Stat attack!: RBC Heritage preview

By John AntoniniApril 15, 2014, 11:27 pm

If there is such a thing as a Masters hangover, imagine our surprise when we awoke this morning to find out the PGA Tour season is half over. With the wrap-around season taking six events from the end of the Tour year and moving them to the beginning, the RBC Heritage will be the 23rd of 45 official events on the PGA Tour. With Bubba Watson’s Masters victory marking the end of the first half of the 2013-14 season, let’s look at some of the season’s statistical highlights 

Where are the Euros?

Americans have won 18 of the first 22 events of the season and Australians have won the other four. It’s the first time that no European player has won on the PGA Tour by the Masters since 2004, when it took until May for Sergio Garcia to win at the Byron Nelson Championship. In fact, among European players who were in the top 60 in the final regular season FedEx Cup standings in 2013, only Garcia has a better ranking in 2013-14. Garcia is one of three Euros with four top-10s on the PGA Tour in 2013-14. Among the notable European players without a top-10 on Tour this year are Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.

First victory by a European player on the PGA Tour: 2004-2013

 Year Player Tournament No. of events
 2013 Martin Laird Valero Texas Open 15
 2012 Rory McIlroy Honda Classic 10
 2011 Luke Donald WGC Match Play 8
 2010 Ian Poulter WGC Match Play 7
 2009 Paul Casey Shell Houston Open 15
 2008 Daniel Chopra Mercedes Benz Champ. 1
 2007 Henrik Stenson WGC Match Play 8
 2006 Luke Donald Honda Classic            11
 2005 Padraig Harrington Honda Classic            11
 2004 Sergio Garcia Byron Nelson Champ. 20

FedEx Cup comparison for Europeans from 2013 to 2014

 Player  2013 final reg. season rank 2014 current rank
 Justin Rose 7 67
 Henrik Stenson 9 79
 Graeme McDowell 28 39
 Jonas Blixt 29 42
 Lee Westwood 35 78
 Martin Laird 44 130
 Rory McIlroy 49 38
 David Lynn 54 166
 Luke Donald 55 71
 Sergio Garcia 59 33

Most top 10s on Tour by Europeans in 2013-14

 Player Top-10 finishes
 Graeme McDowell 4
 Sergio Garcia 4
 Rory McIlroy 4
 Luke Donald 2
 Jamie Donaldson 2
 Russell Knox 2
 Robert Karlsson 2
 Justin Rose 2

Bubba’s bruising start

Bubba Watson is off to the best start of his career. With two wins and two seconds, Watson has earned more than $4.5 million this season, which is more than 38 percent of his potential earnings. If he can maintain that pace through the second half of the year he will join Tiger Woods (five times) and Rory McIlroy (2012) as the only players to collect more than 37 percent of their potential earnings after making 10 or more starts in a season since 2005. (By way of explanation, if a player won every time he played, he would collect 100 percent of his potential earnings.)

Percentage of potential earnings won on PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Pct. money won Player Earnings Potential earnings Starts
 38.17% Bubba Watson $4,533,006 $11,876,000 9
 36.98 Jason Day 2,010,360 5,436,000 4
 31.08 Dustin Johnson 3,346,150 10,766,000 8
 24.52 Jimmy Walker 4,225,071 17,228,000 14
 20.73 Patrick Reed 3,023,091 14,586,000 12
 17.46 Jordan Spieth 2,621,223 14,586,000 12

Weekend warriors

With Harris English missing the cut at the Masters, Chris Kirk has now made the most starts this season without a missed cut. Kirk’s T-20 at the Masters marked the 13th time in 2013 that’s he qualified for the weekend. He is tied for the Tour lead in most cuts made this season.

Most cuts made without a miss in 2013-14

 Player Cuts made Best finish
 Chris Kirk 13 Won McGladrey Classic
 Bill Haas 12 T-6 Humana, T-6 WGC-Cadillac
 Hunter Mahan 9 T-4 Waste Management Phoenix Open
 Jim Furyk 7 T-5 WGC Match Play

Most cuts made in 2013-14

 Player Cuts made Starts
 Chris Kirk 13 13
 Jimmy Walker 13 14
 Harris English 13 14
 Cameron Tringale 13 16

The stars aren’t shining

Although every one of the top 10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2013 are still in the top 15 after the Masters, only two of them have won since the calendar turned. Zach Johnson, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, is the only player from the group to win on the PGA Tour this season (and he’s actually fallen in the ranking from ninth to his current position of 12th). Sergio Garcia won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters on the European Tour. Tiger Woods had back surgery and Phil Mickelson has also battled injuries, but most of the others have contended this season. Could that mean there are more victories on the horizon for a group that includes three of 2013's major champions? Here’s what they’ve done on Tour since January.

How the top 10 players on the year-end world ranking have fared in 2014

 2013 rank Player Current rank 2014 Tour starts Cuts Best PGA Tour notable
 1 Tiger Woods 1 3 3 T-25 WGC Cadillac Back surgery has put the rest of 2014 in limbo
 2 Adam Scott 2 6 6 3 Arnold Palmer 145th on proximity to hole on approaches, 45th last year
 3 Henrik Stenson 3 6 5 T-5 Arnold Palmer

He’s 185th in strokes gained/putting out of 206 players ranked

 4 Justin Rose 11 6 5 T-8 Valspar Fairways hit (59.87) and GIR (65.15) percentages are career worsts
 5 Phil Mickelson 8 8 5 T-12 Houston Last time he was this far into a season without a top 10 was 1992 and 6 of those starts were as an amateur
 6 Rory McIlroy  10 5 5 T-2 Honda 3 top-10s and no finish worse than T-25 in 2014
 7 Matt Kuchar 6 9 8 2 Houston 3 straight top-10s, but Sunday scoring avg. in last 5 starts is 73.8
 8 Steve Stricker 15 4 4 T-24 Houston Has earned between 48 and 56K in each of his 4 starts
 9 Zach Johnson 12 9 8 1-Hyundai Missed cut at the Masters was his first of the year
 10 Sergio Garcia 7 5 4 3 Houston He hadn’t been outside the top 20 all year until his MC at Augusta

 Trending in the right direction

Six players (Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones) won for the first time this season, but several other winless players are knocking on the door. Here’s a top-10 list of non-winners who have made more the cut more than 60 percent of the time in 10 or more starts this season and merit consideration at the RBC Heritage or at other future PGA Tour events.

 Player Starts Cuts Top 10s Playing Heritage?
 Brian Harman 14 10 3 Yes
 Ryo Ishikawa 14 9 3 Yes
 Russell Knox 13 11 2 Yes
 Graham Delaet 11 9 5 No
 Daniel Summerhays 16 11 2 No
 Chris Stroud  11 8 3 Yes
 Brian Stuard 14 10 3 Yes
 Cameron Tringale 16 13 1 Yes
 Jason Kokrak 13 9 2 Yes
 Brendon Todd 14 12 2 Yes
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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."