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Friday, March 23, 2012

For the 3rd Week in a Row...

The Waggler has a piece of the first-round lead! Jason Dufner sits at -6, tied for the lead with Charlie Wi.

This is his 4th round of 66 in his last 9 rounds. The problem has been the other rounds -- nothing lower than 71. What makes the difference?

Apparently it's his putting. For the season his "Strokes Gained - Putting" stat is -.342, good enough to rank him 139th on Tour. On Thursday that stat was 3.993, 4th in the field.

Now, are his putting woes caused by other problems? It's possible. Nobody's perfect in every stat, and it's hard to make a lot of putts if you aren't hitting it close.

That said, I think his putting is a problem. Here's why: If you look at his stats, from inside 5 feet he makes 96.61%, which ranks him 67th on Tour. I don't really pay much attention to that ranking -- I'm more interested in hard numbers. In Jason's case, he's made 285 out of 295 putts inside 5 feet. By comparison, higher-ranked players who have taken a similar number of putts have missed only 6 or 7 putts. That's not a huge number.

However, putting from 3 - 5 feet tells a different story. Jason makes only 85.71% to rank T94th. He's made 42 of 49 putts in this category, which means he's missed 7 putts. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

But then you compare him to the leaders. Tiger, believe it or not, leads this category with 23 of 23 putts. Several of the leaders (in the Top 25 of this stat) have taken between 60 and 70 putts yet have only missed 3 - 5 putts. Brian Gay (10th in this category) has made 61 of 65, which is equivalent to around 46 of 49 -- less than half of Dufner's misses.

That may not sound like much, but these are the categories where most of the putts are made. And if you multiply that 3 -5 figure so it matches his 295 putts inside 5 feet, Jason is missing 42 out of 294 putts between 3 and 5 feet.

That IS significant.

This is compounded by problems with short approaches -- take the stat from 50-75 yards. Jason is hitting these an average of 17'3" while the Top 20 in this category are hitting it less than half that. Jason's only had 4 of these to get this average. Steve Stricker (13th) has taken 7 such shots -- nearly twice as many -- and averages only 6'4"!

Yeah, I know it sounds like nitpicking, but this appears to be a case where the commentators are correct. Overall, Jason Dufner's got one of the soundest games on Tour. But it's the short game that's keeping the Waggler out of the winner's circle.

All the waggles in the world aren't going to help that. It looks like he's going to need a hot week with the putter to break through.

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