Tiger Phil Theyre Equal

By George WhiteMay 10, 2006, 4:00 pm
You can throw Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson into a hat, shake them up, and draw them out in order of who is having the better season. And you will get the same result regardless of whom you pick - twiddle-de-dum or twiddle-de-dee, a tit for a tat, even-Stephen ' they are about as close as any two people can get.
Statistics agree with what I am saying, incidentally. Yes, I know that statistics generally are for losers. But when you get enough of them, they at least give you an idea of the relative rankings. It appears, then, that the year 2006 - at least the first half - is as close to a tie as you can get.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are easily the top 2 players in the world at the moment.
Of course, sometimes an idea is skewered, too ' this year Woods has been forced to deal with the tragic illness and then the death of his father and has finished just six tournaments. Mickelson has played 11. Woods had to withdraw from one tournament with illness. And the number will stay the same after this week - neither is playing the EDS Byron Nelson.
Mickelson leads the TOUR in money won. The top four have all played the same amount of events, and Mickelson holds the edge by more than $275,000 over the No. 2 money-winner, Jim Furyk. Woods, incidentally, is No. 5 in total money.
But ' Tiger leads the TOUR by a longshot in money won per event played. Hes averaging $414,185 per event, while Mickelson is second at $294,363.
HOWEVER ' ready for lesson No. 1 in why you cant always trust statistics? ' the large disparity could be simply because Woods has played in tournaments where the average payout is greater. Six tournaments probably isnt a large enough statistical advantage to tell definitively who is the better player.
Tiger and Phil are almost identical in driving distance. Tiger averages 300.6, Phil 300.5. But Mickelson has hit almost 44 percent of his drives 300-plus yards, while Woods has hit just over 38 percent of his 300-plus. Who has an advantage here? Maybe Mickelson, but it is really too close to call.
Lets talk driving accuracy. Mickelson finds the fairway about 3 in 5 times ' 60.3 percent, which is 97th on TOUR. Thats much better than Woods, who hits the fairway only 56.5 percent of the time - way down at No. 153 on TOUR.
HOWEVER ' Tiger says this statistic is overrated because if a drive dies in the first cut, half an inch off the fairway, it still counts as being in the rough. Theres a big difference in being in the first cut, where the rough has little effect, to being in the second cut, where the high grass really affects the shot that is played. Maybe Tiger has a point. Lets look at greens hit in regulation, which is the whole point of the drive, anyway:
Mickelson is first in greens in regulation at 72.0. Tiger, true to his word, is third on TOUR at 71.2. Thats less than a percentage point difference ' virtually even.
Now lets get to a statistic where there really is a marked difference ' putting. Mickelson is No. 1 ' the best. Woods has been having a poor putting season, standing 142nd. In the category of three-putt avoidance, Tiger is even worse ' 189th.
HOWEVER ' Woods has an excellent reputation as a clutch putter in his 10-year career. Many players have said that if they only had one player to putt a 6-footer for them, they would pick Tiger. Has the illness of his father had any effect on him as he stood and tried to concentrate? Maybe - if you are looking for reasons for shabby putting stats, this could be a definite factor. But theres no question that, this year, Phil has a big edge in holing putts.
Conversely, Mickelson is way down at 183rd in sand-save percentage. The sand-save category is one of the most misleading of statistics. However, he has been in bunkers 50 times, and only saved par on 18 occasions. Undoubtedly he isnt No. 183 on TOUR, but this figure would indicate that sand play has been a problem for him ' especially for a player who leads in putting.
Woods, incidentally, ranks No. 75 from the sand, saving par 15 times in 30 tries. He averages getting the ball 10 feet, 5 inches from the pin on bunker shots ' thats No. 126 on TOUR. Mickelson gets it 9 feet, 7 inches, which is No. 90. HOWEVER, the bunkers are, of course, not the same distance from every hole. So unless we are talking about a specific hole, the distance away from the cup is basically meaningless.
Now, though, for the important stats ' Mickelson is No. 1 in birdie average while Tiger is No. 2. Neither has played the par-3s well, comparatively speaking ' Phil is No. 20 on TOUR, Tiger is No. 125. But Mickelson is No. 1 in below-par figures on par 5s, No. 2 on par 4s. Tiger is No. 5 and No. 4, respectively.
Scoring average ' another important statistic. Phil leads the TOUR at 69.41. Tiger stands third at 69.62. Mickelson would be even better, except they have a fourth round in these tournaments. His fourth-round scoring average is 71.10. Along with a 65, a 66 and two 67s, hes also thrown in a 77, two 74s and two 73s.
Most important of all, though, is the number of wins. Mickelson has two. Tiger has, uh, lets see ' two!
The two have played in the same tournament five times. Woods won the Buick Invitational while Mickelson finished T8; both reached the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play; Tiger won at Doral while Phil was T12; Phil finished T14 at The Players, Tiger T22; and Mickelson won the major, the Masters, while Woods finished T3.
Again, statistics are oftentimes meaningless when taken one-by-one. HOWEVER, taken on the whole, they often let a glimmer of light in on the participants. They do not show much of an over-all difference, though, in these two. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, or Tiger and Phil they are Nos. 1 and 1A on the PGA TOUR this year.
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Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''

Park's stumble creates wide-open finale

By Randall MellNovember 18, 2017, 11:46 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park didn’t turn the CME Group Tour Championship into a runaway Saturday at Tiburon Golf Club.

She left with bloody fingernails after a brutal day failing to hold on to her spot atop the leaderboard.

OK, they weren’t really bloody, but even the unflappable Park wasn’t immune to mounting pressure, with the Rolex world No. 1 ranking, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the money-winning title among the prizes she knew were within reach when she teed it up.

“It’s honestly some of the worst pressure,” Stacy Lewis said of CME week. “It’s so much pressure.  It’s just really hard to free yourself up and play golf.”

Lewis isn’t in the mix for all those prizes this year, but the two-time Rolex Player of the Year and two-time Vare Trophy winner knows what the full weight of this week’s possibilities bring.

“It’s almost nice to come here without all that pressure, but you want to be in that situation,” Lewis said. “It’s just really tough.”

Park is no longer in charge at Tiburon.

This championship is wide, wide open with a four-way tie for first place and 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Park is one shot back after stumbling to a 3-over-par 75.

Count Michelle Wie among the four tied for the lead after charging with a 66.

Former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn (67), Suzann Pettersen (69) and Kim Kaufman (64) are also atop the leaderboard.

Kaufman was the story of the day, getting herself in contention with a sizzling round just two weeks after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Park is in a seven-way tie for fifth place just one shot back.

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Lexi Thompson (69) is in that mix a shot back, as is Lewis (67), who is seeking to add a second title this year to her emotional win for Houston hurricane relief.

For Wie, winning the tournament will be reward enough, given how her strong rebound this year seemed derailed in September by an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie fought her way back from two of the most disappointing years of her career, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” Wie said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun. That’s when I play my best.”

All the subplots make Sunday so much more complicated for Park and Thompson, who are best positioned for a giant haul of hardware.

They have the most to gain in the final round.

Park has already clinched the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, but she can add the Rolex Player of the Year title, joining Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win both those awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978.

A fifth place finish or better could give Park the Player of the Year Award outright, depending what others do.

“There are a lot of top players right now at the top of the leaderboard,” Park said. “Keeping my focus will be key.”

Thompson can still take home the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy and the CME Globe jackpot. She needs to win the tournament Sunday to win Player of the Year.

Like Park, Thompson is trying not to think about it all of that.

“I treat every tournament the same,” Thompson said. “I go into it wanting to win. I’m not really thinking about anything else.”

The Vare Trophy for low scoring average is Thompson’s to lose.

Park has to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson on Sunday to have a shot at the trophy, and they are tied at 9-under overall.

The money-winning title is Park’s to lose. So Yeon Ryu has to win the tournament Sunday to have a chance to wrestle the title from Park, but Ryu has to pass 31 players to do so.

The CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot remains more up for grabs, with Thompson and Park best positioned to win it, though Jutanugarn is poised to pounce if both stumble. A lot is still possible in the race for the jackpot.

The pressure will be turned way up on the first tee Sunday.

“There is always that little bit of adrenaline,” Thompson said. “You just have to tame it and control it.”

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

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Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

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Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”