Stat attack!: Hero World Challenge

By John AntoniniDecember 2, 2014, 4:25 pm

Tiger Woods returns to competition this week at the Hero World Challenge, more than three months removed from his last appearance at the PGA Championship and eight months on from a microdiscectomy, performed to alleviate a pinched nerve in his back resulting in the worst season of his professional career.

How Woods plays this week is not the most pertinent question – the Hero, after all, is an unofficial competition, in which golfers play for pride, World Ranking points and gobs and gobs of money – but his performance this week at Isleworth G&CC could go a long way to determining what to expect when the bell rings on the PGA Tour season in 2015. If he’s healthy, and there’s no reason to expect he won’t be, he’ll improve on those 79 Tour wins and perhaps those 14 majors. How much he improves is the question.

There has never been another player like Woods. But at his age, with all the scar tissue – physical and mental – it’s fair to ask what to expect from him. Woods’s birthday is December 30, and he’s about to embark on his age 39 season. Do we dare compare him to other 39-year-old golfers? Yes, let’s do. Let’s compare him to the greats. 

Wins and majors after age 39 among the top 10 victory leaders in PGA Tour history

 Player Date turned 39 Wins Majors
 Sam Snead 5-27-1951 22 3
 Jack Nicklaus 1-21-1979 5 3
 Ben Hogan 8-13-1951 7 3
 Arnold Palmer 9-10-1968 9 0
 Byron Nelson 5-4-1951 0 0
 Billy Casper 6-24-1970 6 0
 Walter Hagen 12-21-1931 5 0
 Phil Mickelson 6-16-2009 6 2
 Cary Middlecoff 1-6-1960 1 0
 Tom Watson 9-4-1988 2 0

Woods likely won’t match Sam Snead, who played often, and quite competitively, deep into his 50s. Vijay Singh, 14th on the all-time victory list, who won 25 times after age 39, is also an anomaly. But if Woods is every bit the player that Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan were during the final years of their careers, Tiger will certainly break the all-time record for PGA Tour victories. He needs three wins to tie Snead’s mark of 82. Nicklaus, Hogan, Snead and Mickelson all won multiple majors after age 39. There’s no reason Woods won’t also, although getting to 18 and matching Nicklaus’s all-time record might be a stretch.

But what about 2015? How will Woods compare to the greats in their age 39 season. Nicklaus and Tom Watson did not win during that year, 1979 for Jack and 1989 for Tom, finishing deep down the PGA Tour money list. But others, notably Palmer and Sam Snead had good years. Then there’s Singh, who was about to embark on a run never before seen by a player of his age. As good as he was in 2002 at age 39, Singh was even better in 2003 and 2004, when he led the PGA Tour in wins and earnings. 

How selected golfers fared in their age 39 season on the PGA Tour*

 Player Year Birthday Wins Top 10s Money (Rank)
 Jack Nicklaus 1979 1-21-1940 0 3 59,434 (71)
 Tom Watson 1989 9-4-1949 0 2 185,390 (80)
 Arnold Palmer 1969 9-10-1929 2 10 95,267 (9)
 Ben Hogan 1952 8-13-1912 1 3 5,625 (24)
 Sam Snead 1951 5-27-1912 1 10 15,073 (6)
 Vijay Singh 2002 2-22-1963 2 11 3,756,563 (3)

*A player’s age on June 1, about the midpoint of most seasons, was used to determine a season age. Hogan made only three starts in 1952. Stats were pulled from the PGA Tour statistical database.

The money grab

That Woods can rebound from an injury-plagued season is not unprecedented. He played just six events in 2008 (winning four times), before a knee injury sidelined him for the second half of the year. He rebounded in 2009 to win six times and led the PGA Tour money list. In 2011, injuries to his left knee and Achilles' tendon limited him to nine starts and a paltry $660,238 in earnings. Healthy in 2012 he won three times and earned $6,133,158. Woods’s monetary increase of $5,472,920 from 2011 to 2012 is the fourth-largest one-season earnings jump in PGA Tour history. Woods has four of the nine greatest single-season earnings jumps all time.

Largest PGA Tour single-season earnings gains from one season to the next

 Player Gain in $ First season Second season
 Rory McIlroy $6,477,653 $1,802,443 (2013) 8,280,096 (2014)
 Rory McIlroy* 5,658,343* 2,389,609* (2011) 8,047,952 (2012)
 Henrik Stenson 5,597,123 791,107 (2012) 6,388,230 (2013)
 Tiger Woods 5,472,920 660,238 (2011) 6,133,158 (2012)
 Webb Simpson 5,374,391 972,962 (2010) 6,347,353 (2011)
 Tiger Woods 5,262,552 5,365,472 (2004) 10,628,024 (2005)
 Tiger Woods 4,775,468 1,841,117 (1998) 6,616,585 (1999)
 Tiger Woods 4,733,163 5,775,000 (2008) 10,508,163 (2009)
 Bubba Watson 4,577,702 1,759,276 (2013) 6,336,978 (2014)

*Not a Tour member in 2011, McIlroy’s earnings that year are unofficial.

To overtake McIlroy for the greatest monetary improvement from one year to the next, Woods would have to earn just less than $6.6 million in 2015. Basically, he'd need to have a slightly better year than the one Bubba Watson had in 2014 (two wins, three seconds, eight top-10s).

Of course, Woods wouldn’t have some of the greatest one-season earnings jumps in history, if not for the greatest one-season earnings drops. His 2014 season is the second-greatest decline in PGA Tour history, trailing just his $9,213,488 decline from 2009 to 2010.

* Of note, is Rory McIlroy’s decline from 2012 to 2013, which precipitated his $6,477,653 increase in earnings from 2013 to 2014, the all-time greatest single-season earnings improvement in PGA Tour history. 

Largest PGA Tour single-season earnings drops from one season to the next

 Player Loss in $ First season Second season
 Tiger Woods $9,213,488 $10,508,163 (2009) $1,294,765 (2010)
 Tiger Woods 8,445,164 8,553,439 (2013) 108,275 (2014)
 Rory McIlroy 6,245,509 8,047,952 (2012) 1,802,443 (2013)
 Vijay Singh 5,324,279 6,601,094 (2008) 1,276,815 (2009)
 Tiger Woods 5,092,052 10,867,052 (2007) 5,775,000 (2008)

One final thought: Woods has come back from injuries before, but as he ages, it will be tougher for him to return to the otherworldly levels we once assumed were normal for him. He already has the longest streak of sustained brilliance in PGA Tour history, his 16 years from his first money title (1997) to his most recent (2013) is the longest stretch since the Tour began keeping track of earnings in 1934. Snead (1938 to 1950) and Nicklaus (1964 to 1976) went 12 years from their first money title to their last. Whatever Tiger does in 2015, is icing on an already historic career.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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Watch: Strong start, rough finish for Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 4:45 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead. That, however, sparked a wild ride to the finish line as he also bogeyed Nos. 5, 7 and 9, and birdied the sixth. It totaled to a second-nine, 2-over 37 and an overall score of 2-under 68.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”