Stat attack!: John Deere Classic review

By John AntoniniJuly 14, 2014, 12:29 am

Let’s call it right now. At some point this season, Erik Compton, Kevin Kisner and Hudson Swafford are going to win on the PGA Tour.

Heck, every other player from the University of Georgia has won, why not them? Brian Harman became the sixth Bulldog to win on Tour this year, taking the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., with a 22-under 262 to beat tournament favorite Zach Johnson (more on him later) by one stroke.

Harman’s win was the seventh by a Georgia player this season (Masters champion Bubba Watson has two) and moves him to 14th in the FedEx Cup standings, but only fifth among Georgia players.

PGA Tour victories by college in 2013-14

  College Wins  Players 
 Georgia Bubba Watson (2), Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd, Harris English, Brian Harman, Russell Henley
 Baylor 3 Jimmy Walker
 UNLV 2 Ryan Moore, Adam Scott
2 Patrick Reed
Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley

Georgia Bulldogs on the PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Player FedEx
Starts  Cuts
Best finish 
 Bubba Watson 2 14 12  Won Masters, Won No. Trust
 Chris Kirk* 21 20  Won McGladrey 
 Brendon Todd  9 22 19 7 Won Byron Nelson 
 Harris English  11  22  18  Won Mayakoba
 Brian Harman  14  25  17  Won John Deere
 Russell Henley 41 22 12 2 Won Sony Open 
 Erik Compton 53 22  15  T-2 U.S. Open
 Kevin Kisner 108 23  15  T-6 Wells Fargo
 Hudson Swafford  141 23 9 T-8 Sony Open 

*It wasn’t all good for Georgia boys at the John Deere. Chris Kirk missed the cut for the first time this season at TPC Deere Run.

The win was the sixth top-10 finish of the season for Harman, who has had an up-and-down season. He has yet to put together consecutive top 10s on the year, and he missed the cut in his previous two starts before winning. His eight missed cuts are sixth among players with a win this season, and he’s the second straight PGA Tour winner who has missed at least eight cuts this year after Angel Cabrera, winner at the Greenbrier Classic.

Missed cuts by a PGA Tour winner in 2013-14

  Player Missed cuts  2013-14 win 
 Chesson Hadley 13 Puerto Rico Open
 Scott Stallings   11  Farmers Insurance 
 Steven Bowditch  11  Valero Texas Open
 Russell Henley  10  Sony Open
 Angel Cabrera  Greenbrier Classic
 Brian Harman  John Deere Classic

Harman is also the 10th player (also like Cabrera) to win while shooting four rounds in the 60s this season, and his 22-under total is the fourth best mark by a winner this season.

Best score in relation to par by a PGA Tour winner in 2013-14

 Player To par Tournament win 
 Patrick Reed -28  Humana Challenge 
 Webb Simpson  -24  Shriners Las Vegas 
 Dustin Johnson -24  WGC-HSBC Champions
 Brian Harman  -22  John Deere Classic
 Harris English -21  OHL Mayakoba Classic
 Chesson Hadley -21  Puerto Rico Open 

Harmon won by utilizing his approach shots to great advantage. He tied for the tournament lead by hitting 63 greens in regulation, and he was second in approach shot distance to pin, hitting his approaches to within 23 feet, 3 inches of the hole. For the week he hit 19 approach shots to within 10 feet of the hole. He was 12 under on those 19 holes.

Approach shot distance to pin leaders at the John Deere Classic

 Player Approach distance Subpar holes Finish 
 Tim Clark 21 ft., 10 in. 24 T-5 
 Brian Harman  23 ft., 3 in. 25  Won 
 Bo Van Pelt  24 ft., 9 in.  22  T-7 
 Zach Johnson  25 ft., 7 in. 25 
 Johnson Wagner  26 ft., 2 in. 16  T-7 

The victory secured Harman the final spot in the British Open. If year’s past are an indication, the Deere winner should make the cut at Royal Liverpool. The Deere has been held prior to the Open Championship since 2004, and no Deere winner who played in the year’s third major has missed the cut.

John Deere Classic winner at the British Open

 Year Player  Open finish 
 2013  Jordan Spieth  T-44
 2012  Zach Johnson T-9
 2011  Steve Stricker T-12 
 2010  Steve Stricker  T-55 
 2009  Steve Stricker T-52 
 2008  Kenny Perry  Did not play 
 2007   Jonathan Byrd T-23 
 2006  John Senden T-35 
 2005  Sean O’Hair T-15 
 2004  Mark Hensby Did not play

Harman’s win was notable because he missed the cut at the Deere in 2013. In fact he improved his scoring average by a whopping seven strokes from last year, going from 72.5 in 2013 to 66.5 this past weekend. He’s the first player to win the tournament after missing the cut the previous season since J.L. Lewis in 1998 and 1999. The victory was also notable because of who Harman beat. He was paired in the final round with Steve Stricker, a three-time Deere winner, and after Stricker stumbled to an unlikely 72, Harman held off Zach Johnson for the victory. Johnson has now finished second here three times in the last six years, with a win and a T-3 thrown in for good measure. He shot four rounds in the 60s again last week, giving him 24 straight rounds in the 60 at TPC Deere Run.

Zach Johnson at the John Deere Classic: 2009-2014

 Year Finish  Scores To par  Earnings 
 2014   63-67-69-64—263 -21  $507,600 
 2013  T-2  64-66-67-68—265  -19  404,800
 2012  Won  68-65-66-65—264 -20  828,000
 2011  T-3  66-69-67-65—267 -17  261,000
 2010  T-21  67-69-69-68—273  -11  36,418
 2009 T-2  69-68-64-66—267 -17  321,066

Johnson is 105 under par at the tournament in the last six years with a scoring average of 66.62. Johnson lost by three strokes to Steve Stricker in 2009 and in a playoff to Jordan Spieth in 2013.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”