Stat attack!: Wells Fargo Championship review


It was only a matter of time. J.B. Holmes might not have been on the cusp of victory over the past several weeks but he was certainly trending in the right direction. With 10 cuts made in 11 starts this season entering the Wells Fargo Championship and four top-20 finishes in his previous five starts, Holmes was playing his best extended golf since the spring of 2011, just months before brain surgery to repair Chiari malfunctions set back his career. This year's resurgence includes his most recent stretch of 10 straight subpar rounds, eight straight subpar rounds on the weekend, and 19 of 24 rounds at par or better. In his last six starts he has moved from 166th to 15th on the money list and from 157th to 18th on the FedEx Cup standings. He was outside the top 500 on the Official World Golf Ranking entering the Arnold Palmer Invitational and will climb into the top 75 after his win at Wells Fargo.

J.B. Holmes’ record since the Arnold Palmer Invitational

 Tournament Finish Scores Earnings
 Arnold Palmer Invitational T-10 68-69-72-73—282 $148,800
 Valero Texas Open T-64 72-75-72-76—295 13,020
 Shell Houston Open T-12 66-73-71-71—281 125,440
  RBC Heritage T-18 72-71-69-69—281  75,632
  Zurich Classic T-11 71-65-69-71—276 149,600
 Wells Fargo Championship 1 70-67-66-71—274 1,242,000

Holmes won with his usual long-distance game. He has never finished worse than seventh on Tour in driving distance and is averaging 305 yards per measured drive this season. But he outdid himself at the Quail Hollow Club, leading the field in driving distance at 333.9 yards. He is the fourth tournament winner this season to lead his event in distance of measured drives. It was also the second-longest single-event average in 2013-14, trailing only Bubba Watson’s 334.1 yards per poke during his runner-up finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Tournament winners who also led the field in driving distance in 2013-14

 Player Tournament Distance
 J.B. Holmes Wells Fargo Championship 333.9 yards
 Bubba Watson Masters 305.6
 Bubba Watson Northern Trust Open 318.5
 Jimmy Walker Sony Open 319.5

What Holmes didn’t do last week as well as previous winners of the Wells Fargo Championship was hit greens in regulation. That said, the long-hitting Kentuckian hit 45 of 72 for a 62.5 percentage, slightly better than his season average of 60.75 (ranked 181st on Tour), and better than the tournament average of 59.22 percent. He was fourth in strokes gained/putting and 53rd in driving accuracy. Just as Derek Ernst did during his stunning win in Charlotte a year ago, Holmes held his own in a statistic that he normally struggles in (GIR), while the rest of the field came back to him. He turned those greens in regulation into his best putting week of the year and his first PGA Tour victory since 2008.

J.B. Holmes' statistics

 Event Distance Accuracy Greens in regulation Scrambling Str. gained/putting
 at Wells
333.9 (1) 46.43%
62.50% (T-29) 74.07%
1.472 (4)
296.1 50.17 59.22 57.69 .000
 Holmes in
305.0  (T-7) 54.46
60.75 (181) 62.15
.183 (64)

The victory didn’t come easily. Holmes is the sixth winner this year and the second in a row to shoot his highest score of the week during the final round. Holmes finished with a one-under 71 at Quail Hollow after opening with rounds of 70-67-66. His bogeys on the 16th and 18th holes Sunday kept him one stroke ahead of Jim Furyk.

2013-14 winners whose highest score came during the final round

 Player Tournament Scores
 J.B. Holmes Wells Fargo Championship 70-67-66-71
 Seung-Yul Noh Zurich Classic 65-68-65-71
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open 69-67-68-76
 Russell Henley Honda Classic 64-68-68-72
 Jimmy Walker AT&T Pebble Beach 66-69-67-74
 Patrick Reed Humana Challenge 63-63-63-71

Two players – Kevin Stadler and Matt Every – matched their high score of the week during the final round of their victories.

Despite his bogeys on the 16th and 18th holes Sunday, Holmes held his own on the dreaded Green Miles holes, Quail Hollow’s finishing trio that yielded less than 100 birdies among them for the second straight year. Holmes was even par on the week on Nos. 16-18, including birdies on the last hole on Friday and Saturday. Holmes won the tournament on the front nine, leading the field in scoring on the first side, his 134 total outpacing Furyk by four strokes and third-place finisher Martin Flores by seven strokes. That opening stretch, plus four straight birdies on the par-5 10th hole, allowed Holmes the luxury of playing holes 11 to 18 in even par.

Best scores on the front nine at the Wells Fargo Championship

 Player Front-nine average Score
 J.B. Holmes 33.50 134
 Phil Mickelson 33.75 135
 Brendon de Jonge 34.00 136
 Bill Haas 34.00 136
 Rory Sabbatini 34.25 137
 Wes Roach 34.25 137

It has been a year in which players outside the world’s top 100 have been winning on a regular basis and Holmes was no exception. He is the seventh winner to rank outside the top 100 this year (four other winners ranked between 90 and 99), and at 242nd entering the week was the second-highest ranked player to win this season.

Highest-ranked players to win in 2013-14

 Player Tournament World rank
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open 339
 J.B. Holmes Wells Fargo Championship 242
 Seung-Yul Noh Zurich Classic 176
 Kevin Stadler Waste Management 127
 John Senden Valspar Championship 123
 Scott Stallings Farmers Insurance Open 112
 Russell Henley Honda Classic 110

As for runner-up Jim Furyk, the veteran might be getting used to that moniker. It was the 26th second-place finish of his career and his 17th in the last 10 years, more than any other player on Tour.

Most runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour: 2005-2014

 Player Runner-up finishes
 Jim Furyk 17
 Tiger Woods 14
 Tim Clark 12
 Luke Donald 12
 Phil Mickelson 12
 Steve Stricker 11

Tiger Woods might call finishing second the “first loser,” but Furyk will take something from this strong finish as he heads toward the Players Championship held on his home course of TPC Sawgrass. His final-round 65 was his best of the year and he has finished in the top 20 five straight times. Can those top-20 finishes eventually lead to victory? Sure can. Just ask J.B. Holmes.