Stat attack!: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open review

By John AntoniniOctober 20, 2014, 3:27 am

Ben Martin’s first PGA Tour win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The third-year PGA Tour player finished 76th in the 2014 FedEx Cup standings, with three third-place finishes. Twice last season Martin led or shared the lead after 36 holes only to fall back on the weekend, with his third-round 71 at the RBC Heritage and his Saturday 73 at New Orleans dropping him from the top spot.

At TPC Summerlin, Martin used Saturday to his advantage, matching his career-best round with a 10-birdie 62 that jumped him from T-5 to the lead. He closed with a 68 Sunday to finish at 20-under 264, edging hard-charging Kevin Streelman by one stroke. Martin’s Saturday number was one of the best moving-day scores by a PGA Tour winner recent in recent years and one the best third-round scores the last 25 years in Las Vegas.

Lowest third-round scores by a PGA Tour winner: 2010-2014

 Score Player Tournament
 60 Carl Pettersson 2010 RBC Canadian Open
 61 Scott Piercy 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open
 62 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 62 Jimmy Walker 2013 Open
 62 Nick Watney 2011 AT&T National
 62 Steve Stricker 2010 John Deere Classic

Best third-round scores in the Las Vegas Open: 1991-2014

 Score Player Year Finish
 59* Chip Beck 1991 (at Sunrise CC) T-3
 62* John Cook 1992 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62* Joel Edwards 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-9
 62* Lee Janzen 2002 (at TPC Canyons) T-24
 62* Bob Estes 2002 (at Southern Highlands) MC
 62  Cameron Percy 2010 (at TPC Summerlin) T-2
 62 Ben Martin 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) Won
 62 Jimmy Walker 2014 (at TPC Summerlin) T-4

*Prior to 2004, the Las Vegas Open was a five-round tournament.

Memories in Vegas

What do Martin and Tiger Woods have in common? Like Martin, Woods got his first PGA Tour victory at Las Vegas, beating Davis Love III in a playoff in 1996. First-time winners weren’t uncommon in the 1990s, when the tournament was a five-round affair – Jim Furyk also hoisted his first trophy here in 1995 – but since the tournament went to four rounds (and became a fall series event), first-timers have been plentiful. Martin is the eighth player to make this event his first win in the last 11 years. Of that group, only Martin Laird, George McNeill and Troy Matteson have additional victories on the PGA Tour.

First-time winners on the PGA Tour at the Shriners: 2004-2014

 Year Player Career wins
 2014 Ben Martin 1
 2011 Kevin Na 1
 2009 Martin Laird 3
 2008 Marc Turnesa 1
 2007 George McNeill 2
 2006 Troy Matteson 2
 2005 Wes Short Jr. 1
 2004 Andre Stolz 1

Amateur hour

Martin was a U.S. Amateur finalist in 2009, losing in the final to Ben An at Southern Hills. He is the third U.S. Amateur runner-up since 2000 who has gone on to win on the PGA Tour. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that only one U.S. Amateur champion since 2000 has won on Tour. (For comparison, five of the U.S. Amateur champs in the 1990s went on to win PGA Tour events. Only one runner-up in that time (Tom Scherrer) would win on Tour as a professional.)

U.S. Amateur finalists since 2000 with PGA Tour victories

 Player PGA Tour wins Amateur record
 Ben Martin 2014 Shriners Hospitals Open 2009 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Michael Thompson 2013 Honda Classic 2007 U.S. Amateur runner-up
 Ryan Moore 3 wins, most recent 2013 CIMB Classic 2004 U.S. Amateur champion
 Hunter Mahan 6 wins, most recent 2014 Barclays 2002 U.S. Amateur runner-up

Return to prominence

Defending champion Webb Simpson made a valiant effort at a second straight win in Las Vegas, shooting 15-under 268 to finish T-4, five strokes back of Martin. He is one of just four Vegas winners in the last 25 years to finish in the top 10 the following year. No player has won twice in a row since Jim Furyk in 1998 and 1999.

Defending champs at Las Vegas who finished in the top 10: 1990-2014

 Player Victory year Following year
 Webb Simpson 2013 T-4, 2014
 Ryan Moore 2012 T-9, 2013
 Martin Laird 2009 T-2, 2010
 Jim Furyk 1998 Won, 1999

Simpson did shoot four rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin, giving him 13 such rounds in a row in Las Vegas. In addition to winning a year ago, he had four 60s in 2010 and finished with one in 2009. Simpson did not play the tournament in 2011 or 2012.

Webb Simpson’s career in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

 Year Finish Scores
 2014 T-4 69-65-67-68—269
 2013 Won 64-63-67-66—260
 2010 T-4 66-66-64-68—264
 2009 Missed cut 73-69—142

Wonderful weekend

Poor Kevin Streelman. With five birdies on the back nine Sunday, the former Duke star put pressure on Martin, before eventually finishing second, two strokes back of the winner. But anyone who was paying attention knew Streelman never had a chance. You see, Streelman shot an opening-round, even-par 71. No player with a round in the 70s has won at Las Vegas since Furyk in 1999. In fact, Streelman is the first player to finish second at the Shriners with a round in the 70s since Matt Kuchar in 2008. But Streelman’s weekend rounds are worth mentioning. His 63-65—128 are among the lowest scores at the Shriners on Saturday and Sunday.

Best final 36-hole scores at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: 2000-2014

 Player Year Scores Finish
 Rory Sabbatini 2001 63-64—127 T-2
 Kevin Streelman 2014 63-65—128 T-4
 Jason Day 2012 64-65—129 Fourth
 Cameron Percy 2010 62-67—129 T-2
 Ben Crane 2006 64-65—129 T-2
 David Frost 2004 67-62—129 T-7
 Rory Sabbatini 2002 64-65—129 T-5
 Jonathan Kaye 2000 67-62—129 T-3

Fabulous Finau

Tony Finau’s T-7 is also worth mentioning. The Tour graduate from Utah was making just his fifth PGA Tour start at Las Vegas. His first career top-10 finish came on the heels of a T-12 at the Open one week earlier. Finau is one of six players to finish in the top 20 in each of the first two tournaments of the 2014-15 season. Last year seven players accomplished this feat  - Robert Garrigus, J.J. Henry, Ryo Ishikawa, Will MacKenzie, Jeff Overton, Vijay Singh, and Jimmy Walker. Of that group, all but Henry qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Players with top 20 finishes at the first two events of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season

 Player Shriners
 Hideki Matsuyama T-3 T-10
 Martin Laird T-3 T-18
 Brooks Koepka T-8 T-4
 Hudson Swafford T-8 T-18
  Scott Brown T-12 T-10
 Tony Finau T-12 T-7
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.