Every week, the editors of Golf.com assemble an all-star cast of stat-busting superstars — players whose dominance in key areas of the game left the rest of the Tour in the dust.
This week: the A-Team from the McGladrey Classic, held at Sea Island Resort’s Seaside Course in lowcountry Georgia. Lanky Oklahoman Robert Streb became the second first-time winner in as many weeks, eeking out an OT victory in a tense three-man playoff. Streb’s birdie on the second extra hole was pure class, but he can thank the four in a row he canned on holes 14 through 17 on Sunday for the win. It could have been five in a row — and an outright victory — had it not been for some obvious nerves on 18. Did his hot back-nine flatstick earn him a spot on our All-Star Team? You bet. Here's an inside look at his gaudy putting stats, plus ways you can make more birdies by driving it farther, knocking down the pin and draining every putt you see.
Shawn Stefani (3rd season on Tour)
Official World Golf Ranking: 129
Why He's Our Pick: Shawn Stefani has the prototypical “long-drive” body. The Houston native stands 6’ 2” with broad shoulders, long arms and biceps that would make even Tiger jealous. His long arms create width while his strength provides control. Want proof? Stefani averaged 297.4 yards off the tee while hitting 76.5 percent of his fairways over four rounds at Sea Island, pacing the field with a Total Driving value of 20 (combined rank in driving distance and driving accuracy). The event average was 70. No doubt, Stefani ruled the tee box.
OK, so you don’t have Shawn’s bod. You don’t need it. You can generate big, on-target blasts even in size 40 Sansabelts by “pushing” the club out on your backswing. As you take the club away, keep your arms fully extended as you shift your weight to your right foot. Don’t even think about folding your right elbow or hinging your wrists until the club is parallel with the ground. These moves may cut the length of your backswing a bit, but that’s probably a good thing. Plus, you’ll be tighter and wider, and that’s what will give you speed. You won’t match Stefani’s 354-yard blast on No. 18 on Friday, but you’ll definitely hit it farther and straighter than you are now.
Best Iron Player
Chad Campbell (14th season on Tour)
Why He's Our Pick: Chad Campbell hasn’t won since 2007, but he keeps stamping a new Tour card every year for one simple reason: he’s a greens-hitting machine. In fact, many consider the former UNLV standout one of the greatest iron players of this generation. Hey, even Johnny Miller thinks he’s good.
Campbell finished 4th in GIR in 2003, the year he won the Tour Championship. He finished 9th in GIR in 2009, the year he lost in a playoff to Angel Cabrera at the Masters. At the McGladrey Classic, he was equally as accurate, missing just 10 greens over the course of the tournament. Unfortunately, Campbell averaged 30.8 putts per round on the Seaside Course. Had he putted like winner Robert Streb (see below), he would have easily made the playoff.
There are many ways to ensure catching iron shots in the center of the sweet spot and with a square clubface. No. 1? Be like Chad and strike the ball with your hands in front of the clubhead. Take a tip from Top 100 Teacher Fred Griffin. “As soon as you feel your hands reach waist height in your downswing, rotate your hips like crazy,” he says. “Clearing your left hip out of the way gives your shoulders and arms plenty of room to gather speed and rotate freely through impact.” So? With more rotation as compared to more slide, you’ll automatically maintain the angle in your wrists and strike the ball with your hands ahead of the clubhead.
Robert Streb (3rd season on Tour)
Why He's Our Pick: Robert Streb, 27, is a bomber. His 118 mph swing speed is world class, and he can knock it 300 yards without thinking. He’s just as impressive at the other end of the bag. In fact, you can argue that his putter is more deadly than his driver. Case in point: he averaged 28.25 putts per round on the Seaside Course’s tricky Bermuda greens. More proof? He canned his first putt darn near 50 percent of the time. Both stats led the field at the McGladrey Classic. Still not convinced? Streb needed just 26 putts to complete his final round. Twenty-six! Considering he was playing for his first win and the biggest paycheck of his life, it’s All-Star worthy performance — and then some.
Holing putts means getting the distance right as well as the direction. Too often weekend players focus too much on the read. Sure, finding the right line is important, but if you don’t get the ball all the way to the hole — or hit it so hard it doesn’t break at all — then your reads won’t mean squat. To better control your roll, try Tour putting coach Marius Filmalter’s “step” drill. Using your regular tempo and stance, hit some putts on a flat section of the practice green. Swing the putterhead to slightly outside your right toe on your backstroke and finish just past your left toe on your through-stroke. Walk off the distance the ball traveled. For most, this rolls the ball around six paces. Your distance may be a bit shorter or longer, but that’s not important. What’s key is that you establish a baseline stroke for the day, and a six-pace putt is a pretty common distance for most mid-handicappers.
Best Short Game Player
Kevin Chappell (5th season on Tour)
Why He's Our Pick: Former UCLA standout and PING All American Kevin Chappell has yet to notch that first Tour victory, but he’s getting close. He finished third at the 2011 U.S. Open as a 24-year old (his first crack at a major), and has since racked up a strong rota of top-25 finishes, including a T8 at the McGladrey Classic. You’d sell your soul for Chappell’s full swing, but irons and drives aren’t the problem. Kevin’s kryptonite over his young career appears to be short shots and putting — he’s a Clark Kent-like 58-percent career scrambler. That wasn’t the case last weekend. Chappell busted out the red cape to get up-and-down after missing the green 13 out of 15 times. That’s a scrambling percentage of 86.7! Daily News Flash: Man of Stainless Steel Earns All-Star Status.
We’re on to Chappell’s secret. Kevin’s a few seasons in working full time with Top 100 Teacher James Sieckmann on his short game. Sieckmann, a former touring professional who learned the secrets of the short game from Seve Ballesteros and other wedge legends, knows his stuff. He teaches what he calls the “finesse wedge” system. The gist is that in full swings, the hips lead and the club follows. But on wedge shots, it’s just the opposite. Start by setting up with…well, why don’t we let James explain it himself.