Stat attack!: Tour Championship review

By John AntoniniSeptember 15, 2014, 1:12 am

That was nice and tidy.

It's convenient when the winner of the Tour Championship also wins the FedEx Cup, and Sunday at East Lake Billy Horschel became the fifth straight player to take the PGA Tour’s season-ending double dip.

The three-stroke win over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy was Horschel’s second straight playoff victory, coming as it did on the heels of last week’s BMW Championship.

It helped him not only lift the Tour Championship trophy but also the FedEx Cup and the $10 million annuity that goes with it.

Horschel finished the playoffs with 12 straight rounds in the 60s thanks to some stellar long-distance putting that we’ll get to later.

He is the 12th man in the playoff era to shoot four rounds in the 60s in the Tour Championship and the first player to shoot four rounds in the 60s in three playoff events in the same season.

Four rounds in the 60s in the Tour Championship in the playoff era

 Year Player Scores Finish
 2014 Billy Horschel 66-66-69-68—269 Won
 2014 Jim Furyk 67-69-67-69—272 T-2
 2014 Ryan Palmer 69-67-69-69—274 7
 2013 Henrik Stenson 64-66-69-68—267 Won
 2013 Dustin Johnson 68-68-67-69—271 5
 2013 Zach Johnson 69-68-69-68—274 T-7
 2011 Bill Haas 68-67-69-68—272 Won
 2008 Phil Mickelson 68-68-69-69—274 T-3
 2007 Tiger Woods 64-63-64-66—257 Won
 2007 Scott Verplank 66-68-67-68—269 T-5
 2007 Vijay Singh 68-68-65-69—270 T-7
 2007 Rory Sabbatini 68-68-67-68—271 T-9

Most PGA Tour playoff events with 4 rounds in the 60s in the same year (*won tournament)

 Rounds in 60s Player Year Tournaments
 3 Billy Horschel 2014 Deutsche Bank, BMW*, Tour Championship*
 2 Henrik Stenson 2013 Deutsche Bank*, Tour Championship*
 2 Dustin Johnson  2013 Deutsche Bank, Tour Championship
 2 Rory McIlroy 2012 Deutsche Bank*, BMW*
 2 Tiger Woods 2007 BMW*, Tour Championship*
 2 Steve Stricker 2007 Barclays*, BMW

Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour’s postseason leader with five tournaments with every round in the 60s. Horschel now has three for his career and is tied with Adam Scott and Steve Stricker for second on the all-time list.

Horschel is also the only player to have four rounds in the 60s in three straight tournaments in 2013-14. (Nope, Rory McIlroy didn’t do it during his great summer stretch, having shot 71 in the final round of the Open Championship.)

Entering the PGA Tour playoffs, Horschel might have been the last golfer you’d expect to run the table and sweep through the Tour’s postseason. He was 69th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the playoffs and his best finishes all year were T-6's at Memphis and the Hyundai T of C.

Worst position entering the playoffs of the eventual FedEx Cup champion

 Year Player Place entering playoffs
 2014 Billy Horschel 69
 2012 Brandt Snedeker 19
 2011 Bill Haas 15

And he was actually worse than that. A missed cut at The Barclays in the first post-season event didn’t inspire confidence and dropped him to 82nd in the standings.

Elimination loomed at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but he stepped up his game with a T-2 finish and led the field in all-around rank to move to 20th in points. He led the field in all-around rank again during his win at the BMW Championship (as well as strokes-gained putting) to climb to second in the standings.

At East Lake he was fifth in all-around rank while leading the field in greens in regulation and three-putt avoidance (he didn’t have one).

Billy Horschel’s stats the last three weeks of the PGA Tour playoffs

 Tournament Distance Accuracy GIR Strokes gained/putting All-around rank
 Deutsche Bank 306.0 (T-10) 67.86 (T-31) 75.00 (T-7) .951 (12) 1
 BMW Champ. 315.9 (9) 64.29 (T-14) 76.39 (T-2) 2.975 (1) 1
 Tour Champ. 296.3 (12) 51.79 (T-21) 79.17 (1) .815 (6) 5

Horschel was in the top 10 in greens in regulation all three weeks, but where he really stood out in his stretch run was on the putting surfaces. Especially when he was staring down the hole from a distance.

He made three putts from more than 29 feet at the Tour Championship, including the decisive 16th hole Sunday, where he rammed one home for par from nearly 31 feet, resulting in a big fist pump.

It was a deserving coda to a two-week stretch that saw Horschel hole six of his eight longest measured putts of the season.

Billy Horschel’s longest putts made measured by ShotLink in 2013-14

 Tournament , Round, Hole Distance
 PGA Championship, round 2, hole 12 56 feet, 6 inches
 Tour Championship, round 3, hole 2 50 feet, 3 inches
 BMW Championship, round 1 hole 4 45 feet, 1 inch
 BMW Championship, round 2, hole 18 41 feet, 4 inches
 BMW Championship, round 3, hole 18 31 feet, 11 inches
 Tour Championship, round 4, hole 16 30 feet, 9 inches
 Humana Challenge, round 4, hole 4 29 feet, 9 inches
 Tour Championship, round 1, hole 10 29 feet, 6 inches

And therein lies Horschel’s key to success in the playoffs. He had been a successful short-range putter all season, finishing fourth on Tour in putts made from 4-8 feet and fifth on Tour from less than 10 feet.

But entering the BMW Championship he had made just eight putts from more than 25 feet all year and ranked 181st on the PGA Tour from long range.

In the last two weeks of the season Horschel not only maintained his success in the putts he should make, but he canned some of the bombs that he had been missing all year, nearly doubling his putts made from 25 feet or more by making seven in the two weeks (another 25 footer at East Lake is not on the list above).

That eventually earned him $1.44 million as the tournament winner, $10 million as the FedEx Cup champion, and nearly $13.5 million total during the postseason.

Final FedEx Cup standings

 Rank Player Points Tour Champ. finish
 1  Billy Horschel 4,750 Won
 2 Chris Kirk 3,100 T-4
 3 Rory McIlroy 3.050 T-2
 4 Jim Furyk 2,450 T-2
 5 Bubba Watson 2,285 14

So Horschel closes the book on the PGA Tour season for 2013-14. Tune in later in the week for a Stat Attack look at the year-end statistics.

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

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.