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 Frys.com 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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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.