Stat attack!: The Memorial Tournament review

By John AntoniniJune 2, 2014, 1:57 am

There’s nothing like a birdie on the 18th hole to make you want to come back for more. Hideki Matsuyama sure thinks so. After making birdie on the 18th hole at Muirfield Village during the first three rounds of the Memorial, he came to the last hole Sunday needing another to force a playoff with Kevin Na at 13-under 275. One stroke off the lead after playing the 16th and 17th holes in three over, he broke his driver in disgust after he thought he hit his tee ball into the fairway bunkers. But his ball stayed on the fairway, and he hit the green and made his putt to tie Na. Matsuyama won with a par on the first playoff hole and became the first winner in 2013-14 to birdie the 18th hole in all four rounds. He also became the fifth player to make the Memorial his first PGA Tour victory.

Players whose first PGA Tour win was the Memorial

 Year Player
 2014 Hideki Matsuyama
 2010 Justin Rose
 1994 Tom Lehman
 1991 Kenny Perry
 1981 Keith Fergus

Matsuyama made eight birdies, six pars and four bogeys or worse in an up-and-down Sunday that still only included 26 putts. He led the field in distance to the pin of approach shots at just 20 feet, 1 inch, including five approaces on the back nine Sunday that were within 10 feet of the hole. For the week his approach shots averaged 25 feet from the flagstick.

Memorial leaders in proximity to the hole of approach shot

 Player Approach distance to pin Approaches within 10 feet Finish
 Hideki Matsuyama 25 ft., 0 in. 18 Won
 Dustin Johnson 25 ft., 11 in. 13 T-46 
 Freddie Jacobson 26 ft., 1 in. 17 T-49
 Bubba Watson 26 ft. 1 in. 20 3
 Billy Hurley III 26 ft., 11 in. 12 T-37

Matsuyama was so laser sharp with his approaches that he won despite having a negative value in strokes gained/putting, losing -0.026 strokes to the field for the week on the greens. He is one of three winners in 2013-14 to have a negative strokes gained average, although it should be noted that during Jimmy Walker’s win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am only one of the three courses was measured by lasers.

PGA Tour winners in 2013-14 with a negative strokes gained/putting score

 Player Tournament Strokes gained/putting Rank
 Hideki Matsuyama Memorial -.026 46
 Steven  Bowditch Valero Texas Open -.606 64
 Jimmy Walker AT&T Pebble Beach -.332 44

Matsuyama is also one of six players in the last five years to shoot four rounds of 70 or lower during the Memorial at Murifield Village. The 22-year-old Japanese star had rounds of 70-67-69-69—275 at Jack Nicklaus’ pride and joy. Four of the six players went on to win the tournament.

Players with four rounds of 70 or better at Muirfield Village

 Year Player Scores Finish
 2014 Hideki Matsuyama 70-67-69-69—275 Won
 2013 Matt Kuchar 68-70-70-68—276 Won
 2011 Steve Stricker 68-67-69-68—272 Won
 2010 Justin Rose 65-69-70-66—270 Won
 2010 Bo Van Pelt 70-69-68-69—276 T-3
 2010 Ryan Moore 70-69-70-68—277 T-5

It was the second runner-up finish of the season for Kevin Na, who completed his final-round 64 long before Matusuyama finished, and almost won the tournament outright while watching the final groups come back to him from a couch on the clubhouse. Earlier this year, Na was second to John Senden at the Valspar Championship. That week he failed to hold the 54-hole lead and shot a final-round 72. This week at Muirfield Village, Na’s 64 was one stroke off the final-round record at the Memorial. Interetingly none of the players who have shot 64 or better in the last round at Muirfield Village won that week.

Lowest final-round scores at the Memorial

 Score Player Year Finish
 63 Kenny Perry 2007 3
 64 Kevin Na 2014 2
 64 Greg Norman 1994 2
 64 Steve Pate 1992 T-42
 64 Fred Couples 1987 T-24
 64 Mark McCumber 1984 T-10

Na’s 64 and Rory McIlroy’s opening 63 were among the lowest scores shot at Murifield Village in the last 10 years. They are among nine players to shoot as low as eight under on the par-72 course since 2005. Again, incredibly enough, none of them would win the tournament. The last player to win the Memorial while shooting at least one round of 64 or below was Tiger Woods in 2000 when he shot a second-round 63 and finished at 19-under 269, five strokes better than Ernie Els and Justin Leonard.

Lowest single-round scores at Memorial: 2005-2014

 Score Player Year Round Finish
 62 Ricky Barnes 2010 3 T-3
 62 Adam Scott 2007 2 T-5
 63 Rory McIlroy 2014 1 T-15
 63 Geoff Ogilvy 2009 3 T-10
 63 Kenny Perry 2007 4 3
 64 Kevin Na 2014 4 2
 64 Luke Donald 2009 1 T-14
 64 Jim Furyk 2005 3 T-8
 64 David Toms 2005 3 T-8

The second-place finish was the fifth of Na’s career, and he is one of seven players with multiple runner-up finishes in 2013-14. Of that group only Bubba Watson and Duston Johnson have also won this season.

Players with two second-place finishes in 2013-14

 Player Runner-up finishes
 Graeme DeLaet  Farmers Insurance, Waste Management Phoenix
 Jim Furyk Wells Fargo Championship, Players
 Dustin Johnson  AT&T Pebble Beach, Northern Trust Open
 Kevin Na Valspar Championship, Memorial
 Ryan Palmer Humana Challenge, Honda Classic
 Jordan Spieth Hyundai T of C, Masters
 Bubba Watson Waste Management Phoenix, WGC-Cadillac

 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.