Stat attack!: Deutsche Bank Championship review

By John AntoniniSeptember 2, 2014, 1:41 am

Chris Kirk won the Deutsche Bank Championship Monday with a score of 15-under 269. He shot 66-64-66 in the last three rounds to offset an opening 73, one of the highest scores for a winner on the PGA Tour in the last several years.

But an argument can be made that it was Kirk’s 73 that won him the tournament. On a Friday in which the Georgia Bulldog hit just seven greens in regulation, he scrambled his way to a 2-over score. Kirk was fourth in the field in scrambling – making par or better eight times in Round 1 after missing the green in regulation – and continues a trend where the Deutsche Bank winner takes advantage of opportunities after missing greens.

Highest winning first-round scores on the PGA Tour since 2010

 First-round score Player Tournament
 74 Justin Rose 2014 Quicken Loans National
 73 Chris Kirk 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship
 73 Kevin Streelman 2013 Tampa Bay Championship
 73 Bill Lunde 2010 Turning Stone Championship

Scrambling rank of Deutsche Bank Championship winner: 2007-2014

 Year Winner Scrambling (rank)
 2014 Chris Kirk 80.77% (4)
 2013 Henrik Stenson 81.82% (T-6)
 2012 Rory McIlroy 70.83% (10)
 2011 Webb Simpson      76.00% (5)
 2010 Charley Hoffman 82.35% (2)
 2009  Steve Stricker 73.91% (10)
 2008 Vijay Singh 76.92% (4)
 2007 Phil Mickelson 86.36% (1)

Every winner in the playoff era finished in the top 10 in scrambling at TPC Boston. The difference between Kirk and everyone else is that none of those winners shot a score as high as 73, or hit as few as seven greens in one round.

In fact, Stricker in 2009 was the only winner in that span with a round higher than 70. Every winner from 2007-2013 hit at least 10 greens in every round.

What would the expected score be for a player who only hits seven greens on a par-71 course? There’s no easy way to determine this, of course, but let’s try.

Let’s assume a player reaches the putting surface on the shot after he missed the green in regulation. That means Kirk, who entered the week with a one-putt percentage of about 41 percent, should have been expected to make a one-putt par on 41 percent of those 11 holes. He should have made 4.5 pars.

Instead he made eight pars when he missed the green, improving his expectations by 3.5 strokes. He would go on to win by two.

Kirk scored better than expected on Friday, and he played out of his mind over the last 54 holes, shooting 17-under (66-64-66) to hold off Russell Henley, Geoff Ogilvy and Billy Horschel by two strokes. That 196 total is the third-best final-54 hole total in Deutsche Bank Championship history.

Best total score over the last 54 holes at the Deutsche Bank Championship

 Player Year Final 54 holes
 Henrik Stenson 2013 63-66-66—195
 Adam Scott 2003 62-67-66—195
 Chris Kirk 2014 66-64-66—196

It was the second win of the season for Kirk, who also won the McGladrey Classic, the fifth event of the 2013 wrap-around portion of this PGA Tour season. He made the cut in his first 20 starts of the year and has made 24 cuts in 26 starts in 2013-14.

Players with the highest percentage of cuts made in 2013-14 (15 or more starts)

 Player Cuts made Starts Percentage of cuts made Top 25s
 Jim Furyk 19 19 1.000 15
 Adam Scott 15 15 1.000 14
 Rory McIlroy 15 15 1.000 15
 Bill Haas 25 26 .961 15
 Graeme McDowell 15 16 .937 10
 Chris Kirk 24 26 .923 11

What stands out in Kirk’s record is that he only has four top-10 finishes, and he has been in the top 25 in fewer than half his starts.

Chris Kirk’s best finishes in 2013-14

 Tournament Finish
 McGladrey Classic Won
 Deutsche Bank Championship Won
 Sony Open 2
 Memorial  T-4
 Honda Classic T-12

Still, he’s one of six players with multiple victories this season, having joined Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Patrick Reed with two titles. (Rory McIlroy and Jimmy Walker have three victories each.) Now, he’s first in the FedEx Cup standings, ahead of McIlroy and Walker. Not bad at all.

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”