Stat attack!: WGC-HSBC Champions review

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With Phil Mickelson suffering through the worst full season of his career in 2014, and Mike Weir continuing a free-falling slump than began in 2010, it has been up to Bubba Watson to pick up the slack for left-handers on the PGA Tour. Watson won his second Masters a year ago, and with his seventh career win at Sunday’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China moves past Bob Charles as the PGA Tour’s third-winningest southpaw. Watson is one win back of Weir for second on the list.

Watson’s playoff victory over Tim Clark also extends his streak of finishing second at least once for 11 straight seasons. It’s tied with Mickelson for the longest active streak, Phil having the rest of the 2014-15 season to get a runner-up finish and extend his streak to 12 years.

This was Watson’s first win in a World Golf Championship event, making him the fourth player to win a major and a WGC in the same calendar year. Tiger Woods accomplished the feat eight times, while Rory McIlroy (2014) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006) did it once.

Most wins by lefthanders in PGA Tour history

 Player  Wins  Most recent
 Phil Mickelson 42   2013 British Open
 Mike Weir   2007 Fry’s Electronics Open
 Bubba Watson    2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Bob Charles   1974 Greater Greensboro Open
 Steve Flesch   2007 Turning Stone Resort Championship
 Six players*  1  

Sam Adams, Eric Axley, Russ Cochran, Ernie Gonzalez, Brian Harman and Ted Potter Jr. all have one victory.

Longest active streak of consecutive years with a runner-up finish on Tour 

 Player Years
 Tim Clark 11 (2005-2015)
 Phil Mickelson 11 (2004-2014)
 Gary Woodland  3 (2013-2015)
 Jim Furyk 3 (2012-2014)
 Keegan Bradley 3 (2012-2014)
 Rory McIlroy 3 (2012-2014)
 Zach Johnson 3 (2012-2014)

Auspicious debut

Not often a fast starter on the PGA Tour, Watson won for the first time while making his PGA Tour season debut, and he was able to overcome an opening 71, the highest first-round score by an eventual winner in the young season.

Watson had finished in the top 10 just two previous times while making his season debut. One of those starts came in his rookie season of 2006 and the other was in the short-field Hyundai T of C in 2013. 

Watson’s best finishes in his PGA Tour season opener

 Finish Tournament
 Won 2014-15 WGC-HSBC Champions
 4 2006 Sony Open
 T-4 2013 Hyundai T of C
 T-18 2012 Hyundai T of C
 T-25 2011 Hyundai T of C

Highest first-round score by eventual winners since 2013

 Player Score Tournament
 Justin Rose 74 2014 Quicken Loans
 Chris Kirk 73 2014 Deutsche Bank
 Kevin Streelman 73 2013 Tampa Bay Champ.
 John Senden 72 2014 Valspar Champ.
 Scott Stallings 72 2014 Farmers Ins. Open
 Bubba Watson 71 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Adam Scott 71 2014 Crowne Plaza Colonial
 Justin Rose 71 2013 U.S. Open
 Graeme McDowell 71 2013 RBC Heritage

Going long

Watson and Clark would never be confused as similar performers. Watson is one of the Tour’s longest hitters and Clark one of the shortest. However, at the WGC-HSBC Champions both players dominated on the par-5 holes. Watson made 12 birdies in addition to his amazing eagle on the last hole of regulation on the three-shotters, a remarkable scoring average of 4.13. Clark made 11 birdies and didn’t have a bogey on the long holes.

Watson finished the week with 25 birdies, matching the most in his career in a 72-hole tournament. Watson made 25 birdies in his victory in the 2010 Zurich Classic, however that week he stumbled on the other holes, finishing just T-43. (Watson made more than 25 birdies in the 2009 and 2010 Bob Hope Classics. Both tournaments were 90-hole affairs.)

Par-5 scoring leaders at the WGC-HSBC Champions

 Player Par-5 scoring Finish
 Bubba Watson 4.13 Won
 Tim Clark 4.31 2
 Jamie Donaldson 4.38 T-24
 Ian Poulter 4.38 T-6
 Marc Leishman 4.44 9

Most birdies in a 72-hole tournament by Bubba Watson

 Birdies Tournament Finish
 25 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions Won
 25 2010 Zurich Classic T-43
 24 2008 Buick Open T-2
 24 2007 Shell Houston Open T-2
 23 2012 WGC-Cadillac Champ. 2
 23 2011 Hyundai T of C T-25
 23 2007 Memorial 3

Iwata performance

Hiroshi Iwata’s T-3 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions is tied for the best finish by a Japanese player in a World Golf Championship event. Iwata matches Toru Taniguchi, who was third in the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship. The 33-year-old Iwata entered the week ranked 127th on the Official World Ranking and was third on the Japan Golf Tour money list.

Top finishes by Japanese players in WGC events

 Finish Player Tournament
 3 Toru Taniguchi 2001 Match Play
 T-3 Hiroshi Iwata 2014 HSBC Champions
 4 Ryo Ishikawa

2011 Bridgestone

 T-5 Shigeki Maruyama 1999 Match Play
 T-5 Shigeki Maruyama 2001 Match Play

A down and up weekend

Finally, acknowledgement must be given to Henrik Stenson, who became the first player since 2007 to shoot 80 or worse in the third round and follow with a round of 65 or better on Sunday. Stenson shot 81 on Saturday, but took 16 off strokes his score with a 65 in the final round, the best score of the day.

Third round of 80 or worse, final round of 65 or better on the PGA Tour since 2000

 Player Third round Fourth round Tournament
 Henrik Stenson 81 65 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions
 Brett Wetterich 80 65 2007 Travelers Championship
 Richard S. Johnson 82 64 2004 Reno-Tahoe Open
 Tiger Woods 81 65 2002 British Open