Stat attack!: Tour Championship preview

By John AntoniniSeptember 9, 2014, 2:12 pm

The PGA Tour’s first wrap-around season comes to a close with this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, and you’re not wrong if you think this year has resulted in a changing of the guard.

For the first time since 1992, you won’t see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els in the season finale.

The top five players on FedEx Cup standings – those who control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Cup – include 25-year-old world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and the three players who won playoff events at the Barclays (Hunter Mahan), Deutsche Bank (Chris Kirk, shown) and BMW Championship (Billy Horschel).

Here’s a look at those five players, plus a statistical look at the rest of the Tour Championship field: 

PGA Tour statistics of the FedEx Cup leaders

 Player Rank Starts Cuts Top 10s Wins Scoring Distance Accuracy GIR St. G. putting

 Chris
 Kirk

1 27 25 4 2 70.24 (31) 290.9 (81) 63.08% (64) 63.22% (139) .348 (25)
 Billy
 Horschel
2 26 19 4 1 70.68 (63) 291.4 (77) 67.74 (19) 70.03 (4) .190 (62)
 Bubba
 Watson
3 20 17 8 2 69.71 (9) 314.2
(1)
60.77 (102) 67.79 (26) -.041 (110)
 Rory
 McIlroy
4 16 16 11 3 68.90 (1) 311.2
(2)
60.00 (112) 69.35 (6)

.254 (45)

 Hunter
 Mahan
5 24 19 6 1 70.52 (46) 295.8 (45) 65.40 (35) 67.49 (31) .207 (59)

How the top five players have fared in the Tour Championship

 Player 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
 Chris Kirk              
 Billy Horschel T-7            
 Bubba Watson   T-5 T-23 T-17   30  
 Rory McIlroy   T-10          
 Hunter Mahan T-20 T-8 2 T-15 T-24 T-17 T-5

It might surprise you to learn that McIlroy has only played in one Tour Championship, in 2012, when he concluded his remarkable season with a T-10 at East Lake for a second-place finish in the Cup standings behind tournament winner Brandt Snedeker. McIlroy didn’t qualify for East Lake a year ago (finishing 50th in the FedEx Cup standings) or in 2010 (36th), his only previous years as a PGA Tour member.

Mahan, meanwhile, is playing his eighth straight Tour Championship. He is the only player to have appeared in every PGA Tour playoff event since the post-season series began in 2007.

Kirk - who was born in Atlanta, played college golf at Georgia and still makes the state his home - tops the FedEx Cup standings but the Tour Championship hasn’t been kind to the point’s leader in recent years. The only player to enter the Tour Championship ranked atop the standings and win the tournament was Tiger Woods in the inaugural Cup year of 2007. In the last four years, the player who won the Tour Championship has also won the FedEx Cup, and the points leader entering the finale has finished second in the final standings.

FedEx Cup leaders entering the Tour Championship

 Year Player TC finish Cup finish Cup winner
 2013 Tiger Woods T-22 2 Henrik Stenson
 2012 Rory McIlroy T-10 2 Brandt Snedeker
 2011 Webb Simpson 22 2 Bill Haas
 2010 Matt Kuchar T-25 2 Jim Fuyrk
 2009 Tiger Woods 2 Won FedEx Cup  
 2008 Vijay Singh T-22 Won FedEx Cup  
 2007 Tiger Woods Won Won FedEx Cup  

This year’s 29-man field (Dustin Johnson finished 30th on the point’s list, but remains on leave for personal reasons) is a strong one. Eight of the top 10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are at East Lake, as are seven of the next 10. Only four players are ranked outside the top 50.

World ranking of the Tour Championship field

 Rank Total Players
 Top 10 8 McIlroy (1), Scott (2), Garcia (3), Rose (5), Watson (6), Furyk (7), Day (8),
Kuchar (9)
 11-20 7 Fowler (11), Kaymer (12), Spieth (13), Johnson (15), Walker (18), Matsuyama (19),
Mahan (20)
 21-30 3 Horschel (23), Kirk (24), Reed (28)
 31-40 3 Haas (31), Simpson (33), Na (36)
 41-50 4 Palmer (44), Todd (46), Woodland (49), Senden (50)
 51-75 3 Henley (53), Tringale (72), Ogilvy (74)
 76+ 1 Hoffmann (101)

Morgan Hoffman is the highest-ranked player to qualify for the Tour Championship since Kevin Streelman (147th) in 2010. The 25-year-old New Jersey native is certainly trending in the right direction. At the, Barclays in his home state, Hoffmann finished T-9 for his first top-10 finish of 2013-14. Two weeks later at Cherry Hills, his stellar closing rounds of 62-63 (the best final 36-hole scores this season) moved him from T-53 to third in the tournament and into the Tour Championship for the first time.

Highest ranked players to qualify for the Tour Championship in the playoffs era

 World rank Player Year TC finish
 147 Kevin Streelman 2010 T-9
 112 Marc Leishman 2009 T-28
 101 Morgan Hoffmann 2014  
 96 Bubba Watson 2008 30
 91 John Senden 2009 T-10
 90 Briny Baird 2008 T-27
 90 Gary Woodland 2013 T-22

Only 13 players are retuning to the Tour Championship from 2013. Defending champion Henrik Stenson failed to qualify, as did co-runner-up Steve Stricker. The other runner-up, Jordan Spieth, is back. There are nine first-timers in the field this week, including Kirk and Hoffmann.

First-timers in the Tour Championship field

 Player FedEx rank Best 2014 finish
 Chris Kirk  1 Won McGladrey, Deutsche Bank
 Jimmy Walker 6 Won Frys.com, Sony, Pebble Beach
 Martin Kaymer 14 Won Players, U.S. Open
 Patrick Reed 18 Won Humana, WGC-Cadillac
 Cameron Tringale 19 T-2 Barclays
 Russell Henley 20 Won Sony
 Morgan Hoffmann 21 3 BMW Championship
 Brendon Todd 27 Won Nelson
 Hideki Matsuyama 28 Won Memorial

Hoffmann and Tringale are two of 10 players in the field who have not won on Tour in 2013-14. Hoffmann, in fact, is the only player in the Tour Championship who did not have a win or a runner-up finish this season. Here’s the list of non-winners. Some of the names might surprise you.

Players in the Tour Championship who have not won in 2013-14

 Player FedEx rank Best finish in 2013-14
 Jim Furyk 7 2 Wells Fargo, Players, Canadian Open
 Rickie Fowler 9 T-2 U.S. Open, British Open
 Jordan Spieth 11 2 Hyundai T of C, T-2 Masters
 Sergio Garcia 13 2 WGC-Bridgestone, T-2 Travelers, British Open
 Bill Haas 16 T-2 Wyndham
 Cameron Tringale 19 T-2 Barclays
 Morgan Hoffmann 27 3 BMW Championship
 Ryan Palmer 23 2 Humana, T-2 Honda
 Kevin Na 24 2 Valspar, Memorial
 Gary Woodland 29 2 CIMB

One final thought: Bill Haas is the only player in the playoff era to make the Tour Championship his first win of the season. Haas won in 2011 in a playoff over Hunter Mahan. Haas hasn’t won yet in 2013-14 and needs a victory this week to extend his streak of consecutive years with a win on Tour to five.

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

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry