Stat attack!: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial preview

By John AntoniniMay 21, 2014, 1:43 am

If there is to be a break in the pattern of PGA Tour winners coming from the middle regions of the Official World Golf Ranking, might it come at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial? Not a tournament that has offered world-class fields in recent years, the Colonial has, nevertheless, identified very accomplished winners. Since 2000, six winners have won major championships and all but two players who have donned the plaid jacket given to the winner have played in a Ryder or Presidents Cup. A year ago, Boo Weekley outdueled Matt Kuchar, winning by a stroke after weekend rounds of 66-66. And although, Weekley (pictured) returns to defend his title, we first turn our attention toward Kuchar. One of the hottest golfers in the world, Kooch, who has never missed the cut in seven starts at Colonial, has his sights set on more than just a victory. The No. 1 spot on the World Ranking is within reach. 

Matt Kuchar’s PGA Tour record since the beginning of March

 Tournament Place Scores Earnings
 WGC-Cadillac Championship T-13 69-74-74-74—291 $110,000
 Valspar Championship T-38 73-71-69-74—287 23,940
 Valero Texas Open T-4 70-72-65-75—282 272,800
 Shell Houston Open 2 66-67-68-72—273 691,200
 Masters T-5 73-71-68-74—286 342,000
 Heritage 1 66-73-70-64—273 1,044,000
 Players T-17 71-71-69-71—282 135,333
 HP Byron Nelson Championship T-7 69-67-68-68—272 207,862

Another player to focus on this week is Graham DeLaet, the PGA Tour leader in ball striking. Colonial CC isn’t a bomber’s paradise. Its tight fairways require precise tee shots and ball striking will be at a premium. The PGA Tour’s ball-striking stat – a combination of a player’s rank in greens in regulation and total driving (which is itself a combination driving distance and driving accuracy) – gives us a look at who might succeed.

PGA Tour leaders in ball striking

 Rank Player In Colonial field Best finsih
 1 Graham DeLaet Yes T-22 in 2013
 2 Boo Weekley Yes Won in 2013
 3 Hudson Swafford No  
 4  Billy Horschel No  
 5 Bubba Watson No  
 6 Kevin Stadler Yes 7th in 2011
 7 Justin Hicks Yes T-62 in 2013
 8 Harris English Yes T-5 in 2012
 9 John Senden Yes T-8 in 2011
 10 Ryan Palmer Yes T-5 in 2012

DeLaet, is an intriguing player. A two-time runner-up 2013-14, the Canadian member of the 2013 International Presidents Cup team has yet to win on the PGA Tour. Although the Colonial hasn’t crowned a first-time PGA Tour winner since Sergio Garcia in 2001, the three previous Texas events on Tour this year had not raised any hardware. Could this be the week DeLaet finally wins his first event? He has slowed down from his hot start – he had four straight top-10s earlier this year including his T-2s at San Diego and Phoenix. But despite poor performances at the Masters and the Players, he turned it around with a  T-7 at last week’s Nelson. Here’s a look at the players in the top-10 at the Nelson who are in the Colonial field and how they fare in the Tour’s ball-striking stat and at Colonial.

How the Byron Nelson contenders have fared at the Colonial

 Player Nelson finish Ball striking rank Best Colonial
 Brendon Todd Won 71 T-73 in 2012
 Marc Leishman  T-3 T-86 T-44 in 2011
 James Hahn T-5 75 No cuts made
 Boo Weekley T-5 2 Won in 2013
 Graham DeLaet T-7 1 T-22 in 2013
 Dustin Johnson T-7 11 T-74 in 2008
 Matt Kuchar T-7 41 Second in 2013

For additional proof of the importance of ball striking, a year ago Weekley was T-6 in fairways hit and T-5 in greens in regulation at Colonial. In the past six years, the winner of the Colonial has finished in the top 15 in both stats four times.

Accuracy and GIR rank of Colonial winner: 2008-2013

 Year Player Accuracy rank GIR rank
 2013 Boo Weekley T-6 T-5
 2012 Zach Johnson T-27 T-37
 2011 David Toms T-4 T-4
 2010 Zach Johnson T-10 1
 2009 Steve Stricker T-15 T-6
 2008 Phil Mickelson T-33 T-5

If DeLaet – or Kuchar or Weekley or anyone else from the top of the Nelson leader board were to play well this week - they’d join this list of players who have tackled the Texas Two-step with consecutive top-10s in the Metroplex.

Players with top-10 finishes at the Nelson and the Colonial since 2010

 Year Player Nelson finish Colonial finish
 2012 Jason Dufner Won 2
 2012 Jonas Blixt T-3 T-10
 2012 Ryan Palmer T-9 T-5
 2011 Rod Pampling T-8 T-10
 2010 Ben Crane  T-7 T-3
 2010 Jeff Overton T-2 T-3
 2010 Scott Verplank T-5 T-5

One name we haven’t mentioned is new World No. 1 Adam Scott, who’s playing in Fort Worth for the first time since a T-65 in 2011. Scott could make history this week. The Colonial is the only Texas event that he has not won, and he is looking to become the first player in PGA Tour history to win all four of the current PGA Tour events in the state of Texas.

Adam Scott in Texas events

 Tournament Starts Top-10s Cuts made Best
 Colonial 2 0 2 T-64 in 2009
 Byron Nelson 4 2 2 Won in 2008
 Houston 6 2 5 Won in 2007
 Texas Open 2 1 2 Won in 2010

Players with wins in three of the four Texas tournaments

 Player Colonial win Texas win Nelson win Houston win
 Ben Crenshaw 1977, 90 1973, 86 1983  

 Bruce Crampton

1965 1964   1973, 1975
 Bruce Devlin 1966   1969 1972
 Ben Hogan 1946, 47, 52, 53, 59 1946 1946  
 Gene Littler 1971 1956   1977
 Phil Mickelson 2000, 08   1996 2011
 Byron Nelson   1940 1944 1946
 Arnold Palmer  1962 1960, 61, 62   1957, 66
 Corey Pavin 1985, 96 1988   1984
 Nick Price 1994, 02 1992 1991  
 Adam Scott   2010 2008 2007
 Sam Snead 1950 1948, 50 1945, 57, 58  
 Mike Souchak 1956 1955   1955, 64

Scott is already in select company, eight of the other 12 players are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. A victory at Colonial would put him in a class by himself. It’s certainly something worthy of No. 1.


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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.