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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Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'

By Will GrayMarch 18, 2018, 11:05 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.

He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.

Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.

“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”

In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”

Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.

“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”

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McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory

By Nick MentaMarch 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:

Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)

What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.

Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.

Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.

Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.

Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.

Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.

Remind you of anything?

Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy

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TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.

• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.

• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”

• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”

After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.

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Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 9:45 pm

Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.

"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."

Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.