Stat attack!: Valero Texas Open review

By John AntoniniMarch 31, 2014, 2:06 am

One week after fellow Australian Adam Scott failed to hold on to a three-stroke lead after 54 holes of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Steven Bowditch found himself in a similar predicament at the Valero Texas Open. If the world No. 2 couldn’t hang on for victory, what chance did Bowditch, 339th on the world ranking, have? Plenty, it seemed. Winless in 109 previous PGA Tour starts, Bowditch gave back his three-stroke cushion with a bogey on No. 2 and a double bogey on No. 4 Sunday. But the 30-year-old persevered; making two birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way on a JW Marriott Course at TPC San Antonio that was to be the Tour’s toughest Sunday test this season. Bowditch’s final-round 76 was enough to hold off Will Mackenzie and Daniel Summerhays by one stroke and earn his first major invitation in more than 10 years.

It was highest final round by a PGA Tour winner in 10 years and Bowditch was the first player ranked outside the top 200 to win on Tour this season. The last previous such winner was Gary Woodland, ranked 268th, at the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open.

Highest final-round score for a PGA Tour winner since 2000

 Score Player Tournament
 76 Steven Bowditch 2014 Valero Texas Open
 76 Vijay Singh 2004 PGA Championship
 75  Martin Laird 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational
 75 Trevor Immelman 2008 Masters
 75 Peter Lonard 2005 Heritage
 75 Vaughn Taylor 2004 Reno-Tahoe
 75 John Daly 2004 Buick Invitational

Players ranked outside the top 100 to win on the PGA Tour in the 2013-14 season

 Rank Player Tournament
 339 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open
 127 Kevin Stadler Waste Management Phoenix Open
 123 John Senden Valspar Championship
 112 Scott Stallings Farmers Insurance Open
 110 Russell Henley Honda Classic

It’s notable that three other players were ranked between 90-100 when they won this year (Matt Every, Chesson Hadley and Chris Kirk), but only one player was ranked in the top 10 at the time of his victory (Zach Johnson was ninth when he won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions).

Bowditch took the lead at the Texas Open with a second-round 67 that included a stellar back-nine 31 at the JW Marriott Course at TPC San Antonio. He took a one-stroke lead into Round 3 and despite his hiccups early Sunday never fell out of at least a share of the lead. He’s the seventh player who held at least a share of the 36-hole lead to go on to win this season.

36-hole leaders who would win on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player Tournament 36-hole lead Final margin
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open Led by 1 Won by 1
 Patrick Reed WGC-Cadillac Championship Shared lead Won by 1
 Zach Johnson Hyundai T of C Led by 3 Won by 1
 Harris English Mayakoba Classic Shared lead Won by 4
 Chris Kirk McGladrey Classic Led by 1 Won by 1
 Dustin Johnson HSBC Champions Led by 5 Won by 3
 Webb Simpson Shriners Las Vegas Led by 4 Won by 6

Bowditch didn’t dominate in any of the stats that normally result in PGA Tour victories. He was 64th in strokes gained/putting at the Valero Texas Open. He was T-69 in distance of putts made. He made only two putts from more than 10 feet. He was T-49 in driving accuracy. He was T-15 in greens in regulation. However, his wedge game was excellent. He led the field in distance to the pin on approaches from 50-125 yards, getting his ball, on average, less than 10 feet from the hole. It was less than half the tour average for the week and more than 11 feet closer than his season average.

Steven Bowditch’s proximity to the hole on approach shots

 Distance of approach 50-75 yards 75-100 yards 100-125 yards 50-125 yards
 Bowditch 10 ft., 9 in. 6 ft., 10 in. 11 ft., 8 in. 9 ft. 11 in.
 Field Avg. 16 ft. 0 in. 19 ft. 0 in. 21 ft. 7 in. 20 ft. 0 in.
 Bowditch Valero rank 18 3 2 1
 Bowditch entering week 22 ft. 0 in. 23 ft. 9 in. 20 ft. 7 in. 21 ft. 6 in.


It was similar to the way Bowditch played when he finished T-2 at the 2013 Greenbrier Classic. His approach shot distance to the pin from 50-125 yards that week was less than 15 feet, nearly 14 feet better than the tournament average. That was his best previous finish on the PGA Tour, and although that runner-up got him into the 2013 PGA Tour Playoffs, this victory has bigger implications. Among other things, it gets him into the Masters, where Bowditch will make his first major-championship appearance since he missed the cut at the 2003 British Open as a 20-year-old. It also earns him $1,116,000, more than he has made in any single season.

Steven Bowditch’s best PGA Tour finishes

 Place Tournament Earnings
 1 2014 Valero Texas Open $1,116,000
 T-2 2013 Greenbrier Classic 415,800
 T-9 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach 163,800
 T-12 2013 John Deere Classic 96,600
 T-15 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach 102,400

Bowditch held on to his victory despite shooting 76 Sunday because his closest competitors entering the day couldn’t do much better. His playing companions, Matt Kuchar (who was ranked 11th entering the week) and Andrew Loupe (ranked 505th) both shot 75 as only two players in the field managed to break 70 for the day. The TPC San Antonio’s final-round scoring average of 73.803 was the highest aggregate on Tour this season, and marked the fourth straight week the Sunday scoring average was higher than 72.90.

Highest final-round scoring averages on Tour in 2013-14

 Average Tournament Course
 73.803 Valero Texas Open TPC San Antonio (JW Marriott)
 73.105 Arnold Palmer Invitational Bay Hill Resort & Spa
 73.026 CIMB Classic Kuala Lumpur G&CC
 73.015 WGC-Cadillac Doral Resort & Spa (TPC Blue Monster)
 72.973 Valspar Championship Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)
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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.