Stat attack!: Players Championship review

By John AntoniniMay 12, 2014, 2:08 am

Even though Martin Kaymer held the lead through every round of the Players Championship, he seemed almost an afterthought throughout the week.

All eyes were on the precocious Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old Texan, threatening to become the youngest winner in Players history.

Or Adam Scott, and his quest for the No. 1 ranking. There was Bubba Watson and his bid to win the Players and the Masters in the same year.

And we had our weekly questions about Phil Mickelson, who was still searching for his first top-10 finish of the season.

But Spieth stumbled Sunday, Scott and Watson faltered and Mickelson missed the cut, the first time he would do so at the Masters and the Players in the same year since 1997.

Kaymer kept rolling along. Only the weather delay made things interesting Sunday, with Kaymer finishing at 13-under 275 to hold off Jim Fuyrk by one stroke after making a 28-foot, 6-inch putt for par on the 17th hole that turned a certain playoff — and a return to the course Monday morning — into his second PGA Tour victory.

Kaymer became the fourth player to win a major, a World Golf Championship event and a Players Championship. Yes, the math is correct. Kaymer only has two PGA Tour victories because the 2011 WGC-HSBC Champions in China, which he won, was not an official PGA Tour event at the time. He won at the Stadium Course in record-breaking fashion. His 29 on the front-nine Thursday was the first sub-30 round in Players history, and his 63 matched three others for the lowest round in Stadium course history. 

Players who have won a major, a WGC event and the Players Championship

 Player Majors WGCs Players
 Tiger Woods 14 18 2
 Phil Mickelson 5 2 1
 Adam Scott 1 1 1
 Martin Kaymer 1 1 1

Kaymer’s victory shouldn’t have been a surprise. He has not missed the cut in six Players starts, and although this was his first top-10 finish at TPC Sawgrass, he now has the lowest scoring average in history for players with at least 20 rounds at the Stadium Course.

Lowest scoring average, 20+ rounds at TPC Sawgrass

 Player Average Rounds
 Martin Kaymer 70.92 24
 Henrik Stenson 71.19 32
 Matt Kuchar 71.33 42
 Zach Johnson 71.39 38
 Luke Donald 71.43 33
 Sergio Garcia 71.53 56

Kaymer finished tied for third in the field in greens in regulation, becoming the ninth Players champion to finish in the top 10 in greens in regulation in the last 12 years.

Players champs who were in the top 10 in GIR since 2003

 Year Player GIR rank
 2014 Martin Kaymer T-3
 2013 Tiger Woods T-3
 2012 Matt Kuchar T-3
 2010 Tim Clark 4
 2008 Sergio Garcia 1
 2006 Stephen Ames T-1
 2005 Fred Funk 1
 2004 Adam Scott 1
 2003 Davis Love III 10

Kaymer’s long putt on the 17th hole Sunday was indicative of his week. He led the field with four putts made from more than 25 feet, none bigger than the snake he rolled in with the tournament in the balance. For the week he holed 339 feet of putts, tied for the fifth-most in the field.

Distance of putts made at the Players

 Rank Player Distance of putts made
 1 Scott Langley 367 feet, 6 inches
 2 Francesco Molinari 354 feet, 9 inches
 3 Jim Furyk 350 feet, 10 inches
 4 Henrik Stenson 339 feet, 2 inches
 T-5 Martin Kaymer 339 feet, 0 inches
 T-5 Brian Stuard 339 feet, 0 inches

But the Players wasn’t just about Martin Kaymer. It was about Jordan Spieth repeating his Masters performance with a spectacular tournament debut before coming up short. The game within the game was about Adam Scott (and Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar) coming up short in their quest for the top spot on the World Ranking. And it was about Rory McIlroy’s third consecutive event where he made the cut on the number only to finish with a back-door top 10. For Rory, the Players was the tale of two nines. He played the front nine in 8 over and the back nine in 17 under, a difference of 25 strokes. 

Rory McIlroy at the Players

 Round Front nine Back nine
 One +1 (37) -3 (33)
 Two +6 (42) -4 (32)
 Three +2 (38) -5 (31)
 Four -1 (35) -5 (31)
 Total +8 -17

McIlroy had a similar performance at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he was even par on the front nine and 8 under on the back during his T-8 finish. He also finished T-8 at the Masters but was a more equitable 1 under on the front and 1 over on the back.

Spieth finished T-4 in his first Players. As at the Masters, he was tied for the 54-hole lead. At Sawgrass he fell off the pace with a bogey on the fifth hole Sunday, his first of the week after 58 holes without one. Spieth would make four more bogeys in a final-round 74. He became the youngest player to finish in the top 10 in the Masters and the Players in the same year and was one of four players with a top 10 at both tournaments this year.

Players with top-10 finishes at the Players and the Masters

 Player Masters Players
 Jordan Spieth T-2 T-4
 Jimmy Walker T-8 T-6
 Rory McIlroy T-8 T-6
 Lee Westwood 7 T-6

Scott needed to shoot 68 Sunday to move to No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Instead he shot 73 and finished T-38. He will overtake Woods after this week’s Byron Nelson Championship. Matt Kuchar is the only player who could surpass Scott next week, but it’s unlikely the tournament will dole out enough first-place points for him to get there. Henrik Stenson would have gotten to No. 1 if he had finished seven strokes better Sunday. He would have needed a 67 to finish T-4, but instead shot 74 to finish T-34.

Finally, no statistical analysis about the Players would be complete without a look at the par-3 17th hole, which gave up the fewest number of water balls since 2003. There were only four balls in the pond on the weekend, another tournament low.

Water balls at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass

 Year Water balls Weekend water balls
 2014 28 4
 2013 44 20
 2012 39 10
 2011 40 14
 2010 29 14
 2009 32 10
 2008 64 26
 2007 93 22
 2006 57 21
 2005 68 53
 2004 30 11
 2003 29 13
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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”