Stat attack!: WGC-HSBC Champions review

By John AntoniniNovember 9, 2014, 9:16 pm

With Phil Mickelson suffering through the worst full season of his career in 2014, and Mike Weir continuing a free-falling slump than began in 2010, it has been up to Bubba Watson to pick up the slack for left-handers on the PGA Tour. Watson won his second Masters a year ago, and with his seventh career win at Sunday’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China moves past Bob Charles as the PGA Tour’s third-winningest southpaw. Watson is one win back of Weir for second on the list.

Watson’s playoff victory over Tim Clark also extends his streak of finishing second at least once for 11 straight seasons. It’s tied with Mickelson for the longest active streak, Phil having the rest of the 2014-15 season to get a runner-up finish and extend his streak to 12 years.

This was Watson’s first win in a World Golf Championship event, making him the fourth player to win a major and a WGC in the same calendar year. Tiger Woods accomplished the feat eight times, while Rory McIlroy (2014) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006) did it once.

Most wins by lefthanders in PGA Tour history

 Player  Wins  Most recent
 Phil Mickelson 42   2013 British Open
 Mike Weir   2007 Fry’s Electronics Open
 Bubba Watson    2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Bob Charles   1974 Greater Greensboro Open
 Steve Flesch   2007 Turning Stone Resort Championship
 Six players*  1  

Sam Adams, Eric Axley, Russ Cochran, Ernie Gonzalez, Brian Harman and Ted Potter Jr. all have one victory.

Longest active streak of consecutive years with a runner-up finish on Tour 

 Player Years
 Tim Clark 11 (2005-2015)
 Phil Mickelson 11 (2004-2014)
 Gary Woodland  3 (2013-2015)
 Jim Furyk 3 (2012-2014)
 Keegan Bradley 3 (2012-2014)
 Rory McIlroy 3 (2012-2014)
 Zach Johnson 3 (2012-2014)

Auspicious debut

Not often a fast starter on the PGA Tour, Watson won for the first time while making his PGA Tour season debut, and he was able to overcome an opening 71, the highest first-round score by an eventual winner in the young season.

Watson had finished in the top 10 just two previous times while making his season debut. One of those starts came in his rookie season of 2006 and the other was in the short-field Hyundai T of C in 2013. 

Watson’s best finishes in his PGA Tour season opener

 Finish Tournament
 Won 2014-15 WGC-HSBC Champions
 4 2006 Sony Open
 T-4 2013 Hyundai T of C
 T-18 2012 Hyundai T of C
 T-25 2011 Hyundai T of C

Highest first-round score by eventual winners since 2013

 Player Score Tournament
 Justin Rose 74 2014 Quicken Loans
 Chris Kirk 73 2014 Deutsche Bank
 Kevin Streelman 73 2013 Tampa Bay Champ.
 John Senden 72 2014 Valspar Champ.
 Scott Stallings 72 2014 Farmers Ins. Open
 Bubba Watson 71 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Adam Scott 71 2014 Crowne Plaza Colonial
 Justin Rose 71 2013 U.S. Open
 Graeme McDowell 71 2013 RBC Heritage

Going long

Watson and Clark would never be confused as similar performers. Watson is one of the Tour’s longest hitters and Clark one of the shortest. However, at the WGC-HSBC Champions both players dominated on the par-5 holes. Watson made 12 birdies in addition to his amazing eagle on the last hole of regulation on the three-shotters, a remarkable scoring average of 4.13. Clark made 11 birdies and didn’t have a bogey on the long holes.

Watson finished the week with 25 birdies, matching the most in his career in a 72-hole tournament. Watson made 25 birdies in his victory in the 2010 Zurich Classic, however that week he stumbled on the other holes, finishing just T-43. (Watson made more than 25 birdies in the 2009 and 2010 Bob Hope Classics. Both tournaments were 90-hole affairs.)

Par-5 scoring leaders at the WGC-HSBC Champions

 Player Par-5 scoring Finish
 Bubba Watson 4.13 Won
 Tim Clark 4.31 2
 Jamie Donaldson 4.38 T-24
 Ian Poulter 4.38 T-6
 Marc Leishman 4.44 9

Most birdies in a 72-hole tournament by Bubba Watson

 Birdies Tournament Finish
 25 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions Won
 25 2010 Zurich Classic T-43
 24 2008 Buick Open T-2
 24 2007 Shell Houston Open T-2
 23 2012 WGC-Cadillac Champ. 2
 23 2011 Hyundai T of C T-25
 23 2007 Memorial 3

Iwata performance

Hiroshi Iwata’s T-3 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions is tied for the best finish by a Japanese player in a World Golf Championship event. Iwata matches Toru Taniguchi, who was third in the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship. The 33-year-old Iwata entered the week ranked 127th on the Official World Ranking and was third on the Japan Golf Tour money list.

Top finishes by Japanese players in WGC events

 Finish Player Tournament
 3 Toru Taniguchi 2001 Match Play
 T-3 Hiroshi Iwata 2014 HSBC Champions
 4 Ryo Ishikawa

2011 Bridgestone

 T-5 Shigeki Maruyama 1999 Match Play
 T-5 Shigeki Maruyama 2001 Match Play

A down and up weekend

Finally, acknowledgement must be given to Henrik Stenson, who became the first player since 2007 to shoot 80 or worse in the third round and follow with a round of 65 or better on Sunday. Stenson shot 81 on Saturday, but took 16 off strokes his score with a 65 in the final round, the best score of the day.

Third round of 80 or worse, final round of 65 or better on the PGA Tour since 2000

 Player Third round Fourth round Tournament
 Henrik Stenson 81 65 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Brett Wetterich 80 65 2007 Travelers Championship
 Richard S. Johnson 82 64 2004 Reno-Tahoe Open
 Tiger Woods 81 65 2002 British Open
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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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.