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Ian Poulter and the 5 Best 'Scramblers' in the Game of Golf

Jake MannContributor IIIJanuary 3, 2017

Ian Poulter and the 5 Best 'Scramblers' in the Game of Golf

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    There are many different types of golfers. You've got the "Bombers" and the "Stripers," the "Shotmakers" and the "Thinkers," but the most useful skill a golfer can have in his or her bag is the ability to scramble for par. 

    While it's always important for golfers to know how to handle their low-lofted clubs, the "Scramblers" may have the biggest advantage against their competition, simply because no one can hit GIRs—that's greens in regulation for short—100 percent of the time.

    Consider the statistics: in 2012 thus far, the average PGA Tour professional is hitting around 65 percent of greens in regulation, missing an average of six to seven greens per 18-hole round. The worst PGA pro sports a GIR percentage below 58 percent, while the best hits the mark above 70 percent.

    In most cases, great scramblers are also superb scorers overall, and are good bets to contend every Sunday. After seeing the golfers on this list, we think you'll agree. In fact, you might even want to sign our petition to alter the game's most overused saying "drive for show, putt for dough," to "drive for show, scramble for dough." It's an important issue for us all.

Brian Gay

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    Florida Gator Brian Gay has had an interesting professional career, and that's saying it lightly. When he joined the PGA Tour in 1999, Gay's short game could be described as average at best, as he finished his first year in the Tour's bottom third in terms of scrambling percentage[1].

    Though Gay did make modest improvements over the next few years, his best results have come since hiring Lynn Blake as his swing coach in 2004. Over the past eight years with Blake at his psychological helm, Gay has finished in the Tour's top 20 in scrambling percentage each year, with four "Scrambler" top 10s.

    During this time, no other golfer has more than two top 10s, both of whom will be mentioned in this list.

    Before working with Lynn Blake, Gay's career average scrambling percentage was a shave above 61 percent. Post-Blake, his average has been close to 64 percent, good for an extra two par saves per 72-hole tournament.

    While this change may not be as significant for the Woods's and the McIlroy's of today's game, it has made a world of difference for Gay, who has historically missed quite a lot of greens.

    The proof is in the pudding, though, as Gay notched his first career PGA victory in 2008, and won 2009's Heritage and St. Jude Classics by a combined score of 38 under par. The golfer's 10-shot win at the Heritage, which is played at the Harbour Town Golf Links, is one of the largest margins of victory in PGA Tour history.

     

    [1] Defined by the PGA as “The percent of time a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better.”

Jim Furyk

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    The man has one of the funkiest swings in the game of golf, but he has made it work for him, and that's really all that matters. Jim Furyk is a former US Open champ, and has won a total of 16 events on the PGA Tour, with his most recent victory coming at the FedEx Cup's TOUR Championship in 2010.

    Currently ranked 23rd in the World Golf Rankings, Furyk is one of the most complete golfers on the Tour, perennially finishing in the top 25 in a host of statistical categories including: driving accuracy, GIR percentage and scoring average. More importantly, at least to his bank account, Furyk sits fourth on the all-time money list with $52.7 million earned.

    As is evident by the fact that he's on this list, Furyk is also one of the game's best scramblers. This season, he is third on the Tour in scramble percentage, converting 63.8 percent of his missed GIRs into pars or better. Only Brian Gay and Ian Poulter are converting their scrambling opportunities at a higher clip.

    Furyk has consistently finished amongst the category's elite since 1997, two short years after he traded in his Nike Tour card for the PGA's equivalent. Amazingly, it has been rumored that the golfer's only teacher in his life has been his father, which explains why his swing looks like this, and proving that Furyk's unaided feel for the game of golf may be second to none.

Tiger Woods

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    We can't discuss the best scramblers without mentioning Tiger. He's captivated the golf world with countless chip-ins, 50-foot putts and acts of God like this, and it probably comes as no surprise that he also dominates the game on the statistical front.

    Since scramble percentage has been officially tracked by the PGA Tour in 1992, T-Woods has been one of the category's top performers, notching the second-highest single season mark (69.8 percent) ever[1] in 2001.

    Getting back to the point, Tiger's scrambling ability has been up-and-down over the course of his career, but he led the Tour in scramble percentage as recently as 2009, and currently sits at fourth in 2012.

    Despite the fact that it seems like Tiger manages to sink a chip-in once a tournament, he has actually performed so well in this category due to his success with the putter. He's currently outside of the Tour's top-20 in scrambling average distance to hole, but is making over 88 percent of his puts within 10 feet.

     

     

    [1] In case you find yourself in a golf trivia contest in the near future, the highest single-season scramble percentage of all-time is held by Greg Norman in 1993, proving that it may not be a horrible idea to wear that "shark" straw hat on the links.

Luke Donald

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    Despite what you may think about Luke Donald's inability to win the big one, the Englishman is without a doubt among the golfing world's elite.

    A solid ball striker with an otherworldly short game, Donald currently sits at No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings, and is the only golfer in history to top the PGA Tour and European Tour money lists in the same season (2011).

    According to ShotLink data, Donald ranks first on the PGA this year in terms of scrambling from the rough, scrambling under 30 yards, and total putting.

    Donald doesn't miss a lot of greens in regulation—391 compared to Brian Gay's 561—but when he does misfire, his inability to recover is second only to the next golfer on this list.

Ian Poulter

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    Known for his "loud" fashion choices, Ian Poulter is currently golf's best scrambler, bar none. The man who once wore Union Jack trousers ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in scramble percentage this year, converting his missed greens into pars or better at a 64.3 percent clip.

    Though Poulter is not particularly skilled off the tee, ranking 146th in driving distance, he is top-notch on the beach and with the putter. This season, he is in the Tour's top 20 in terms of sand save percentage, and he ranks among the Tour's elite in fairway bunker play.

    Around the greens is where the Englishman really shines though, as he's fourth overall in "gimme" putts under five feet, and 26th at long putts over 25 feet.

    Supported by his superb short game, Poulter notched three top-10s in four major championships this year, finishing seventh at the Masters, tied for ninth at the Open Championship and tied for third at the PGA Championship. 

    Like Luke Donald, Poulter has yet to win a major, but if his play in 2012 is any indication, he won't have to wait much longer.

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