Ranking the 10 Best Ball-Strikers on the PGA Tour

Mike DudurichContributor INovember 18, 2014

Ranking the 10 Best Ball-Strikers on the PGA Tour

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    Henrik Stenson has hit the ball as well as anyone the past two years.
    Henrik Stenson has hit the ball as well as anyone the past two years.USA TODAY Sports

    Ball-striking is not just driving it a long way or hitting irons very hard.

    Technically speaking, ball-striking is a combination of total driving and greens in regulation, neither of which rely on monstrously long drives or ripped 3-irons.

    So which PGA Tour star might you think would make this list of the 10 best ball-strikers on tour?

    Would you expect to find a long hitter like Bubba Watson? A short hitter like Bill Haas?

    The tour's best player, Rory McIlroy?

    Well, you'll just have to check the list to find out.

10. Jason Dufner

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    Jason Dufner used his ball-striking to great advantage in winning the 2013 PGA Championship.
    Jason Dufner used his ball-striking to great advantage in winning the 2013 PGA Championship.USA TODAY Sports

    Jason Dufner will come back in 2015 feeling much better than he did in a lost 2014 when he suffered with a bulging disc in his neck. That injury was unfortunate because it came on the heels of the PGA Championship title he won in 2013.

    Dufner is not long off the tee, but he obviously finds a lot of fairways. He was eighth in the ball-striking category in 2012 and 23rd in 2013. Last year was a tied for 76th, but there were extenuating circumstances.

    He has the game, he's proven that. Now he just needs to get back to health. He's posted a T26 and T10 in the early part of the wrap-around schedule, so it looks as though he's on the way back.

9. Bill Haas

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    Bill Haas used his ball-striking skills to win the Tour Championship in 2011.
    Bill Haas used his ball-striking skills to win the Tour Championship in 2011.USA TODAY Sports

    Bill Haas knows how to play the game and has played it well, winning the Tour Championship in 2011.

    That season, he was 11th in total driving, 11th in greens in regulation and fifth in ball-striking.

    Haas hasn't reached those heights since, but he was much improved a year ago, finishing 15th in total driving and 20th in greens in regulation.

    He's not very long enough off the tee, but needs to become better with the flat stick. His strokes gained putting was .086 and needs to be better.

8. Billy Horschel

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    Billy Horschel was a big winner in 2014.
    Billy Horschel was a big winner in 2014.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    For 98 percent of the 2014 season, Billy Horschel was having an OK season on the PGA Tour.

    The young man with plenty of power and a lot of pent-up energy had some top-10s, but he also had some missed cuts and some other poor performances as well.

    But throughout the year, he hit the ball well and long off the tee and hit a lot of greens in regulation.

    And talk about having your game come together at the right time: Horschel won the last two FedEx Cup playoff events (and almost won the last three).

    That strong finish helped him finish T3 in ball-striking.

7. Bubba Watson

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    Despite hitting the ball all over the lot sometimes, Bubba Watson still ranks highly in ball-striking.
    Despite hitting the ball all over the lot sometimes, Bubba Watson still ranks highly in ball-striking.USA TODAY Sports

    The length and wildness of Bubba Watson's golf game would not lead you to believe he'd be a good candidate to be included in a list of top ball-strikers.

    But there he is, finishing in the top 15 in the ball-striking category each of the last four years.

    His finishes in total driving over that span: 14, 22, 31 and 35. In greens in regulation: 24, five, two and nine.

    Those numbers have led to finishes of T13, nine, 11 and 15.

    Watson is a two-time major champion, winning the Masters in 2013 and 2014.

    Those kinds of numbers would indicate more wins should be on his resume.

6. Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy has one of the best swings in the game.
    Rory McIlroy has one of the best swings in the game.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    The statistics from the 2014 PGA Tour season show Rory McIlroy to be ranked seventh in ball-striking.

    And those numbers are absolutely a great way to measure that statistic, but so are the opportunities to watch an elite golfer like McIlroy.

    The way McIlroy played this summer in winning back-to-back major titles and a World Golf Championships event is a good measurement as to just how dominant his ball-striking can be.

    McIlroy hit monstrous drives with a bit of a draw and followed those up with spectacular iron shots into greens time after time.

    If he were able to hit the ball like that over the course of a season, he'd be unbeatable. In 2014, he finished 16th in total driving and sixth in greens in regulation (and that ranked him seventh).

5. Adam Scott

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    AdamScott's swing is the envy of his competitors on the PGA Tour.
    AdamScott's swing is the envy of his competitors on the PGA Tour.USA TODAY Sports

    Adam Scott is not just a pretty face with one of the best golf swings ever in the game.

    He's a complete player who can bomb it with the best off the tee and has been remarkably adept at honing in on flagsticks.

    His last four years in the ball-striking category have been remarkable. In 2014, he was ninth, finishing 10th in both total driving and greens in regulation. In 2013, Scott finished seventh, finishing 14 and 11th. He wasn't nearly as good in 2012, ranking 30th after a 28-50 finish. But in 2011 he was 13th, finishing fifth and 32nd.

    Scott doesn't win nearly enough to suit his fans, but the talent in the important areas is there.

4. Hunter Mahan

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    Hunter Mahan has been known as a good ball-striker for quite a while.
    Hunter Mahan has been known as a good ball-striker for quite a while.USA TODAY Sports

    Few players have been as consistently good in a single statistic over a period of time as Hunter Mahan has been in this one.

    He's been out of the top 25 in ball-striking just once recently, and that came in 2011 when he was 26th. 

    Mahan drove the ball spectacularly in 2014, finishing third in the total driving statistic. His greens in regulation were down—46th—and that kept him not only from finishing higher in ball striking—18th—but from winning more.

    He won the Barclays, the first of the FedEx Cup playoffs, in September.

3. Graham DeLaet

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    Graham DeLaet hits the sweet spot most times.
    Graham DeLaet hits the sweet spot most times.USA TODAY Sports

    The golf world is waiting for Graham DeLaet to explode into the dominant player it has expected him to become.

    The 31-year-old Canadian native is an awesome striker of the ball and is consistently among the best hitters of greens on the tour. He finished third in that category in 2014, the same place he finished in 2013.

    He was second in ball-striking in 2014, but first in 2013.

    For a man to hit the ball as well as DeLaet has the past two years is intriguing until you look at his putting statistics. He was 166th in strokes gained putting with an average of minus-.666.

    When he starts taking advantage of those greens in regulation and drains some putts, that first win can't be far behind.

2. Boo Weekley

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    Boo Weekley ponders his next move.
    Boo Weekley ponders his next move.USA TODAY Sports

    He's certainly not one of the cookie-cutter types on the PGA Tour—the tall, athletic type who seem to be everywhere.

    But Boo Weekley knows how to hit a golf ball. Dating back to the 2006 season, Weekley has finished no worse than 20th in the ball-striking category. He finished 12th in 2014.

    As a matter of fact, he led the category in 2012 and 2011.

    Weekley is the only player on the PGA Tour to hit more than 70 percent of his greens in regulation in the time frame of 2010-2014.

    Unfortunately for Weekley, his putter has been an anchor around his neck as his minus-.246 strokes gained putting average would attest.

1. Henrik Stenson

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    When he's on his game, few hit the ball better that Henrik Stenson.
    When he's on his game, few hit the ball better that Henrik Stenson.USA TODAY Sports

    Henrik Stenson was second in total driving and eighth in greens in regulation. That was good enough for a top ranking in the ball-striking category—a trait he's earned as he's matured as a professional golfer.

    Stenson was fabulous in 2013, winning two times in the FedEx Cup playoffs, including the Tour Championship. He earned over $6 million and was the toast of the game.

    He was third in ball-striking in 2013, finishing third in total driving and first in greens in regulation.

    Stenson is one of those players who combines power and finesse very well, although most of his success in 2013 came as a result of him just overpowering whatever golf course he happened to be playing at the moment.

    The 38-year-old native of Sweden seems primed to continue the good run he's been on the last few years.