Stat attack!: RBC Canadian Open review

By John AntoniniJuly 27, 2014, 10:00 pm

Somehow it’s fitting that the man who knocked Jim Furyk off the top of the leaderboard at the RBC Canadian Open is a player who is best-known for finishing second on the PGA Tour. Tim Clark, who has been runner-up in at least one PGA Tour event every year since 2005 with just one win in that span, finally won his second Tour title at Royal Montreal, edging Furyk by one stroke at 17 under par. Clark caught Furyk on the back-nine Sunday, making five birdies on the closing side to Furyk’s one. Clark needed just 10 putts on the back, missing only a 44-footer on the last hole. Clark didn’t have any gimmes. Every putt he made on the back was from more than five feet. He gained more than four strokes on the field with his putting on the back nine and for the week was second in strokes gained/putting.

Tim Clark’s back nine at the RBC Canadian Open

 Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Total
 Par 4 4 5 3 4 4 4 3 4 35
 Score 4 3 4 3 3 3 4 2 4 30
 Fairway hit Y N Y   Y Y Y   Y 6 of 7
 Green hit N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y 6 of 9
 No. of Putts 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 10

Leaders in strokes gained/putting at the RBC Canadian Open

 Player Str. gained./putting Last nine holes Finish
 Kevin Kisner 9.596 2.936 T-9
 Tim Clark 6.469 4.201 Won
 Nathan Green 6.379 0.247 T-53
 Tim Herron 5.745 0.772 T-34
 Ben Curtis 4.926 0.406 T-12

In contrast, Furyk was just 24th in the field in strokes gained at 2.535 and lost 1.355 strokes to the field on the last nine holes of the week.

In addition to his stellar putting, Clark led the field in driving accuracy, hitting 47 fairways and was fourth in approach shot distance to the pin. His 83.93 driving accuracy percentage helped him move to third on tour in that stat for the season, trailing just Joe Durant and David Toms. Clark and Zach Johnson are the only players in the top 10 on tour in fairways hit who also have a victory this season.

PGA Tour leaders in driving accuracy in 2013-14

 Player Accuracy pct. Top 10s Best finish
 Joe Durant  75.92 T-11 Greenbrier 
 David Toms  74.97  T-4 Puerto Rico 
 Tim Clark  74.43  Won Canadian Open 
 Justin Hicks  73.56  Third Canadian Open 
 Heath Slocum  72.25  T-16 McGladrey Classic
 Zach Johnson 71.49  Won Hyundai T of C 
 Paul Goydos  71.01  T-61 Sony Open 
 Jim Furyk  70.47  Second, three times
 Ken Duke 70.43 T-15 Las Vegas
 Billy Hurley III  70.34  4 T-4 Greenbrier

It was the second straight outstanding performance for Clark, who has missed seven of 10 cuts entering the John Deere Classic. But he found himself in the middle rounds at Deere Run, with scores of 63-64 to finish T-5 at 18-under par. With his 17-under finish at Royal Montreal (that included a 64-65 weekend), Clark is 35-under par on his last eight PGA Tour rounds. He’s not along in his hot performances. Among the top-10 finishers in Canada, seven of them were at least 10 under par in their previous PGA Tour start 

Top-10 finishers at the Canadian Open, and their previous PGA Tour start

 Finish Player Canadian Open Previous tournament
 1 Tim Clark 17 under 18 under (JDC)
 2 Jim Furyk 16 under 13 under (British)
 3 Justin Hicks 13 under 10 under (JDC)
 T-4 G. Fdez-Castano 11 under 6 over (British)
 T-4 Matt Kuchar 11 under 2 over (British)
 T-4 Michael Putnam 11 under 4 under (Greenbrier)
 T-7 Graham Delaet 10 under 3 over (British)
 T-7 Dicky Pride 10 under 10 under (JDC)
 T-9 Kevin Kisner 9 under 12 under (JDC)
 T-9 Brad Fritsch 9 under 14 under (JDC)
 T-9 Graeme McDowell 9 under 10 under (British)

For Furyk, it marks the seventh straight time he has failed to hold a 54-hole lead, and is the third time this season he has finished second. He has 28 runner-up finishes in his career, fourth among active full-time PGA Tour players behind Davis Love III, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Furyk’s last PGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Tour Championship. In the last four seasons he has made 87 starts and has earned more than $12 million. He has finished second six times, with 26 top 10s. He just hasn’t been able to close.

Jim Furyk's last seven starts with the 54-hole lead

 Tournament 54-hole lead Finish
 2014 RBC Canadian Open 3 Second (one back of Tim Clark)
 2013 BMW Championship 1 Third  (three back of Zach Johnson) 
 2013 PGA Championship 1 Second (two back of Jason Dufner)
 2012 McGladrey Classic Tied Third (two back of Tommy Gainey)
 2012 WGC-Bridgestone 1 T-2 (one back of Keegan Bradley)
 2012 U.S. Open Tied T-4 (two back of Webb Simpson)
 2012 Transitions Tied T-2 (lost playoff to Luke Donald)

Runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour among active full-time players

 Player Career seconds Runner-ups in 2013-14
 Davis Love III 30 0
 Tiger Woods 29 0
 Phil Mickelson 29 0
 Jim Furyk 28 3
 Vijay Singh 27 1

Furyk has more top-10 finishes in the last four years than any other player who has not won on the PGA Tour. Charles Howell is second with 20.

Most top 10s without a win: 2011-2014

 Player Top-10s
 Jim Furyk 26
 Charles Howell III 20
 Lee Westwood 18
 Bo Van Pelt 17
 Graham Delaet 17
 Ryan Palmer 16
 Charley Hoffman 15
 Robert Garrigus 15

Furyk’s next chance for redemption comes at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where, I’m afraid to note, he has finished second two times.

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Furyk remains coy about Ryder Cup picks

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk sounds like a man champing at the bit to officially fill out his American team and accelerate final plans for the matches in Paris next month.

With eight automatic qualifiers secured last Sunday, all that’s left are his four captain’s picks.

“At times it felt like it was dragging on,” Furyk told Amanda Balionis during CBS TV’s rain delay Saturday at the Wyndham Championship. “I’m excited to get to this point.”

But still in no hurry to commit to naming Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as two of his captain’s picks.

“We have some great choices and certainly Tiger and Phil look like they are in great form,” Furyk said.

Furyk, when specifically asked about Tiger’s chances as a pick:

“He’s played great,” Furyk said. “I’m in such a great position right now with so many players playing well and so many great players to choose from. The difficult part is going to be, `How do we pluck four guys out of there?’ Certainly, Tiger is in great form and has put himself in a great position.”

And on Mickelson’s chances:

“Phil does provide a lot of veteran leadership,” Furyk said. “He hasn’t missed one of these in a long time. He’s had a good season, and he’s putting extremely well. I want to say he’s second in putting stats right now. All good stuff, and we’ll see how the next few weeks kind of play themselves out.”

Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list

Furyk doesn’t have to make his first three picks official until Sept. 4, with the final pick to be named six days later. While Woods and Mickelson may be locks, Furyk won’t be rushed.

“There’s still time.” Furyk said. “We are in an exciting part. We have eight guys. I’m still talking to them, gathering some information. The vice captains have been talking a lot. It’s been fun seeing the banter and the texts going back and forth.

“We’ll see how the next few weeks play themselves out.”

Furyk, by the way, is in contention at the Wyndham Championship. He was tied for 11th, six shots off the lead when interviewed in the weather delay.

So, if he wins, would he resurrect talk of being a playing captain?

“The odds are about zero right now,” Furyk said. “Now that I’m kind of knee deep, and we’re getting that close to the Ryder Cup, I really don’t think it’s possible to do both, be a player and a captain. The duties would be too great. And my game, I haven’t played well the last couple years. I’ve been battling injuries and battling myself. I’m excited, I have been feeling a lot better here the last few months and I’ve started playing some good golf.”

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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

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Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

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McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”