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Stat attack!: OHL Classic at Mayakoba preview

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This week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba is the final event of the year on the PGA Tour, but not the final event of the season. That incongruity comes thanks to the wraparound schedule the Tour implemented last year. What we have this week is the finish to the Fall Series – and so far during the North American portion, youngsters have dominated. All four domestic winners are in their 20s, led by 26-year-old Nick Taylor (shown), who won last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. 

PGA Tour Fall Series winners in 2014-15

 Winner Tournament Age Career wins
 Sang-Moon Bae Open 28 2
 Ben Martin  Shriners Las Vegas  27 1
 Robert Streb  McGladrey Classic 27 1
 Ryan Moore  CIMB Classic 31 4
 Bubba Watson  WGC-HSBC Champions 36 7
Nick Taylor  Sanderson Farms 26 1

Martin, Streb and Taylor are all playing at Mayakoba this week and are looking to become the first player to win two Fall Series events in the same year. Of the three, only Martin has experience in Mexico, having finished T31 a year ago. Streb and Taylor are making their tournament debuts.

Similarity scores

If Martin, Streb and Taylor don’t have the pedigree to win the OHL Classic, who does? How about this pair of young veterans who share a similar name as well as a penchant for playing well south of the border? Chris Stroud and Brian Stuard – or is that Chris Stuard and Brian Stroud? – have combined for five top-five finishes in this event. Both average below 70 strokes per round in the tournament, with Stuard’s 67.25 average the lowest among players with eight or more rounds in the event. Stroud, who has played Mayakoba all seven years of its existence, is sixth in scoring average among players with 20 or more rounds in the event.

Career record at the OHL Classic of Brian Stroud and Chris Stuard

 Player 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
 Chris Stroud MC T-12 T-60 T-40 4 T-5 T-3
 Brian Stuard       T-2     2

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum eight rounds

 Player Rounds  Scoring avg.
 Brian Stuard 8 67.25
 Matt Kuchar 8 67.88
 Jason Bohn 8 68.00
 David Toms 8 68.13
 Robert Appleby 8 68.13
John Huh 8 68.13

Lowest career scoring average at the OHL Classic: Minimum 20 rounds

 Player Rounds Scoring avg.
 Charles Howell III 20 68.90
 J.J. Henry 20 68.90
 Jarrod Lyle 20 68.90
 Brian Gay 24 68.96
 Briny Baird 24 68.96
 Chris Stroud 26 69.04

Lucky seven

Stroud has played the Mayakoba Classic every year, but because he missed the cut in the premiere event in 2007, he doesn’t have the distinction of playing the weekend every year. That honor goes to a pair of veterans – Kevin Stadler and Cameron Beckman. They are among five players in this year’s field who have played Mayakoba at least five times and never missed the cut.

Most starts at the OHL Classic without missing the cut*

 Player Starts Best finish
 Kevin Stadler 7 T-9 in 2010
 Cameron Beckman 7 Won in 2010
 John Merrick 6 T-3 in 2008
 Charles Howell III 5

T-6 in 2013

 J.J. Henry 5 Second in 2009

*Among players in the 2014 field.

Split seasons

When Harris English beat Stuard by four strokes a year ago, he did so on the strength of his putting. He ranked first in the field in putts per GIR and fifth in total putts with 108. He was especially good with the flatstick in Round 2, when his nine-birdie, no-bogey 62 was the week’s best score.

It was part of a stretch during which English could do no wrong. He made the cut in his first 13 starts of the 2013-14 season. The victory in Mexico was the highlight of a run that included six top-10 finishes, including a solo fourth at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

His cut streak ended at the Masters and his year hasn’t been gratifying since. English has made just eight cuts in 18 starts, with one top-10 finish, a T-7 at the Travelers Championship.

From the Masters to date, English’s scoring average has risen by more than a stroke and a half, and his GIR percentage has dropped from 73 percent to 64 percent. His putts per GIR has risen from 1.754 to 1.791.

Putting some English on it: Harris English’s up-and-down season

 Time frame Starts Cuts made Top 10s Money Scor. avg. GIR Putts per GIR
 October 2013-
 March 2014
13 13 6 $2,535,303 69.17 73.03% 1.754
 April 2014-
 November 2014
18 8 1 516,319 70.90 64.31 1.791

Long hitters need not apply

PGA Tour stats were not available from the OHL Classic at Mayakoba prior to 2012, but it’s apparent when looking at the past winners that length off the tee is not a requirement for success. Until English’s win a year ago, the Mayakoba champion had never finished in the top 100 in driving distance that season. Two past champs – Brian Gay in 2008 and Fred Funk in 2007 – were in the bottom five in distance during the year they won at Mayakoba.

The Mayakoba winner’s season rank in driving distance

 Year Winner Season driving distance (rank)
 2013 Harris English 299.2 (26)
 2012 John Huh 288.3 (113)
 2011 Johnson Wagner 282.2 (160)
 2010 Cameron Beckman 285.7 (115)
 2009 Mark Wilson 284.3 (118)
 2008 Brian Gay 270.5 (196)
 2007 Fred Funk 271.8 (193)

One final thought: What a difference a year makes for Robert Streb. The McGladrey Classic champion is leading the FedEx Cup race and is the only player to have three top-10 finishes in the short season. Last year, Streb earned just 18 FedEx Cup points during the Fall Series and was T-160 at the year-end hiatus.

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