Stat attack!: Phoenix Open preview

By John AntoniniJanuary 28, 2014, 8:35 pm

It’s fitting that on Super Bowl week the most raucous crowds and loudest galleries the PGA Tour sees all year fill TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And the fans, who are lathered in what can be described as a football frenzy, have plenty to cheer about. The birdies come fast at furious. Last year the course was one of four to average less than 70 strokes per round every day, and it yielded the third-fewest birdies and eagles of any course even though the field was only 132 players deep.

Tournaments with scoring averages in the 60s every round in 2013:

 Tournament  First  Second  Third  Fourth  Total
 WMPO  69.02  68.90  69.37  68.53  68.95
 Sony Open  69.79  68.72  68.16  68.27  68.90
 Humana Challenge  69.24  68.80  68.96  67.80  68.82
 Deutsche Bank  69.11  69.48  68.21  69.97  69.21

PGA Tour courses giving up the most eagles and birdies in 2013:

 Most Birdies  Most Eagles
 TPC Deere Run - 1,930  Glen Abbey - 61
 Glen Abbey - 1,747  Riveira C.C. - 58
 TPC Scottsdale - 1,746  TPC Scottsdale - 50

Phil Mickelson was the star a year ago, shooting the third-lowest aggregate score in PGA Tour history (256), and he tied his career low round with a 60 on Thursday, one of a Tour-best four 60s to be shot at TPC Scottsdale.

Lowest 72-hole aggregate in PGA Tour history:

 Score  Player  Tournament
 254  Tommy Armour III (64-62-63-65)  2003 Texas Open
 255  Steve Stricker (65-67-61-62)  2009 Bob Hope
 256  Mark Calcavecchia (65-60-64-67)  2001 Phoenix Open
 256  Russell Henley (63-63-67-63)  2013 Sony Open
 256  Phil Mickelson (60-65-64-67)  2013 WMPO

Best 18-hole scores in Phoenix Open history (all 60):

 Player  Round  Year
 Phil Mickelson  First  2013
 Phil Mickelson  Second  2005
 Mark Calcavecchia  Second  2001
 Grant Waite  Fourth  1996

Mickelson, who also won at TPC Scottsdale in 2005 and 1996, is the leading career money winner at the Phoenix Open. In addition to Mickelson, who is battling a sore back that caused his withdrawal from last week’s Farmers Insurance Open after two rounds, five other players on this list are in the field. J.B. Holmes, the 2008 and ‘06 champ and the tournament’s second-leading money winner, recently returned to the Tour after missing almost a year with a broken ankle. Also in the field this week are Vijay Singh, Mark Calcavecchia, Mark Wilson, Hunter Mahan and Kevin Na. All but Na are past champions.

Career money leaders at the Phoenix Open:

 1. Phil Mickelson  $3,694,783
 2. J.B. Holmes  $2,274,781
 3. Kenny Perry  $2,146,161
 4. Vijay Singh  $2,144,583
 5. Chris DiMarco  $1,685,455
 6. Mark Calcavecchia  $1,644,424
 7. Rocco Mediate  $1,550,128
 8. Mark Wilson  $1,425,467
 9. Hunter Mahan  $1.391,955
 10. Kevin Na  $1,368,391

Mickelson's four-stroke victory in 2013 was the result of leading the WMPO in greens in regulation and proximity to hole on approach shots. Since the start of 2013 only four tournament winners led the field in proximity to the hole on approach. Seven winners led in GIR. Mickelson is the only one to lead in both categories. 

This explains why Mickelson led the 2013 WMPO in birdies with 29. (And, yes, most tournament winners lead the field in birdies.) Which is why this week’s fantasy focus will look at the PGA Tour’s 2013-14 leaders in birdie average. Among the top 15 in that stat, here’s who is in the field at Scottsdale.

• Webb Simpson: The Tour leader with 5.63 birdies per round, Simpson has two top-10s at Phoenix, but he’s only made three cuts in five starts.

• Jason Bohn: Maybe a surprise at 5.06 birdies per round, he’s only made three cuts in eight previous starts at the WMPO.

• Patrick Reed: The Humana champion is T5 on tour in birdies. He is making his debut at the TPC Scottsdale.  

• Harris English: After a strong start to his season, does he still have momentum after taking last week off? He was T-15 at Scottsdale in 2012.

• Gary Woodland: How he recovers from last week’s final round is important. He’s 12th on Tour in GIR and he’s never missed the cut at Scottsdale in four tries.

• Billy Horschel: With top-25 finishes the last two weeks and a T-11 in his WMPO debut in 2013, he’s a solid pick.

• Matt Every: Another solid pick. Every is T-10 on Tour in birdies per round and has top-10s at Phoenix in his two previous starts.

• Ryan Moore: He hasn’t played since Maui, but he’s third on Tour in GIR. He has a strong record at Scottsdale with a solo fourth in 2013 and a T-6 in 2009.

• Ryan Palmer: He’s been hot (second at Humana, T-8 at Sony), is 14th on Tour in birdies and was fifth at Scottsdale in 2013 and T-2 in 2006.

• Brian Stuard: After three consecutive top-10s, he was T-28 at Torrey Pines and Scottsdale doesn’t bring many fond memories (T-70 in 2010, in his only start).

ONE FINAL NOTE: Mickelson, Pat Perez and Joey Snyder III all attended Arizona State University in nearby Tempe. They will be joined in the Waste Management Phoenix Open field by current ASU freshman Ki Taek Lee, who won the Monday qualifier with a 65 at McCormack Ranch. Lee birdied the 17th hole and eagled No. 18 to advance.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1
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Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

“It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.