Stat attack!: Masters review

By John AntoniniApril 14, 2014, 2:48 am

He has had previous success at Augusta National. He has already won on Tour this season. He hits plenty of greens in regulation. A long hitter, he makes plenty of birdies on par-5 holes. He rarely three-putts (at least not this year). He’s left-handed. Bubba Watson meets all the requirements of a Masters champion. So tell me again why I didn’t pick him to win the tournament this week?

Watson’s second Masters title, coming two years after his first, was statistically similar to his win in 2012. He didn’t need a playoff this time, beating Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes, but his greens in regulation, fairways hit and total putts were similar to his results when he beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff.

Watson’s stats in his two Masters victories

 2012 Stat 2014
 278 Score 280
 37 (T-46) Fairways hit 40 (T-13)
 53 (T-4) Greens in regulation 50 (T-5)
 120 (T-37) Putts 116 (T-16)
 4-under Par-3s 1-under
 2-over Par-4s 1-over
 8-under Par-5s 8-under

Watson didn’t post his best numbers Sunday. He hit only seven fairways and 10 greens, his lowest figures of the week. Still, his final-round 69 was his third sub-70 score for the tournament (which ties the Masters record). He countered his relative failure to hit greens Sunday by taking just 25 putts in the final round. He needed just one putt on 11 holes.

Watson’s Masters stats by round

  Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Total
 Fairways hit 10 10 13 7 40
  Greens in regulation 16 12 12 10 50
 Putts 32 26 33 25 116
 Score 69 68 74 69 280

Long one of the best shapers of the golf ball, Watson’s ball-striking skills were on display at Augusta National. His greens in regulation and putting totals were among the best he’s had in major championships.

Bubba Watson’s most greens hit in a major

 Major Greens hit
 2010 British Open 56
 2012 Masters 53
 2011 Masters 52
 2014 Masters 50
 2013 U.S. Open 49

Bubba Watson’s fewest putts taken at a major

 Major Total putts
 2009 U.S. Open 112
 2004 U.S. Open 114
 2010 PGA Championship 114
 2014 Masters 116
 2012 British Open 119

Watson’s second Masters title came in his sixth start at Augusta National. Only Horton Smith needed fewer appearances to get his second Masters victory. All of the players on this list, except Watson, are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Fewest starts needed for two Masters victories

 Starts Champion Years of victories
 3 Horton Smith 1934, 1936
 6 Jimmy Demaret 1940, 1947
 6 Arnold Palmer 1958, 1960
 6 Bubba Watson 2012, 2014

With two major championships and six PGA Tour victories, Watson is well on his way toward his own hall-of-fame career. (Don’t forget how close he came to a third major, having lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a playoff to Martin Kaymer.) He does, however, need to avoid the pitfalls that befell him after his 2012 Masters victory. Emotionally exhausted after a month that saw him not only win the Masters, but also become a father for the first time after he and wife, Angie, adopted baby Caleb, Watson didn’t win again in 2012 and 2013. But 2014 has been a different story. With two wins and two seconds this season, Watson is first on the PGA Tour money list, second in FedEx Cup points and second in scoring average.

Bubba Watson in 2013-14

 Tournament Finish Scores Money
 CIMB Classic T-31 78-69-65-73—285 $44,450
 WGC-HSBC Champions T-8 68-69-69-68—274 161,666
 Farmers Insurance Open T-23 70-73-73-69—285 54,290
 Waste Management Phoenix T-2 64-44-48-71—269 545,600
 Northern Trust Open Won 70-71-64-64—269 1,206,000
 WGC-Accenture Match Play T-9   148,000
 WGC-Cadillac Championship T-2 73-72-72-68—285 753,000
 Arnold Palmer Invitational WD 83  
 Masters Won 69-68-74-69—280 1,620,000

But this Masters wasn’t all about Bubba Watson. Seniors and first-timers also made waves. More Champions Tour eligible players made the cut (6) than ever before and 11 Masters rookies played the weekend, tieing the tournament record. At age 20, Jordan Spieth almost became the youngest Masters champion, settling for a tie for second with fellow first-timer Jonas Blixt. It was the fifth runner-up finish in 43 starts for Spieth, golf’s new Nearly Man. There were four rookies in the top-10, including Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker, who were T-8.

Low finish by first-timers since 1980 

 Finish Player Year
 T-2 Jonas Blixt 2014
 T-2 Jordan Spieth 2014
 T-2 Jason Day 2011
 T-2 Dan Pohl 1982
 3 Tommy Tolles 1997
 T-3 Luke Donald 2005
 T-3 Tom Lehman 1993
 T-3 John Huston 1990
 T-3 David Edwards 1984

In his first four treks around Augusta National, Spieth hit 53 greens in regulation, more than anyone in the field. He was also T-13 in fairways hit (40) and T-30 in total putts (120). But he wasn’t the only player with his eye on history. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, 30 years older than Spieth, shot 66 Saturday to move into contention, and was looking to become the oldest major champion of all time. The Spaniard shot 71 Sunday to finish fourth, four strokes back of Watson. It was the second-best finish by a player age 50 or older at the Masters. Jimenez was joined in the top-10 by fellow senior Bernhard Langer, whose 69 Sunday gave him a T-8 finish. It was his first top-10 at the Masters since he was T-4 in 2004.

Best Masters finish by a player 50 or older 

 Player Finish Year Age
 Sam Snead T-3 1963 50
 Miguel Angel Jimenez 4 2014 50
 Jimmy Demaret T-5 1962 51
  Fred Couples 6 2010 50
 Jack Nicklaus T-6 1998 58
 Bernhard Langer T-8 2014 56
 Sam Snead T-10 1967 54
 Ben Hogan T-10 1967 54

One final thought: Next up on the major schedule is the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in June. Watson has played in seven national championships, making the cut four times with a best finish of T-5 in 2007. He was T-32 a year ago at Merion.


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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.