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Stat attack!: Greenbrier Classic review

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It stands to reason that hitting greens in regulation and making putts is a cocktail for success on the PGA Tour. No one has proved that this season quite like Angel Cabrera at the Greenbrier Classic. The 44-year-old Argentina native led the field at the Old White Course in greens in regulation and average distance of putts made. He is just the second player in the last two years to lead a tournament in both those stats. Not surprisingly, both players went on to win.

Tournament leaders in GIR and average distance of putts made: 2010-2014

 Player Tournament   Result
 Angel Cabrera 2014 Greenbrier Classic Won
 Phil Mickelson 2013 WM Phoenix Open Won
 Rickie Fowler 2012 Players T-2
 William McGirt  2012 True South Classic T-5
 Brendon de Jonge 2011 Sony Open T-20
 Bob Estes  2010 AT&T Pebble T-16

Cabrera wasn’t having a stellar 2014 season. He had made just eight cuts in 16 starts and was 157th in the FedEx Cup standings. Entering The Greenbrier Classic he was 156th on Tour in driving accuracy and 145th in greens in regulation. His average distance of putts made ranked 85th and he was 90th in strokes gained-putting. He didn’t have a top-10 finish all year on the PGA Tour. However, there were signs entering the week that things were turning around. He was T-11 at the Travelers Championship and T-24 at the Quicken Loans National. The improvement continued at the Old White Course. In addition to leading in GIR and putting distance, he was fourth in driving accuracy and fifth in strokes gained.

Angel Cabrera’s stats at the Greenbrier and entering the tournament

  Fairways hit GIR Strokes gained/putting Dist. of putts made Scoring avg.
 Greenbrier 82.14% (4) 79.17% (1) +1.574 (5)  105 ft., 6 in. (1)  66.00 (1)
 Entering
 the week 
56.39 (156) 63.04 (145) +0.064 (90) 71 ft., 9 in. (85)  71.10 (99) 

Cabrera didn’t play well on the par-3 holes at Greenbrier, averaging 3.13 strokes on the one-shotters, ranked T-60 in the field. But he stood out on the par-4 and par-5 holes. Cabrera was tied for first in par-4 scoring at 3.77 and tied for second in par-5 scoring at 4.13. The difference between his scoring on the long holes and the short holes was exactly one stroke. His par-4 scoring average is one of the best on Tour since the Florida swing.

Single event par-4 scoring average: March to July

 Par-4 average  Player  Tournament
 3.68 Seung-Yul Noh  Zurich Classic 
 3.75 Robert Streb  Zurich Classic
 3.75 Chesson Hadley  Puerto Rico 
 3.77  Angel Cabrera  Greenbrier 
 3.77  Billy Hurley III  Greenbrier 
 3.77  George McNeill  Greenbrier 
 3.77   Kevin Streelman  Travelers 
 3.77  Brandt Snedeker Travelers

Although the top three players on the Greenbrier leaderboard (and Hurley, who finished T-4) had similar results on the par-3 and par-4 holes, Cabrera outscored the others by at least a half-stroke on the par 5s. Even though there were only two par 5s on the course, Cabrera’s performance there was enough to outdistance his rivals.

Scoring by par for the leaders at the Greenbrier Classic

 Player  Par-3  Par-4  Par-5 
 Angel Cabrera  3.13  3.77  4.13
 George McNeill  3.00  3.77  4.63 
 Webb Simpson  3.13  3.81  4.63 
 Billy Hurley III 3.25 3.77 4.75 

This was the first top-10 finish of the season for Cabrera on the PGA Tour, and the 25th of his career. The two-time major champion hadn’t won a non-major on the PGA Tour. Most of his best finishes have come in big events. Among his 10 best finishes on Tour are four majors, three WGC events and a playoff event.

Angel Cabrera’s best PGA Tour finishes

 Tournament  Result 
 2014 Greenbrier Classic  Won
 2009 Masters  Won 
 2007 U.S. Open  Won 
 2013 Masters 
 2011 Quail Hollow   3
 2009 Deutsche Bank Champ.  T-4
 2009 WGC-Bridgestone Inv.  T-4 
 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Inv.  T-4
 2004 WGC-NEC Invitational  T-4 
 1999 British Open T-4

Cabrera’s victory overshadowed some other outstanding achievements at The Greenbrier Classic, notably George McNeill’s final-round 61, which lifted him to his best finish of the season and the seventh runner-up of his career. It was a career-best round for the two-time PGA Tour winner, who birdied four straight holes on the front before punctuating his round with a hole-in-one on the 234-yard, par-3 7th hole. McNeill’s outgoing 28 was one stroke off the best nine-hole score on Tour in 2013-14.

Lowest nine-hole scores on Tour in 2013-14

 Score  Player
 27 (8-under) Paul Casey, back nine, second round, HP Byron Nelson Championship
 28 (7-under) J.J. Henry, front nine, first round, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 28 (7-under) Brendan Steele, front nine, first round, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
 28 (7-under) Kevin Streelman, back nine, fourth round, Travelers Championship
 28 (6-under)  George McNeill, front nine, fourth round, The Greenbrier Classic

The tournament’s other notable performer was Brendon Todd, who continued his career ascension with a T-4, his fifth top-10 finish since his win at the Byron Nelson and his sixth top-20 finish in a row.

Brendon Todd’s last six PGA Tour starts

 Tournament  Result
 Greenbrier Classic  T-4 
 Quicken Loans National  T-5 
 U.S. Open  T-17 
 Memorial  T-8 
 Crowne Plaza Colonial  T-5 
 Byron Nelson Championship Won

Todd is ninth on Tour in FedEx Cup points and is a shoo-in to make the PGA Tour Playoffs for the first time. He is second in sand-save percentage, fourth in strokes gained-putting and seventh in scoring average. He was second after two rounds of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, but shot 79 Saturday to finish T-17 in his first major championship. He won’t have to wait long for his second major, as the top finish at Greenbrier qualifies him for the British Open.


Finally, there’s Tom Watson, who finished T-35 at age 64 with a final-round 69 at the Old White Course, where he has served as the golf professional emeritus since 2005. According to the PGA Tour, it was the 499th time Watson has made the cut in a PGA Tour event.

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