Stat attack!: Memorial Tournament preview

By John AntoniniMay 27, 2014, 7:25 pm

It’s hard to believe that the Memorial Tournament, Jack Nicklaus’ pre-summer shindig in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, is firmly entrenched in the second half of the PGA Tour season. But that’s the case in 2013-14, with the Tour’s wrap-around schedule in place for the first time. There are only 12 weeks (13 tournaments) before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin, and as the season reaches its climax with three majors and a WGC event in the next three months, several big names need to make a summer push to qualify for the Playoffs. Headed by the injured Tiger Woods, five Tour Championship qualifiers from 2013 are outside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup standings and would miss the Playoffs if they began today. 

2013 Tour Championship qualifiers currently outside the top 125 on the 2014 FedEx Cup standings

 Player 2014 rank 2013 rank Noteworthy
130 21 He has made just one cut in his last six starts
142 15 Baby blues: Nothing better than T-44 since daughter’s birth in March
153 3 Semi-retired, a T-13 at Sawgrass was his best finish in five season starts
178 30 Trending worse than Castro, with just one cut made in his last eight starts
205 2 The back injury will keep him out a while longer. Not sure when we’ll see him again

On the other side of the coin, 13 players who have never made the PGA Tour Playoffs, are in the top 125 in the standings entering the Memorial. The group is led by HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Brendon Todd, who is ninth in points, and includes rookies Chesson Hadley and Brice Garnett.

Players in the top 125 in points with no playoff experience

 Player 2014 rank Previous best season
 Brendon Todd 9 145th in 2013
 Russell Knox 31 166th in 2013
 Ryo Ishikawa 43 141st in 2013
 Chesson Hadley 46 Rookie
 Hideki Matsuyama 50 First-year non-rookie
 Ben Martin 67 153rd in 2011
 Robert Streb 74 126th in 2013
 Andrew Svoboda 83 202nd in 2013
 Billy Hurley III 91 150th in 2012
 Brice Garnett 93 Rookie
 Danny Lee 99 159th in 2012
 Kevin Kisner 105 153rd in 2012
 Jim Renner 121 155th in 2011

Here are a few other statistical notations to be aware of as we move to the final third of the PGA Tour season.

Rory McIlroy is close to the PGA Tour record for lowest putting average in a season. Although it has been replaced by strokes gained-putting as the measuring stick for the circuit's best putters, putting average has one advantage on it's newfangled successor. Putting average incorporates all of a players rounds in a given year. (Major championships and rounds played on courses not set up for ShotLink aren’t tabulated in strokes gained/putting.) McIlroy has been rolling his ball at a near record clip this year. He is averaging 1.709 putts per green in regulation, .009 off the tour record set by Luke Donald in 2011. 

Lowest single-season putting average on the PGA Tour: 1986 to the present

 Player Year Stat
 Luke Donald 2011 1.700
 Brad Faxon 2000 1.704
 David Frost 2001 1.708
 Jim Furyk 1995 1.708
 Rory McIlroy 2014 1.709
 Brad Faxon 1996 1.709

McIlroy’s putting is leading to a plethora of birdies as his birdies per round total of 4.75 would be the second-best mark since the Tour went from total birdies to birdies per round to determine the tour leader in 1996.

Most birdies per round in a single season: 1996-2014

 Player Year Stat
 Tiger Woods 2000 4.99
 Rory McIlroy 2014 4.75
 Tiger Woods 2006 4.65
 Tiger Woods 2005 4.57
 Phil Mickelson 2001 4.49
 Tiger Woods 2002 4.47
 Davis Love III 2001 4.45
 Jimmy Walker 2014 4.44

Jim Furyk has been getting up and down at a rate unheard of in today’s game. Furyk’s scrambling percentage of 68.51 percent is the best figure on Tour since Tiger Woods had a 69.67 percentage in 2002 and would be the eighth-best mark since the Tour started keeping the stat in 1992.

Best single-season scrambling percentage: 1992-2014

 Player Year Stat
 Greg Norman 1993 72.80%
 Tiger Woods 2001 69.78
 Tiger Woods 2002 69.67
 Mike Reid 1999 68.84
 Bob Estes 1997 68.84
 Mark McCumber 1994 68.70
 Nick Price 2001 68.54
 Jim Furyk 2014 68.51
 Corey Pavin 1994 68.44
 Nick Price 1992 68.26

Bubba Watson leads the Tour in driving distance at 313.9 yards and has been the undisputed king of the long drive since he joined the Tour in 2006.  He led the Tour in distance in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2012, and has led a tournament in driving distance 68 times in his career. Since 2010 he’s led the field in distance 35 times, including five times this year. Only Robert Garrigus has led a tournament as much as 20 times in the last five years.

Most tournaments led in driving distance: 2010 to 2014

 Player Total 2014
 Bubba Watson 35 5
 Robert Garrigus 20 0
 J.B. Holmes 19 3
 Dustin Johnson 18 3
 Gary Woodland 8 0
 Charlie Beljan 7 0

For different reasons McIlory, Watson and Furyk are three players to keep an eye on at this week’s Memorial. McIlroy is the hottest golfer, Watson has had the best year and Furyk has the best history at the Memorial.

McIlroy returns to the PGA Tour having won last week’s BMW PGA Championship. Before he went across the pond, McIlroy had four straight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, three of them coming after he made the cut on the number. Watson is arguably the Tour’s player of the year through the first two-thirds of the season with two wins and two runner-up finishes. Furyk, who was second in back-to-back weeks at the Wells Fargo and Players, has one of the best histories at the Memorial. He won in 2002, was second in 2009 and has only missed one cut in 18 starts.

McIlroy, Watson and Furyk at the Memorial

 Player Starts Cuts made Top-10s Noteworthy
4 3 2 He was fifth in 2011, T-10 in 2010
18 17 6 He’s the third all-time money winner at Memorial
8 6 0 No top-10s, but 16 of 28 rounds are par or better

One final thought: In 2013, Muirfield Village GC yielded a scoring average of 73.256 making it the second hardest non-major course on Tour after the par-70 Champion Course at PGA National, which had a scoring average of 71.318. Tournament winner Matt Kuchar and runner-up Kevin Chappell were the only players with four subpar rounds.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry