Stat attack!: PGA Tour season in review

By John AntoniniSeptember 17, 2014, 4:11 pm

The PGA Tour’s first wrap-around season has come to a close with a familiar name atop the money list (Rory McIlroy, for the second time in three years) and a star on the rise atop the FedEx Cup standings (Billy Horschel). But it wasn’t an easy road for either. Before his mid-summer hot streak, McIlroy was best known in 2014 for second-round meltdowns and a broken engagement. Horschel had just two top-10 finishes before his playoffs breakthrough.

But Rory and Billy weren’t the only players worth following in 2014. Jimmy Walker dominated the early portion of the season with three wins by mid-February. Patrick Reed steamrolled his way into the conversation as one of the “five best” players in the world with two wins in six starts. Martin Kaymer gave us a preview of McIlroy’s dominance by nearly going wire-to-wire at both The Players and the U.S. Open. Here’s a statistical look at how the game’s best got where they did in 2014.

Out of nowhere

To say Horschel’s playoff hot streak was unexpected is understating the point. He is the lowest-ranked player entering the playoffs (69th) to win the FedEx Cup, and he had the fewest top-10s in the regular season of any eventual champion (and the first with more top-10s in the playoffs than the regular season). He is the third cup champion in the last four years who did not win a tournament during the regular season. Horschel went from 72nd on the regular season money list to seventh, and that doesn’t include the $10 million annuity he earned for winning the cup. Not a bad month.

Regular season top-10 finishes for the FedEx Cup champion

 Year Player Top-10s Best finish Playoff top-10s Best playoff finish
 2014 Billy Horschel 2 T-6: Hyundai, Memphis 3 Won BMW, Tour Ch.
 2013 Henrik Stenson 6 2nd three times 2 Won Boston, Tour Ch.
 2012 Brandt Snedeker 4 Won Farmers 3 Won Tour Ch.
 2011 Bill Haas 6 T-2: Hope, Greenbrier 1 Won Tour Ch.
 2010 Jim Furyk 6 Won Transitions 1 Won Tour Ch.
 2009 Tiger Woods 11 Won five times 3 Won BMW
 2008 Vijay Singh 6 Won Bridgestone 3 Won Barclays, Boston
 2007 Tiger Woods 9 Won five times 3 Won BMW, Tour Ch.

The money man

Rory McIlroy won $8,280,096 in 17 events, including wins at the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. He also won more than $8 million in 2012. In between, in 2013, he inexplicably finished 41st on the PGA Tour money list with less than $2 million. He is the first player in PGA Tour history to drop $6 million in earnings from one year to the next and follow it up by increasing his money won by $6 million the next year.

With apologies to Geoff Ogilvy and his stunning run to the Tour Championship, McIlroy is the best candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

Largest money gains from 2013 to 2014 (PGA Tour members both years)

 Player 2014 earnings 2013 earnings Difference
 Rory McIlroy $8,280,096 $1,802,443 $6,477,653
 Bubba Watson 6,336,978 1,759,276 4,577,702
 Jimmy Walker 5,787,016 2,117,570 3,669,446
 Martin Kaymer 4,532,537 882,937 3,649,600
 Chris Kirk 4,854,777 1,728,616 3,126,161
 Kevin Na 3,153,107 110,864 3,042,243
 Rickie Fowler 4,806,117 1,816,742 2,989,375
 Brendon Todd 3,396,747 473,220 2,923,527

The long and the short of it

Bubba Watson led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 314.2 yards. Only John Daly (11 times) has led in driving distance more often than Watson, who has now led the Tour five times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014).

Watson’s distance of all drives (305.1 yards) also led the Tour, and he had the only 400-yard bomb during the season, his 424-yard blast on the 16th hole during round three of the WGC-Bridgestone finishing 27 yards longer than the Tour’s next longest shot (Webb Simpson at Hyundai, 397 yards).

Watson smacked one-third of his tee balls more than 320 yards, quite a difference from the last man on the list, Luke Donald, who only hit four balls more than 320 yards this year.

Highest percentage of drives hit more than 320 yards

 Rank Player Percentage No. of drives
 1 Bubba Waston 33.42 262
 2 Dustin Johnson 27.68 160
 3 Rory McIlroy 26.34 177
 4 Andrew Loupe 26.04 182
 5 J.B. Holmes 21.69 233

Lowest percentage of drives hit more than 320 yards

 Rank Player Percentage No. of drives
 173 Justin Leonard .81 7
 174 Brian Davis .71 8
 175 David Toms .66 5
 T-176 Ken Duke .65 6
 T-176 Luke Donald .65 4

Going low and staying there

Despite the fact Horschel performed the Florida Gator chomp on the 18th green after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, it was still a great year for Georgia Bulldogs.

Former UGA golfers won 10 times in 2014, including two wins by Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, who played for the Bulldogs before transferring to Augusta State. It might be forgotten now because it happened almost a year ago, but one of those winners was Harris English at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. English shot 21 under that week with four rounds in the 60s. It was a part of a stretch in which he had 26 straight subpar rounds, tied with Pat Perez for the most consecutive rounds at par or better in 2013-14. (Coincidentally, both players began their streak in the fourth round of the McGladrey Classic.)

Horschel had the year's fourth-longest, and no, it wasn't from the playoffs. The player who didn't have a top-five finish in the regular season did manage to string together 19 straight rounds at par or better around the calendar turn.

Most consecutive rounds at par or better in 2014

 Player Rounds Duration
 Harris English 26 McGladrey (4th round) to WGC-Cadillac (1st round)
 Pat Perez 26 McGladrey (4th round) to No. Trust (1st round)
 Kevin Na 21 Mayakoba (1st round) to No. Trust (1st round)
 Billy Horschel 19 (2nd round) to Farmers Ins. (2nd round)

Working on the weekend

Can you name the five players who appeared in 10 or more PGA Tour events in 2014 and didn’t miss a cut?

Some of the names come easy, like Adam Scott, who extended his Tour-best streak of cuts made to 43. Or Jim Furyk, who has made his bones finishing well up the leaderboard. But for all his poor second-round performances early this year Rory McIlroy didn’t miss a cut. Neither did Steve Stricker, the semi-retired star who only played 11 times and skipped the playoffs to rest a hip injury. (We’re all about coincidences at the Stat Attack, and wouldn’t you guess that Scott and Stricker began their cuts-made streak at the same tournament, the 2012 Memorial.)

The fifth player to make the cut in every tournament he played might surprise you. Non-member Francesco Molinari played 12 PGA Tour events and didn’t miss a weekend. His luck didn’t transfer overseas, where he missed the cut in the Nordea Masters and Scottish Open on the European Tour.

Bill Haas, meanwhile, didn’t technically miss a cut all year, but his withdrawal from the Heritage prior to the second round because of a wrist injury ended a 14-event cut streak. He didn’t miss another all year and had he continued to play at Hilton Head his current streak would be 30 events.

Most consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour

 Player Consecutive cuts 2014 starts Last missed cut
 Adam Scott 43 17 2012 Byron Nelson
 Steve Stricker 35 11 2012 Players
 Jim Furyk 28 21 2013 British Open
 Rory McIlroy 22 17 2013 British Open
 Bill Haas 15 28 2014 Heritage
 Francesco Molinari 15 12 2013 U.S. Open

Where did they go?

But 2014 wasn’t all about successes, as there were notable disappointements as well. This was the first time in more than 20 years that neither Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson or Ernie Els qualified for the Tour Championship. Neither did defending champ Henrik Stenson, who began the year with a wrist injury. Woods played just seven times due to injury and finished 218th on the FedEx Cup standings. Here’s a look at some other players who were off their game this year.

Notables who didn't qualify for the Tour Championship

 Player FedEx Cup rank What happened?

His worst finish since 2008. he was second in strokes gained-tee to green in 2011, and fell to 83rd in 2014


He was 167th on Tour in strokes gained-putting and fell from 26th in GIR in 2013 to 59th in 2014

105 No top-10 finishes until August killed any potential Playoff push and an MC at Barclays eliminated him for the year.
135 A surprise TC qualifier in 2013, he didn’t qualify for the Playoffs this year, falling from 33rd to 169th in GIR.
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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.

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Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.

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Florida golfers encounter python-wrapped alligator

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

Alligator sightings are pretty common on Southern golf courses - see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Also, here. (RIP, Timmy the Turtle.)

But here's one that deserves distinction.

Those images come from the Golf Club at Fiddler's Creek, down in Naples - in case you're booking a vacation to Southwest Florida or just looking for a Hot Deal this week. Hit 'em straight, folks.