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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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.