Stat attack!: Northern Trust Open review

By John AntoniniFebruary 17, 2014, 3:00 am

We should get used to the what we saw Sunday during the final round of the Northern Trust Open. It has all the ingredients of becoming one of the top rivalries on the PGA Tour. The right-handed bomber who has won at least once in each of his seven years in the big leagues against the left-handed slugger who won the 2012 Masters and led the Tour in driving distance four times in the last eight years. Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson epitomize the new breed of PGA Tour star – long off the tee, tall as the trees, cool under pressure, and as much of an athlete as any of the basketball stars who dunked the night away at the NBA All-Star Game. Although they didn’t quite play one-on-one in the final round at Hogan’s Alley, the pair were certainly aware of each other’s presence on the leaderboard, and Watson’s two-stroke win over Johnson marks the fourth time in five years the two have finished in the top five at the same PGA Tour event.

Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson in contention at the same event

 Tournament Bubba Watson Dustin Johnson
 2014 Northern Trust Open Won 2nd
 2013 Hyundai T of C T-4 Won
 2011 Farmers Won T-3
 2010 PGA  2nd T-5

Watson led the Northern Trust Open in driving distance - the official stat, not the distance of all drives - marking the fourth straight week either he or Johnson has led the field in that statistic. Watson leads the circuit in driving distance at 320.8 yards in 2013-14 and hammered 18 drives longer than that at Riviera. Johnson was eighth in distance at the NTO at a pedestrian 303.3 yards per poke, but he led the field in greens in regulation, hitting 53, two more than Watson, who was third on the week. However, Johnson’s weekend rounds of 69-66 couldn’t match Bubba’s spectacular bogey-free 64-64, the lowest weekend total at the Northern Trust Open since the tournament returned to Riviera in 1973.

Lowest final 36 holes at the Northern Trust Open since 1973

 Total Scores Player Year
 128 64-64 Bubba Watson 2014
 129 66-63 Doug Tewell 1986
 131 65-66 Tiger Woods 1998
 131 62-69 Fred Couples 1990
 131 67-64 Lanny Wadkins 1985
 131 63-68 Gil Morgan 1983
 131 61-70 George Archer 1983

Watson wasn't just the first player with two weekend rounds of 65 or better at Riviera, he was only the fourth player since 1990 to shoot at least two rounds that low in the same week at the Northern Trust Open. Three of the four would go on to win.

Players with two rounds of 65 or better at the Northern Trust Open since 1990

 Year Player Scores Finish
 2014 Bubba Watson 70-71-64-64 Won
 2009 Phil Mickelson 63-72-62-72 Won
 2007 Charles Howell III 69-65-69-65 Won
 2002 Scott McCarron 69-65-65-71 T-2

Watson's 128 also matched the lowest final 36 on the PGA Tour in 2013-14.

 Total Scores Player Tournament
 128 64-64 Bubba Watson Northern Trust Open
 128 62-66 Jimmy Walker Open
 128 64-64 Kevin Na Open
 129 63-66 Ian Poulter HSBC Champions

But Riviera CC was far from a pushover. Of the 18 courses the PGA Tour has played in 2013-14, it ranks as the sixth-toughest behind Torrey Pines' South Course, the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort and the three venues used during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Toughest courses on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Rank Course Average to par
 1 Torrey Pines South   +1.797
 2 Pebble Beach  +1.385
 3 Spyglass Hill +0.755
 4 Seaside Course +.0255
 5 Monterey Peninsula +0.252
 6 Riviera +0.209

Johnson, meanwhile, finished second for the second consecutive week on Tour. He shot a closing 66 at Pebble Beach a week ago to finish one stroke back of Jimmy Walker. He’s one of eight players to finish second on consecutive weeks in the last 10 years.

Runner-up finishes in back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour from 2005-2014

 Year  Player  Runner-ups  Next start
 2014  Dustin Johnson  Pebble, Northern Trust  
 2013   Phil Mickelson  FedEx, U.S. Open MC Greenbrier 
 2013   Brandt Snedeker  Farmers, Phoenix Won Pebble Beach 
 2009   Brett Quigley  Puerto Rico, Tampa MC Arnold Palmer 
 2007   Tim Clark  John Deere, Milwaukee T-6 WGC Bridgestone
 2007   Jose Coceres  Mayakoba, Honda T-29 Heritage
 2006   Trevor Immelman  Wachovia, Nelson T-7 Memorial
 2005   Vijay Singh  Honda, Arnold Palmer T-12 Players

It’s worth noting that not only did Snedeker win in his next start the following week at the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but Mickelson, too, stayed hot despite the missed cut at the Greenbrier Classic. Lefty won in his next two tournaments at the European Tour’s Barclay’s Scottish Open and the Open Championship. That’s food for thought as Johnson plays this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Unless, of course, he runs into Bubba Watson somewhere along the way.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."