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Stat attack!: Zurich Classic of New Orleans review

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For Seung-Yul Noh, the Zurich Classic was a microcosm of his season and his career. The PGA Tour leader in bounce-back percentage, twice followed bogeys on Sunday’s back nine with birdies, the two subpar holes the difference in his two-stroke win at TPC Louisiana. The 22-year-old South Korean,who turned heads with wins as a teenager on the Asian and European Tours, now becomes the fifth player born in the 1990s to win on the PGA Tour. He did it with one of the year’s better performances on the par-4 holes to join a host of players to lift their initial trophy in New Orleans. 

Noh didn’t make a bogey during the first three rounds at the Zurich Classic, which means he didn’t have to test his bounce-back mettle. But when he bogeyed Nos. 12 and 15 down the stretch Sunday, he did what he has been doing all year. He kept his composure and made birdie, this time with his first Tour victory on the line. He made three bogeys at TPC Louisiana and birdied the next hole twice to improve his Tour-leading mark to 30.77 percent. Not since Dan Forsman in 2005 has someone finished the season with a bounce-back percentage better than 30 percent. 

2013-14 PGA Tour leaders in bounce-back percentage

 Rank Player Bounce-back percentage
 1 Seung-Yul Noh  30.77%
 2 Justin Rose 29.58
 3 Brooks Koepka 28.57
 4 Jamie Donaldson 28.33
 5 Ryan Palmer 27.52

The recovery birdies Sunday were enough to give Noh, at 19-under 269, a two-stroke win over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb, both of whom were also looking for their first PGA Tour title. Once Keegan Bradley took himself out of contention with a front-nine 39 – including a triple bogey on No. 6 – it became pretty clear that a first-time winner would capture the Zurich Classic for the sixth time in the nine years the tournament has been held at TPC Louisiana.

First-time PGA Tour winners at TPC Louisiana

 Year Zurich Classic winner Runner-up
 2014 Seung-Yul Noh Andrew Svoboda, Robert Streb
 2013 Billy Horschel D.A. Points
 2012 Jason Dufner Ernie Els
 2008 Andres Romero Peter Lonard
 2007 Nick Watney Ken Duke
 2005 Tim Petrovic James Driscoll

Svoboda and Streb, like Duke and Driscoll before them, would have to settle for second. Duke would eventually on the PGA Tour six years after his close call in New Orleans by taking the 2013 Travelers Championship. Driscoll, after 228 PGA Tour starts, is still looking for his maiden title. 

Jeff Overton, who finished fourth at Zurich, three strokes back of Noh, was also looking for his first Tour victory. The former Ryder Cup player now has five second-place finishes on tour, including a previous runner-up at New Orleans in 2010. All of the top-four finishers Sunday were atop the putting stats for the week. They were all in the top 15 in strokes gained/putting and three players were in the top five in scrambling and putting from outside 10 feet.

Zurich Classic leaders key statistics

 Player Scrambling (rank) Str. Gained/putting (rank) Putts from 10+ feet
 Seung-Yul Noh 87.50% (3) 1.065 (11) 11/40; 27.50% (3)
 Andrew Svoboda 88.89% (1) 1.859 (2) 9/44; 20.45 (22)
 Robert Streb 61.54% (T-34) .982 (14) 12/44; 27.27 (4)
 Jeff Overton 88.00% (2) 1.842 (3) 9/34; 26.47 (5)

Noh, who birdied 16 of 40 par-4 holes, out-performed his rivals on the medium-length holes, but all four leaders were among the tournament’s best performers on the two-shotters. Noh led the field in par-4 scoring and none of the top-four players made more than three bogeys on such holes all week. Noh’s birdie percentage of 40.00 percent was the fifth-best performance on Tour during the 2013-14 season.

Zurich Classic leaders on the par-4 holes

 Player Par-4 scoring
Zurich (rank)
Par-4 birdies/bogeys Zurich Par-4 scoring
season (rank)
 Seung-Yul
 Noh
3.68 (1) 16/3 4.01 (T-27)
 Andrew
 Svoboda
3.85 (T-5) 9/3 4.01 (T-27)
 Robert
 Streb
3.75 (2) 13/3 3.95 (1)
 Jeff
 Overton
3.85 (T-5) 8/2 3.99 (T-13)

Birdie percentage on par-4 holes in one tournament: 2013-14 season

 Par-4 birdie pct. Player Tournament
 42.50% (17 of 40) Dustin Johnson WGC-HSBC Champions
 41.67% (15 of 36) Patrick Reed Humana Challenge
 40.91 (18 of 44) Kevin Streelman Hyundai T of C
 40.00 (16 of 40) Seung-Yul Noh Zurich Classic
 38.64 (17 of 44) Jason Bohn Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

That Noh was able to win on the PGA Tour one month before his 23rd birthday was not a surprise. He’s won just about everywhere he has played, now counting victories at a young age on four different tours. When he won the 2010 Maybank Malaysia Open at age 18 years, 282 days he became, at the time, the second-youngest winner in European Tour history. He also won the Korean Amateur at age 14.

Seung-Yul Noh’s career victories

 Tournament Tour Age
 2014 Zurich Classic  PGA Tour 22
 2013 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Champ.      Web.com Tour 22
 2010 Maybank Malaysian Open European Tour 18
 2008 Midea China Classic  Asian Tour 17

Noh, born May 29, 1991, is the fifth player born in the 1990s with a PGA Tour victory, joining Derek Ernst, John Huh, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. But many players born in that decade have already made an impact on the Tour and should qualify for the PGA Tour Playoffs this fall.

PGA Tour players born in the 1990s in the top 144 on the FedEx Cup standings

 Player Birthday Age 2013-14 FedEx Cup rank
 Patrick Reed August 5, 1990 23 4
 Jordan Spieth July 27, 1993 20 7
 Seung-Yul Noh May 29, 1991 22 16
 Ryo Ishikawa September 17, 1991 22 29
 Hideki Matsuyama February 25, 1992 22 55
 Luke Guthrie January 31, 1990 24 80
 John Huh May 21, 1990 23 87
 Danny Lee July 24, 1990 23 92

Brooks Koepka, born in 1990, will join this list at 89th once he accepts special temporary membership on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year. Koepka finished T-21 at New Orleans to earn enough unofficial FedEx Cup points as a non-member to be offered the special tour card.