Stat attack!: Deutsche Bank Championship preview

By John AntoniniAugust 27, 2014, 12:24 am

While the rest of the golf world has been watching Rory McIlroy dominate the summer of 2014, I have been watching Jim Furyk. The PGA Tour veteran has done everything but win this season, and has been playing almost pretty noteworthy himself of late. In his last five events, Furyk has never finished worse than T-15 (WGC-Bridgestone), held two 54-hole leads only to fall back on Sunday despite shooting 69 and 70 in those two final rounds, and 19 of his last 20 rounds have been under par. He heads into this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, where he has never missed the cut, ranked sixth in the FedEx Cup standings and the Official World Golf Ranking. If anyone owns the definition of “being due,” it’s Furyk.

Jim Furyk’s last five PGA Tour starts

 Tournament Finish Scores Earnings
 Barclays 8 66-69-69-70--274 $248,000
 PGA Championship T-5 66-68-72-66--272 367,500
 WGC-Bridgestone T-15 69-68-69-69--275 97,500
 RBC Canadian Open 2 67-63-65-69--264    615,600
 British Open 4 68-71-71-65--275 478,380

Jim Furyk at the Deutsche Bank since the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs

 Year Finish
 2013 T-27
 2012 T-13
 2011 6
 2010 T-37
 2009 T-8
 2008 T-7
 2007 T-55

That Furyk hasn’t won since the 2010 Tour Championship is amazing given all he has accomplished. In the last three seasons, Furyk has finished second six times and third three times. He has had 24 top-10 finishes and earned more than $11 million, having recently gone over the $60 million mark for his career. The fact he has not won despite holding or sharing the 54-hole lead eight different times in the last three years is mind blowing at first glance, considering he has not played poorly on Sunday in many of those tournaments.

Jim Furyk with the 54-hole lead or co-lead since 2012 

 Tournament Final-round score Finish
 2014 Barclays 70 8
 2014 Canadian Open 69 2
 2013 BMW Championship 71 3
 2013 PGA Championship 71 2
 2012 McGladrey  69 3
 2012 WGC-Bridgestone 69 2
 2012 U.S. Open 74 T-4
 2012 Transitions 69 Playoff loss

But a closer look at the scoring averages shows that Furyk hasn’t often taken advantage of opportunities that the rest of the field has capitalized on. Take this year’s two events for example. At the Barclays, Furyk’s final-round 70 looks good until it’s compared to the field average of 70.31. The final-round scoring average in Canada was 68.67 slightly lower than Furyk’s 69.

Jim Furyk compared to the field when he holds the 54-hole lead 

 Tournament Furyk's Sunday score Sunday field average Winner's score
 2014 Barclays 70 70.31 65 (Hunter Mahan)
 2014 Canadian Open 69 68.67 65 (Tim Clark)
 2013 BMW
71 70.56 65 (Zach Johnson)
 2013 PGA
71 70,.94 68 (Jason Dufner)
 2012 McGladrey  69 69.48 60 (Tommy Gainey)
 2012 WGC-Bridgestone 69 70.15 64 (Keegan Bradley)
 2012 U.S. Open 74 72.90 68 (Webb Simpson)
 2012 Transitions 69 70.48 66 (Luke Donald)


Furyk has shot in the 60s five times in those eight events and averaged 70.25 per round. The player who would go on to win averaged 65.1 in the final round (led by Tommy Gainey’s 60 at the 2012 McGladrey). Furyk shot better than the final-round average four times, but if you round to whole numbers he never beat the field average by more than a stroke. More often than not, Furyk was a field-average player on Sunday, while the tournament winner was at least three strokes better than the field every time. 

That seems unsustainable. Somewhere along the way, a player who is good enough to shoot 59 on a day when the field averages more than 71 (second round, 2013 BMW) is going to be able to substantially improve on the field with the tournament on the line. After all, Furyk held the 54-hole lead on three occassions in 2010 and won all three times.

Furyk isn’t the only player to have a history of success at the Deutsche Bank Championship. There are nine other players in this year’s field who have made five or more starts at TPC Boston and have never missed the cut. Only Jason Day (seventh, one spot behind Furyk) is ranked in the top 10 on the current FedEx Cup standings.

Players who have not missed the cut in five or more starts at the Deutsche Bank

 Player Starts Best finish FedEx rank
 Jason Bohn 5 Second in 2005 68
 Angel Cabrera 5 T-4 in 2009 45
 Jason Day 6 T-2 in 2010, T-3 in 2011 7
 Jim Furyk 9 Sixth in 2011 6
 Marc Leishman 5 T-15 in 2009 36
 Phil Mickelson 7 Won in 2007 57
 Adam Scott 9 Won in 2003, T-2 in 2004 16
 John Senden 10 Eighth in 2010 28
 Brandt Snedeker 7 T-3 in 2011 71
 Camilo Villegas 8 T-3 in 2008 49

FedEx rank coming into this week is important. Five of the seven Deutsche Bank winners in the Playoff era were ranked in the top 10 in FedEx points entering the week. Henrik Stenson, who won in 2013, had fallen out of the top 10, from ninth to 13th, the week prior to winning a year ago.

Rank of Deutsche Bank winner on the FedEx Cup standings

 Year Player Rank entering week
 2013 Henrik Stenson 13
 2012 Rory McIlroy 4
 2011 Webb Simpson 4
 2010 Charley Hoffman 59
 2009 Steve Stricker 2
 2008 Vijay Singh 1
 2007 Phil Mickelson 5

With that in mind, here’s a glance at the top 10 in this week’s standings and how they have fared at Boston

This week's FedEx Cup leaders at the Deutsche Bank Championship

 Player Deutsche Bank record
 Hunter Mahan T-8 in 2011 is his only top 10 in 11 starts
 Rory McIlroy He won in 2012, but was outside the top 35 two other times
 Jimmy Walker Two cuts in five starts, with a best of T-37 in 2011
 Matt Kuchar 10 starts, one top 10; a T-4 in 2013
 Bubba Watson Six cuts made in eight starts with a best of T-12 in pre-Playoff 2006 
 Jim Furyk Six starts, no missed cuts, two top threes
 Jason Day Six starts, no missed cuts, two top threes
 Patrick Reed T-70 in 2013 in his only appearance
 Jordan Spieth T-4 after a final-round 62 in 2013 in his only start
 Cameron Tringale Missed cut in 201 and 2012; T-67 in 2013

One final thought: In the seven years of the PGA Tour Playoffs, the Deutsche Bank winner has finished in the top 10 in the field in scrambling. The Tour’s 2013-14 leader in scrambling is, you guessed it, Jim Furyk at 71.10 percent. 

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.