Stat attack!: Tour Championship review


That was nice and tidy.

It's convenient when the winner of the Tour Championship also wins the FedEx Cup, and Sunday at East Lake Billy Horschel became the fifth straight player to take the PGA Tour’s season-ending double dip.

The three-stroke win over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy was Horschel’s second straight playoff victory, coming as it did on the heels of last week’s BMW Championship.

It helped him not only lift the Tour Championship trophy but also the FedEx Cup and the $10 million annuity that goes with it.

Horschel finished the playoffs with 12 straight rounds in the 60s thanks to some stellar long-distance putting that we’ll get to later.

He is the 12th man in the playoff era to shoot four rounds in the 60s in the Tour Championship and the first player to shoot four rounds in the 60s in three playoff events in the same season.

Four rounds in the 60s in the Tour Championship in the playoff era

 Year Player Scores Finish
 2014 Billy Horschel 66-66-69-68—269 Won
 2014 Jim Furyk 67-69-67-69—272 T-2
 2014 Ryan Palmer 69-67-69-69—274 7
 2013 Henrik Stenson 64-66-69-68—267 Won
 2013 Dustin Johnson 68-68-67-69—271 5
 2013 Zach Johnson 69-68-69-68—274 T-7
 2011 Bill Haas 68-67-69-68—272 Won
 2008 Phil Mickelson 68-68-69-69—274 T-3
 2007 Tiger Woods 64-63-64-66—257 Won
 2007 Scott Verplank 66-68-67-68—269 T-5
 2007 Vijay Singh 68-68-65-69—270 T-7
 2007 Rory Sabbatini 68-68-67-68—271 T-9

Most PGA Tour playoff events with 4 rounds in the 60s in the same year (*won tournament)

 Rounds in 60s Player Year Tournaments
 3 Billy Horschel 2014 Deutsche Bank, BMW*, Tour Championship*
 2 Henrik Stenson 2013 Deutsche Bank*, Tour Championship*
 2 Dustin Johnson  2013 Deutsche Bank, Tour Championship
 2 Rory McIlroy 2012 Deutsche Bank*, BMW*
 2 Tiger Woods 2007 BMW*, Tour Championship*
 2 Steve Stricker 2007 Barclays*, BMW

Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour’s postseason leader with five tournaments with every round in the 60s. Horschel now has three for his career and is tied with Adam Scott and Steve Stricker for second on the all-time list.

Horschel is also the only player to have four rounds in the 60s in three straight tournaments in 2013-14. (Nope, Rory McIlroy didn’t do it during his great summer stretch, having shot 71 in the final round of the Open Championship.)

Entering the PGA Tour playoffs, Horschel might have been the last golfer you’d expect to run the table and sweep through the Tour’s postseason. He was 69th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the playoffs and his best finishes all year were T-6's at Memphis and the Hyundai T of C.

Worst position entering the playoffs of the eventual FedEx Cup champion

 Year Player Place entering playoffs
 2014 Billy Horschel 69
 2012 Brandt Snedeker 19
 2011 Bill Haas 15

And he was actually worse than that. A missed cut at The Barclays in the first post-season event didn’t inspire confidence and dropped him to 82nd in the standings.

Elimination loomed at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but he stepped up his game with a T-2 finish and led the field in all-around rank to move to 20th in points. He led the field in all-around rank again during his win at the BMW Championship (as well as strokes-gained putting) to climb to second in the standings.

At East Lake he was fifth in all-around rank while leading the field in greens in regulation and three-putt avoidance (he didn’t have one).

Billy Horschel’s stats the last three weeks of the PGA Tour playoffs

 Tournament Distance Accuracy GIR Strokes gained/putting All-around rank
 Deutsche Bank 306.0 (T-10) 67.86 (T-31) 75.00 (T-7) .951 (12) 1
 BMW Champ. 315.9 (9) 64.29 (T-14) 76.39 (T-2) 2.975 (1) 1
 Tour Champ. 296.3 (12) 51.79 (T-21) 79.17 (1) .815 (6) 5

Horschel was in the top 10 in greens in regulation all three weeks, but where he really stood out in his stretch run was on the putting surfaces. Especially when he was staring down the hole from a distance.

He made three putts from more than 29 feet at the Tour Championship, including the decisive 16th hole Sunday, where he rammed one home for par from nearly 31 feet, resulting in a big fist pump.

It was a deserving coda to a two-week stretch that saw Horschel hole six of his eight longest measured putts of the season.

Billy Horschel’s longest putts made measured by ShotLink in 2013-14

 Tournament , Round, Hole Distance
 PGA Championship, round 2, hole 12 56 feet, 6 inches
 Tour Championship, round 3, hole 2 50 feet, 3 inches
 BMW Championship, round 1 hole 4 45 feet, 1 inch
 BMW Championship, round 2, hole 18 41 feet, 4 inches
 BMW Championship, round 3, hole 18 31 feet, 11 inches
 Tour Championship, round 4, hole 16 30 feet, 9 inches
 Humana Challenge, round 4, hole 4 29 feet, 9 inches
 Tour Championship, round 1, hole 10 29 feet, 6 inches

And therein lies Horschel’s key to success in the playoffs. He had been a successful short-range putter all season, finishing fourth on Tour in putts made from 4-8 feet and fifth on Tour from less than 10 feet.

But entering the BMW Championship he had made just eight putts from more than 25 feet all year and ranked 181st on the PGA Tour from long range.

In the last two weeks of the season Horschel not only maintained his success in the putts he should make, but he canned some of the bombs that he had been missing all year, nearly doubling his putts made from 25 feet or more by making seven in the two weeks (another 25 footer at East Lake is not on the list above).

That eventually earned him $1.44 million as the tournament winner, $10 million as the FedEx Cup champion, and nearly $13.5 million total during the postseason.

Final FedEx Cup standings

 Rank Player Points Tour Champ. finish
 1  Billy Horschel 4,750 Won
 2 Chris Kirk 3,100 T-4
 3 Rory McIlroy 3.050 T-2
 4 Jim Furyk 2,450 T-2
 5 Bubba Watson 2,285 14

So Horschel closes the book on the PGA Tour season for 2013-14. Tune in later in the week for a Stat Attack look at the year-end statistics.

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