Stat attack!: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational review

By John AntoniniAugust 4, 2014, 2:18 am

Is it coincidence that Rory McIlroy is playing the best golf of his season, perhaps even the best of his outstanding career, after he called off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki on May 21? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the results are noteworthy.

Prior to the break-up, McIlroy had his share of top finishes in 2014, including runner-ups at the Honda Classic and in Abu Dhabi. But his season was mostly marked by disappointment. He should have won at PGA National, stumbling down the stretch in the final round and losing a playoff to Russell Henley.

He received more notoriety for following stellar first rounds with poor Fridays, and at one point his second-round scoring average was among the five worst on the PGA Tour. Since the end of May, however, he has won three times, all top-tier tournaments, including the British Open in a wire-to-wire runaway.

On Sunday, he completed a workmanlike comeback win over Sergio Garcia at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Rory McIlroy since breaking off his engagement

 Tournament Tour Finish
 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Both Won
 British Open Both Won
 Scottish Open European T-14
 Irish Open European MC
 U.S. Open Both T-23
 Memorial PGA T-15
 BMW PGA  European Won

The win at the Bridgestone makes him the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to enter the PGA Championship having won his previous two starts, and moves McIlroy to No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s the fifth different time McIlroy has been the world’s best golfer. Only Woods and Greg Norman have been No. 1 on more different occasions, although Rory hasn’t spent the number of weeks on top as those two stars. McIlroy rotated at No.1 with Luke Donald three times in the spring of 2012 and finally stayed on top for his longest stretch – 32 weeks - after the PGA Championship.

McIlroy at No. 1 on the World Ranking

 First week at No. 1 Last week at No. 1 Total weeks
 August 4, 2014   1
 August 11, 2012  March 16, 2013 32
 May 5, 2012 May 19, 2012 3
 April 14, 2012 April 21, 2012 2
 March 3, 2012 March 10, 2012 2

Players who were No. 1 the most different times

 Player Times at No. 1 Total weeks
 Greg Norman 11 331
 Tiger Woods 10 683
 Seve Ballesteros 5 61
 Rory McIlroy 5 40

At Firestone, McIlroy led the field in driving distance and total driving and tied for the lead in greens in regulation. He was second in proximity to the hole, putting from less than 10 feet and birdies per round. He is the fifth winner this year to lead the field in greens in regulation and the sixth to also lead in distance.

PGA Tour winners in 2013-14 who also led the field in GIR

 Player Tournament
 Rory McIlroy WGC-Bridgestone
 Brian Harman John Deere Classic
 Angel Cabrera Greenbrier Classic
 Matt Kuchar RBC Heritage
 Dustin Johnson  WGC-HSBC Champions

PGA Tour winners in 2013-14 who also led the field in driving distance

 Player Tournament
 Rory McIlroy WGC-Bridgestone
 Rory McIlroy British Open
 J.B. Holmes Wells Fargo
 Bubba Watson Masters
 Bubba Watson Northern Trust Open
 Jimmy Walker Sony Open

McIlroy is second on Tour in scoring average at 69.057 and is looking to lead the tour in that stat for the second time in three years. In 2012 he averaged 68.87 and won the Byron Nelson and Vardon trophies indicative of the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour leaders in scoring average in 2013-14

 Player Scoring average
 Sergio Garcia 68.739
 Rory McIlroy 69.057
 Adam Scott 69.323
 Matt Kuchar 69.343
 Graeme McDowell 69.434
 Jim Furyk 69.460

Sergio Garcia is also playing with a purpose in 2014, having finished second to McIlroy for the second straight time. As at the British Open, Garcia finished two strokes back of Rory, this time losing the lead with a final-round 71. (He trailed McIlroy by seven strokes entering Sunday at Royal Birkdale.) The difference for McIlroy on Sunday was how he played the back nine. Garcia was an incredible eight-under on the back during Friday’s second round, but only made one birdie on the home holes Saturday (interestingly that came on No. 11, the only hole he failed to birdie Friday), and didn’t make any birdies there Sunday. The two players were tied at the turn Sunday, and McIlroy’s only birdie on the back in the final round, on No. 11, was enough to secure his victory.

In winning a major and a WGC event in back-to-back starts, McIlroy is the first player since 2008 to win both types of tournaments in the same year, and only the third different player to do it all time. One of those three has done it eight times since the WGC’s began in 1999.

Players to win a major and a WGC in the same year

 Year Player Major WGC
 2014 Rory McIlroy British Bridgestone
 2008 Tiger Woods U.S. Match Play
 2007 Tiger Woods PGA Cadillac, Bridgestone
 2006  Tiger Woods British, PGA Cadillac, Bridgestone
 2006 Geoff Ogilvy U.S. Match Play
 2005 Tiger Woods Masters, British Cadillac, Bridgestone
 2002 Tiger Woods Masters, U.S. Cadillac
 2001 Tiger Woods Masters Bridgestone
 2000 Tiger Woods U.S., British, PGA Bridgestone
 1999 Tiger Woods PGA Cadillac, Bridgestone

You’ll notice Geoff Ogilvy on that list and he deserves mention, having won the Barracuda Championship in Reno Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He joins David Toms as the only players to win Tour events via stroke play, match play and Stableford scoring. In addition to several stroke play victories, Ogilvy won the WGC-Match Play Championship in 2006 and now the Barracuda, played by modified Stableford rules. Toms won the International in 1999 and the WGC-Match Play in 2005. (Paul Casey, Ernie Els and Greg Norman have also won events of all three scoring types if you include their wins at the European Tour’s World Match Play Championship, and in Casey’s case the 2003 ANZ Championship, which was a Stableford event.)

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream:

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.) 

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Teenager Im wins season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.