Dare to Be the Worst

Friday, May 5, 2006 8:12 AM

The problem with golfers is that they look at pro statistics the wrong way.

Sure, Hank Kuehne averages 305 yards per drive. Yes, Tiger Woods gets a birdie or better 30 percent of the time. Scott Verplank needs only 27 putts per round. Blah, blah, blah. Numbers like that can make most of us feel like we should just sell the clubs and take up volksmarching.

But look at the bottom end of the PGA tour stat charts, and the view is very different. It turns out that some of the best golfers in the world play lousy golf, at least by some key measures. In fact, they may be nearly as lousy as you.

Go ahead, look at the data below, which reveal how badly some of the top golfers of the world perform. We know what you're thinking, because we're thinking it, too: You can probably beat some of these scores, at least on a good day.

You can land the ball on the fairway half the time, probably.

You might squeak out of a round with 31 putts, if the gods love you.

You can likely get out of a greenside bunker in one shot and then hole out with one putt from there two times out of 10 on your best days.

If the wind is with you and the fairway is hard and running downhill -- and you use that new 460 cc Thunderhead MeatSmacker with the palladium linguini shaft -- and really lay into it, you can hit it 271 yards.

But that's not the point. The point is golf is really, really hard, even for people like those below, who have played golf their entire lives, whose professional responsibility it is to play golf, who have the best instructors and fitness coaches on retainer, who have the finest equipment tweaked precisely to their preferences and who have caddies who know how many yards it is to the green.

So this year, forget about your scores. Instead, set your sights on beating the stats below. If you do, you can bask in something far better than a low handicap.

You will know the joy of being, at your best, nearly as good as the best players in the world are at their worst.

Craig Perks, 40

Hits 39 percent of fairways with his tee shots.

Career earnings: $3.4 million.

Brad Faxon , 44

Hits 54 percent of greens in regulation (meaning on the green in two shots for a par-4, in three shots for a par-5).

World ranking: 85. Career earnings: $17.3 million.

Kenny Perry, 45

Averages 1.7 putts per hole .

World ranking: 16. Career earnings: $19.8 million.

Chris Couch , 33

From a greenside bunker, gets the ball in the hole in two strokes or fewer 22 percent of the time.

2006 earnings: $1.1 million. Winner: 2006 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Jim Furyk , 35

Average driving distance is 273 yards .

World ranking: 8. Career earnings: $25.8 million.

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