Ranking the 10 Best Ballstrikers on the PGA Tour

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

Ranking the 10 Best Ballstrikers on the PGA Tour

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    "He's a great ballstriker!" your buddy says. "Oh yeah!" you reply, "Great ballstriker."

    And then it dawns on you: You have no real idea what constitues great ballstriking, and you've just been mindlessly repeating the phrase all these years because it sounds good.

    Objectively, the PGA Tour has quantified ball striking with the aptly named ball striking statistic.

    As Brent Kelly writes, "To produce its Ball Striking rankings, the PGA Tour combines a player's ranking in Total Driving and Greens in Regulation."

    Entering the perilous waters of subjectivity, a "good ballstriker" seems to be a player who has command over his golf ball in general and is equally adept with a driver or a short iron in his hand. He's a golfer who can work the ball both ways, vary trajectories, take a little something off a shot or execute a creative shot as necessary.

    With this in mind, here are the top 10 ballstrikers on the PGA Tour. 

Honorable Mention: Brendon De Jonge

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    Second in ballstriking in the young PGA Tour season, Jonge is adept with every club in the bag. Although he doesn't pound the ball by PGA Tour standards (he averaged only 288 yards off the tee last year), the Zimbabwean gets high marks for both driving accuracy (63 percent) and greens in regulation (69 percent).

    De Yonge has engrained a slightly inside takeaway with a closed club face, which becomes quite vertical halfway back. He then rather re-routes at the top of the backswing, and his positions are textbook throughout the rest of the motion.

    The golfer has grooved his unique swing, so it's not surprising that he's one of the better ballstrikers on tour. 

10. John Merrick

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    The 2013 Northern Trust Open champion was sixth on tour in ball striking last year and finished sixth in the statistic in 2011, as well. 

    Merrick was ninth on tour in greens in regulation last year and has a good balance of driving distance and accuracy, averaging 293 yards off the tee last year and hitting nearly 65 percent of fairways. 

    As he is a consistently awful putter (frequently finishing well above 100th place in strokes gained-putting), Merrick has to be a quality ballstriker to compete on tour. The Long Beach native's swing is smooth, standard and repeatable. 

    If only he could develop a putting stroke to match...

9. Billy Horschel

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    In addition to being a great ballstriker, Horschel is both honest and amusing. After firing a third-round 81 at the Honda Classic, he tweeted the following, along with a picture of a draft beer:

    "This is slowly making today feel better!"

    The previous example excluded, Horschel is an excellent ballstriker. He placed eighth in the tour's ball-striking statistic last year, in addition to finishing 11th in greens in regulation (69 percent). 

8. Justin Rose

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    The fifth-ranked golfer in the world, Rose, is a quality ballstriker. He led the tour last year in greens in regulation (70 percent) and was 27th in driving accuracy. He was particularly good from beyond 200 yards, finishing fifth on tour last year in GIR from that distance.

    Unfortunately, like so many players on this list, Rose is an abysmal putter—he was 128th in strokes gained-putting last year. 

    Rose's wide-arching, simple and repeatable swing is a great model. 

7. Louis Oosthuizen

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    Oosthuizen's excellent ballstriking was on display at Augusta last year when the South African made the first double eagle in tournament history at the second hole during the final round. 

    King Louis was 15th on tour last year in greens in regulation (68 percent) and seventh in total driving. Additionally, the Ping staffer hits the ball a long way, averaging nearly 300 yards off the tee. As he can score well (11th in scoring average last year), Oosthuizen is a formidable player abundantly capable of another major victory. 

6. Lee Westwood

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    Another player who wouldn't still be on tour if he weren't a fabulous ballstriker, Westwood is awful in both strokes gained-putting (174th) and scrambling (189th).

    The Worksop, England native, however, gets fabulous marks in greens in regulation (69.75 percent) and was third on tour in ball striking last year.

    He doesn't so much strike the ball as he brutalizes it. Indeed, few players on tour "go down and get it" the way Westwood does. 

5. Tiger Woods

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    Woods would place higher on this list if he weren't so obsessed with rebuilding his swing and if injury and scandal hadn't disrupted his performance over the past couple of years. 

    Last year, Woods found 63 percent of fairways and 67 percent of greens. In 2008, the last year he won a major, the golfer hit 71 percent of greens in regulation. He placed 12th in ballstriking in 2012, and his inclusion this far up the list is a nod to the recent peaks in his ballstriking, rather than the statistical reality: He's not as good as he once was.  

4. Bubba Watson

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    As every golf fan surely knows, Watson has no problem working the golf ball. If there's any player on tour who can max out the capabilities of a club, it's Watson (for example, hitting a 20-yard fade with a 60-degree wedge from 160 yards...or, of course, this). 

    Predictably, Watson is not the most accurate driver of the golf ball—he was 132nd on tour last year in driving accuracy. It's likely he's not worried about finding the fairway, though, because, in short, he doesn't need to be. With his outrageous 315-yard driving average in 2012 and his aptitude with the rest of the clubs in his bag, it's easy to see why Watson was second on tour in greens in regulation in 2012 (69 percent).

3. Hunter Mahan

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    Bubba Watson's fellow "Golf Boy," Mahan, is an equally excellent ballstriker. The Oklahoma State alum has one of the best combinations of driving distance and accuracy on tour, averaging 293 yards off the tee in 2012 and hitting 67 percent of fairways. 

    Not surprisingly, Mahan was 13th in greens in regulation in 2012 at nearly 69 percent. From 150-175 yards last year, there were few better than the Orange, California native, as his average approach for that distance wound up 24'7'' from the pin (fifth on tour). 

2. Jason Dufner

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    He has a strange nickname for a great ballstriker. Dufner was 19th in driving accuracy last year and seventh in greens in regulation. This year, he's leading the tour in driving accuracy at an incredible 77 percent.

    The Auburn graduate with the aggressive waggle was second on tour in ballstriking last year. Additionally, he has a soft touch around the greens, placing 18th in sand save percentage and eighth in scrambling. 

    The 35-year-old Dufner is something of a late bloomer. His years of toiling in obscurity, however, allowed him to refine a pure flat-planed strike of the golf ball as pretty to watch as any on tour. 

1. Boo Weekley

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    Not too many PGA Tour fans would peg the tour's resident gator call expert as the best ballstriker on the professional circuit. Boo Weekley is, however, the best ball striker on tour.

    Here's why:

    • He's led the tour in ball striking for the past two years.
    • He was first in greens in regulation in 2011, fourth in 2012.
    • He was first in total driving in 2012, fourth in 2011. 
    • The best testament to the strength of Weekley's ballstriking is the weakness of his putting (186th in 2011, 189th in 2012)...if he couldn't pure it, he wouldn't be on tour.