Stat attack!: RBC Heritage preview

By John AntoniniApril 15, 2014, 11:27 pm

If there is such a thing as a Masters hangover, imagine our surprise when we awoke this morning to find out the PGA Tour season is half over. With the wrap-around season taking six events from the end of the Tour year and moving them to the beginning, the RBC Heritage will be the 23rd of 45 official events on the PGA Tour. With Bubba Watson’s Masters victory marking the end of the first half of the 2013-14 season, let’s look at some of the season’s statistical highlights 

Where are the Euros?

Americans have won 18 of the first 22 events of the season and Australians have won the other four. It’s the first time that no European player has won on the PGA Tour by the Masters since 2004, when it took until May for Sergio Garcia to win at the Byron Nelson Championship. In fact, among European players who were in the top 60 in the final regular season FedEx Cup standings in 2013, only Garcia has a better ranking in 2013-14. Garcia is one of three Euros with four top-10s on the PGA Tour in 2013-14. Among the notable European players without a top-10 on Tour this year are Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.

First victory by a European player on the PGA Tour: 2004-2013

 Year Player Tournament No. of events
 2013 Martin Laird Valero Texas Open 15
 2012 Rory McIlroy Honda Classic 10
 2011 Luke Donald WGC Match Play 8
 2010 Ian Poulter WGC Match Play 7
 2009 Paul Casey Shell Houston Open 15
 2008 Daniel Chopra Mercedes Benz Champ. 1
 2007 Henrik Stenson WGC Match Play 8
 2006 Luke Donald Honda Classic            11
 2005 Padraig Harrington Honda Classic            11
 2004 Sergio Garcia Byron Nelson Champ. 20

FedEx Cup comparison for Europeans from 2013 to 2014

 Player  2013 final reg. season rank 2014 current rank
 Justin Rose 7 67
 Henrik Stenson 9 79
 Graeme McDowell 28 39
 Jonas Blixt 29 42
 Lee Westwood 35 78
 Martin Laird 44 130
 Rory McIlroy 49 38
 David Lynn 54 166
 Luke Donald 55 71
 Sergio Garcia 59 33

Most top 10s on Tour by Europeans in 2013-14

 Player Top-10 finishes
 Graeme McDowell 4
 Sergio Garcia 4
 Rory McIlroy 4
 Luke Donald 2
 Jamie Donaldson 2
 Russell Knox 2
 Robert Karlsson 2
 Justin Rose 2

Bubba’s bruising start

Bubba Watson is off to the best start of his career. With two wins and two seconds, Watson has earned more than $4.5 million this season, which is more than 38 percent of his potential earnings. If he can maintain that pace through the second half of the year he will join Tiger Woods (five times) and Rory McIlroy (2012) as the only players to collect more than 37 percent of their potential earnings after making 10 or more starts in a season since 2005. (By way of explanation, if a player won every time he played, he would collect 100 percent of his potential earnings.)

Percentage of potential earnings won on PGA Tour in 2013-14

 Pct. money won Player Earnings Potential earnings Starts
 38.17% Bubba Watson $4,533,006 $11,876,000 9
 36.98 Jason Day 2,010,360 5,436,000 4
 31.08 Dustin Johnson 3,346,150 10,766,000 8
 24.52 Jimmy Walker 4,225,071 17,228,000 14
 20.73 Patrick Reed 3,023,091 14,586,000 12
 17.46 Jordan Spieth 2,621,223 14,586,000 12

Weekend warriors

With Harris English missing the cut at the Masters, Chris Kirk has now made the most starts this season without a missed cut. Kirk’s T-20 at the Masters marked the 13th time in 2013 that’s he qualified for the weekend. He is tied for the Tour lead in most cuts made this season.

Most cuts made without a miss in 2013-14

 Player Cuts made Best finish
 Chris Kirk 13 Won McGladrey Classic
 Bill Haas 12 T-6 Humana, T-6 WGC-Cadillac
 Hunter Mahan 9 T-4 Waste Management Phoenix Open
 Jim Furyk 7 T-5 WGC Match Play

Most cuts made in 2013-14

 Player Cuts made Starts
 Chris Kirk 13 13
 Jimmy Walker 13 14
 Harris English 13 14
 Cameron Tringale 13 16

The stars aren’t shining

Although every one of the top 10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2013 are still in the top 15 after the Masters, only two of them have won since the calendar turned. Zach Johnson, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, is the only player from the group to win on the PGA Tour this season (and he’s actually fallen in the ranking from ninth to his current position of 12th). Sergio Garcia won the Commercialbank Qatar Masters on the European Tour. Tiger Woods had back surgery and Phil Mickelson has also battled injuries, but most of the others have contended this season. Could that mean there are more victories on the horizon for a group that includes three of 2013's major champions? Here’s what they’ve done on Tour since January.

How the top 10 players on the year-end world ranking have fared in 2014

 2013 rank Player Current rank 2014 Tour starts Cuts Best PGA Tour notable
 1 Tiger Woods 1 3 3 T-25 WGC Cadillac Back surgery has put the rest of 2014 in limbo
 2 Adam Scott 2 6 6 3 Arnold Palmer 145th on proximity to hole on approaches, 45th last year
 3 Henrik Stenson 3 6 5 T-5 Arnold Palmer

He’s 185th in strokes gained/putting out of 206 players ranked

 4 Justin Rose 11 6 5 T-8 Valspar Fairways hit (59.87) and GIR (65.15) percentages are career worsts
 5 Phil Mickelson 8 8 5 T-12 Houston Last time he was this far into a season without a top 10 was 1992 and 6 of those starts were as an amateur
 6 Rory McIlroy  10 5 5 T-2 Honda 3 top-10s and no finish worse than T-25 in 2014
 7 Matt Kuchar 6 9 8 2 Houston 3 straight top-10s, but Sunday scoring avg. in last 5 starts is 73.8
 8 Steve Stricker 15 4 4 T-24 Houston Has earned between 48 and 56K in each of his 4 starts
 9 Zach Johnson 12 9 8 1-Hyundai Missed cut at the Masters was his first of the year
 10 Sergio Garcia 7 5 4 3 Houston He hadn’t been outside the top 20 all year until his MC at Augusta

 Trending in the right direction

Six players (Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones) won for the first time this season, but several other winless players are knocking on the door. Here’s a top-10 list of non-winners who have made more the cut more than 60 percent of the time in 10 or more starts this season and merit consideration at the RBC Heritage or at other future PGA Tour events.

 Player Starts Cuts Top 10s Playing Heritage?
 Brian Harman 14 10 3 Yes
 Ryo Ishikawa 14 9 3 Yes
 Russell Knox 13 11 2 Yes
 Graham Delaet 11 9 5 No
 Daniel Summerhays 16 11 2 No
 Chris Stroud  11 8 3 Yes
 Brian Stuard 14 10 3 Yes
 Cameron Tringale 16 13 1 Yes
 Jason Kokrak 13 9 2 Yes
 Brendon Todd 14 12 2 Yes
Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”