golf by the numbers: With improved iron play, Beau Hossler can win on Tour

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Golf by the numbers: With improved iron play, Beau Hossler can win on Tour

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When he was not playing in tournaments during his rookie season, Beau Hossler still watched golf on television, soaking in the action like a fan and listening to analysts’ comments.

“Truthfully, I think the people that have played get it right, most of the time,” he recently said relaxing on an oversized leather sofa at TaylorMade’s corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. “When I hear a guy like David Duval, who was the No. 1 player in the world, I may not always agree but I get where he’s coming from. Some other people, when they talk, it makes no sense, and it is making you sound like you’ve never been there.”

Having completed his first full season on the PGA Tour after staring at the University of Texas and then graduating from the Web.com Tour, Hossler now has been there. At 23, he knows what he needs to do if he wants to follow in the footsteps of other young Americans who have become elite players.

When asked what single statistic he wants to improve the most in 2019, without hesitating Hossler said strokes gained approach the green.

“My strokes gained approach (last season) was roughly -0.4 and -0.3 strokes, per round,” he said, correctly, when asked if he knew his numbers. Hossler finished the year with an average of -0.395, which ranked 179th on the Tour.

“If I can get into the positive, positive anything, that will be huge for me,” he said.

That’s correct too. As shown in the chart below, which statistically compares the rookie-season performances of several top American players currently age 26 or younger, Hossler’s iron game is the worst by far.

If Hossler can improve his iron game in 2019 and become simply Tour average, meaning a strokes gained average of 0, while maintaining the level of his putting, his strokes gained total average would rise from 0.584 (51st in 2017-18) to 0.979, which would have ranked 23rd last year.

“I’d say that my biggest area for improvement is from 75 to 160 yards,” Hossler said. “That’s a lob wedge to a 9- or 8-iron, my scoring clubs. If I can hit those 4 or 5 feet closer, that’s going to do it.”

Hossler ranked 171st in proximity to the hole last season (37 feet, 10 inches), and aside from ranking T-83 from 100-125 yards (19 feet, 7 inches), he did not rank better than T-141st in any of the proximity to the hole ranges.

Making a 0.4-stroke improvement in strokes gained approach the green is a tall order, but Hossler believes it’s realistic.

“I made some changes last year and didn’t have the proper time to put them into place before I was playing,” he said.

He credits those changes with boosting his driving stats in the second half of last season while his iron game stayed at about the same level.

“(My iron game) was poor the whole year, but my driver went from poor to spectacular, for the most part,” he said. “I’m really happy to have this month and a half off, with a really good plan that my coach and I have implemented. I actually have time to go grind it out.”

Last season, 10 players improved their strokes gained approach the green average by more than the 0.395 shots that Hossler is seeking. Among them, Bryson DeChambeau rose from 0.02 (105th) to 0.556 (12th) and won three PGA Tour events. Keegan Bradley went from 0.166 (80th) to 0.888 (second) and won the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs.

If Hossler can match that improvement in ballstriking, he will add his name to the list of young and elite Americans and be a threat to win on the PGA Tour. Gwk

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