Stat attack!: WGC-Cadillac Championship review

By John AntoniniMarch 10, 2014, 1:48 am

If you don’t think there’s a youth movement on the PGA Tour you haven’t been paying attention. For the second straight week a PGA Tour winner is under 25, with 23-year-old Patrick Reed winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship to join 24-year-old Honda Classic champ Russell Henley. Throw in Chesson Hadley, who won Sunday’s Puerto Rico Open, and Jason Day, who ended the West Coast Swing by winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and the last four winners are all 26 or under. Of the 17 PGA Tour events in 2013-14, 10 have been won by players under 30. 

Winners under age 30 on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player 2013-14 wins Age Career wins
 Patrick Reed Humana Challenge, WGC-Cadillac 23 3
 Russell Henley Honda Classic 24 2
 Harris English Mayakoba Classic 24 2
 Jason Day WGC-Accenture Match Play 26 2
 Chesson Hadley Puerto Rico Open 26 1
 Webb Simpson Shriners Hospitals for Children Open 28 4
 Scott Stallings Farmers Insurance Open 28 3
 Chris Kirk McGladrey Classic 28 2
 Dustin Johnson HSBC Champions 29 8

Reed, now 20th on the world ranking, joins Rory McIlroy as the only PGA Tour players currently under 25 with three or more wins. He is the first player since McIlroy to win twice in the same season at such a young age. When McIlroy won four times in 2012 he turned 23 in May. Reed turns 24 in August.

Wins by players under age 25

 Player Wins Tournaments
6 2010 Wells Fargo, 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 Honda, 2012 PGA, 2012 Deutsche Bank, 2012 BMW Championship
3 2013 Wyndham, 2014 Humana, 2014 WGC-Cadillac
2 2013 FedEx St. Jude, 2013 Mayakoba (2014 season)
2 2013 Sony, 2014 Honda

The victory gives Reed three wins in 51 PGA Tour starts, which is in line with when some of the Tour’s biggest stars got their third victory.

Events needed to reach three PGA Tour victories (including amateur starts)

 Player Age at third win Number of starts for third win Career wins
 Tiger Woods 21 23 (1997 Mercedes) 79
 Rory McIlroy 22 40 (2012 Honda) 6
 Adam Scott 23 46 (2004 Booz Allen) 11
 Sergio Garcia 21 46 (2002 Mercedes) 8
 Phil Mickeson 23 49 (1993 International) 42
 Patrick Reed 23 51 (2014 WGC-Cadillac) 3
 Ernie Els 26 51 (1996 Buick Classic) 19
 Dustin Johnson 25 61 (2010 AT&T Pebble) 8
 Jim Furyk 28 148 (1998 Las Vegas) 16


Reed successfully challenged the revamped Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral, which played to a scoring average of 73.852 and was the toughest course in relation to par the Tour has played in 2013-14.

Hardest courses on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Rank Course Par Yardage Average To par
 1 TPC Blue Monster at Doral 72 7.481 73.852 +1.852
 2 Torrey Pines South 72 7,698 73.797 +1.797
 3 Pebble Beach Golf Links 72 6,816 73.385 +1.385
 4  Spyglass Hill 72 6.953 72.755 +0.755
 5 PGA National Champion 70 7,140 70.408 +0.408

To be sure, Gil Hanse restored the Blue Monster’s bite, as the course played to a subpar scoring average each of the last six years. It has not been among the 20 toughest courses on the PGA Tour since 2007.

Scoring average at the WGC-Cadillac Championship since it moved to Doral

 Year Average PGA Tour rank
 2014 73.852 1
 2013 71.335 31
 2012 71.135 38
 2011 71.477 34
 2010 71.234 34
 2009 70.915 39
 2008 71.037 40
 2007 72.998 16

At Doral, Reed wasn’t very accurate off the tee (T-52 at 41.07 percent) and was only about tournament average in greens in regulation (58.33 percent), but he rebounded when he missed the green, improving on his season average in scrambling and sand saves percentage, finishing in the top 10 in both stats for the week. He made par or better two out of every three times he missed the green (the tournament average was about 50 percent) and was eighth in the field in sand saves, getting up and down 10 times in 14 tries from bunkers, including three on the back nine Sunday. 

Key stats for Patrick Reed at Doral and entering the week

 Stat At Doral (rank) Entering the week (rank)
 GIR 58.33% (T-28) 70.99% (28)
 Scrambling 66.67 (6) 53.90 (145)
 Sand saves 71.43 (8) 57.89 (27)

What’s next for Reed, now that he has made mincemeat of the tour’s easiest venues – the desert courses at the Humana Challenge, where he shot 28-under 260 in January – and the Tour’s hardest test so far this season? How about a major championship? Even though Reed hasn’t played a major in his career, next month’s Masters will be a homecomeing for him as he played college golf at Augusta State. Can he succeed? Maybe not next month, maybe not in June, but someday and for the rest of his life, he’ll likely be able to call himself a major winner. Look again at that list of PGA Tour winners a few charts up. Only Garcia and Dustin Johnson haven’t won a major title, and they’ve both come close. Only one previous WGC-Cadillac winner (Nick Watney) has never won a major. Eleven of the previous 14 winners had already won one and Mike Weir and Justin Rose would eventually do so. Yes, the future looks bright for one of the Tour’s top young stars.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.