Stat attack!: Shell Houston Open review


Matt Jones, ranked 90th on the World Ranking, rolled in a 46-foot putt on the last hole and wound up in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open. He then made a 42-yard chip on the first extra hole for his first PGA Tour win and a spot in this week’s Masters.

He’s the fourth Australian winner on Tour this year (third in the last four weeks) and continues a trend of journeymen coming back to defeat the best players in the world in the final round. Seven of last eight PGA Tour winners were ranked 90th or higher when they won. And they weren’t all beating fellow grinders. First Russell Henley beat Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic, then Matt Every toppled Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley at Bay Hill, and now Jones stunned Kuchar. What’s next? Thorbjorn Olesen edging Phil Mickelson at Augusta? Don’t laugh. Stranger things have happened.

World Ranking of PGA Tour winners since the Florida Swing

 Rank Player Tournament Runner-up
 90 Matt Jones Shell Houston Open Matt Kuchar
 339 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open Will MacKenzie, Daniel Summerhays
 94 Matt Every Arnold Palmer Invitational         Keegan Bradley
 123 John Senden Valspar Championship         Kevin Na
 92 Chesson Hadley Puerto Rico Open Danny Lee
 44 Patrick Reed WGC-Cadillac Championship           Jamie Donaldson, Bubba Watson
 110 Russell Henley Honda Classic Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox

Jones has been grinding his way on tour for seven years. He was 32nd on the FedEx Cup standings a year ago thanks to a runner-up finish at the Greenbrier Classic. His breakout win was a long time coming.

Matt Jones PGA Tour record

 Year Starts Top-10s Top-25s Cuts made Fedex Rank Money rank Earnings
 2014 12 1 4 9 16 18 $1,605,598
 2013 24 5 9 18 32 48 1,724,707
 2012 19 1 2 8 184 172 300,254
 2011 25 1 5 10 127 133 602,392
 2010 27 5 8 17 63 72 1,215,743
 2009 17 2 4 12 126 134 593,313
 2008 31 2 5 17 127 135 775,899
 2005 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

Jones managed to win Sunday despite hitting just five fairways, although he did manage to find 15 greens in regulation. For the week he was second in the field in GIR with 58. He also led the field in strokes gained-putting and only missed one putt from less than 10 feet. Like many PGA Tour winners, he improved dramatically in the stats in which he had been having the most trouble.

Matt Jones PGA Tour stats at Houston and entering the week

  GIR percentage Strokes gained/putting Putting from less than 10 feet
 Houston 80.56% (2) 2.528 (1) 93.39% (2)
 the week
65.64% (106) -.096 (107) 84.56% (161)

Jones also led the field in par-3 scoring at 2.69. He was the first player to win while leading the field in scoring on the one-shot holes since Harris English at the Mayakoba Classic. Like English, Jones will be making his first Masters appearance this week. The Aussie is the 24th first-timer to qualify for Augusta National (a tournament-record, discounting, of course, the inaugural event in 1934). He’s the sixth player to earn his Masters berth by virtue of winning on Tour this season.

2013-14 Tour winners, whose victory got them into the Masters

 Player 2013-14 win Previous majors
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open 1
 Matt Every Arnold Palmer Invitational 3
 Matt Jones Shell Houston Open 3
 Chris Kirk McGladrey Classic 4
 Kevin Stadler WM Phoenix Open 6
 Jimmy Walker Frys.Com Open 6

Does winning the week before the Masters improve your chances of winning at Augusta? It’s not likely. Only four Masters champs won the week before the Masters, and in the last five years only Anthony Kim in 2010 finished in the top-10 at the Masters.

Masters winners who won the week prior to the Masters

 Year Player Tournament
 2006 Phil Mickelson Bell South Classic
 1988 Sandy Lyle Kmart Greater Greensboro Open
 1959 Art Wall Azalea Open
 1939 Ralph Guldahl Greater Greensboro Open

How prior-week winners fared at the Masters: 2009-2013

  Year Player Masters finish
 2013 Martin Laird Missed cut
 2012 Hunter Mahan T-12
 2011 Phil Mickelson T-27
 2010 Anthony Kim 3
 2009 Paul Casey T-20

As for Kuchar, does losing the Shell Houston Open impact his Masters odds? The runner-up the week before the Masters hasn’t always been invited to Augusta, but when he does play his success is a mixed bag. Of seven players, five made the cut and two had top-10 finishes. Two players missed the cut.

How the prior week runner-up fared at the Masters: 2004-2013

 Year Player Runner-up Masters finish
 2013 Rory McIlroy Valero Texas Open T-25
 2008 Geoff Ogilvy Shell Houston Open T-39
 2007 Stuart Appleby Shell Houston Open T-7
 2006 Zach Johnson Bell South Classic T-32
 2006 Jose Maria Olazabal Bell South Classic T-3
 2005 Rich Beem Bell South Classic MC
 2005 Jose Maria Olazabal Bell South Classic MC