Stat attack!: PGA Championship review

By John AntoniniAugust 11, 2014, 2:07 am

It was well past gloaming at the PGA when Rory McIlroy won his second straight major and the fourth of his career.

Even if it was hard to see, there was no doubt the fans in Louisville saw something special.

If this victory wasn't a coronation of Rory McIlroy as one of the game’s all-time greats, he can certainly lay claim to being one of golf’s greatest young players.

He is the third-youngest player to win four majors in the modern era (since the inception of the Masters). He is the fifth player to win multiple majors in the same season at age 25 or younger. He is also the fourth player to win multiple PGA Championships before age 30.

And looking at the careers of the players he's being listed with, it's safe to say he's far from done.

Youngest players to win four majors in the modern era

 Player Age Fourth major
 Tiger Woods 24 years, six months, 24 days 2000 British Open
 Jack Nicklaus 25 years, 2 days, 21 months 1965 Masters
 Rory McIlroy 25 years, 3 months, 6 days 2014 PGA Championship
 Seve Ballesteros 27 years, 3 months, 14 days 1984 British Open

Multiple professional majors in one year at age 25 or younger

 Year Player Age Majors
 2014 Rory McIroy 25 British Open, PGA Championship
 2000 Tiger Woods 24 U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship
 1963 Jack Nicklaus 23 Masters, PGA Championship
 1926 Bobby Jones 24 U.S. Open, British Open
 1922 Gene Sarazen 20 U.S. Open, PGA Championship

Players with two PGA Championships before age 30

 Player PGA wins
 Rory McIlroy 2012, 2014
 Tiger Woods 1999, 2000
 Gene Sarazen 1922, 1923
 Walter Hagen 1921, 1924

McIlroy didn't run away from this field the way he did at his first two majors (2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship), or even his win at the 2014 British Open, where he held a six-stroke lead entering the final round, but he was never really threatened despite a two-stroke victory.

No, this time McIlroy had to claw his way through 72 tough holes, and made his way back from a three-stroke deficit midway through Sunday.

That comeback began with a birdie on the seventh hole, but really took flight on the par-5 10th hole when he hit a line drive with a fairway wood on his second shot that landed less than 10 feet from the hole.

McIlroy made the putt for eagle. It was a far cry from the first time he played the 10th (a double-bogey 7 on Thursday) and began what would be another back-nine charge for McIlroy.

He shot 32 on holes 10-18 Sunday and finished at 12-under for the week on the back, a set of holes that included six of the week's eight toughest holes.

It was the performance of the week on the back and it's worth noting that the last two PGA winners at Valhalla (Mark Brooks in 1996 and Tiger Woods in 2000) also led the field in back-nine scoring.

Scoring breakdown by nine among the PGA Championship leaders

 Player Front nine Back nine Total
 Rory McIlroy -4 -12 -16
 Phil Mickelson -10 -5 -15
 Rickie Fowler -8 -6 -14
 Henrik Stenson -10 -4 -14

McIlroy was the longest hitter off the tee at Valhalla, and he also nailed his approach shots, finishing fifth in the field in proximity to the hole on approach shots. He was also in the top 10 in the field in driving accuracy (hitting 41 of 56 fairways) and scrambling, where he missed the green and still made par or better almost three-fourths of the time.

Statistics for the leaders at the PGA Championship

 Player Distance Accuracy GIR Prox. to hole Scrambling Str. gained/putt.
 Rory
 McIlroy
315.6 (1) 73.21% (T-10) 69.44% (T-14) 30' 2" (5) 72.73% (T9) 1.093 (12)

 Phil
 Mickelson

290.8 (34) 62.50 (T-48) 63.89 (T-42) 32' 3" (17) 69.23 (T-19) 1.703 (6)
 Henrik
 Stenson
290.6 (35) 71.43 (T-17) 70.83 (13) 35' 9" (46) 71.43 (T-12) 2.291 (1)
 Rickie
 Fowler
302.6 (6) 67.86 (T-32) 66.66 (T-30) 34' 10" (36) 70.83 (14) 1.057 (13)

McIlroy joined Tiger Woods (2000 and 2006) as the only players to win the Summer Slam (British, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA) since the WGC events were created in 1999. He also joins Woods and Padraig Harrington as the only players since 1999 to win the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same year.

Players who have won the British Open and the PGA Championship in the same  year

 Year Player
 2014 Rory McIlroy
 2008 Padraig Harrington
 2006 Tiger Woods
 2000 Tiger Woods
 1994 Nick Price
 1924 Walter Hagen

McIlroy's victory shouldn't detract from what Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler accomplished at Valhalla. It was the ninth runner-up finish in a major for Mickelson, and it was enough for him to qualify for his 10th U.S. Ryder Cup team. For Fowler it was the fifth time this year he finished in the top five in a major championship, something only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have done in the past.

Most runner-up finishes in majors

 Player Runner-ups
 Jack Nicklaus 19
 Arnold Palmer 10
 Phil Mickelson 9
 Sam Snead 8
 Greg Norman 8
 Tom Watson 8

Players with top-five finishes in all four majors in one year 

 Year Player Masters U.S. Open British Open PGA
 2014 Rickie Fowler 5 T2 T2 T3
 2005 Tiger Woods Won 2 Won T4
 2000 Tiger Woods 5 Won Won Won
 1972 Jack Nicklaus T3 T4 4 Won
 1971 Jack Nicklaus T2 2 T5 Won

 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“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. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “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.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”