Stat attack!: RBC Heritage review

By John AntoniniApril 21, 2014, 1:14 am

Apparently Matt Kuchar took issue with David Feherty’s comment on Sunday's edition of “Morning Drive” that nobody would be able to shoot a score as low as 64 in the final round of the RBC Heritage. Feherty opined that the rain and the wind would make Harbour Town GC a Sunday beast, but Kuchar begged to differ, his could-have-been-better, could-have-been-worse 7-under 64 giving him an 11-under 273 and a one-stroke victory over Luke Donald, who for the fifth time finished in the top three at Hilton Head without getting to don the tartan jacket. Kuchar’s 64 tied the record for best final round by a winner at the Heritage.

Best final-round score by a winner at the RBC Heritage

 Score Player Year
 64 Matt Kuchar 2014
 64 Brandt Snedeker 2011
 64  Brian Gay 2009
 64 Stewart Cink 2004

Best final-round performances by Matt Kuchar

 Score Tournament Finish 
 63 2010 Humana T-2
 64 2014 RBC Heritage Won
 64 2009 Humana T-25

Kuchar’s Sunday score offset a second-round 73, which was one of the highest final-round scores by a winner in 2013-14 and one of seven rounds over par by an eventual winner on Tour this year.

PGA Tour winners in 2013-14 despite shooting one round over par

 Player Score Tournament Round
 Zach Johnson 74 Hyundai T of C Third round
 Jimmy Walker 74 AT&T Pebble Beach Fourth round
 Russell Henley 72 Honda Classic Fourth round
 Patrick Reed 75 WGC-Cadillac Second round
 John Senden 72 Valspar Champ. First round
 Bubba Watson 74 Masters Third round
 Matt Kuchar 73 RBC Heritage Second round

The victory was Kuchar’s fourth straight top-10 finish and culminates a month where the now seven-time PGA Tour winner could have – some might say should have – won every time. Kuchar was T-4 at the Valero Texas Open, second at the Shell Houston Open and fifth at the Masters. He held the lead on Sunday in the Texas events and was one stroke back of the 54-hole leaders at the Masters. He is the first player with top-10 finishes in four consecutive PGA Tour events since Ryan Moore in 2012. (Unlike Kuchar, who played all four weeks, Moore and Dustin Johnson, who also accomplished the feat in 2012, had built in off-weeks during their streaks, as their runs came partially during the PGA Tour Playoffs.) Here are the players with three straight weeks in the top 10 since 2013.

Most consecutive weeks with top-10 finishes since 2013

 Weeks Player Year Tournaments
 4 Matt Kuchar 2013-14 T-4-Texas, 2-Houston, 5-Masters, 1-Heritage
 3 Zach Johnson 2013-14 1-Hyundai, T-8 Sony, T-3 Humana
 3 Brandt Snedeker  2013 T-2-Farmers, 2-Phoenix, 1-Pebble
 3 Charles Howell III 2013 T-3 Sony, T-2 Humana, T-9 Farmers
 3 Daniel Summerhays 2013 T-9 Greenbrier, T-4 John Deere, T-2 Sanderson Farms
 3 Graeme McDowell 2013 T-5 Match Play, T-9 Honda, T-3 Doral
 3 Jim Furyk 2013

T-9 Canada, T-9 Bridgestone, 2-PGA

 3 Scott Stallings 2013 T-4 Colonial, T-4 Memorial, T-2 FedEx St. Jude
 3 Zach Johnson 2013 T-4 Bridgestone, T-8 PGA, T-5 Wyndham

In his four-week run, Kuchar has finished in the top 10 in greens in regulation twice and driving accuracy three times. His putting – as might be expected from anyone watching his stunning three-putt from four feet on the 17th hole Sunday at Hilton Head – has been unremarkable.

Matt Kuchar’s statistical ranking the last four weeks

 Tournament Driv. Dist. Accuracy GIR Putts per round Scrambling
 Texas 60 7 T-28 T-5 5
 Houston 49 26 1 T-44 T-58
 Masters 46 T-7 T-14 T-16 8
 Heritage 56 T-7 1 T-36 11
 Season rank 152 31 33 T-61 16

Kuchar’s comeback Sunday made a bridesmaid of Luke Donald at the Heritage for the third time. He has finished in the top three at Harbour Town five times without winning. There is only one other player with five top-three finishes, but no wins, at the same PGA Tour event since 2000. You know who he is. He’ll try to end his drought at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June.

Most top-three finishes in one event without winning: 2000-2014

 Player Top 3s Tournament Seconds Thirds
 Luke Donald 5 RBC Heritage 2009, 2011, 2014 2010, 2013
 Phil Mickelson 5 U.S. Open 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013  
 Mike Weir 4 AT&T Pebble Beach 2005, 2009 2003, 2006
 Charles Howell III 4 Sony Open 2007, 2012 2005, 2013
 Vijay Singh 4 WGC-Cadillac 2003, 2008 2000, 2002

Harbour Town’s smallish green complexes yielded its usual low number of putts. Chesson Hadley and Jordan Spieth led the field with 102 putts. They are among the fewest putts taken at a tournament in 2013-14.

Fewest putts, one tournament 2013-14

Putts Player Tournament Finish
 100 James Driscoll Humana T-18
 101 Scott Langley Humana T-18
 101 Will Mackenzie Valero Texas T-2
 102 Chad Collins Humana T-8
 102 Brian Harman Northern Trust T-3
 102 John Daly Sony Open T-32
 102  Pat Perez Valero Texas T-11
 102 Chesson Hadley Heritage T-38
 102 Jordan Spieth Heritage T-12
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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.