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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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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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.