What Top PGA Tour Players Must Improve to Win More in 2016-17

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2016

What Top PGA Tour Players Must Improve to Win More in 2016-17

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    JIM WATSON/Getty Images

    We'll proceed from the premise that Dustin Johnson, as the winningest player on the PGA Tour last year, doesn't need to improve a great deal to win more. Indeed, we know he already works hard on his wedge play, and his putting numbers have improved since a late-season flatstick switch

    For the rest of the top golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, we'll drill down on a statistical area holding each golfer back with a particular emphasis on any major drop-offs from 2014-2015 levels. 

    Behold: What the game's best need to do better to win more!

Phil Mickelson

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Driving accuracy 

    At 46 years of age, Phil Mickelson isn't going to get any longer off the tee. Indeed, he lost more than six yards off the tee from 2015 to 2016.

    Thus, Mickelson, who was 163rd in driving accuracy at 54.82 percent, will need to hit the ball straighter as he loses distance with age.

    As he has missed the fairway more often in recent seasons, Mickelson's performance has suffered. He was 132nd in strokes gained off the tee last year. And while the left-hander did good enough work with the rest of his clubs to finish eighth on tour in total strokes gained, he'll need to straighten things out going forward.

Rickie Fowler

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Approach play

    From a strokes-gained perspective, Rickie Fowler's weakest area is putting (64th). However, improving his approach play slightly would go further toward improving his win tally. 

    It's worth noting that Fowler, who didn't win and had eight top-10 finishes 23 PGA Tour starts this season, is well-rounded statistically. However, as he's dropped from 14th in strokes gained approach in 2014-2015 to 47th this past season, it stands to reason that improving in that area could have him approaching his 2014-2015 win total (2).

Patrick Reed

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    MOHD RASFAN/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Driving accuracy 

    Patrick Reed has gotten better in his work off the tee year over year. He improved from 119th to 65th. If he continues this trend and manages to find more fairways than he did last year (55.96 percent), his approach numbers will get better. 

    This, of course, will mean better looks at birdie and hopefully more birdies (and fewer bogeys).

Adam Scott

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Putting

    No great surprise here. Adam Scott, the tour's best golfer from tee to green, has major difficulties with the flatstick. Although he actually putted a bit better than he did with a long putter in 2014-2015, Scotty isn't exactly Bobby Locke. 

    Scott was 129th on tour in strokes gained: putting for 2015-2016, losing 0.168 strokes to the field average per round. And yet he managed to place 12th in birdie average at 3.95 per round. 

    Imagine if he could putt!

Jordan Spieth

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Approach play 

    While he still won twice and coulda-woulda-shoulda won the Masters, Jordan Spieth didn't follow up his impressive 2014-2015 season form that saw him win five times and total 15 top-10 finishes.  

    Statistically, Spieth was brilliant as ever with the putter and good around the greens. And while he was slightly worse off the tee during the 2015-2016 campaign, Spieth's real issues were with approach play. The two-time major champion dropped from 11th in strokes gained from approach (0.618) to 87th (0.145)

    Spieth has to do better work with his irons and wedges to return to his 2015 form.

Rory McIlroy

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Putting 

    Like during his 2014-2015 campaign, Rory McIlroy won twice on the PGA Tour during 2015-2016. He was, however, without a major championship, and he logged an additional six starts last year than during his injury-shortened 2014-2015 campaign.

    McIlroy just had the worst putting season of his career. He was 135th on tour in strokes gained putting. He experimented with a cross-handed grip, starting working with a new putting coach and changed putters late in the season.

    If those efforts pay off and the Ulsterman putts better, expect him to win more in 2017.

Jason Day

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Area for improvement: Driving accuracy 

    Only four golfers on the PGA Tour were less accurate off the tee in 2014-2015 than Jason Day, who found just 50.46 percent of fairways in his 76 rounds. Not surprisingly, then, the Australian fell from third on tour in strokes gained off the tee in 2015 to 64th last year.

    He went from leading the Tour in birdie average to fifth. If he wants to return to his 2014-2015 form, he’ll need to return to his 2014-2015 driving.

    Of course, overcoming the lingering back issues that plagued him for much of last season could go a long way.

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