Stat Attack!: How and why Walker is winning

By John AntoniniFebruary 10, 2014, 2:46 am

Wikipedia lists 20 athletes named Jimmy Walker in its rolls, including a South African Olympic cyclist, an NBA all-star from Providence College and several soccer players from Great Britain. But the only golfer on that list has fast become the most prominent Jimmy Walker of all. And if you’ll excuse the cliché, he’s having a dynamite season, one that would make the comedic actor, the former mayor of New York and every other Jimmy Walker proud.

How rarefied is the air that Jimmy Walker is breathing right now? With his third win of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am, Walker became the fifth player since 1970 to win in three of the first 12 weeks of the PGA Tour season, and he’s the first player not named Tiger Woods to claim that feat since David Duval in 1999.

Players with three wins in the first 12 weeks of the PGA Tour season

 Player Year Third win Week number
 Jimmy Walker 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach 12
 Tiger Woods 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational 12
 Tiger Woods 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational 11
 Tiger Woods 2003 Arnold Palmer Invitational 11
 Tiger Woods 2000 Arnold Palmer Invitational 12
 David Duval 1999 Players Championship 12
 Hubert Green 1976 Heritage 12
 Johnny Miller 1975 Bob Hope Classic 5
 Johnny Miller 1974 Tucson Open 3

With a much-closer-than-it-should-have-been one-stroke win over Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner on the Monterey Peninsula, Walker also holds another unique distinction. His final-round 74 Sunday at Pebble Beach was not only the highest final round by a winner in almost two years, but paired with his winning 63 on Sunday at the Sony Open at Waialae CC, it gives him the best and worst last rounds by a winner in 2013-14. When he won the Sony Open a month ago, Walker came from two strokes off the lead. At Pebble, he began Sunday with a six-stroke advantage. That he struggled with such a large lead wasn’t unexpected. Of the last eight players to hold an edge of six strokes or more through 54 holes at a PGA Tour event, only three won by as many as four strokes. Spencer Levin at the 2012 Phoenix Open was the only one to lose his lead, but none of the others won by more than two strokes.

Highest final rounds by a winner since 2008

 Player Score Tournament
 Martin Laird 75 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational
 Trevor Immelman 75 2008 Masters
 Jimmy Walker 74 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
 Dustin Johnson 74 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

SIx-stroke leads through 54 holes on the PGA Tour since 2010

 Tournament Player Lead Result
 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach Jimmy Walker 6 Won by 1
 2014 Humana Challenge Patrick Reed 6 Won by 2
 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Tiger Woods 7 Won by 7
 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Phil Mickelson 6 Won by 4
 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Spencer Levin 6 Third, lost by 2 to Kyle Stanley
 2011 U.S. Open Rory McIlroy 8 Won by 8
 2010 Northern Trust Open Steve Stricker 6 Won by 2
 2010 John Deere Classic Steve Stricker 6 Won by 2

Walker’s season has been remarkable. He leads the FedEx Cup race by 757 points. His total of 1,733 points would have placed him fifth in the season-ending standings a year ago.  His $3,605,833 would have been 13th on the final money list in 2013. 

Jimmy Walker’s results in 2013-14

 Tournament Place Scores To Par Money World Rank
 Frys.com Open Won 70-69-62-66—267 -17 $900,000 45
 Shriners Hospitals T12 71-68-64-67—270 -14 126,000 43
 CIMB Classic 6 74-68-67-68—277 -11 252,000 40
 WGC-HSBC Champions T46 73-73-69-70—285 -3 52,500 42
 Hyundai T of C T21 73-73-67-72—285 -7 79,333 47
 Sony Open  Won  66-67-67-63—263  -17 1,008,000 32
 Farmers Insurance Open MC 74-71—145 +1   32
 AT&T Pebble Beach Won 66-69-67-74—276 -11 1,188,000 24

Walker has improved his greens hit in regulation, his strokes gained putting and his birdie conversion percentage considerably this season. Never one of the more accurate players off the tee, Walker is hitting more than 71 percent of his greens this year, an improvement over his 66 percent mark a year ago, but he has made his biggest gains on the green. He’s averaging more than a shot better in the strokes gained/putting category and has improved his birdie conversion rate from 31 percent to 37 percent.

Jimmy Walker's statistics since 2010

 Year Driving accuracy percentage Greens in regulation percentage Strokes gained/putting Birdie conversion percentage
 2014 50.35% 71.30% +1.330 37.76%
 2013 52.18 66.07 +0.272 31.39
 2012 52.74 64.30 +0.461 31.05
 2011 53.13 65.92 +0.232 29.03
 2010 51.29 65.88 +0.252 29.22

A closer look at Walker’s putting stats shows where the improvement is coming from. Always a fine putter from less than 10 feet (he led the Tour in putting from 4-8 feet in 2012), he’s shown a major increase in percentage of putts made from 10-15 feet and 20-25 feet this year. In fact, he’s 12th on tour from 10-15 feet this year, up from 81st a year ago and 176th in 2012. He’s 23rd in putting from 20-25 feet, up from 101st a year ago.

Jimmy Walker’s putting percentages from various distances

 Year 4-8 feet Less than 10 feet 10-15 feet 15-20 feet 20-25 feet
 2014 75.36% 89.22% 40.82% 21.21% 18.52%
 2013 68.77 81.17 30.28 19.31 10.89
 2012 76.50 89.35 25.11 21.94 13.38
 2011 70.39 87.10 31.58 20.16 12.30
 2010 66.16 87.43 35.51 16.53 10.62

Walker has taken advantage of the first wrap-around season in PGA Tour history like no one could have imagined. After making 187 starts without a victory, he's won three times in his last eight. It will get tougher as the season progresses, as the top international players rejoin the PGA Tour in the run-up to the Masters. And Walker will be right there with them, having qualified for the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Masters for the first time. We'll see if he can get win No. 4. 


 

 

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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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.