Stat attack!: OHL Classic at Mayakoba preview

By John AntoniniNovember 11, 2014, 7:44 pm

This week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba is the final event of the year on the PGA Tour, but not the final event of the season. That incongruity comes thanks to the wraparound schedule the Tour implemented last year. What we have this week is the finish to the Fall Series – and so far during the North American portion, youngsters have dominated. All four domestic winners are in their 20s, led by 26-year-old Nick Taylor (shown), who won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. 

PGA Tour Fall Series winners in 2014-15

 Winner Tournament Age Career wins
 Sang-Moon Bae Open 28 2
 Ben Martin  Shriners Las Vegas  27 1
 Robert Streb  McGladrey Classic 27 1
 Ryan Moore  CIMB Classic 31 4
 Bubba Watson  WGC-HSBC Champions 36 7
Nick Taylor  Sanderson Farms 26 1

Martin, Streb and Taylor are all playing at Mayakoba this week and are looking to become the first player to win two Fall Series events in the same year. Of the three, only Martin has experience in Mexico, having finished T31 a year ago. Streb and Taylor are making their tournament debuts.

Similarity scores

If Martin, Streb and Taylor don’t have the pedigree to win the OHL Classic, who does? How about this pair of young veterans who share a similar name as well as a penchant for playing well south of the border? Chris Stroud and Brian Stuard – or is that Chris Stuard and Brian Stroud? – have combined for five top-five finishes in this event. Both average below 70 strokes per round in the tournament, with Stuard’s 67.25 average the lowest among players with eight or more rounds in the event. Stroud, who has played Mayakoba all seven years of its existence, is sixth in scoring average among players with 20 or more rounds in the event.

Career record at the OHL Classic of Brian Stroud and Chris Stuard

 Player 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
 Chris Stroud MC T-12 T-60 T-40 4 T-5 T-3
 Brian Stuard       T-2     2

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum eight rounds

 Player Rounds  Scoring avg.
 Brian Stuard 8 67.25
 Matt Kuchar 8 67.88
 Jason Bohn 8 68.00
 David Toms 8 68.13
 Robert Appleby 8 68.13
John Huh 8 68.13

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum 20 rounds

 Player Rounds Scoring avg.
 Charles Howell III 20 68.90
 J.J. Henry 20 68.90
 Jarrod Lyle 20 68.90
 Brian Gay 24 68.96
 Briny Baird 24 68.96
 Chris Stroud 26 69.04

Lucky seven

Stroud has played the Mayakoba Classic every year, but because he missed the cut in the premiere event in 2007, he doesn’t have the distinction of playing the weekend every year. That honor goes to a pair of veterans – Kevin Stadler and Cameron Beckman. They are among five players in this year’s field who have played Mayakoba at least five times and never missed the cut.

Most starts at the OHL Classic without missing the cut*

 Player Starts Best finish
 Kevin Stadler 7 T-9 in 2010
 Cameron Beckman 7 Won in 2010
 John Merrick 6 T-3 in 2008
 Charles Howell III 5

T-6 in 2013

 J.J. Henry 5 Second in 2009

*Among players in the 2014 field.

Split seasons

When Harris English beat Stuard by four strokes a year ago, he did so on the strength of his putting. He ranked first in the field in putts per GIR and fifth in total putts with 108. He was especially good with the flatstick in Round 2, when his nine-birdie, no-bogey 62 was the week’s best score.

It was part of a stretch during which English could do no wrong. He made the cut in his first 13 starts of the 2013-14 season. The victory in Mexico was the highlight of a run that included six top-10 finishes, including a solo fourth at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

His cut streak ended at the Masters and his year hasn’t been gratifying since. English has made just eight cuts in 18 starts, with one top-10 finish, a T-7 at the Travelers Championship.

From the Masters to date, English’s scoring average has risen by more than a stroke and a half, and his GIR percentage has dropped from 73 percent to 64 percent. His putts per GIR has risen from 1.754 to 1.791.

Putting some English on it: Harris English’s up-and-down season

 Time frame Starts Cuts made Top 10s Money Scor. avg. GIR Putts per GIR
 October 2013-
 March 2014
13 13 6 $2,535,303 69.17 73.03% 1.754
 April 2014-
 November 2014
18 8 1 516,319 70.90 64.31 1.791

Long hitters need not apply

PGA Tour stats were not available from the OHL Classic at Mayakoba prior to 2012, but it’s apparent when looking at the past winners that length off the tee is not a requirement for success. Until English’s win a year ago, the Mayakoba champion had never finished in the top 100 in driving distance that season. Two past champs – Brian Gay in 2008 and Fred Funk in 2007 – were in the bottom five in distance during the year they won at Mayakoba.

The Mayakoba winner’s season rank in driving distance

 Year Winner Season driving distance (rank)
 2013 Harris English 299.2 (26)
 2012 John Huh 288.3 (113)
 2011 Johnson Wagner 282.2 (160)
 2010 Cameron Beckman 285.7 (115)
 2009 Mark Wilson 284.3 (118)
 2008 Brian Gay 270.5 (196)
 2007 Fred Funk 271.8 (193)

One final thought: What a difference a year makes for Robert Streb. The McGladrey Classic champion is leading the FedEx Cup race and is the only player to have three top-10 finishes in the short season. Last year, Streb earned just 18 FedEx Cup points during the Fall Series and was T-160 at the year-end hiatus.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.