Stat attack!: OHL Classic at Mayakoba review

By John AntoniniNovember 17, 2014, 12:43 am

Charley Hoffman’s third PGA Tour victory – a one-stroke win over Shawn Stefani at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba – was forged on the opening nine holes of the El Camaleon Course. With 14 birdies on Nos. 1-9, Hoffman's scoring average on the front was 32.50, trailing only Danny Lee, who turned in a 29 on the front Sunday. Hoffman hit 32 of 36 greens and didn’t have a three-putt on the front nine all week. 

Entering the week, he was averaging 34.67 on the starting holes this season, but he improved upon that mark, making at least three straight birdies on the front nine every day; he birdied holes 4-6 on each of the last three days of the tournament.

Hoffman was fifth in driving distance (295.1 yards) and fourth in greens in regulation (77.78 percent) at Mayakoba, a double dip of importance. In the last calendar year, Hoffman is one of five players to win on the PGA Tour while finishing fifth or better in distance and GIR.

Front-nine scoring leaders at the Mayakoba Classic

 Player Score Finish
 Danny Lee 32.25 T-3
 Charley Hoffman 32.50 Won
 Fabian Gomez 33.00 T-23
 Carlos Ortiz 33.25 T-9
 Andres Gonzales 33.50 T-3
 Shawn Stefani 33.50 2
 Ken Duke 33.50 T-9

PGA Tour winners since 2014 who were top five in distance and GIR

 Player Tournament Distance rank GIR rank
 Charley Hoffman 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba 5 4
 Rory McIlroy 2014 WGC-Bridgestone 1 T-1
 Seung-Yul Noh 2014 Zurich Classic T-3 T-4
 Bubba Watson 2014 Masters 1 T-5
 Bubba Watson 2014 Northern Trust 1 T-3

Playoff preview?

The OHL Classic trophy wasn’t just a belated birthday present for Hoffman’s daughter, Claire, who turned five on Monday of Mayakoba week. And even the prospect of taking his girls - the Hoffman family also numbers wife Stacy and daughter Katelyn - to Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the week after New Year’s might play second fiddle to one small fact.

Hoffman is one of three Fall Series winners who have made the FedEX Cup playoffs in every year of their existence. (Ryan Moore and Bubba Watson are the others.) All three have likely cemented their ninth consecutive postseason appearance.

Hoffman’s win was worth 500 points, and last year’s final playoff qualifier earned 438 points over the entire season. In addition, all six players who won in the 2013 Fall Series went deep into the postseason, every one advancing to the third event, the BMW Championship. Only Moore (39th in points) and Harris English (32nd) did not advance to the Tour Championship.

2014-15 PGA Tour winners in the Playoffs

 Player 2014-15 win Playoff
2014-15 pts. rank
 Charley Hoffman OHL Classic/Mayakoba 2007-2014 6
 Bubba Watson WGC-HSBC Champions 2007-2014 4
 Nick Taylor* Sanderson Farms None 12
 Ryan Moore CIMB Classic 2007-2014 5
 Robert Streb McGladrey Classic 2014 1
 Ben Martin Shriners/Las Vegas 2014 3
 Sang-Moon Bae Open 2012-2014 2

*As an opposite-field event, the Sanderson Farms Championship allotted only 300 FedEx Points to Taylor.

Classic comeback

Hoffman was the third straight winner at Mayakoba to come from behind in the final round. Hoffman shot 66 Sunday to go from T-3 to first, catching third-round leader Jason Bohn, who shot a final-round 74 to fall to T-7. In the first five years of the tournament, the winner came from behind just one time.

The average Sunday score for the last three OHL Classic winners is 64.66, with John Huh shooting 63 in 2012 and Harris English shooting 65 a year ago.

Final-round scores for the OHL Classic winner

 Year Player Score 54-hole position
 2014 Charley Hoffman 66 T-3
 2013  Harris English 65 T-2
 2012 John Huh 63 T-13
 2011 Harris Wagner 67 1
 2010 Cameron Beckman 67 T-4
 2009 Mark Wilson 68 T-1
 2008 Brian Gay 69 1
 2007 Fred Funk 71 1

Time of their lives

Led by runner-up Shawn Stefani, seven players who finished in the top 10 at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba matched or set personal bests in the tournament. Stefani matched his performance set at the 2014 Quicken Loans Championship, when he lost a playoff to Justin Rose.  

Top-10 finishers with their career best finish at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba

 Player Finish Previous best
 Shawn Stefani 2 2, 2014 Quicken Loans
 Andres Gonzales T-3 T-8, 2013 Wyndham Champ.
 Brice Garnett 6 T-7, 2014 Shell Houston Open
 Tony Finau T-7 T-7, 2014 Shriners/Las Vegas
 Oscar Fraustro T-9 T-43, 2014 Sanderson Farms
 Carlos Ortiz T-9 T-18, 2014 Shriners/Las Vegas
 Blayne Barber T-9 T-9, 2014 Sanderson Farms

Ageless wonder

Kudos go out to 58-year-old Fred Funk, who shot 70 Sunday to finish T-9 at 11-under 273. It was the first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour for Funk since the 2008 Sony Open. Funk is the oldest of five Champions Tour players who have finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since the start of the 2013-14 season. He is the oldest player to finish in the top 10 on Tour since 59-year-old Tom Watson was second at the 2009 British Open. 

Players over age 50 with top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since the start of the 2013-14 season

 Player Tournament Finish Age
 Fred Funk 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba T-9 58
 Bernhard Langer 2014 Masters 8 56
 Jeff Maggert 2014 Travelers Championship T-7 50
 Miguel A. Jimenez 2014 Masters 4 50
Vijay Singh 2013 2 50
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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.