Stat attack!: John Deere Classic review

By John AntoniniJuly 14, 2014, 12:29 am

Let’s call it right now. At some point this season, Erik Compton, Kevin Kisner and Hudson Swafford are going to win on the PGA Tour.

Heck, every other player from the University of Georgia has won, why not them? Brian Harman became the sixth Bulldog to win on Tour this year, taking the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., with a 22-under 262 to beat tournament favorite Zach Johnson (more on him later) by one stroke.

Harman’s win was the seventh by a Georgia player this season (Masters champion Bubba Watson has two) and moves him to 14th in the FedEx Cup standings, but only fifth among Georgia players.

PGA Tour victories by college in 2013-14

  College Wins  Players 
 Georgia Bubba Watson (2), Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd, Harris English, Brian Harman, Russell Henley
 Baylor 3 Jimmy Walker
 UNLV 2 Ryan Moore, Adam Scott
2 Patrick Reed
Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley

Georgia Bulldogs on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player FedEx
Starts  Cuts
Best finish 
 Bubba Watson 2 14 12  Won Masters, Won No. Trust
 Chris Kirk* 21 20  Won McGladrey 
 Brendon Todd  9 22 19 7 Won Byron Nelson 
 Harris English  11  22  18  Won Mayakoba
 Brian Harman  14  25  17  Won John Deere
 Russell Henley 41 22 12 2 Won Sony Open 
 Erik Compton 53 22  15  T-2 U.S. Open
 Kevin Kisner 108 23  15  T-6 Wells Fargo
 Hudson Swafford  141 23 9 T-8 Sony Open 

*It wasn’t all good for Georgia boys at the John Deere. Chris Kirk missed the cut for the first time this season at TPC Deere Run.

The win was the sixth top-10 finish of the season for Harman, who has had an up-and-down season. He has yet to put together consecutive top 10s on the year, and he missed the cut in his previous two starts before winning. His eight missed cuts are sixth among players with a win this season, and he’s the second straight PGA Tour winner who has missed at least eight cuts this year after Angel Cabrera, winner at the Greenbrier Classic.

Missed cuts by a PGA Tour winner in 2013-14

  Player Missed cuts  2013-14 win 
 Chesson Hadley 13 Puerto Rico Open
 Scott Stallings   11  Farmers Insurance 
 Steven Bowditch  11  Valero Texas Open
 Russell Henley  10  Sony Open
 Angel Cabrera  Greenbrier Classic
 Brian Harman  John Deere Classic

Harman is also the 10th player (also like Cabrera) to win while shooting four rounds in the 60s this season, and his 22-under total is the fourth best mark by a winner this season.

Best score in relation to par by a PGA Tour winner in 2013-14

 Player To par Tournament win 
 Patrick Reed -28  Humana Challenge 
 Webb Simpson  -24  Shriners Las Vegas 
 Dustin Johnson -24  WGC-HSBC Champions
 Brian Harman  -22  John Deere Classic
 Harris English -21  OHL Mayakoba Classic
 Chesson Hadley -21  Puerto Rico Open 

Harmon won by utilizing his approach shots to great advantage. He tied for the tournament lead by hitting 63 greens in regulation, and he was second in approach shot distance to pin, hitting his approaches to within 23 feet, 3 inches of the hole. For the week he hit 19 approach shots to within 10 feet of the hole. He was 12 under on those 19 holes.

Approach shot distance to pin leaders at the John Deere Classic

 Player Approach distance Subpar holes Finish 
 Tim Clark 21 ft., 10 in. 24 T-5 
 Brian Harman  23 ft., 3 in. 25  Won 
 Bo Van Pelt  24 ft., 9 in.  22  T-7 
 Zach Johnson  25 ft., 7 in. 25 
 Johnson Wagner  26 ft., 2 in. 16  T-7 

The victory secured Harman the final spot in the British Open. If year’s past are an indication, the Deere winner should make the cut at Royal Liverpool. The Deere has been held prior to the Open Championship since 2004, and no Deere winner who played in the year’s third major has missed the cut.

John Deere Classic winner at the British Open

 Year Player  Open finish 
 2013  Jordan Spieth  T-44
 2012  Zach Johnson T-9
 2011  Steve Stricker T-12 
 2010  Steve Stricker  T-55 
 2009  Steve Stricker T-52 
 2008  Kenny Perry  Did not play 
 2007   Jonathan Byrd T-23 
 2006  John Senden T-35 
 2005  Sean O’Hair T-15 
 2004  Mark Hensby Did not play

Harman’s win was notable because he missed the cut at the Deere in 2013. In fact he improved his scoring average by a whopping seven strokes from last year, going from 72.5 in 2013 to 66.5 this past weekend. He’s the first player to win the tournament after missing the cut the previous season since J.L. Lewis in 1998 and 1999. The victory was also notable because of who Harman beat. He was paired in the final round with Steve Stricker, a three-time Deere winner, and after Stricker stumbled to an unlikely 72, Harman held off Zach Johnson for the victory. Johnson has now finished second here three times in the last six years, with a win and a T-3 thrown in for good measure. He shot four rounds in the 60s again last week, giving him 24 straight rounds in the 60 at TPC Deere Run.

Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic: 2009-2014

 Year Finish  Scores To par  Earnings 
 2014   63-67-69-64—263 -21  $507,600 
 2013  T-2  64-66-67-68—265  -19  404,800
 2012  Won  68-65-66-65—264 -20  828,000
 2011  T-3  66-69-67-65—267 -17  261,000
 2010  T-21  67-69-69-68—273  -11  36,418
 2009 T-2  69-68-64-66—267 -17  321,066

Johnson is 105 under par at the tournament in the last six years with a scoring average of 66.62. Johnson lost by three strokes to Steve Stricker in 2009 and in a playoff to Jordan Spieth in 2013.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)