Knock It out of There: The Best Bunker Players on the PGA Tour
There's nothing wrong with getting a little sandy while spending a day at the beach, but it's one of the last things you want during a trip to the golf course. A player can pile on strokes in a hurry while trying to escape the constraints of a bunker.
While some golfers routinely falter when faced with this task, let's take a look at those who excel when it comes to damage control.
Ernie Els routinely executes from the bunker. The veteran approaches sand traps with calmness and rarely runs into trouble.
One of his most memorable moments on the PGA Tour occurred in the confines of a bunker.
Els lifted the ball out of a bunker on the 13th hole at Muirfield en route to victory at the 2002 Open Championship. His shot traveled within a tap of the hole, helping to clear his path toward a Claret Jug.
Few would dispute that Luke Donald is currently the sport's most consistent bunker beater. He ranks among tour leaders in sand saves on a regular basis, relying on impeccable fundamentals and a smooth drop shot.
Donald ranked first among PGA players in sand save percentage three times in the past seven full seasons (2006, 2009 and 2010). Aspiring pros should take note of his technique.
Matt Kuchar nearly vanished from the game while enduring a colossal slump last decade. He's regained his swagger in recent years and now ranks among the tour's top performers.
An exemplary bunker game has helped fuel that rise.
Kuchar currently ranks fifth on the tour in sand saves in 2013. If he maintains that level of play through the end of the season, this will be the third straight year he finishes among the top 10 in that category.
Known for his wide-stance approach, Justin Rose is excellent at escaping hazardous sand pits. The 2013 U.S. Open champion continues to charge up world rankings, thanks in part to this facet of his game.
Rose currently ranks second among PGA golfers in sand save percentage. He finished fourth in that category in the 2012 season.
Rose's sand game is firing on all cylinders right now.
39-year-old Greg Chalmers isn't among the globe's best-known golfers, but he continues to excel in bunker play. Chalmers finished second in sand saves in PGA Tour competition in consecutive seasons (2011 and 2012).
The Australian also excels from the sand in his European Tour endeavors.
Through 450 PGA starts, Brian Gay has proved he's among the tour's best bunker players. The veteran finished first in sand saves in 2010—the second of three straight seasons that saw him place among the top 10 in the category.
The Texan has spent the majority of his career under the radar, but an excellent bunker game has helped establish him as a pro's pro. Career earnings of more than $17 million are a testament to that fact.
K.J. Choi is currently the top dog on the PGA Tour in terms of sand saves in 2013. His value in the category is 70.48, while no other player has a value higher than 67.39.
Choi finished among the top 10 players in sand saves during two of the past three PGA seasons.
Tiger Woods cemented his legacy as a legend through years of delivering daring and dramatic shots. His arsenal has made opponents scratch their heads time after time.
Although he is ultimately more acclaimed for outstanding putting and driving, don't sleep on Woods' bunker abilities. One of his classic moments occurred in a fairway bunker at the 2002 PGA Championship.
Woods whacked a brilliant shot off the edge of the sand trap with his 3-iron, executing the shot flawlessly. The ball soared over a patch of trees, through intimidating winds and kept Tiger on track in the final round at Hazeltine, where he finished second.
Woods fondly recalled the moment during a discussion with Steve Elling of CBSSports.com.
The 25-year-old hasn't been around for very long, but that hasn't prevented him from emerging as one of the most reliable sand escape artists on tour.
Jason Day has placed among the top 25 golfers in sand saves three times since 2009, and he finished a career-best fourth in saves in 2011.
The Australian showed off his skills early in the final round of the 2013 Masters. Day delivered a dazzling greenside bunker shot that dropped in for an eagle on the second hole of Sunday afternoon.
The shot gave him a share of the lead. Expect more special moments from this promising young player.
Jim Furyk is known for his funky swings. But his unorthodox approach often leads to beautiful results.
The savvy veteran finished third in sand saves on the PGA Tour in 2012 and earned himself a hefty payday with a big-time bunker shot at the 2010 Tour Championship.
Furyk locked up the FedEx Cup title (and the $10 million that accompanied it) with a crisp delivery out of a deep bunker on the 18th hole at East Lake. The ball came to rest less than a yard from the cup, setting up a par putt and one-stroke victory.
Fittingly, his heroics gave him the one-shot edge over celebrated sandman Luke Donald.
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