By MIKE BLUM
Among the 20-plus players on the PGA Tour with ties to Georgia, the 2011 season was a positive one for most, but a disturbingly down one for several of the state’s more prominent players.
Here’s a brief look at how Georgia’s PGA Tour members did in 2011:
Matt Kuchar, St. Simons Island/Georgia Tech: Came close to matching his career best season of 2010, when he topped the money list and almost took home the FedExCup title. Earnings dipped slightly from $4.9 million to $4.2 million and he failed to win after taking the Barclays last year. But had two runner-up finishes among nine top 10s
and again was remarkably consistent, making 22 of 24 cuts with just two tournaments in which he was lower than 27th. Placed 4th on the tour in scoring average and 6th in the all-around category.
Bubba Watson, UGA: Dropped off the radar screen after great start, which included wins in San Diego and New Orleans and a trip to the semis in the Match Play Championship. Only one top-20 finish after May 1, but played consistently with just three missed cuts all year. Placed 16th in earnings ($3.48 million) and was 2nd in driving
distance (315-yard average) and 9th in GIR, but did not play well on the weekends and struggled with his putting and bunker play.
Jonathan Byrd, St. Simons: Enjoyed best season of his career with a season-opening win in Hawaii, a playoff loss in Charlotte and several other strong showings in high profile non-majors. Was 22nd on money list with $2.94 million despite mostly ordinary stats and missed the cut in all four majors, something he will look to improve on next
Charles Howell, Augusta: Nice bounce back season after three years of mostly mediocre results. 25th in earnings with $2.5 million. Had four top-5s in one Summer stretch and placed T6 in Tour Championship. Was 8th in scoring despite not making many birdies, saving pars with short game and putter. Back in the field in Augusta in 2012 after
absence of several years.
Bryce Molder, Georgia Tech: Picked up first PGA Tour win in Fall Series in northern California to highlight best season yet. Was 40th on money list with almost $2 million, closing strong with five finishes between 6th and 11th after U.S. Open, plus win. Ranked as the No. 3 putter on tour and one of the most effective players on the weekend.
Zach Johnson, St. Simons: Winless for the first time since 2006, but managed four finishes of 6th or better and was 44th in earnings. Hit it straight, putted well and was solid on weekends, but did not make quite enough birdies to give himself more opportunities.
Chris Kirk, Woodstock & St. Simons/UGA: Rookie of the Year contender until Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. Thanks largely to a win in Mississippi and a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson after a strong final round showing in Houston, Kirk was 45th in earnings with almost $1.9 million. Missed too many fairways and putts, but helped compensate by finishing 5th in final round scoring average.
Lucas Glover, St. Simons: Won a stirring duel in Charlotte, edging former Clemson teammate Byrd in a playoff, but T12 in British Open and T15 in new hometown McGladrey Classic were only other finishes better than 20th. Played respectably second half of season, but did not have much to show for it. Victory accounted for well over half
of his earnings of $1.825 million, which placed him 48th.
Kris Blanks, Warner Robins native/ex-Savannah assistant pro: For second straight year came close to first victory in 3 seasons on PGA Tour, losing playoff in Canada. In last three starts placed 10th, 11th and 11th, ending up 65th in earnings with $1.35 million. Other than GIR, stats not that great, with putting a particular problem.
Cameron Tringale, Georgia Tech: Improved significantly in second season on the tour, boosting earnings by $1 million to $1.3 million to finish 68th. Notched four top 10s on the season, then added another in PGA Tour-sanctioned event in Malaysia.
Blake Adams, Lake Oconee & Swainsboro/Georgia Southern: Second season was a little better than the first, as he went past $1 million to move up to 84th on the money list. Had a chance to win last year in Byron Nelson Classic, came close this year in Reno, one of four top 10s. Played a lot of tournaments and made more birdies than anyone on the tour (433), but results weren’t quite as good as stats.
Davis Love, St. Simons: Played most of his best golf in big events (T9 British Open, T11 U.S. Open, T12 Players), but it wasn’t a particularly good year for the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, who will be 48 next April. Still a top caliber player tee to green, but putting and short game struggles, along with some shaky final rounds, dropped him to 88th in earnings with $1.05 million.
Ryuji Imada, UGA: Had a pair of ties for 3rd in a 3-week stretch in Dallas and Memphis, but finished higher than 30th just once the rest of the season. It was his third straight so- so season since winning the final tour event at TPC Sugarloaf in 2008. Missed more cuts than he made and stats were awful across the board, even with the putter. Made $630K in his two good weeks, $360K the rest of the year to finish 90th.
Troy Matteson, Atlanta/Georgia Tech: Let a chance for a third PGA Tour win get away when he lost in a playoff in Puerto Rico. Averaged right at 300 yards per drive, but other stats were sub-standard. Was a contender in the Deutsche Bank Championship, but closed with 77-78. Moved back into the top 125 on the money list, placing 94th.
Stewart Cink, Duluth/Georgia Tech: After suffering through one of the poorest seasons of his career in 2010, slipped even lower last year, finishing a career-worst 101st with just over $900,000. Had a series of solid showings the first half of the season, but made just two of eight cuts after early June with a top finish of 30th. Ball striking was uniformly poor, and his once stellar putting was only decent. Career has been heading in the wrong
direction since he won 2009 British Open.
Heath Slocum, Alpharetta: Following victories in 2009 and ’10, went without a top 10 this season. Did manage six finishes between 11th and 20th, but without many big checks, was a career low 112 on the money list with $767,000. Was 2nd in fairways hit, 2nd in GIR and led the tour in proximity (how close you hit your approach shots), but all that was undone by an uncooperative putter.
Vaughn Taylor, Augusta/Augusta State: After seven decent to excellent seasons, surprisingly plummeted to 148th, his poorest finish on the money list by 50 spots. Most of his stats were OK, his scoring average was about the same as it’s been the past four or five years and his ratio of made/missed cuts was no different than it’s been. But his best
finish was a tie for 25th, in part due to some bad final rounds. Will have to play well at Q- school to regain his exempt status.
Jason Bohn, Acworth: Finished two spots below Taylor on money list (150), but thanks to victory in 2010, is still exempt this year. Like Taylor, Bohn made a respectable number of cuts, but had only one profitable finish, tying for 12th in Greensboro. Hit the ball pretty well and putting wasn’t terrible, but his scoring average was poor. Having his exempt status secure coming into the season may have resulted in a motivation problem.
David Duval, Georgia Tech: In recent years, has played well in two or three tournaments, awful the rest of the time. After playing very respectably on the West Coast, he finished better than 60th just once, that coming in Las Vegas. He finished 152 in earnings with $400,000, and apart from driving distance, every one of his stats was either
poor or terrible. At the age of 40, will likely be reliant on sponsor exemptions for most of his playing opportunities.
Kevin Kisner, UGA: PGA Tour rookie struggled after excellent 2010 season on Nationwide Tour. Best finish came in the season finale at Disney (T12), and he played his best golf of the season in the Fall Finish. Finished outside the top 180 on the money list, but will have Nationwide Tour status next year if doesn’t pass Q-school.