Stat attack!: Deutsche Bank Championship review

By John AntoniniSeptember 2, 2014, 1:41 am

Chris Kirk won the Deutsche Bank Championship Monday with a score of 15-under 269. He shot 66-64-66 in the last three rounds to offset an opening 73, one of the highest scores for a winner on the PGA Tour in the last several years.

But an argument can be made that it was Kirk’s 73 that won him the tournament. On a Friday in which the Georgia Bulldog hit just seven greens in regulation, he scrambled his way to a 2-over score. Kirk was fourth in the field in scrambling – making par or better eight times in Round 1 after missing the green in regulation – and continues a trend where the Deutsche Bank winner takes advantage of opportunities after missing greens.

Highest winning first-round scores on the PGA Tour since 2010

 First-round score Player Tournament
 74 Justin Rose 2014 Quicken Loans National
 73 Chris Kirk 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship
 73 Kevin Streelman 2013 Tampa Bay Championship
 73 Bill Lunde 2010 Turning Stone Championship

Scrambling rank of Deutsche Bank Championship winner: 2007-2014

 Year Winner Scrambling (rank)
 2014 Chris Kirk 80.77% (4)
 2013 Henrik Stenson 81.82% (T-6)
 2012 Rory McIlroy 70.83% (10)
 2011 Webb Simpson      76.00% (5)
 2010 Charley Hoffman 82.35% (2)
 2009  Steve Stricker 73.91% (10)
 2008 Vijay Singh 76.92% (4)
 2007 Phil Mickelson 86.36% (1)

Every winner in the playoff era finished in the top 10 in scrambling at TPC Boston. The difference between Kirk and everyone else is that none of those winners shot a score as high as 73, or hit as few as seven greens in one round.

In fact, Stricker in 2009 was the only winner in that span with a round higher than 70. Every winner from 2007-2013 hit at least 10 greens in every round.

What would the expected score be for a player who only hits seven greens on a par-71 course? There’s no easy way to determine this, of course, but let’s try.

Let’s assume a player reaches the putting surface on the shot after he missed the green in regulation. That means Kirk, who entered the week with a one-putt percentage of about 41 percent, should have been expected to make a one-putt par on 41 percent of those 11 holes. He should have made 4.5 pars.

Instead he made eight pars when he missed the green, improving his expectations by 3.5 strokes. He would go on to win by two.

Kirk scored better than expected on Friday, and he played out of his mind over the last 54 holes, shooting 17-under (66-64-66) to hold off Russell Henley, Geoff Ogilvy and Billy Horschel by two strokes. That 196 total is the third-best final-54 hole total in Deutsche Bank Championship history.

Best total score over the last 54 holes at the Deutsche Bank Championship

 Player Year Final 54 holes
 Henrik Stenson 2013 63-66-66—195
 Adam Scott 2003 62-67-66—195
 Chris Kirk 2014 66-64-66—196

It was the second win of the season for Kirk, who also won the McGladrey Classic, the fifth event of the 2013 wrap-around portion of this PGA Tour season. He made the cut in his first 20 starts of the year and has made 24 cuts in 26 starts in 2013-14.

Players with the highest percentage of cuts made in 2013-14 (15 or more starts)

 Player Cuts made Starts Percentage of cuts made Top 25s
 Jim Furyk 19 19 1.000 15
 Adam Scott 15 15 1.000 14
 Rory McIlroy 15 15 1.000 15
 Bill Haas 25 26 .961 15
 Graeme McDowell 15 16 .937 10
 Chris Kirk 24 26 .923 11

What stands out in Kirk’s record is that he only has four top-10 finishes, and he has been in the top 25 in fewer than half his starts.

Chris Kirk’s best finishes in 2013-14

 Tournament Finish
 McGladrey Classic Won
 Deutsche Bank Championship Won
 Sony Open 2
 Memorial  T-4
 Honda Classic T-12

Still, he’s one of six players with multiple victories this season, having joined Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Patrick Reed with two titles. (Rory McIlroy and Jimmy Walker have three victories each.) Now, he’s first in the FedEx Cup standings, ahead of McIlroy and Walker. Not bad at all.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.