Estes Quietly One of the Best

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KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Somewhere in between the PGA Tours elite and the up-and-coming lies a 15-year veteran who looks younger than his soon-to-be 37 years of age.
 
He's a 6-foot 2-inch tall Texan who is listed at a taut buck-80 in weight.
 
Hes unassuming, dedicated and ever changing in his equipment.
 
He stands patiently in the shadows of the fan favorites.
 
Hes Bob Estes, and hes one the most underrated and unsung players in professional golf.
 
Over the past two seasons, Estes has been a silent assassin of sorts, slaying fields and bagging bundles of money almost incognito.
 
During that span hes won more PGA Tour events than David Duval, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco, Justin Leonard, Nick Price and Charles Howell III.
 
In fact, only Tiger Woods (10), Phil Mickelson (4) and Ernie Els (4) have won more over the past two years than Estes.
 
Had it not been for Els thorough domination of Kapaluas Plantation Course at this past week's Mercedes Championships, Estes might have had a chance to win his fourth tournament since June of 2001.
 
He was in contention through two rounds, but couldn't keep the pace over the weekend, tying for sixth.
 
But while Estes is on par with the games top players in terms of titles, hes lacking in the respect department, at least from the public.
 
As far as players out here view him, I dont think people view him as underrated, said fellow Texas Longhorn and friend Justin Leonard.
 
Hes won quite a bit the last two or three years, played pretty consistently and just continues to play better each year.
 
Estes recent rise up the golfing ranks started with his victory in the 2001 FedEx St. Jude Classic and continued with another trip to the winners circle at the Invensys Las Vegas Classic. He then made it three triumphs in a 12-month span at the 2002 Kemper Insurance Open.
 
Each victory increased his inner confidence, but he knows he has to perform better in the bigger tournaments to garner more public recognition.
 
Ive had top-10s in major championships and I have played well in past majors. Recently, maybe not quite as well as I needed to really be considered maybe one of the elite, Estes said.
 
Estes has had minor success in the majors. He tied for fourth in the 1999 Masters, and has three ties for sixth in the PGA Championship. However, he hasnt finished inside the top 15 in any major since 99.
 
Nonetheless, he has 16 top-10 finishes over the last two years, and had a streak of 29 consecutive rounds at par or better. He is currently 24th in the Official World Golf Ranking and has been as high as 13th.
 
Whats most surprising, though, about his numbers is that his FedEx victory was his first on tour since his initial win in the 1994 Texas Open.
 
There is an explanation for his turnaround, and one hes been forced to discuss every time his name pops up on a leaderboard.
 
Here we go again, Estes said when asked to explain his ascension.
 
Theres just so many things. I went to the 10-finger grip May of 2001 at Colonial. I won Memphis about a month later.
 
Ive got a bunch of good people helping me. Started seeing a chiropractor about three years ago, a trainer about 2 1./2 years ago, sports psychologist, new teacher.
 
Estes has always been a consistent player since first joining the tour in 1989. Hes only once finished outside the top 125 on the money list and usually resides inside the top 80.
 
Following a couple of trips inside the top 30 in 1998 and 99, he fell to 88th in 2000. However, his 01 campaign vaulted him to a career-best ninth-place finish on the season-ending earnings list, and he was 26th last season.
 
I think sometimes people pay too much attention to where you finish on the money list as opposed to how many tournaments you win, maybe what your world ranking is, Estes said.
 
In an era when players are becoming more concerned with their bodies, Estes is a genuine fitness nut. He adheres to a strict routine that includes weightlifting, agility exercises, diet and short-distance sprints. His personal trainer is former U.S. Olympic pole-vaulter Scott Henning.
 
I had to get healthy first, then I had to get in better shape, and then I had to make some changes to improve my golf game, he said.
 
The hard work has paid handsomely. Hes pocketed over $4.7 million the last 24 months.
 
Estes continues to tinker with his game. Hes taking the next four weeks off and will build a brand-new set of clubs from scratch.
 
Ill also do more training with my trainer, he added. 'Just keep trying to get better.'
 
That's Bob Estes, constantly getting better outside of the public's eye.
 
Related Links:
  • Full-field scores from the Mercedes Championships
  • Full coverage of the Mercedes Championships