Stat attack!: Quicken Loans National preview


Tiger Woods is back this week. Or didn’t you hear? Woods returns to the PGA Tour at the Quicken Loans National (which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and, Tiger hinted, is a big reason why he’s playing this week), and it’s not a moment too soon. In his absence from the Tour since he stumbled home with a 78 in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship a Doral, Woods has fallen from first to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking and from 35th to 67th in the Ryder Cup standings. Not that the latter is much to worry about. If Woods is playing golf in August, he’s going to make Tom Watson’s team as a wild-card selection. Still it’s odd to see these stats next to Tiger Woods’ name more than halfway through the PGA Tour season. (Granted, these numbers define small sample size, take them for what they are.)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour statistical ranks in 2013-14

 Earnings FedEx points Distance (rank) Accuracy (rank) GIR (rank) St. G. Putt (rank) Scoring avg.(rank)
 199 209 287.3
52.86% (180) 56.67% (190) +.643 (10) 71.02 (90)

When Woods was playing, his driving distance was almost exactly the Tour average (287.8) and he was below average in accuracy and GIR. We’ll assume his health has a lot to do with those numbers. But he was putting at a better than league-average clip during his short stay on Tour. If he can putt the way he did at Doral and Honda (before he withdrew), Woods’ improvements in the other facets of his game (by virtue of his health alone) should be enough to have him climbing statistical and tournament leader boards in no time.

Woods has missed significant time on several previous occasions during his PGA Tour career. Since the stunning win at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he has had limited success in his first event back after long layoffs.

Tiger Woods following extended layoffs since 2008

 Return event Time missed Layoff cause Result Starts before win
 2011 WGC-Bridgestone 4 months Knee, ankle injury T-37 8
 2010 Masters 5½ months Personal rehab T-4 26
 2009 WGC Match Play 8½ months Knee surgery T-17 3
 2008 U.S. Open  2 months Knee surgery Won 1
 2006 U.S. Open 2 months Father’s death MC 3
 2003 Buick Invitational 2 months Knee drained Won 1

Woods has admitted that he is playing this week to gauge his status before the final two majors of the year, and although he wouldn’t enter a tournament if he didn’t think he could win, I envision a scenario where Tiger contends early, hits a rough patch midway through the tournament and sails home Sunday with a middling performance. Expect to hears words like “process,” “work in progress,” and "it is what it is” during his post-round press conferences.

So if Woods doesn’t factor at the Quicken Loans National, who will? One of the nice things about new tournaments is that the record book is a good indicator of recent success. Everything is relevant. Everyone’s history is recent history. The players with the most top 10s or the most cuts made at the National are the players who should be on the short list of contenders this week. Six players share the tournament record with three career top-10 finishes. Two of them – Jeff Overton and Jim Furyk – are not playing this week. Here are the others.

Players with the most top-10 finishes at the Quicken Loans National

 Player Top 10s
 Robert Allenby T-6 in 2007, T-3 in 2008, T-6 in 2011
 Hunter Mahan T-8 in 2007, Second in 2009, T-8 in 2012
 Brandt Snedeker T-8 in 2007, T-5 in 2009, T-8 in 2013
 Nick Watney T-7 in 2010, Won in 2011, 10th in 2012

But there is an interesting sidebar to the National’s history. The 2010 and 2011 tournaments were held at Aronomink while Congressional CC was being readied for the 2011 U.S. Open. Now that Congressional is hosting the National again, let’s look at the record of play at Congressional only by eliminating the two National’s that were held at Aronimink and adding the 1997 and 2011 U.S. Open’s. That still leaves seven events, enough to get a good baseline for predicting success. Does Watney, who won in 2010, still make a short list of possible contenders at Congressional? Here are the leading money winners and players with the most top 10s in the seven PGA Tour events held at Congressional since the 1997 U.S. Open. (Only those golfers in the field at this week’s Quicken Loans National are listed.)

Most money won at Congressional: 1997-2013

 Player Starts Best National Best Open Earnings
 Tiger Woods 4 Won in 2009, 2012 T-19 in 1997 $2,940,415
 Bill Haas 5 Won in 2013 T-23 in 2011 1,306,312
 Hunter Mahan 6 Second in 2009   1,125,000
 Jason Day 5 T-8 in 2012 Second in 2011 1,122,864
 K.J. Choi 6 Won in 2007   1,094,808
 Bo Van Pelt 6 Second in 2012 T-14 in 2011 972,712
 Freddie Jacobson 4 Second in 2008 T-14 in 2011 800,917
 Robert Garrigus 6 T-4 in 2012 T-3 in 2011 751,823

Most top-10s at Congressional: 1997-2013

 Player Top 10s Top 10s National Top 10s Open
 Brandt Snedeker 3 3 0
 Hunter Mahan 3 3 0
 Tiger Woods 2 2 0
 Jason Day 2 1 1
 Robert Garrigus 2 1 1
 Robert Allenby 2 2 0

Garrigus and Jason Day are the only players who have top-10 finishes at Congressional in both the U.S. Open and the Quicken Loans National. Neither should be a surprise. Both hit the ball a long way; and with several of the longest par-4 holes on Tour, Congressional caters to a player who is not only long off the tee, but can also hit long irons well.

Garrigus, is an interesting tout. He is one of two players who has made the cut in every Quicken Loans National, whether it be at Congressional or Aronimink. Only Garrigus and Charley Hoffman are seven-for-seven. You wouldn’t have seen much of them on television. Hoffman has never finished better than T-19, and aside from Garrigus’ was T-4 in 2012, he has only one other top-20 finish.

Players who have appeared in every Quicken Loans National

 Player Starts Cuts made Top 10s Best finish
 Charley Hoffman 7 7 0 T-19, 2007
 Robert Garrigus 7 7 1 T-4, 2012
 Bo Van Pelt 7 6 1 2, 2012
 Brian Davis 7 6 1 T-8, 2013
 Pat Perez 7 6 1 T-3, 2007
 Sean O’Hair 7 6 0 T-11, 2010
 Charles Howell III 7 4 1 T-3, 2011
 Robert Allenby 7 4 3 T-3, 2008

Jim Furyk and Vaughn Taylor also started the previous seven National’s but are not in the field this week.

Being that Congressional is a U.S. Open venue, let’s look at the results of the recent U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 to see if any of those leaders are candidates to remain hot this week. Of the eight players in the field who were in the top 20 at Pinehurst, all but two – Erik Compton and Keegan Bradley – have had some kind of success at the AT&T National.

Top U.S. Open finishers in Quicken Loans National field

 Player U.S. Open finish Quicken Loans National history
 Erik Compton T-2 3 starts, 2 cuts made, best of T-54 in 2013
 Jason Day T-4 5 starts, 3 cuts made, T-9 in 2012, T-9 in 2010
 Keegan Bradley T-4 1 start, 0 cuts made
 Brandt Snedeker T-4 5 starts, 4 cuts made, 3 top-10s, T-5 in 2009
 Justin Rose T-12 4 starts 4 cuts made, Won in 2010 at Aronimink
 Jordan Spieth T-17 2 starts, 1 cut made, Sixth in 2013
 J.B. Holmes T-17 5 starts, 4 cuts made, Fifth in 2010
 Brendon Todd T-17 2 starts, 2 cuts made, T-13 in 2013

One final thought: Ernie Els is playing the Quicken Loans National for the first time. He’s also the only player in the field who was in the top 10 at the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. Els won that week, shooting four-under 276 when Congressional was a par-70 course, to beat Colin Montgomerie by one stroke. 

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc