Stat attack!: McGladrey Classic preview

By John AntoniniOctober 21, 2014, 6:41 pm

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

 Player Tournament Georgia tie
 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

Crafty Kirk

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

 Player Scoring average Rounds
 Michael Thompson 67.00 8
 Webb Simpson 67.17 12
 Scott Brown 67.50 8
 David Toms 67.79 14
 Ken Duke 68.00 8
 Matt Kuchar 68.00 12
 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 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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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.