The Biggest Problem for Struggling Golf Stars in 2014

Mike DudurichContributor IMay 20, 2014

The Biggest Problem for Struggling Golf Stars in 2014

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    Even Brandt Snedeker can't believe some of what he's seen this year.
    Even Brandt Snedeker can't believe some of what he's seen this year.USA TODAY Sports

    At first, it seems a bit of an exaggeration to say players on the PGA Tour face big problems, but they really do.

    And it's not a problem of which private jet to fly on this week.

    When those guys have problems with their game, those problems are magnified significantly by the fact that they do this for a living, and any mistakes affect them.

    Brandt Snedeker can't make putts? Phil Mickelson loses control of his magical short game?

    Those definitely qualify as big problems.

    Here's a list of seven of the top players and the biggest problems they face this year.

Webb Simpson

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    Webb Simpson needs to find a way to get it done again.
    Webb Simpson needs to find a way to get it done again.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    This kid, Webb Simpson, and really he's not that much of a kid anymore, had the look of a champion when he won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in 2012.

    He now has the look of a guy who's struggling to find the center of the clubface just about every time he steps up to a shot.

    And this isn't to downplay Simpson's win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open that kicked off the PGA Tour's wrap-around season last October. 

    His biggest problem seems to be that he's forgotten how to score on the weekend. In eight weekend rounds since February, his lowest score has been 70. Since tying for ninth in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play, he's missed the cut in three of his six events. In the other three, he posted results of T47, T67 and T38.

    When he gets over those weekend blues, better results will come quickly.

Jason Dufner

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    Dufner can't find the hole with the flat stick in his hands.
    Dufner can't find the hole with the flat stick in his hands.Ian Walton/Getty Images

    The man is taking the art of "Dufner-ing" to unheard of levels.

    The 2013 PGA champion is 79th in the FedEx Cup rankings, and in 14 starts since hoisting that monstrous trophy, he has posted just five top-10 finishes.

    And that doesn't sound too bad, but when he hasn't had those high finishes, Dufner has gone through long stretches of what seems to be uninspired play and poor finishes.

    His biggest problem this year is putting. He's not making anything, and he's losing .603 strokes to the field, ranking him 185th on the PGA Tour. He wasn't that much better last year, minus-.233, which ranked him 142nd.

    Dufner obviously caught a hot week with the putter at the Oak Hill, but as quickly as he caught it, he lost it.

    It's tough to win, or even compete regularly, on the PGA Tour if you can't putt.

Tiger Woods

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    The grimace on Tiger Woods' face tells it all.
    The grimace on Tiger Woods' face tells it all.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    It didn't take a lot of research to figure this one out.

    Tiger Woods' biggest problem in 2014 was a bad back that needed to be surgically repaired.

    He played in three events on the PGA Tour this year and was awful in all three: T80, WD and T25. Can you imagine Tiger Woods being ranked 205th on the FedEx Cup points list?

    The fact he was battling a serious back injury cannot be separated from the fact he was playing so badly.

    It is hard to imagine how he was able to put together rounds of 69 and 65 before withdrawing prior to the final round at the Honda Classic.

Ian Poulter

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    There's been way too much of this for Ian Poulter.
    There's been way too much of this for Ian Poulter.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Perhaps the biggest problem for Ian Poulter at this point is his age.

    He's 38 and is struggling to gain some relevance on the PGA Tour where he has two wins, the last coming in 2012.

    A quick glance at his statistics on PGATour.com shows that he's just not playing well in just about every category. Of the first nine categories listed, Poulter is ranked over 100 in seven of them.

    His scoring average is up a stroke, and his putting, which was reasonable last year, has dropped significantly. The good news for him is he's made eight of 10 cuts, but even when he does make the cut, he can't finish. Poulter has one top-10 finish.

Nick Watney

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    Nick Watney is still smiling, but he's not the player he once was.
    Nick Watney is still smiling, but he's not the player he once was.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Nick Watney's first PGA Tour victory came in his third year out on tour. It was in the 2007 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

    Since then, he's won four times in seven years. He's another of those guys who was labeled for greatness, but that hasn't happened. Sure, he's won a lot of money, over $21 million in his career.

    But since 2007, he's had a grand total of 32 top-25 finishes and just four top-10s.

    He's had a tough 2014 and after finishing 2013 season as the 30th-ranked player in the world, according to the Official World Golf Ranking, he currently stands at 57th.

    Since the Masters, where he finished T44, he's posted a T75, MC and MC.

    Right now, his biggest problem is his game.

Brandt Snedeker

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    There have been few high-fives on the greens this season for Brandt Snedeker.
    There have been few high-fives on the greens this season for Brandt Snedeker.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Brandt Snedeker may be the most disappointing of the struggling big-name players because of the thing that's causing him the biggest problems: his putting.

    The man had gained a reputation for being one of, it not the best, putters on the PGA Tour. When he was rocking the PGA Tour at the start of the 2013 season, he was making just about everything he looked at.

    That was then.

    He finished the season fourth in strokes gained-putting with a .692 number. This year, he is 77th with a .144 average, and none of his statistics, per PGATour.com, are very good.

    Snedeker's scoring average is over 71; he's not hitting greens in regulation nearly enough, and he's not hitting his drives 280 yards on average.

    And all of that puts more and more pressure on his putting.

Phil Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson keeps looking for answers.
    Phil Mickelson keeps looking for answers.Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    If anyone is able to come up with what Phil Mickelson's biggest problem is this year, please contact him right away because he professes not to have the answer.

    But I'll choose his short game. And if you don't think that's the case, you didn't watch the first two days of the Masters.

    In the first round, he took a triple-bogey on the seventh hole, thanks to a lousy chip shot and a three-putt. The next day he hit his tee shot on the par-three 12th hole into the front bunker. Mickelson followed that by blading his next shot into the back bunker and then hitting it back across the green into the front bunker again.

    In scrambling from less than 30 yards, Mickelson is 125th on the PGA Tour. In scrambling over 30 yards, he's 43rd. And in strokes gained-putting, he's 112th at minus-.047.

    Any questions?

     

    Stats courtesy of the PGA Tour.