Stat attack!: Greenbrier Classic review

By John AntoniniJuly 7, 2014, 1:50 am

It stands to reason that hitting greens in regulation and making putts is a cocktail for success on the PGA Tour. No one has proved that this season quite like Angel Cabrera at the Greenbrier Classic. The 44-year-old Argentina native led the field at the Old White Course in greens in regulation and average distance of putts made. He is just the second player in the last two years to lead a tournament in both those stats. Not surprisingly, both players went on to win.

Tournament leaders in GIR and average distance of putts made: 2010-2014

 Player Tournament   Result
 Angel Cabrera 2014 Greenbrier Classic Won
 Phil Mickelson 2013 WM Phoenix Open Won
 Rickie Fowler 2012 Players T-2
 William McGirt  2012 True South Classic T-5
 Brendon de Jonge 2011 Sony Open T-20
 Bob Estes  2010 AT&T Pebble T-16

Cabrera wasn’t having a stellar 2014 season. He had made just eight cuts in 16 starts and was 157th in the FedEx Cup standings. Entering The Greenbrier Classic he was 156th on Tour in driving accuracy and 145th in greens in regulation. His average distance of putts made ranked 85th and he was 90th in strokes gained-putting. He didn’t have a top-10 finish all year on the PGA Tour. However, there were signs entering the week that things were turning around. He was T-11 at the Travelers Championship and T-24 at the Quicken Loans National. The improvement continued at the Old White Course. In addition to leading in GIR and putting distance, he was fourth in driving accuracy and fifth in strokes gained.

Angel Cabrera’s stats at the Greenbrier and entering the tournament

  Fairways hit GIR Strokes gained/putting Dist. of putts made Scoring avg.
 Greenbrier 82.14% (4) 79.17% (1) +1.574 (5)  105 ft., 6 in. (1)  66.00 (1)
 the week 
56.39 (156) 63.04 (145) +0.064 (90) 71 ft., 9 in. (85)  71.10 (99) 

Cabrera didn’t play well on the par-3 holes at Greenbrier, averaging 3.13 strokes on the one-shotters, ranked T-60 in the field. But he stood out on the par-4 and par-5 holes. Cabrera was tied for first in par-4 scoring at 3.77 and tied for second in par-5 scoring at 4.13. The difference between his scoring on the long holes and the short holes was exactly one stroke. His par-4 scoring average is one of the best on Tour since the Florida swing.

Single event par-4 scoring average: March to July

 Par-4 average  Player  Tournament
 3.68 Seung-Yul Noh  Zurich Classic 
 3.75 Robert Streb  Zurich Classic
 3.75 Chesson Hadley  Puerto Rico 
 3.77  Angel Cabrera  Greenbrier 
 3.77  Billy Hurley III  Greenbrier 
 3.77  George McNeill  Greenbrier 
 3.77   Kevin Streelman  Travelers 
 3.77  Brandt Snedeker Travelers

Although the top three players on the Greenbrier leaderboard (and Hurley, who finished T-4) had similar results on the par-3 and par-4 holes, Cabrera outscored the others by at least a half-stroke on the par 5s. Even though there were only two par 5s on the course, Cabrera’s performance there was enough to outdistance his rivals.

Scoring by par for the leaders at the Greenbrier Classic

 Player  Par-3  Par-4  Par-5 
 Angel Cabrera  3.13  3.77  4.13
 George McNeill  3.00  3.77  4.63 
 Webb Simpson  3.13  3.81  4.63 
 Billy Hurley III 3.25 3.77 4.75 

This was the first top-10 finish of the season for Cabrera on the PGA Tour, and the 25th of his career. The two-time major champion hadn’t won a non-major on the PGA Tour. Most of his best finishes have come in big events. Among his 10 best finishes on Tour are four majors, three WGC events and a playoff event.

Angel Cabrera’s best PGA Tour finishes

 Tournament  Result 
 2014 Greenbrier Classic  Won
 2009 Masters  Won 
 2007 U.S. Open  Won 
 2013 Masters 
 2011 Quail Hollow   3
 2009 Deutsche Bank Champ.  T-4
 2009 WGC-Bridgestone Inv.  T-4 
 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Inv.  T-4
 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational  T-4 
 1999 British Open T-4

Cabrera’s victory overshadowed some other outstanding achievements at The Greenbrier Classic, notably George McNeill’s final-round 61, which lifted him to his best finish of the season and the seventh runner-up of his career. It was a career-best round for the two-time PGA Tour winner, who birdied four straight holes on the front before punctuating his round with a hole-in-one on the 234-yard, par-3 7th hole. McNeill’s outgoing 28 was one stroke off the best nine-hole score on Tour in 2013-14.

Lowest nine-hole scores on Tour in 2013-14

 Score  Player
 27 (8-under) Paul Casey, back nine, second round, HP Byron Nelson Championship
 28 (7-under) J.J. Henry, front nine, first round, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 28 (7-under) Brendan Steele, front nine, first round, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 28 (7-under) Kevin Streelman, back nine, fourth round, Travelers Championship
 28 (6-under)  George McNeill, front nine, fourth round, The Greenbrier Classic

The tournament’s other notable performer was Brendon Todd, who continued his career ascension with a T-4, his fifth top-10 finish since his win at the Byron Nelson and his sixth top-20 finish in a row.

Brendon Todd’s last six PGA Tour starts

 Tournament  Result
 Greenbrier Classic  T-4 
 Quicken Loans National  T-5 
 U.S. Open  T-17 
 Memorial  T-8 
 Crowne Plaza Colonial  T-5 
 Byron Nelson Championship Won

Todd is ninth on Tour in FedEx Cup points and is a shoo-in to make the PGA Tour Playoffs for the first time. He is second in sand-save percentage, fourth in strokes gained-putting and seventh in scoring average. He was second after two rounds of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, but shot 79 Saturday to finish T-17 in his first major championship. He won’t have to wait long for his second major, as the top finish at Greenbrier qualifies him for the British Open.

Finally, there’s Tom Watson, who finished T-35 at age 64 with a final-round 69 at the Old White Course, where he has served as the golf professional emeritus since 2005. According to the PGA Tour, it was the 499th time Watson has made the cut in a PGA Tour event.

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Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.