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Stat attack!: Valero Texas Open review

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One week after fellow Australian Adam Scott failed to hold on to a three-stroke lead after 54 holes of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Steven Bowditch found himself in a similar predicament at the Valero Texas Open. If the world No. 2 couldn’t hang on for victory, what chance did Bowditch, 339th on the world ranking, have? Plenty, it seemed. Winless in 109 previous PGA Tour starts, Bowditch gave back his three-stroke cushion with a bogey on No. 2 and a double bogey on No. 4 Sunday. But the 30-year-old persevered; making two birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way on a JW Marriott Course at TPC San Antonio that was to be the Tour’s toughest Sunday test this season. Bowditch’s final-round 76 was enough to hold off Will Mackenzie and Daniel Summerhays by one stroke and earn his first major invitation in more than 10 years.

It was highest final round by a PGA Tour winner in 10 years and Bowditch was the first player ranked outside the top 200 to win on Tour this season. The last previous such winner was Gary Woodland, ranked 268th, at the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open.

Highest final-round score for a PGA Tour winner since 2000

 Score Player Tournament
 76 Steven Bowditch 2014 Valero Texas Open
 76 Vijay Singh 2004 PGA Championship
 75  Martin Laird 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational
 75 Trevor Immelman 2008 Masters
 75 Peter Lonard 2005 Heritage
 75 Vaughn Taylor 2004 Reno-Tahoe
 75 John Daly 2004 Buick Invitational

Players ranked outside the top 100 to win on the PGA Tour in the 2013-14 season

 Rank Player Tournament
 339 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open
 127 Kevin Stadler Waste Management Phoenix Open
 123 John Senden Valspar Championship
 112 Scott Stallings Farmers Insurance Open
 110 Russell Henley Honda Classic

It’s notable that three other players were ranked between 90-100 when they won this year (Matt Every, Chesson Hadley and Chris Kirk), but only one player was ranked in the top 10 at the time of his victory (Zach Johnson was ninth when he won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions).

Bowditch took the lead at the Texas Open with a second-round 67 that included a stellar back-nine 31 at the JW Marriott Course at TPC San Antonio. He took a one-stroke lead into Round 3 and despite his hiccups early Sunday never fell out of at least a share of the lead. He’s the seventh player who held at least a share of the 36-hole lead to go on to win this season.

36-hole leaders who would win on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player Tournament 36-hole lead Final margin
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open Led by 1 Won by 1
 Patrick Reed WGC-Cadillac Championship Shared lead Won by 1
 Zach Johnson Hyundai T of C Led by 3 Won by 1
 Harris English Mayakoba Classic Shared lead Won by 4
 Chris Kirk McGladrey Classic Led by 1 Won by 1
 Dustin Johnson HSBC Champions Led by 5 Won by 3
 Webb Simpson Shriners Las Vegas Led by 4 Won by 6

Bowditch didn’t dominate in any of the stats that normally result in PGA Tour victories. He was 64th in strokes gained/putting at the Valero Texas Open. He was T-69 in distance of putts made. He made only two putts from more than 10 feet. He was T-49 in driving accuracy. He was T-15 in greens in regulation. However, his wedge game was excellent. He led the field in distance to the pin on approaches from 50-125 yards, getting his ball, on average, less than 10 feet from the hole. It was less than half the tour average for the week and more than 11 feet closer than his season average.

Steven Bowditch’s proximity to the hole on approach shots

 Distance of approach 50-75 yards 75-100 yards 100-125 yards 50-125 yards
 Bowditch 10 ft., 9 in. 6 ft., 10 in. 11 ft., 8 in. 9 ft. 11 in.
 Field Avg. 16 ft. 0 in. 19 ft. 0 in. 21 ft. 7 in. 20 ft. 0 in.
 Bowditch Valero rank 18 3 2 1
 Bowditch entering week 22 ft. 0 in. 23 ft. 9 in. 20 ft. 7 in. 21 ft. 6 in.

 

It was similar to the way Bowditch played when he finished T-2 at the 2013 Greenbrier Classic. His approach shot distance to the pin from 50-125 yards that week was less than 15 feet, nearly 14 feet better than the tournament average. That was his best previous finish on the PGA Tour, and although that runner-up got him into the 2013 PGA Tour Playoffs, this victory has bigger implications. Among other things, it gets him into the Masters, where Bowditch will make his first major-championship appearance since he missed the cut at the 2003 British Open as a 20-year-old. It also earns him $1,116,000, more than he has made in any single season.

Steven Bowditch’s best PGA Tour finishes

 Place Tournament Earnings
 1 2014 Valero Texas Open $1,116,000
 T-2 2013 Greenbrier Classic 415,800
 T-9 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach 163,800
 T-12 2013 John Deere Classic 96,600
 T-15 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach 102,400

Bowditch held on to his victory despite shooting 76 Sunday because his closest competitors entering the day couldn’t do much better. His playing companions, Matt Kuchar (who was ranked 11th entering the week) and Andrew Loupe (ranked 505th) both shot 75 as only two players in the field managed to break 70 for the day. The TPC San Antonio’s final-round scoring average of 73.803 was the highest aggregate on Tour this season, and marked the fourth straight week the Sunday scoring average was higher than 72.90.

Highest final-round scoring averages on Tour in 2013-14

 Average Tournament Course
 73.803 Valero Texas Open TPC San Antonio (JW Marriott)
 73.105 Arnold Palmer Invitational Bay Hill Resort & Spa
 73.026 CIMB Classic Kuala Lumpur G&CC
 73.015 WGC-Cadillac Doral Resort & Spa (TPC Blue Monster)
 72.973 Valspar Championship Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead)