Stat attack!: Phoenix Open preview

By John AntoniniJanuary 28, 2014, 8:35 pm

It’s fitting that on Super Bowl week the most raucous crowds and loudest galleries the PGA Tour sees all year fill TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And the fans, who are lathered in what can be described as a football frenzy, have plenty to cheer about. The birdies come fast at furious. Last year the course was one of four to average less than 70 strokes per round every day, and it yielded the third-fewest birdies and eagles of any course even though the field was only 132 players deep.

Tournaments with scoring averages in the 60s every round in 2013:

 Tournament  First  Second  Third  Fourth  Total
 WMPO  69.02  68.90  69.37  68.53  68.95
 Sony Open  69.79  68.72  68.16  68.27  68.90
 Humana Challenge  69.24  68.80  68.96  67.80  68.82
 Deutsche Bank  69.11  69.48  68.21  69.97  69.21

PGA Tour courses giving up the most eagles and birdies in 2013:

 Most Birdies  Most Eagles
 TPC Deere Run - 1,930  Glen Abbey - 61
 Glen Abbey - 1,747  Riveira C.C. - 58
 TPC Scottsdale - 1,746  TPC Scottsdale - 50

Phil Mickelson was the star a year ago, shooting the third-lowest aggregate score in PGA Tour history (256), and he tied his career low round with a 60 on Thursday, one of a Tour-best four 60s to be shot at TPC Scottsdale.

Lowest 72-hole aggregate in PGA Tour history:

 Score  Player  Tournament
 254  Tommy Armour III (64-62-63-65)  2003 Texas Open
 255  Steve Stricker (65-67-61-62)  2009 Bob Hope
 256  Mark Calcavecchia (65-60-64-67)  2001 Phoenix Open
 256  Russell Henley (63-63-67-63)  2013 Sony Open
 256  Phil Mickelson (60-65-64-67)  2013 WMPO

Best 18-hole scores in Phoenix Open history (all 60):

 Player  Round  Year
 Phil Mickelson  First  2013
 Phil Mickelson  Second  2005
 Mark Calcavecchia  Second  2001
 Grant Waite  Fourth  1996

Mickelson, who also won at TPC Scottsdale in 2005 and 1996, is the leading career money winner at the Phoenix Open. In addition to Mickelson, who is battling a sore back that caused his withdrawal from last week’s Farmers Insurance Open after two rounds, five other players on this list are in the field. J.B. Holmes, the 2008 and ‘06 champ and the tournament’s second-leading money winner, recently returned to the Tour after missing almost a year with a broken ankle. Also in the field this week are Vijay Singh, Mark Calcavecchia, Mark Wilson, Hunter Mahan and Kevin Na. All but Na are past champions.

Career money leaders at the Phoenix Open:

 1. Phil Mickelson  $3,694,783
 2. J.B. Holmes  $2,274,781
 3. Kenny Perry  $2,146,161
 4. Vijay Singh  $2,144,583
 5. Chris DiMarco  $1,685,455
 6. Mark Calcavecchia  $1,644,424
 7. Rocco Mediate  $1,550,128
 8. Mark Wilson  $1,425,467
 9. Hunter Mahan  $1.391,955
 10. Kevin Na  $1,368,391

Mickelson's four-stroke victory in 2013 was the result of leading the WMPO in greens in regulation and proximity to hole on approach shots. Since the start of 2013 only four tournament winners led the field in proximity to the hole on approach. Seven winners led in GIR. Mickelson is the only one to lead in both categories. 

This explains why Mickelson led the 2013 WMPO in birdies with 29. (And, yes, most tournament winners lead the field in birdies.) Which is why this week’s fantasy focus will look at the PGA Tour’s 2013-14 leaders in birdie average. Among the top 15 in that stat, here’s who is in the field at Scottsdale.

• Webb Simpson: The Tour leader with 5.63 birdies per round, Simpson has two top-10s at Phoenix, but he’s only made three cuts in five starts.

• Jason Bohn: Maybe a surprise at 5.06 birdies per round, he’s only made three cuts in eight previous starts at the WMPO.

• Patrick Reed: The Humana champion is T5 on tour in birdies. He is making his debut at the TPC Scottsdale.  

• Harris English: After a strong start to his season, does he still have momentum after taking last week off? He was T-15 at Scottsdale in 2012.

• Gary Woodland: How he recovers from last week’s final round is important. He’s 12th on Tour in GIR and he’s never missed the cut at Scottsdale in four tries.

• Billy Horschel: With top-25 finishes the last two weeks and a T-11 in his WMPO debut in 2013, he’s a solid pick.

• Matt Every: Another solid pick. Every is T-10 on Tour in birdies per round and has top-10s at Phoenix in his two previous starts.

• Ryan Moore: He hasn’t played since Maui, but he’s third on Tour in GIR. He has a strong record at Scottsdale with a solo fourth in 2013 and a T-6 in 2009.

• Ryan Palmer: He’s been hot (second at Humana, T-8 at Sony), is 14th on Tour in birdies and was fifth at Scottsdale in 2013 and T-2 in 2006.

• Brian Stuard: After three consecutive top-10s, he was T-28 at Torrey Pines and Scottsdale doesn’t bring many fond memories (T-70 in 2010, in his only start).

ONE FINAL NOTE: Mickelson, Pat Perez and Joey Snyder III all attended Arizona State University in nearby Tempe. They will be joined in the Waste Management Phoenix Open field by current ASU freshman Ki Taek Lee, who won the Monday qualifier with a 65 at McCormack Ranch. Lee birdied the 17th hole and eagled No. 18 to advance.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''