Driving ranges are packed stall-to-stall with John Daly wannabes
trying to knock balls 250 yards on the fly. Maybe that's why the
average handicap in the U.S. has not budged in two decades.
Amateurs would be smarter to emulate Bob Estes and other masters
of the short game. If you're unfamiliar with Estes, you're not
alone. The 32-year-old Texan has won only once in his 10 years
on Tour. Still, he has earned more than $3 million, chiefly
because he's the Daly of scrambling.
Scrambling--trying to make a par or a birdie after missing a
green in regulation--became an official Tour stat last year.
Short-game guru Dave Pelz, however, has kept such data since
1975. Pelz calls scrambling the best indicator of a player's
ability. "Even the finest Tour players miss about six greens per
round," he says. "Add to that the three or four times they're
near the green in two on par-5s, and you have about 10 chances
per round to get up and down. The best players can do it
The chart below shows the Tour's top five scramblers, along with
their earnings, their Tour ranks in greens in regulation and
putting, and their scrambling percentage. Note that all five
rank in the top 50 on the money list--a claim you can't make for
the leaders in driving distance, fairways hit, GIRs, sand saves
or any other major stat. Lee Janzen stands sixth on the money
list and only 111th in up and downs, but those numbers are
deceptive. In March, Janzen was 144th with a scrambling success
rate of 52.6%. Last month, under Pelz's tutelage, including a
three-day crash course the week before the Open, Janzen raised
his percentage to a passable 57.9 and won his second Open title.
He still isn't close to Estes, the 1997 Tour leader in
scrambling (68.8%) and sand saves (70.3%) and the runner-up in
putting. What are Estes's short-game secrets? During practice
rounds he sketches the contours of each green in a notebook so
that he'll know where to aim approach shots for easier chips and
putts. He also deploys different balls for different surfaces.
On hard greens, he plays a soft balata for extra bite. On soft
greens he switches to a slightly harder ball, which spins less.
A trim 6'1" 175-pounder, Estes averages only 269.1 yards off the
tee. He makes his living by being golf's Fran Tarkenton, the
superscrambler, and he may soon be saving still more pars. "I
just switched to cross-handed putting," he says. "I think I'm
about to become an even better scrambler." --Rick Lipsey
PGA TOUR SCRAMBLING LEADERS
EARNINGS (RANK) GIR RANK PUTTING RANK SAVE %
Bob Estes $688,371 (21) 37 16 69.7
Payne Stewart 756,475 (16) 68 47 68.1
Len Mattiace 377,685 (49) 122 12 67.4
Mark O'Meara 1,003,296 (7) 84 19 66.8
Tom Watson 832,385 (13) 33 15 66.5
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Bob Estes]
Stellar play by amateurs continued at the U.S. Women's Open.
Jenny Chuasiriporn lost in sudden death, and four other ams made
the cut. On the men's side, Matt Kuchar took the week off, but
amateur J.J. Henry was 49th at Hartford. Here are the year's
best showings by amateurs in pro events.
J. Chuasiriporn U.S. Open 2nd
Matt Kuchar U.S. Open 14th
Beth Bauer Dinah Shore 16th
Grace Park Friendly's 19th
Matt Kuchar Masters 21st
Jeff Kern Tucson 31st
Matt Kuchar BellSouth 36th
Isabelle Blais U.S. Open 36th
Brenda C. Kuehn U.S. Open 36th
Length didn't matter much at the Women's Open. Here's how Se Ri
Pak and Jenny Chuasiriporn ranked against Annette DeLuca, who
wound up in 49th place, and the rest of the week's big drivers.
RANK LONGEST AVG.
1. Annette DeLuca 303 272.3
2. Kris Tschetter 272 255.4
3. Akiko Fukushima 276 254.3
4. Beth Daniel 285 253.6
5. Dina Ammaccapane 277 250.6
10. Se Ri Pak 260 244.3
59. J. Chuasiriporn 254 222.9
Eighteen-hole golf courses under construction in the U.S.--an
alltime record, according to the National Golf Foundation.