Stat attack!: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open preview

By John AntoniniOctober 14, 2014, 7:28 pm

Welcome to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, where the desert is hot and the golfers are hotter. In the 10 years that the Las Vegas event has been a four-round tournament, only once has the winner shot less than 20 under par.

Last year, Webb Simpson posted 24 under, en route to a tournament-record, six-stroke victory over Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa. Simpson didn’t shoot higher than 67 in any round last year. In the last five years no champion has shot higher than 68, and no winner at Las Vegas has had a round in the 70s since Jim Furyk in 1999.

The field average has been in the 60s every year since the TPC Summerlin became a par-71 course in 2009. Four times in the last five years more than half of the rounds were in the 60s. The Shriners was one of four Tour events last season where players were in the 60s in more than half their rounds. Expect the low scoring to continue this week.

Going low at TPC Summerlin: 2009-2013

 Year Winner Score Field avg. Rounds in 60s 65s or better
 2013 Webb Simpson -24 69.55 208 of 405 (51.36%) 36
 2012 Ryan Moore -24 69.71 203 of 408 (49.75) 24
 2011 Kevin Na -23 68.82 249 of 418 (59.57) 37
 2010 Jonathan Byrd -21 68.96 260 of 409 (63.57) 37
 2009 Martin Laird -19 69.15 238 of 408 (58.33) 41

Tournaments with the highest percentage of rounds in the 60s in 2014

 Tournament Percent of rounds in 60s Par
 Humana Challenge 58.11% 72
 Wyndham Championship 56.77 70
 Sony Open 56.52 70
 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open 51.36 71
John Deere Classic 49.57 71

Casting his Webb

During his victory, Simpson finished in the top five in the field in Las Vegas in greens in regulation (T-2), proximity to the hole (fourth), scrambling (T-3), strokes gained/putting (first) and putting from more than 10 feet (first). Simpson made 15 putts from more than 10 feet in 2013, no other player in the field made more than 12 from that distance.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open leaders in putting from more than 10 feet in 2013

 Player Putts made/total Percentage Tournament finish
 Webb Simpson 15 for 49 30.61% Won
 Will Mackenzie 12 for 40 30.00 T-15
 John Huh 12 for 43 27.91 T-30
 Stephen Ames 12 for 46 26.09 T-48
 Jason Bohn 11 for 45 24.44 T-2

Home cookin’

Simpson’s victory a year ago ended a streak of Shriners winners who live in Las Vegas, as Kevin Na in 2011 and Ryan Moore in 2012 didn’t have to commute far to get to TPC Summerlin. Charley Hoffman came close to making it three straight home winners a year ago, finishing fourth. In addition, Las Vegas resident Nick Watney finished second in 2011 and former UNLV player Chad Campbell was T-2 in 2009.

Can a player with ties to the host city win again this week? Eleven players in the 2014 Shriners field went to school in Las Vegas or live in the city. Seven of them have finished in the top 10.

How players with Las Vegas ties have fared in the Shriners

 Player Shriners starts Cuts made Top 10s Best finish
 Chad Campbell 11 10 2 T-2 in 2009
 Alex Cejka 8 4 0 T-24 in 2009
 Derek Ernst 1 0 0  
 Andres Gonzales 4 2 0 T-63 in 2006
 Charley Hoffman 10 6 3 Fourth in 2013
 Bill Lunde 7 4 1 Fifth in 2012
 Ryan Moore 8 7 3 Won in 2012
 Kevin Na 8 6 1 Won in 2011
 Scott Piercy 8 6 2 T-6 in 2012
 Alex Prugh 3 2 0 T-29 in 2011
 Nick Watney 9 7 4 Second in 2011

Moore than enough

Ryan Moore is the only player to shoot four rounds in the 60s at the Shriners in each of the last two years. Moore won in 2012, shooting 24-under 260, including an opening 61. It was quite an October for Moore, whose wife, Nichole, gave birth to baby Tucker two weeks later.

Last fall, Moore shot 69-63-69-68—269 to finish T-9, nine strokes back of Webb Simpson.

Simpson, by the way, has shot nine consecutive rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin, including four in 2010 and one in 2009. Simpson did not play the tournament in 2011 or 2012.  Carl Pettersson also has nine straight rounds in the 60s at Summerlin, having played every other year since 2009.

Here’s the list of players in this year’s field who had four rounds in the 60s in 2013. 

Four rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin in 2013

 Player Rounds in 2013 Finish Consecutive 60s at TPC Summerlin
 Webb Simpson 64-63-67-66 Won 9
 Jason Bohn 67-64-69-66 T-2 4
 Ryo Ishikawa 67-66-68-65 T-2 4
 Charles Howell III 67-69-67-65 T-5 5
 Ryan Moore 69-63-69-68 T-9 8
 Carl Pettersson 68-67-69-66 T-12 9
 Andrew Svoboda 68-67-67-69 T-15 4

Picking up where he left off

Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, makes his 2015 season debut at the Shriners. He took a short, one-month break to enjoy his windfall for winning the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship and the $10 million annuity that goes with the Cup – not to mention the birth of his first child, daughter Skylar, two days after the Tour Championship ended. Now he returns, hoping to extend his winning streak to three straight events. 

Since 2000, two players have ended one year with a win and began the next season the same way.  Tiger Woods has done it three times and Jonathan Byrd did it once. We’re not talking about a season-ending/season-opening tournament, but the last and first start by a particular player in the given years.

Players who won their last start of one season and first start the next since 2000

 Player Last start First start
 Tiger Woods 1999 WGC-American Express 2000 Mercedes Championship
 Tiger Woods 2006 WGC-American Express 2007 Buick Invitational
 Tiger Woods 2007 Tour Championship 2008 Buick Invitational
 Jonathan Byrd 2010 Shriners Las Vegas 2011 Hyundai T of C

One final thought: Martin Laird, T-3 last week at the Frys.com Open, has a strong resume in Las Vegas. The Scotsman made the Las Vegas stop his first PGA Tour win in 2009 and he was second a year later. In 2010 Laird lost a playoff to Jonathan Byrd, who became the first player to win a playoff with a hole-in-one, ending Laird’s hopes of a repeat victory with an ace on the fourth extra hole.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

 

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.