Stat attack!: Honda Classic review

By John AntoniniMarch 3, 2014, 3:13 am

The Bear Trap holes might have garnered all the headlines at the Honda Classic, but the way Russell Henley played the hole before PGA National’s terrible trio was an example of what secured him a second PGA Tour victory. Henley followed his 150-yard hole-out for eagle on the 14th hole Saturday with a chip-in from 37 feet there Sunday. They were two of Henley's four hole-outs for the week, and were examples of the outstanding short game that propelled the 24-year-old Georgian into a four-way playoff with Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox. With dusk approaching, Henley made birdie on the first extra hole to walk away with his first victory of the year. It was an unlikely win for sure. For the last five years, the Honda champion had led (or shared the lead) after three rounds, McIlroy hadn’t blown a 54-hole lead since the 2011 Masters, and Henley himself had gone 20 starts without so much as a top-10 finish. But Henley’s 72 Sunday was enough to catch McIlroy, who shot 74, and causes us to hit the reset button the next time we play “The last time this happened …”

The last five come-from-behind winners at the Honda Classic

 Year Player Through 54 holes Final round
 2014 Russell Henley Two back 72, won playoff
 2008 Ernie Els Three back 67, won by one
 2005 Padraig Harrington Seven back 63, won playoff
 2003 Justin Leonard One back 67, won by one
 2002 Matt Kuchar Three back 66, won by two

Rory McIlroy has held or shared the 54-hole lead nine times in his PGA and European Tour career. He would go on to win five of those events, but he hadn’t lost after holding the 54-hole lead since his unforgettable meltdown at the 2011 Masters. His final-round 74 at PGA National was the result of loose swings Sunday on the 16th and 17th holes, which caused him to make double bogey and bogey, his first over-par scores on the Bear Trap all week. He became the fifth third-round leader in 2014 to shoot 73 or worse in round four. Of those, only Jimmy Walker would go on to win his event.

Rory McIlroy with the 54-hole lead

 Event Final round Finish
 2014 Honda Classic 74 T-2, lost playoff
 2012 DP World Tour 66 Won
 2012 PGA Championship 66 Won
 2012 Honda Classic 69 Won
 2011 U.S. Open 69 Won
 2011 Masters 80 T-15
 2011 Dubai Desert Classic 74 T-10
 2009 Dubai Desert Classic 70 Won
 2008 Omega Euro. Masters 71 2, lost playoff

Third-round leaders who shot 73 or worse in the final round in 2014

 Player Score Tournament
 Rory McIlroy 74 T-2, Honda
 William McGirt 73 T-6, Northern Trust
 Jimmy Walker 73 Won, Pebble
 Gary Woodland 74 T-10, Farmers
 Dustin Johnson 73 T-6, Hyundai

Henley, meanwhile was stellar when it was least expected. He hadn’t finished better than 27th on the PGA Tour in 2013-14, which, it must be noted, came in the 30-player Hyundai Tournament of Champions. His last top-10 finish came at the 2013 Memorial (T-6). At Honda, Henley excelled at scrambling, a category in which he entered the week ranked T-153 on Tour. He had made par or better only 52.46 percent of the time that he missed the green in regulation, but at PGA National he converted 72 percent of the time, T-9 for the tournament, and much better than any of his playoff competitors.

Scrambling stats for the Honda Classic playoff participants

 Player Rank Percentage
 Russell Henley T-9 72% (18 for 25)
 Russell Knox 17 68.42% (13 for 19)
 Rory McIlroy T-41 60% (15 for 25)
 Ryan Palmer 50 57.89% (11 for 19)

Henley’s wedge game was special. He had four hole-outs, more than anyone else at the Honda Classic, including the 150-yarder for eagle at No. 14 Saturday that got all the replays. He also chipped in three times from closer than 30 yards; at No. 14 Sunday, No. 17 Saturday and No. 12 Friday. In addition, Henley led the field in proximity to the hole on approaches from 50-125 yards – a distance that none of his hole-outs fall into. Entering the week he ranked T-115 on Tour in this stat, landing his approaches an average of 19 feet, 9 inches from the hole. At the Honda, he almost halved that distance, averaging 10 feet, 7 inches on his six approaches from that range, making birdie on four of them.

Proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards among the playoff participants

 Player Proximity to hole Attempts To par
 Russell Henley 10 feet, 7 inches 6 -4
 Russell Knox 17 feet, 4 inches 10 -3
 Ryan Palmer 21 feet, 11 inches 5 Even
 Rory McIlroy 27 feet, 1 inch 8 +1

Henley joins McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Harris English as current players under age 25 with multiple wins on the PGA Tour.

Wins by players under age 25

 Player Wins Tournaments
 Rory  McIlroy 6 2010 Wells Fargo, 2011 U.S. Open, 2012 Honda, 2012 PGA, 2012 Deutsche Bank, 2012 BMW
2 2013 Fed-Ex St. Jude, 2013 Mayakoba
2 2013 Sony, 2014 Honda
 Patrick Reed 2 2013 Wyndham, 2014 Humana

The Honda victory gets Henley into the field for this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral (as well as the Masters). English, McIlroy and Reed will also be there. We'll see if youth is once again served.

Getty Images

Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

Getty Images

Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.