Numbers Dont Lie Do They
If you consistently put up the best scores on the PGA Tour, like Tiger Woods did again in 2009, you will lead the Tour in scoring average, as Woods did this past season.
Sometimes, though, stats can confuse and befuddle and mislead.
Here’s a look back at the numbers in ’09.
We saw Woods more agitated than usual on the course this year.
The tomahawked club into the brush at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the bounced club into the crowd in Australia, the more pronounced cursing, they were signs of heightened frustration. Of course, it’s harder to tell now what was really going on in his head and heart.
The numbers, though, reveal what must have been a source of frustration.
While Woods is one of the best putters who ever lived, he ranked 158th on the PGA Tour in putting this year from the 15-to-25-foot range. He was first in that stat in ’08.
Here’s another notable item in Woods’ ’09 stats. As much as we want to blame his tee shots when he’s off his game, he ranked 12th in total driving this past season, up from 197th in ’08.
A lot of big names saw their scoring averages balloon this past year.
That involved different kinds of pain for different men.
A look at the numbers and what they meant:
Adam Scott 71.72 (+1.63).
Scott had his worst year on the PGA Tour, enduring six consecutive cuts in the spring while logging just one top-10 finish in 19 starts. Scott showed signs he’s finding his old form, though, winning the Australian Open earlier this month.
Anthony Kim 70.51 (+1.23).
Kim had his moments, tying for second at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, finishing third at the AT&T National and tying for third at the RBC Canadian Open, but those were his lone top-10s a year after he won twice. It was a strange year for Kim, because the scoring average makes it look worse than it was. His Masters’ effort typifies the year. He made a record 11 birdies in the second round at Augusta National but finished the championship tied for 20th. Injuries and an overly ambitious worldwide scheduled were surely factors. While Kim has fought a reputation for having too much fun off the course, he says he’s committed to fitness and getting better.
Phil Mickelson 70.22 (+1.05)
Given the tumult of dealing with his wife and mother both being diagnosed with breast cancer, Mickelson had a strong year, regardless of the scoring average. He won three times on the PGA Tour and also won the HSBC Champions World Golf Championship event in China.
Vijay Singh 70.66 (+1.08)
Knee surgery at the start of the year doesn’t bode well when you’re 46 years old. Near year’s end, Singh said the knee still bothered him when he returned home at the end of a day. Singh will turn 47 on Feb. 22.
Padraig Harrington 70.23 (+.95)
A lot was made of Harrington’s desire to improve his swing after he won two majors in ’08, but despite his drop off early in the year he finished strong. In his last six PGA Tour starts of ’09, Harrington’s finishes looked like this: T-2, T-10, T-2, T-4, T-6, T-4. Throw out some untimely wild wedges into the water, and his finish would have been even better.
Sergio Garcia 70.06 (+.94)
Garcia revealed that a breakup with his girlfriend, Morgan Leigh Norman, daughter to Greg Norman, hurt his confidence and game this past season. Now, there’s word that his right hand is still bothering him after he hurt it last month in the Dubai World Championship.
MORE ON SCORING AVERAGES
Zach Johnson enjoyed terrific improvement in scoring in ’09.
Johnson’s scoring average was exactly a full stroke better this past year than in ‘08, jumping from 70.60 to 69.60. He won twice (Sony Open, Valero Texas Open).
Scoring averages don’t always register with what your eyes tell you, though.
Take Brian Gay. He found something special in ’09, winning in a pair of dominant performances at the Verizon Heritage and St. Jude Classic. He did this in a year in which his scoring average actually went up .38 to 70.40. His putting explains a lot, though. He was No. 1 on Tour in total putting, a combination of six ShotLink putting categories.
And then there’s Stewart Cink, who broke through to win the British Open in a season in which his scoring average went up nearly a half stroke (.44). He didn’t finish among the top 75 in putting average (92nd), GIR (144th) or total driving (97th) but had a year most of his peers would have relished.
Robert Garrigus led the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 312.0 yards per drive, ending Bubba Watson’s run of three consecutive long-distance titles.
While there were 47 recorded drives of 400 yards or longer this season, Garrigus didn’t hit any of them. His longest drive of record was 381 yards, which was tied for the 345th longest drive of the season.
Those 47 drives of 400 yards or longer were a PGA Tour record, 35 more than were recorded last year.
Charley Hoffman hit the longest recorded drive this year – 467 yards at the first hole in the third round of the Valero Texas Open – as one of two he blasted beyond the 400-yard mark. Dustin Johnson recorded five blasts of 400 yards or more, the most on Tour. Andres Romero was next with four.
DRIVE FOR SHOW AND . . .
Joe Durant led the Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 74.9 percent of his fairways. He was third in greens in regulation, hitting 70.58 percent. That kind of ball striking might lead you to believe Durant enjoyed a stellar season, but he finished 182nd on the money list. His putter, of course, explains everything. He was 137th in putting average.
By the way, it marked the second straight year that the player who led the tour in driving accuracy failed to retain fully exempt playing privileges. Olin Browne led the Tour in driving accuracy in ’08 and finished 204th on the money list.
MORE ON BALL STRIKING
Jonathan Byrd was second in hitting greens in regulation, trailing only John Senden. He jumped from 149th in GIR in ’08. Byrd also finished first in total driving. That’s a terrific combination that helped him finish No. 1 on Tour in ball striking. His putting average wasn’t bad, ranking 42nd on the PGA Tour, but Byrd’s overall performance wasn’t as stellar as you would suspect based on those numbers. He finished 67th on the money list.
What none of these stats can measure is what’s happening in a man’s personal life and how it’s affecting him. Byrd’s father, James, died in July from brain cancer. He’d been sick a couple years. Numbers can’t give us the total picture of a player’s game. Mostly, they’re clues.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.