Stat attack!: Arnold Palmer Invitational preview

By John AntoniniMarch 18, 2014, 3:06 pm

When Tiger Woods finds a tournament that suits him, he dominates it like no player in PGA Tour history. His eight wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, all coming at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in the last 15 years, tie him for the most wins in one event in Tour history with Sam Snead, who won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times, albeit over a span of 27 years. Woods’ usual formula for victory - don’t sweat missing fairways off the tee, and putt the lights out when you reach the green – has suited him well throughout his career. No where more noticably than at Bay Hill. In his four wins since the course was resdesigned before the 2007 tournament, Woods has never been in the top 25 in the field in fairways hit, but he was been in the top five in scrambling three times and strokes gained-putting three times. In 2013 he turned his putting up another notch, making 14 putts from beyond 10 feet, more than anyone has made at the API since 2007. (Editor's note: Woods withdrew from the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational on Tuesday with a back injury.) 

How Tiger Woods’ ranked in key stats during his wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational: 2008-2013

 Year Distance Accuracy GIR Scrambling Strokes
10 feet
 2013 49 T-71 T-34 T-32 1 1
 2012 11 T-29 T-1 T-1 4 29
 2009 T-23 T-51 T-50 T-1 1 20
 2008 38 T-47 T-14 2 13 20

Most putts made from more than 10 feet: Arnold Palmer Invitational 2007-2013

 Putts Player Year Finish
 14 Tiger Woods 2013 Won
 13 G. F'dez-Castano 2013 T-3
 13 Tom Lehman 2008 T-8
 13 Nick Watney 2008 T-21
 13 J.B. Holmes 2008 T-59
 12 Chris Kirk 2013 T-16
 12 Spencer Levin 2011 T-6
 12 Ryan Moore 2011 T-12
 12 Rocco Mediate 2007 2

But Woods, hampered by a bad back, has been struggling in 2014, especially in the stats that matter most to him. If he had played enough rounds to qualify for a statistical ranking, he’d be 178th in greens hit in regulation, T-83 in birdie average, 17th in strokes gained-putting and 57th in scrambling. Of course, it’s a small sample size. Woods has only played 10 rounds this year, and we’re making matters more noticable by cherry picking specific stats. He would be first on Tour in one-putt percentage, which is more a factor of his missing greens than anything else. But when Tiger came to Bay Hill in 2012 and 2013 he was healthier and playing notably better. 

PGA Tour stats for Tiger Woods entering Bay Hill from 2012-2014 (rank in parenthesis)

 Year Distance Accuracy GIR Strokes
per Rd.
Scrambling Proximity
to hole
 2014 287.3 yds. (90) 52.86% (167) 56.67% (178) +.643 (17) 3.60 (T-83) 71.017 (81) 60.26% (57) 42 ft. 1 in. (180) 6.11% (178)
 2013 300.3 (11) 56.55 (127) 68.06 (T-59) +.995 (6) 4.92 (2) 68.480 (1) 59.42 (103) 33 ft. 2 in. (T-18) 1.39 (T-7)
 2012 299.4 (18) 69.28 (8) 69.19 (19) +.408 (39) 4.27 (14) 68.526 (2) 67.21 (13) 32 ft. 10 in. (2) 3.54 (146)

Woods’ accuracy is down, his percentage of greens hit is way down, and although his putting has remained solvent, he is averaging three more strokes per round. He is about 10 feet farther from the hole on approach shots, which means fewer birdie opportunities and more three putts.

So now that Woods has decided not to try for his ninth PGA Tour victory at Bay Hill, who will walk away with the trophy? Here’s a list of players who have had pretty good success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational over the years.

 Player Starts Cuts made Top-10s Best Top 2014 finish
 Zach Johnson 10 9 3 Third, 2009 Won Hyundai T of C
 Pat Perez 11 10 3 T-4, 2009 T-2 Farmers
 Justin Rose 9 8 3 2, 2013 T-8 at Tampa
 Henrik Stenson 5 5 1 T-8, 2013 T-16 WGC-Cadillac
 Lee Westwood 11 10 1 T-5, 2006 T-20 Northern Trust

For Stenson and Westwood it’s a chance to make up for lost time in 2014. Stenson has been recovering from a right wrist injury and Westwood has been fighting his swing, having recently split with coach Sean Foley.

Stenson, Rose and Zach Johnson are all ranked in the top-10 in the World Ranking (Second-ranked Adam Scott, who hasn’t played Bay Hill since 2009 is the other top-10 player in the field). While the top-ranked players have had success at Palmer’s place, those ranked immediately behind them in the field have struggled at Bay Hill since the redesign, with the notable exception of 2012.

How players ranked 10-20 have fared at Bay Hill since 2008

 Rank Player 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
 12 Bubba Watson T-14 T-4 T-24 MC MC T-8
 15 Graeme McDowell T-45 2 MC MC T-40  
 18 Ian Poulter T-21 3 T-12   MC T-48
 19 Brandt Snedeker MC T-63 MC T-30 T-17 T-14
 20 Patrick Reed MC          

One final thought: Notice all the European players in the previous two charts. Martin Laird, the 2011 champion, is the only European-born winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However, there have been five European runner-ups since 2005 (Justin Rose in 2013, Graeme McDowell in 2012, Edoardo Molinari in 2010, Greg Owen in 2006 and McDowell again in 2005).

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.