Stat attack!: Masters review

By John AntoniniApril 14, 2014, 2:48 am

He has had previous success at Augusta National. He has already won on Tour this season. He hits plenty of greens in regulation. A long hitter, he makes plenty of birdies on par-5 holes. He rarely three-putts (at least not this year). He’s left-handed. Bubba Watson meets all the requirements of a Masters champion. So tell me again why I didn’t pick him to win the tournament this week?

Watson’s second Masters title, coming two years after his first, was statistically similar to his win in 2012. He didn’t need a playoff this time, beating Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes, but his greens in regulation, fairways hit and total putts were similar to his results when he beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff.

Watson’s stats in his two Masters victories

 2012 Stat 2014
 278 Score 280
 37 (T-46) Fairways hit 40 (T-13)
 53 (T-4) Greens in regulation 50 (T-5)
 120 (T-37) Putts 116 (T-16)
 4-under Par-3s 1-under
 2-over Par-4s 1-over
 8-under Par-5s 8-under

Watson didn’t post his best numbers Sunday. He hit only seven fairways and 10 greens, his lowest figures of the week. Still, his final-round 69 was his third sub-70 score for the tournament (which ties the Masters record). He countered his relative failure to hit greens Sunday by taking just 25 putts in the final round. He needed just one putt on 11 holes.

Watson’s Masters stats by round

  Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Total
 Fairways hit 10 10 13 7 40
  Greens in regulation 16 12 12 10 50
 Putts 32 26 33 25 116
 Score 69 68 74 69 280

Long one of the best shapers of the golf ball, Watson’s ball-striking skills were on display at Augusta National. His greens in regulation and putting totals were among the best he’s had in major championships.

Bubba Watson’s most greens hit in a major

 Major Greens hit
 2010 British Open 56
 2012 Masters 53
 2011 Masters 52
 2014 Masters 50
 2013 U.S. Open 49

Bubba Watson’s fewest putts taken at a major

 Major Total putts
 2009 U.S. Open 112
 2004 U.S. Open 114
 2010 PGA Championship 114
 2014 Masters 116
 2012 British Open 119

Watson’s second Masters title came in his sixth start at Augusta National. Only Horton Smith needed fewer appearances to get his second Masters victory. All of the players on this list, except Watson, are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Fewest starts needed for two Masters victories

 Starts Champion Years of victories
 3 Horton Smith 1934, 1936
 6 Jimmy Demaret 1940, 1947
 6 Arnold Palmer 1958, 1960
 6 Bubba Watson 2012, 2014

With two major championships and six PGA Tour victories, Watson is well on his way toward his own hall-of-fame career. (Don’t forget how close he came to a third major, having lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a playoff to Martin Kaymer.) He does, however, need to avoid the pitfalls that befell him after his 2012 Masters victory. Emotionally exhausted after a month that saw him not only win the Masters, but also become a father for the first time after he and wife, Angie, adopted baby Caleb, Watson didn’t win again in 2012 and 2013. But 2014 has been a different story. With two wins and two seconds this season, Watson is first on the PGA Tour money list, second in FedEx Cup points and second in scoring average.

Bubba Watson in 2013-14

 Tournament Finish Scores Money
 CIMB Classic T-31 78-69-65-73—285 $44,450
 WGC-HSBC Champions T-8 68-69-69-68—274 161,666
 Farmers Insurance Open T-23 70-73-73-69—285 54,290
 Waste Management Phoenix T-2 64-44-48-71—269 545,600
 Northern Trust Open Won 70-71-64-64—269 1,206,000
 WGC-Accenture Match Play T-9   148,000
 WGC-Cadillac Championship T-2 73-72-72-68—285 753,000
 Arnold Palmer Invitational WD 83  
 Masters Won 69-68-74-69—280 1,620,000

But this Masters wasn’t all about Bubba Watson. Seniors and first-timers also made waves. More Champions Tour eligible players made the cut (6) than ever before and 11 Masters rookies played the weekend, tieing the tournament record. At age 20, Jordan Spieth almost became the youngest Masters champion, settling for a tie for second with fellow first-timer Jonas Blixt. It was the fifth runner-up finish in 43 starts for Spieth, golf’s new Nearly Man. There were four rookies in the top-10, including Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker, who were T-8.

Low finish by first-timers since 1980 

 Finish Player Year
 T-2 Jonas Blixt 2014
 T-2 Jordan Spieth 2014
 T-2 Jason Day 2011
 T-2 Dan Pohl 1982
 3 Tommy Tolles 1997
 T-3 Luke Donald 2005
 T-3 Tom Lehman 1993
 T-3 John Huston 1990
 T-3 David Edwards 1984

In his first four treks around Augusta National, Spieth hit 53 greens in regulation, more than anyone in the field. He was also T-13 in fairways hit (40) and T-30 in total putts (120). But he wasn’t the only player with his eye on history. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, 30 years older than Spieth, shot 66 Saturday to move into contention, and was looking to become the oldest major champion of all time. The Spaniard shot 71 Sunday to finish fourth, four strokes back of Watson. It was the second-best finish by a player age 50 or older at the Masters. Jimenez was joined in the top-10 by fellow senior Bernhard Langer, whose 69 Sunday gave him a T-8 finish. It was his first top-10 at the Masters since he was T-4 in 2004.

Best Masters finish by a player 50 or older 

 Player Finish Year Age
 Sam Snead T-3 1963 50
 Miguel Angel Jimenez 4 2014 50
 Jimmy Demaret T-5 1962 51
  Fred Couples 6 2010 50
 Jack Nicklaus T-6 1998 58
 Bernhard Langer T-8 2014 56
 Sam Snead T-10 1967 54
 Ben Hogan T-10 1967 54

One final thought: Next up on the major schedule is the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in June. Watson has played in seven national championships, making the cut four times with a best finish of T-5 in 2007. He was T-32 a year ago at Merion.


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Woods leads by three; McIlroy in final group

By Doug FergusonSeptember 22, 2018, 10:41 pm

ATLANTA – Tiger Woods is three shots ahead and one round away from capping his comeback season with a victory.

Woods played the most dynamic golf he has all year with six birdies in his opening seven holes, building as much as a five-shot lead before he cooled off for a 5-under 65 and a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship.

He has the 54-hole lead for the first time since his last victory in 2013 at the Bridgestone Invitational. He has never lost an official tournament when leading by more than two shots.

Woods has never been in better position to show he's all the way back.

It will be the first time Woods and McIlroy (66) play in the final group Sunday on the PGA Tour.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 22, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tiger Woods fired a 5-under 65 on Saturday to build a three-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy at the Tour Championship. We tracked him.

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Highlights: Tiger fires 65, takes 3-shot lead at East Lake

By Nick MentaSeptember 22, 2018, 10:25 pm

Following a Saturday 65 at East Lake, Tiger Woods will take a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose into the final round of the Tour Championship.

Woods, 12 under for the week, will be paired with McIlroy in the final round on Sunday, as he hunts his 80th PGA Tour victory and his first win in five years.

The 14-time major winner ran away from the field early, making birdie on six of his first seven holes to go ahead by as many as five.

Woods immediately claimed the outright lead with a birdie at No. 1, whipping the Atlanta crowd into an early frenzy.

Following a 4-foot par save at the second, Woods moved ahead by two and reached 9 under par when he played this approach from 144 yards and sank this 8-footer for birdie at the third.

One hole later, Woods reached double digits at 10 under par when he poured in a bending 21-footer that just crept over the lip.

He made it four birdies in his first five holes when he bombed a 320-yard drive, wedged to 7 feet, and converted again.

He looked in danger of not capitalizing on his first crack at a par-5 after he came out of a fairway wood on his second shot, but a splash from the bunker and a make from 6 feet gave him his fifth circle in six holes.

He went Vintage Tiger at the seventh, playing this fairway bunker shot from 172 yards to 5 feet, setting up his sixth birdie in his first seven holes and advancing him to 13 under, five clear.

Looking to make the turn in 29, Woods instead missed the green at the par-3 ninth, failed to get up and down for par, and had to settle for 5-under 30.

Following pars at 10 and 11, he started looking this approach up and down at the 12th, leading to his seventh birdie of the day.

Woods saw his lead decrease from five to three when he bogeyed the par-4 16th and Rose birdied. Woods missed the fairway and green and then failed to pull off an aggressive flop shot up a steep slope.

Woods looked in position to pick up one more stroke at the par-5 18th, but proved unable to get up and down for birdie from the back bunker. Instead, he wrapped up a closing par and back-nine 35.

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DEFCON Tiger: Woods' Saturday lights Twitter ablaze

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Tiger Woods grabbed the Tour Championship lead and the sports world by the throat Saturday, making birdie on six of his first seven holes in his third round and sending social media into a frenzy.

Here's a sampling from athletes, journalists and celebrtiies, and we'll start with two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry.