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
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.