Georgia’s sizeable contingent on the 2010 PGA Tour combined for five victories, four spots on the Ryder Cup and 14 players among the top 100 on the money list. With an exception or two, it was a very good for the 20 or so Georgians on tour.
Leading the way was former Georgia Tech standout Matt Kuchar, who recently moved his residence from Atlanta to Sea Island. After struggling for most of his first seven years on the PGA Tour, Kuchar emerged as a solid player in 2009 before enjoying one of the all-time breakout seasons in 2010.
The 32-year-old Kuchar led the tour in earnings with more than $4.9 million. He collected his third (and biggest) PGA Tour title in the Barclays, leading him to a close second place finish in the FedExCup behind Jim Furyk. He made his first Ryder Cup team on the strength of a remarkably consistent season, notching five top-5 finishes, three of them in World Golf Championship or Playoff events.
Kuchar missed only 3 cuts in 26 starts, and finished outside the top 30 only twice all season among the 23 tournaments in which he made it to the weekend. He led the tour in top 10s (11), scoring (69.6) and the all-around category, with driving distance his only weak stat. Kuchar remain among the game’s best putters, with his improvement in ball striking lifting him to a tremendous season that will be hard for him to approach in 2011.
Joining Kuchar as a Ryder Cup rookie was ex-Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson, who was 15th on the money list ($3.2 million), highlighted by his playoff loss to Martin Kaymer in the PGA Championship and his first PGA Tour win in Hartford, also in a playoff. Watson’s fifth season on tour was his best, although his week-to-week inconsistency continues to mark his game. Watson had four finishes of 3rd or better, but in his other 18 starts, notched just two top-20 showings.
Watson, 32, was 2nd in driving distance (310 yards), 3rd in eagles and 8th in birdies and all around. Driving accuracy was his only weak stat, with Watson overcoming his occasionally wayward tee shots sufficiently to place 17th in scoring.
Fellow Ryder Cupper Zach Johnson is known as a much more consistent performer than the long-hitting Watson, and that was the case in ’10. The Sea Island resident posted 13 top-25 finishes in 25 starts and missed only two cuts, but managed just three top 10s, one in the Tour Championship. Johnson picked up his seventh tour victory at Colonial, the third straight year he has won in Texas, and nearly added a second major title, tying for 3rd in the PGA.
Johnson, 34, was among the tour’s best in hitting fairways (8th) and putting (6th and 20th in the two main categories), but missed too many greens and did not play especially well on the weekend. Still, he was 19th in earnings with more than $2.9 million.
Alpharetta’s Heath Slocum collected his fourth PGA Tour victory in nine seasons in the inaugural McGladrey Classic at Sea Island GC, which helped him secure just his second Masters invitation. Slocum, 36, held on to narrowly finish in the top 30 on the money list, needing a final hole bogey by J.B. Holmes in the Disney Classic to edge out Holmes for the final qualifying spot for Augusta with almost $2.4 million.
As usual, Slocum turned in a string of solid efforts throughout the year, missing just 2 of 25 cuts and posting five top 10s, including a T4 in the Players Championship. Slocum’s ball striking stats were excellent (6th in fairways hit, 32nd in greens in regulation), but his putting numbers were well below his usual standard, and some final round struggles kept him from having an even better season than he did.
Acworth’s Jason Bohn won for the second time in seven years in dramatic fashion in New Orleans, with the victory the lone highlight of his season. Bohn played respectably otherwise, but his second best finish of 2010 was a T10 in Los Angeles. He managed 8 top-25 finishes, but also missed 9 cuts and wound up 40th in earnings with $1.9 million. He will play in the Masters for just the second time in April.
Like Slocum and Johnson, the 37-year-old Bohn would have enjoyed a much better year had he played a little better in the final round, with all three finishing outside the top 100 in Sunday scoring average.
Augusta’s Vaughn Taylor enjoyed his best season since 2006, finishing the year 42nd on the money list after three straight years of 70th or lower. Taylor, 34, just missed his third win in seven seasons, losing in a playoff to Anthony Kim in Houston. For the most part, it was a hit or miss season for the former Augusta State golfer, who had seven finishes of 11th or better, but also missed 9 cuts and had 10 finishes outside the top 30.
Stewart Cink played respectably more often than not, but for just the second time in his 14 seasons on the PGA Tour, the Duluth resident and ex-Georgia Tech star finished outside the top 50 on the money list. Cink, 37, was 52nd in earnings, with a tie for 8th in the Memorial his best showing in a stroke play event. Cink managed 12 top-25 finishes in 23 starts, but did not make a serious run at victory the entire year, largely due to some struggles with the putter. Cink had a few great moments in the Ryder Cup with his occasionally balky putter, which came back to plague him later in the competition.
Sea Island’s Jonathan Byrd saved what could have been his poorest season ever, closing out 2010 with his playoff win in Las Vegas thanks to his walk-off ace on the fourth extra hole. Until then, the 32-year-old Byrd was struggling just to finish in the top 125, with his fourth career win in nine seasons vaulting him to 55th on the final money list. Byrd hit a lot of greens (20th in GIR), but was outside the top 100 in both key putting stats.
Augusta native Charles Howell had six top 10s, 11 top 25s, and was in the top 25 in scoring average thanks to a surprisingly strong showing in the putting stats. But the 11-year PGA Tour veteran ended up a nondescript 60th on the money list despite a strong start to the season and a solid finish. Howell, 31, missed three of the four majors and all the WGC events, and was rarely heard from during the meat of the PGA Tour schedule.
Former Georgia Tech golfer Bryce Molder turned in a second straight solid season, placing 63rd on the money list on the strength of six top 10s, including a pair of top 5s in the Colonial and the Canadian Open. Molder, 31, finished 38th in scoring despite some awful ball striking stats, compensating with quality short game play.
Veteran Davis Love was at his best in some of the game’s premier events (T4 in the Players, T6 in the U.S. Open), but had just six top 25s in 24 starts and ended up 73rd in earnings. The 46-year-old Sea Island resident is still one of the game’s longer hitters and among the best from tee to green (4th in ball striking), but ranked near the bottom in both putting stats.
Former Georgia PGA member Kris Blanks moved well up the money list in his second season on the PGA Tour, advancing from 170th as a rookie to 82 this past season. Blanks, 38, was 8th in greens in regulation and 17th in ball striking, but was among the tour’s worst putters statistically and missed the cut 15 times in 30 starts. Blanks, a native of Warner Robins who spent several years as an assistant at The Landings in Savannah, nearly won the second tier event in Puerto Rico, but also notched top 10s in a pair of highly respected events (Hilton Head and the AT&T National at Aronimink).
Ex-Georgia Bulldog Ryuji Imada finished an otherwise disappointing season on a successful note, with back-to-back top 10s in his last two Fall Series starts. After winning the final PGA Tour event at TPC Sugarloaf in 2008, Imada has struggled the last two seasons, placing 86th on the money list this year. As usual, Imada overcame some sub-par ball striking with one of the best putting strokes on tour, but wasted a number of opportunities to contend with some shaky weekend play.
Blake Adams was headed towards an excellent rookie season before a recurring hip injury slowed his momentum. Adams, who played his college golf at Georgia Southern and has settled not far away in rural southeast Georgia, tied for second in the Byron Nelson Classic, but was hampered the second half of the season by his damaged hip, and did not finish in the top 20 after that. Adams, 35, ended the season 89th in earnings, ranking among the leaders in total driving.
David Duval cracked the top 125 in earnings for the first time since 2002, mainly due to his tie for 2nd at Pebble Beach. Duval enjoyed a handful of strong showings, but missed more cuts than he made, and his stats were almost uniformly awful. About the only saving grace for the 39-year-old former No. 1 in the World Rankings was his play on the par 3s, where he was 2nd in birdies and 5th in scoring average.
Troy Matteson, like Duval an ex-Georgia Tech standout, had an excellent season with his driver and irons, but because of some terrible putting numbers, finished outside the top 125, getting bumped to 128th in the final event of 2010. Matteson, who has settled in the Atlanta, scored two wins in his first four seasons, and thanks to his ’09 victory in the Frys.com Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., remains exempt for the 2011 season. He missed 14 of 28 cuts this season and did little other than back-to-back top 10s in two low-profile mid-summer events.
Briny Baird (Valdosta State) and Aron Price (Georgia Southern) were 127 and 131 on the final money list, and will have status on the tour next season regardless of how they fare in the finals of Q-school. Baird, an 11-year veteran, just missed retaining his exempt status, while Price played respectably in his second season, moving up from 144 as a rookie. Price’s stats were mostly excellent and he notched three top 10s and three more top 20s, but lacked the one big week to get him over the top 125 hump.
Recent Georgia Tech golfers Nicholas Thompson and Cameron Tringale were 153 and 179 respectively on the money list, with both advancing to the finals of Q-school. Thompson, a 4th year PGA Tour member, was 41st in 2008, but had only a handful of profitable weeks this past season. Tringale made just 5 of 21 cuts in his rookie season, closing with a pair of ties for 11th in the Fall Series.
Matt Weibring, another ex-Tech golfer, was 199th in earnings, playing in just 10 events, none after mid-July. He will be able to play a limited schedule next season on a medical extension.
Former UGA golfer Justin Bolli struggled through a mostly terrible season, making just 3 of 22 cuts before closing out the year with a strong showing in the Disney Classic, where he tied for 23rd. Bolli, 34, who grew up in Roswell, made just $74,000, more than half of that total at Disney, and will be back on the Nationwide Tour for a fifth season in 2011. Three of the last four times he was a Nationwide Tour member, Bolli played well enough to earn his PGA Tour card for the following season.