Stat attack!: McGladrey Classic preview

By John AntoniniOctober 21, 2014, 6:41 pm

The state of Georgia provided more than its share of PGA Tour winners during the 2013-14 season. Ten players with state ties combined to win 13 times on Tour last season, including former University of Georgia players Chris Kirk and Bubba Watson and Augusta State grad Patrick Reed, who won twice.

Kirk is the defending champion at this week’s McGladrey Classic, a relatively new event held on the Seaside Course at Sea Island GC in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Georgia players have won two of the previous four tournaments, with 2010 champ Heath Slocum (a resident of Milton, Georgia) joining Kirk in the winner’s circle. In addition, tournament host Davis Love III, who lives at Sea Island, was fourth in 2012 and Augusta native Scott Brown was fourth in 2013.

Kirk, Slocum, Love and Brown are among the 20 or so players with Georgia ties (players who were born in, reside in, or played college golf in the Peach State) who are in this week’s tournament. Of the 10 Georgia winners from a year ago, only Watson and Reed are skipping this week’s tournament. 

Players with Georgia ties who won on the PGA Tour in the 2013-14 season

 Player Tournament Georgia tie
 Harris English Mayakoba Classic Born in Valdosta, attended Georgia
 Chesson Hadley Puerto Rico Open Attended Georgia Tech
 Russell Henley Honda Classic Born in Macon, attended Georgia
 Brian Harman John Deere Classic Born in Savannah, attended Georgia
 Zach Johnson Hyundai T of C Lives in Sea Island
 Chris Kirk McGladrey, Deutsche Bank Attended Georgia, lives in Atlanta
 Matt Kuchar RBC Heritage Attended Ga. Tech, lives in Sea Island
 Patrick Reed Humana, WGC-Cadillac Attended Augusta State, transferred from Georgia
 Brendon Todd Byron Nelson Attended Georgia, lives in Atlanta
 Bubba Watson Northern Trust, Masters Attended Georgia

Players with Georgia ties who have top 10 finishes at the McGladrey Classic

 Player Top 10s at McGladrey
 Scott Brown T-4 in 2013
 Brian Harman T-10 in 2013
 Charles Howell III T-6 in 2010, T-7 in 2012
 Chris Kirk Won in 2013
 Matt Kuchar T-7 in 2013
 Davis Love III T-4 in 2012
 Aron Price T-9 in 2010
 Heath Slocum Won in 2010

Crafty Kirk

Chris Kirk took a circuitous route to victory in 2013. Although he was T-41 in the field in driving accuracy, Kirk was T-5 in average distance to the pin on approach shots. He hit the green in regulation 10 of the 18 times he missed the fairway. He made six birdies and two bogeys when he missed the fairway, going four-under on those holes for the week.

Even when he missed the green he gained ground on his competitors. Kirk was T-5 in the field in scrambling, making par or better 13 of the 17 times he didn’t hit the green in regulation. His tally included three birdies, 10 pars and four bogeys, which means he lost only one stroke to par when he missed the green. That was three strokes better than any other player, a big difference maker in his one-stroke victory. 

Scrambling stats for McGladrey leaders in 2013

 Player Greens missed Birdies/Pars/Bogeys To par on missed GIR
 Chris Kirk (Won) 17 3/10/4 +1
 Briny Baird (T-2) 15 1/8/6 +5
 Tim Clark (T-2) 12 0/7/4 (1 double) +6
 Scott Brown (T-4) 19 1/13/5 +4
 Brian Gay (T-4) 22 0/14/8 +8
 John Senden (T-4) 20 0/16/4 +4

Watch out for Webb

While Kirk remains a favorite this week, Webb Simpson is another player to watch. The 2011 runner-up at Sea Island - he lost a playoff to Ben Crane - Simpson has played this event three times and never finished worse than T-12. He has 11 rounds in the 60s and a scoring average of 67.17. Among players in this week’s field who have played at least two times previously, only Michael Thompson has a lower scoring average at Sea Island (67.00).

Lowest scoring average at the McGladrey among players in the 2014 field: Minimum 8 rounds

 Player Scoring average Rounds
 Michael Thompson 67.00 8
 Webb Simpson 67.17 12
 Scott Brown 67.50 8
 David Toms 67.79 14
 Ken Duke 68.00 8
 Matt Kuchar 68.00 12
 Charles Howell III 68.06 06

Starting off on the right track

That Charles Howell III has played well here should not be lost among those trying to find a fantasy sleeper this week. Getting off to a quick start each new season is a Howell trait, regardless of whether the new season starts in January or October. Dating back to his last victory in 2007, Howell has 14 top-10 finishes in his first five events of the year, including three such finishes a year ago.

This season Howell was T-71 at the Open, but improved to T-18 at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a good sign that things are trending right for this Augusta native, who has two top 10 finishes in his career at Sea Island.

Charles Howell III’s first five starts of the season since 2007

 Year First start Second start Third start Fourth start Fifth start
 2014-15 T-71 Frys T-18 Shriners      
 2013-14 T-33 Frys T-5 Shriners T-7 CIMB T-27 McGladrey T-6 Mayakoba
 2013 T-3 Sony T-2 Humana T-9 Farmers Ins. T-36 Phoenix MC-Northern Trust
 2012  T-2 Sony T-49 Humana T-43 Farmers Ins. T-33 Phoenix MC-Northern Trust
 2011 T-68 Sony T-13 Hope T-14 Farmers Ins. MC Phoenix T-66 Northern Trust
 2010  T-5 Sony T-26 Hope T-9 Farmers Ins. MC Northern Trust T-20 Mayakoba
 2009 4 Sony MC Phoenix T-42 Buick Inv. T-39 Pebble T-59 Northern Trust
 2008 T-8 T of C T-69 Sony T-13 Buick Inv. T-25 Phoenix T-55 Northern Trust
 2007 2 Sony T-65 Hope 2 Buick Inv. T-33 Phoenix Won Nissan Open

One final thought: Nine players who finished among the top 10 at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open are in the field at the McGladrey Classic, led by Vegas champion Ben Martin. Out of those who participated in this event last year, Martin was the only one to miss the cut. Scott Brown (T-4) and Webb Simpson (T-7) finished in the top 10, while Scott Piercy, David Hearn and Russell Knox made the cut. Adam Hadwin, Tony Finau and Robert Streb did not play at Sea Island in 2013. 

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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.