Stat attack!: PGA Tour season in review

By John AntoniniSeptember 17, 2014, 4:11 pm

The PGA Tour’s first wrap-around season has come to a close with a familiar name atop the money list (Rory McIlroy, for the second time in three years) and a star on the rise atop the FedEx Cup standings (Billy Horschel). But it wasn’t an easy road for either. Before his mid-summer hot streak, McIlroy was best known in 2014 for second-round meltdowns and a broken engagement. Horschel had just two top-10 finishes before his playoffs breakthrough.

But Rory and Billy weren’t the only players worth following in 2014. Jimmy Walker dominated the early portion of the season with three wins by mid-February. Patrick Reed steamrolled his way into the conversation as one of the “five best” players in the world with two wins in six starts. Martin Kaymer gave us a preview of McIlroy’s dominance by nearly going wire-to-wire at both The Players and the U.S. Open. Here’s a statistical look at how the game’s best got where they did in 2014.

Out of nowhere

To say Horschel’s playoff hot streak was unexpected is understating the point. He is the lowest-ranked player entering the playoffs (69th) to win the FedEx Cup, and he had the fewest top-10s in the regular season of any eventual champion (and the first with more top-10s in the playoffs than the regular season). He is the third cup champion in the last four years who did not win a tournament during the regular season. Horschel went from 72nd on the regular season money list to seventh, and that doesn’t include the $10 million annuity he earned for winning the cup. Not a bad month.

Regular season top-10 finishes for the FedEx Cup champion

 Year Player Top-10s Best finish Playoff top-10s Best playoff finish
 2014 Billy Horschel 2 T-6: Hyundai, Memphis 3 Won BMW, Tour Ch.
 2013 Henrik Stenson 6 2nd three times 2 Won Boston, Tour Ch.
 2012 Brandt Snedeker 4 Won Farmers 3 Won Tour Ch.
 2011 Bill Haas 6 T-2: Hope, Greenbrier 1 Won Tour Ch.
 2010 Jim Furyk 6 Won Transitions 1 Won Tour Ch.
 2009 Tiger Woods 11 Won five times 3 Won BMW
 2008 Vijay Singh 6 Won Bridgestone 3 Won Barclays, Boston
 2007 Tiger Woods 9 Won five times 3 Won BMW, Tour Ch.

The money man

Rory McIlroy won $8,280,096 in 17 events, including wins at the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. He also won more than $8 million in 2012. In between, in 2013, he inexplicably finished 41st on the PGA Tour money list with less than $2 million. He is the first player in PGA Tour history to drop $6 million in earnings from one year to the next and follow it up by increasing his money won by $6 million the next year.

With apologies to Geoff Ogilvy and his stunning run to the Tour Championship, McIlroy is the best candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

Largest money gains from 2013 to 2014 (PGA Tour members both years)

 Player 2014 earnings 2013 earnings Difference
 Rory McIlroy $8,280,096 $1,802,443 $6,477,653
 Bubba Watson 6,336,978 1,759,276 4,577,702
 Jimmy Walker 5,787,016 2,117,570 3,669,446
 Martin Kaymer 4,532,537 882,937 3,649,600
 Chris Kirk 4,854,777 1,728,616 3,126,161
 Kevin Na 3,153,107 110,864 3,042,243
 Rickie Fowler 4,806,117 1,816,742 2,989,375
 Brendon Todd 3,396,747 473,220 2,923,527

The long and the short of it

Bubba Watson led the PGA Tour in driving distance at 314.2 yards. Only John Daly (11 times) has led in driving distance more often than Watson, who has now led the Tour five times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014).

Watson’s distance of all drives (305.1 yards) also led the Tour, and he had the only 400-yard bomb during the season, his 424-yard blast on the 16th hole during round three of the WGC-Bridgestone finishing 27 yards longer than the Tour’s next longest shot (Webb Simpson at Hyundai, 397 yards).

Watson smacked one-third of his tee balls more than 320 yards, quite a difference from the last man on the list, Luke Donald, who only hit four balls more than 320 yards this year.

Highest percentage of drives hit more than 320 yards

 Rank Player Percentage No. of drives
 1 Bubba Waston 33.42 262
 2 Dustin Johnson 27.68 160
 3 Rory McIlroy 26.34 177
 4 Andrew Loupe 26.04 182
 5 J.B. Holmes 21.69 233

Lowest percentage of drives hit more than 320 yards

 Rank Player Percentage No. of drives
 173 Justin Leonard .81 7
 174 Brian Davis .71 8
 175 David Toms .66 5
 T-176 Ken Duke .65 6
 T-176 Luke Donald .65 4

Going low and staying there

Despite the fact Horschel performed the Florida Gator chomp on the 18th green after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, it was still a great year for Georgia Bulldogs.

Former UGA golfers won 10 times in 2014, including two wins by Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, who played for the Bulldogs before transferring to Augusta State. It might be forgotten now because it happened almost a year ago, but one of those winners was Harris English at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. English shot 21 under that week with four rounds in the 60s. It was a part of a stretch in which he had 26 straight subpar rounds, tied with Pat Perez for the most consecutive rounds at par or better in 2013-14. (Coincidentally, both players began their streak in the fourth round of the McGladrey Classic.)

Horschel had the year's fourth-longest, and no, it wasn't from the playoffs. The player who didn't have a top-five finish in the regular season did manage to string together 19 straight rounds at par or better around the calendar turn.

Most consecutive rounds at par or better in 2014

 Player Rounds Duration
 Harris English 26 McGladrey (4th round) to WGC-Cadillac (1st round)
 Pat Perez 26 McGladrey (4th round) to No. Trust (1st round)
 Kevin Na 21 Mayakoba (1st round) to No. Trust (1st round)
 Billy Horschel 19 (2nd round) to Farmers Ins. (2nd round)

Working on the weekend

Can you name the five players who appeared in 10 or more PGA Tour events in 2014 and didn’t miss a cut?

Some of the names come easy, like Adam Scott, who extended his Tour-best streak of cuts made to 43. Or Jim Furyk, who has made his bones finishing well up the leaderboard. But for all his poor second-round performances early this year Rory McIlroy didn’t miss a cut. Neither did Steve Stricker, the semi-retired star who only played 11 times and skipped the playoffs to rest a hip injury. (We’re all about coincidences at the Stat Attack, and wouldn’t you guess that Scott and Stricker began their cuts-made streak at the same tournament, the 2012 Memorial.)

The fifth player to make the cut in every tournament he played might surprise you. Non-member Francesco Molinari played 12 PGA Tour events and didn’t miss a weekend. His luck didn’t transfer overseas, where he missed the cut in the Nordea Masters and Scottish Open on the European Tour.

Bill Haas, meanwhile, didn’t technically miss a cut all year, but his withdrawal from the Heritage prior to the second round because of a wrist injury ended a 14-event cut streak. He didn’t miss another all year and had he continued to play at Hilton Head his current streak would be 30 events.

Most consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour

 Player Consecutive cuts 2014 starts Last missed cut
 Adam Scott 43 17 2012 Byron Nelson
 Steve Stricker 35 11 2012 Players
 Jim Furyk 28 21 2013 British Open
 Rory McIlroy 22 17 2013 British Open
 Bill Haas 15 28 2014 Heritage
 Francesco Molinari 15 12 2013 U.S. Open

Where did they go?

But 2014 wasn’t all about successes, as there were notable disappointements as well. This was the first time in more than 20 years that neither Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson or Ernie Els qualified for the Tour Championship. Neither did defending champ Henrik Stenson, who began the year with a wrist injury. Woods played just seven times due to injury and finished 218th on the FedEx Cup standings. Here’s a look at some other players who were off their game this year.

Notables who didn't qualify for the Tour Championship

 Player FedEx Cup rank What happened?

His worst finish since 2008. he was second in strokes gained-tee to green in 2011, and fell to 83rd in 2014


He was 167th on Tour in strokes gained-putting and fell from 26th in GIR in 2013 to 59th in 2014

105 No top-10 finishes until August killed any potential Playoff push and an MC at Barclays eliminated him for the year.
135 A surprise TC qualifier in 2013, he didn’t qualify for the Playoffs this year, falling from 33rd to 169th in GIR.
Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”