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)|
|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
|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|
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.
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