The state of Georgia provided more than its share of PGA Tour winners during the 2013-14 season. Ten players with state ties combined to win 13 times on Tour last season, including former University of Georgia players Chris Kirk and Bubba Watson and Augusta State grad Patrick Reed, who won twice.
Kirk is the defending champion at this week’s McGladrey Classic, a relatively new event held on the Seaside Course at Sea Island GC in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Georgia players have won two of the previous four tournaments, with 2010 champ Heath Slocum (a resident of Milton, Georgia) joining Kirk in the winner’s circle. In addition, tournament host Davis Love III, who lives at Sea Island, was fourth in 2012 and Augusta native Scott Brown was fourth in 2013.
Kirk, Slocum, Love and Brown are among the 20 or so players with Georgia ties (players who were born in, reside in, or played college golf in the Peach State) who are in this week’s tournament. Of the 10 Georgia winners from a year ago, only Watson and Reed are skipping this week’s tournament.
Players with Georgia ties who won on the PGA Tour in the 2013-14 season
|Harris English||Mayakoba Classic||Born in Valdosta, attended Georgia|
|Chesson Hadley||Puerto Rico Open||Attended Georgia Tech|
|Russell Henley||Honda Classic||Born in Macon, attended Georgia|
|Brian Harman||John Deere Classic||Born in Savannah, attended Georgia|
|Zach Johnson||Hyundai T of C||Lives in Sea Island|
|Chris Kirk||McGladrey, Deutsche Bank||Attended Georgia, lives in Atlanta|
|Matt Kuchar||RBC Heritage||Attended Ga. Tech, lives in Sea Island|
|Patrick Reed||Humana, WGC-Cadillac||Attended Augusta State, transferred from Georgia|
|Brendon Todd||Byron Nelson||Attended Georgia, lives in Atlanta|
|Bubba Watson||Northern Trust, Masters||Attended Georgia|
Players with Georgia ties who have top 10 finishes at the McGladrey Classic
|Player||Top 10s at McGladrey|
|Scott Brown||T-4 in 2013|
|Brian Harman||T-10 in 2013|
|Charles Howell III||T-6 in 2010, T-7 in 2012|
|Chris Kirk||Won in 2013|
|Matt Kuchar||T-7 in 2013|
|Davis Love III||T-4 in 2012|
|Aron Price||T-9 in 2010|
|Heath Slocum||Won in 2010|
Chris Kirk took a circuitous route to victory in 2013. Although he was T-41 in the field in driving accuracy, Kirk was T-5 in average distance to the pin on approach shots. He hit the green in regulation 10 of the 18 times he missed the fairway. He made six birdies and two bogeys when he missed the fairway, going four-under on those holes for the week.
Even when he missed the green he gained ground on his competitors. Kirk was T-5 in the field in scrambling, making par or better 13 of the 17 times he didn’t hit the green in regulation. His tally included three birdies, 10 pars and four bogeys, which means he lost only one stroke to par when he missed the green. That was three strokes better than any other player, a big difference maker in his one-stroke victory.
Scrambling stats for McGladrey leaders in 2013
|Player||Greens missed||Birdies/Pars/Bogeys||To par on missed GIR|
|Chris Kirk (Won)||17||3/10/4||+1|
|Briny Baird (T-2)||15||1/8/6||+5|
|Tim Clark (T-2)||12||0/7/4 (1 double)||+6|
|Scott Brown (T-4)||19||1/13/5||+4|
|Brian Gay (T-4)||22||0/14/8||+8|
|John Senden (T-4)||20||0/16/4||+4|
Watch out for Webb
While Kirk remains a favorite this week, Webb Simpson is another player to watch. The 2011 runner-up at Sea Island - he lost a playoff to Ben Crane - Simpson has played this event three times and never finished worse than T-12. He has 11 rounds in the 60s and a scoring average of 67.17. Among players in this week’s field who have played at least two times previously, only Michael Thompson has a lower scoring average at Sea Island (67.00).
Lowest scoring average at the McGladrey among players in the 2014 field: Minimum 8 rounds
|Charles Howell III||68.06||06|
Starting off on the right track
That Charles Howell III has played well here should not be lost among those trying to find a fantasy sleeper this week. Getting off to a quick start each new season is a Howell trait, regardless of whether the new season starts in January or October. Dating back to his last victory in 2007, Howell has 14 top-10 finishes in his first five events of the year, including three such finishes a year ago.
This season Howell was T-71 at the Frys.com Open, but improved to T-18 at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a good sign that things are trending right for this Augusta native, who has two top 10 finishes in his career at Sea Island.
Charles Howell III’s first five starts of the season since 2007
|Year||First start||Second start||Third start||Fourth start||Fifth start|
|2014-15||T-71 Frys||T-18 Shriners|
|2013-14||T-33 Frys||T-5 Shriners||T-7 CIMB||T-27 McGladrey||T-6 Mayakoba|
|2013||T-3 Sony||T-2 Humana||T-9 Farmers Ins.||T-36 Phoenix||MC-Northern Trust|
|2012||T-2 Sony||T-49 Humana||T-43 Farmers Ins.||T-33 Phoenix||MC-Northern Trust|
|2011||T-68 Sony||T-13 Hope||T-14 Farmers Ins.||MC Phoenix||T-66 Northern Trust|
|2010||T-5 Sony||T-26 Hope||T-9 Farmers Ins.||MC Northern Trust||T-20 Mayakoba|
|2009||4 Sony||MC Phoenix||T-42 Buick Inv.||T-39 Pebble||T-59 Northern Trust|
|2008||T-8 T of C||T-69 Sony||T-13 Buick Inv.||T-25 Phoenix||T-55 Northern Trust|
|2007||2 Sony||T-65 Hope||2 Buick Inv.||T-33 Phoenix||Won Nissan Open|
One final thought: Nine players who finished among the top 10 at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open are in the field at the McGladrey Classic, led by Vegas champion Ben Martin. Out of those who participated in this event last year, Martin was the only one to miss the cut. Scott Brown (T-4) and Webb Simpson (T-7) finished in the top 10, while Scott Piercy, David Hearn and Russell Knox made the cut. Adam Hadwin, Tony Finau and Robert Streb did not play at Sea Island in 2013.
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