Stat attack!: Rory McIlroy

By John AntoniniDecember 20, 2014, 4:30 pm

Rory McIlroy has already been named by many news outlets as the golfer of the year for 2014. No doubt many more will follow suit. But recognition for McIlroy’s great season comes with the reminder that it wasn’t just a year of successes for the world No. 1. It was a year of many highs and a few lows – and we’re just talking on the course, here, forgetting for a while his engagement and eventual break-up with Caroline Wozniacki or his legal dispute with his former management company. Remember McIlroy giving away the Honda Classic, or his Friday struggles throughout the first half of the year? They’re past history. Here is a tournament-by-tournament statistical recap of McIlroy’s year on the 2013-14 PGA and European tours.

 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship 70-67-70-68—275 T-2

The first of five runner-up finishes for McIlroy in 2014, he hit just 18 fairways over the final three rounds (42.8 percent), but it was a two-stroke penalty in the third round for an incorrect drop that cost him as he lost by one to Pablo Larrazabal.

 Omega Dubai Desert Classic 63-70-69-74—276 T-9

This was one of three times Rory would open with a round of 63, his season-low score. He would not win any of those tournaments. 

 WGC-Accenture Match Play  Eliminated in second round by Harris English, 19 holes T-17

McIlroy is 5-1 in the first round of the Match Play, but has gotten past the second round only twice (2009 and 2012).

 Honda Classic 63-66-69-74—272 T-2

This was the only time all year that his scores went up after every round. The inexplicable playoff loss to Russell Henley – Rory was 5 over on the last 12 holes to fall from the lead – marked the second straight stroke-play event in which he opened with a 63 and finished with a 74.

 WGC-Cadillac Championship 70-74-75-74-293 T-25

This was McIlroy’s highest finish in a PGA Tour event in 2014-15, one of just three times he was outside the top 20, and the only tournament all year in which he did not have at least one round in the 60s. 

 Shell Houston Open 70-71-74-65—280 T-17

The final-round 65 moved him from T-37 to T-7. This tournament began a streak of five straight top 10s for McIlroy, matching his best of the year.

 Masters 71-77-71-69—288 T-8

Note the second round, and know that things would get worse on Fridays before they got better. McIlroy had a back-nine 40 in Round 2 at Augusta. For the year, he led the PGA Tour in back-nine scoring average (34.52).

 Wells Fargo Championship 69-76-65-70—280 T-8

If McIlroy matched his first-round 69 on Day 2, he would have won by one stroke. This time his Friday 40 came on the front nine. For the day he made just two of six putts (33 percent) from 4-8 feet. His season average was 71.43 percent. After this week, he was 11th on the World Ranking, his worst placement of the year. 

 Players Championship 70-74-69-66—279 T-6

As it did a week earlier, a second-round 69 would have given McIlroy the victory. McIlroy’s Sunday 66 was a thing of beauty, including six birdies on the back (including 16, 17 and 18).

 BMW PGA Championship 68-71-69-66—274 Won

His first win of 2014 came just days after his well-publicized break-up with Wozniacki. The seven-stroke comeback on Sunday equaled the tournament record and it was, perhaps surprisingly, McIlroy’s first European Tour victory in Europe.

 Memorial Tournament 63-78-69-72—282 T-15

After this event, McIlroy’s second-round scoring average on the PGA Tour was 73.50, ranking 186th of 191 players. His season fairways-hit percentage was 56.70, 144th on Tour.

 U.S. Open 71-68-74-73—286 T-23

At the midway point of his year, McIlroy had one win and eight top-10 finishes, but he was winless on the PGA Tour and ranked 35th in the FedEx Cup standings and 28th on the money list.

 Irish Open 74-69—143 Missed cut

The only time all year McIlroy missed a cut. He hit just 21 greens in two rounds and couldn’t recover when he missed, making par or better just five times when he didn’t hit the green in regulation.

 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open 64-78-68-67—277 T-14

Like the Memorial, his first-round-to-second-round swing was stunning, but he recovered nicely with 10 birdies and three bogeys on the weekend. Eighth on the world ranking after this event, he was about to move up quickly.

 British Open 66-66-68-71—271 Won

McIlroy’s 17-under 271 was the fourth-lowest total in relation to par to win the Open. He dominated on the par 5s at Royal Liverpool, especially Saturday when he made eagle on the 16th and 18th holes to take what became an insurmountable lead of six strokes into Sunday. For the week, McIlroy was one of four players to shoot 12 under on the par-5 holes.

 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational 69-64-66-66—265 Won

McIlroy led the field in distance and greens in regulation, while missing only four putts from less than 10 feet. The victory helped McIlroy regain the No. 1 spot on the world ranking.

 PGA Championship 66-67-67-68—268 Won

McIlroy was 16 under par at Valhalla, marking the fourth time he has won a major by shooting at least 13 under par. He joined Tiger Woods as the only players to pull off the Summer Slam (British, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA) since the WGC events were created in 1999. He was 12 under for the week on holes 10-18.

 The Barclays 74-65-70-70—279 T-22

His winning streak ended at three, thanks to a role reversal of sorts from his early-season struggles. McIlroy opened with 74, his worst first round of the season on the PGA Tour (he also shot 74 to start the Irish Open). 

 Deutsche Bank Championship 70-69-64-70—273 T-5

McIlroy shot 6.43 strokes better than the field during his third-round 64, but he shot 70 on Monday when the field averaged 69.

 BMW Championship 67-67-72-66—272 T-8

McIlroy made his longest putt of the year (59 feet, 8 inches) on the fourth hole of the third round. For the year, he led the PGA Tour in putting from beyond 25 feet, making 11.70 percent (22 of 188). 

 Tour Championship 69-65-67-71—272 T-2

McIlroy’s U.S. season ended with his PGA Tour-best 12th top-10 finish. He also led the Tour in birdie average (4.58), scoring average (68.29), earnings ($8,280,086), and putts per GIR (1.708, which was the second-lowest total on Tour in the last 10 years).

 Alfred Dunhill Links 73-67-64-68—272 T-2

In his only European Tour event in September or October, McIlroy had his second of three consecutive runner-up finishes. This time he was gutted by a first-round 73. It was the eighth straight time he would shoot in the 60s in Round 2. Through the Scottish Open his Friday average was 73.00. In his last nine starts he averaged 66.66 in Round 2. 

 DP World Tour Championship 66-70-70-68—274 T-2

In his last five European Tour starts of 2014, McIlroy finished first three times and second twice. Nineteen of 20 rounds were under par, and he was a cumulative 78 under par in the five events.

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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.'"

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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.