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

Still missing the PLAYOFF part of the playoffs

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2018, 5:10 pm

The PGA Tour huddled for 3 ½ years, consulted with the geniuses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ran countless simulations for its strokes-based system.

It still didn’t get it right.

In a move that surely will alienate many of its hardcore fans, the Tour on Tuesday unveiled its new format for the Tour Championship. Beginning next year, players will begin the week at East Lake with a predetermined total based on their position on the points list, the leader starting at 10 under par.

In an age of points and projections, the Tour’s desire for simplicity is understandable – RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard – but its new-look finale violates the spirit of competitive sports.

There are no head starts in sports. That’s the beauty of them.  

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots don’t open the Super Bowl with a 7-0 lead.

Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors don’t start the best-of-7 NBA Finals with a one-game advantage.

Lindsey Vonn doesn’t begin the Olympics with a three-second lead.

Roger Federer doesn’t automatically take a 1-0 lead on his Wimbledon opponent.  

But the PGA Tour has essentially created a handicapped tournament for its grand finale, for the 30 best players of the season.

What a missed opportunity.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


No system is perfect, but this is exactly the kind of contrived idea that emerges when the Tour continually tries to conflate season-long performance with a season-ending “playoffs.”

It’s messy and unnecessary.

The most common criticism of the current FedExCup model is that the best players are rarely rewarded for season-long success. (Example: Brooks Koepka, a two-time major winner this season, starts this week as the No. 7 seed.) That’s taken care of with the new Wyndham Rewards Top 10, which will pay out $10 million in bonus money, including $2 million to the top points-earner, after the regular-season finale at the Wyndham Championship.

Perfect.

End it there.

Celebrate Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau for their season-long excellence.

Then start the playoffs – a real playoff – where everyone starts at zero and where past performance guarantees nothing but a spot in the elimination tournament.

Only those who make the cut in the 100- or 125-man Northern Trust advance to the 70-player BMW Championship. If Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth play poorly and miss out, well, tough luck. Play better. Survive and advance.

At the BMW Championship, it’ll be a fight to finish inside the top 30 on the leaderboard, and it’s easy to imagine a 5-for-2 playoff at the conclusion of play for those attempting to crack the Tour Championship field.

Once the top 30 is finalized, there’s no need for a staggered stroke start.

Play a three-round stroke-play qualifier (Wednesday-Friday), then cut to the low 16 players and have a knockout match-play bracket over the weekend for $15 million.

Sure, some of the stars will have been cut in the previous two playoff events.

Others will fail to make the top 16 at East Lake.

But even if the final is whittled down to Kyle Stanley vs. Patton Kizzire, how cool would it be to watch two players go head to head for the richest prize in all of sports?

At least they’d have earned their spot in the championship.

At least the event would have stayed true to what it really is – a well-run tournament at the end of a long season that is a glorified cash grab.

The Tour wanted to create a unique end to the season, but that shouldn’t mean turning its big-money finale into a net tournament.

Getty Images

Spieth's schedule violation 'resolved' and a 'win' for fans

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 4:15 pm

ATLANTA – For the first time in his career Jordan Spieth failed to qualify for this week’s Tour Championship, an unexpected turn that also found him on the wrong side of a new PGA Tour regulation.

Under the circuit’s strength-of-field requirement, which began last season, a player must add an event to their schedule that they haven’t played the last four years if they didn’t play at least 25 events in the previous or current seasons.

Since he didn’t qualify for the finale, Spieth will finish the season with 24 events (including the Ryder Cup) and under the policy he “shall be subject to a major penalty,” which is a fine of at least $20,000 or even suspension.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


What that means specifically for Spieth remains unclear, but on Tuesday at East Lake Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief of operations, said the matter has been addressed.

“I have talked to Jordan and we’ve resolved it,” Pazder said. “We have come to a resolution. I’m not going to be able to share the details of that, [but] I will say the result is something that you will see next season. It’s resolved in a way that’s going to be a win for our tournaments, our fans and golf in general.”

Pazder’s response suggests that Spieth will likely add at least one new event to his schedule next year.

Spieth was not the only player to violate the policy the season. Ian Poulter only played 20 events in 2018, the same as he played last season, and he did not add a new event to his schedule. Pazder said that after the Englishman won the Houston Open in April he justifiably shifted his focus to qualifying for the European Ryder Cup team and played five events this summer in Europe, which kept him from reaching his 25-event minimum or adding an new event.

“We’ve come to a resolution on how he is going to address that,” Pazder said.

Spieth and Poulter are the first players to violate the policy.

Getty Images

How the new Tour Championship format would look this year and last

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 2:39 pm

The PGA Tour announced on Tuesday plans to change the FedExCup format for the 2018-19 season. Part of that plan is to assign pre-tournament strokes to players in the Tour Championship based on their playoff standings in the first two events. 

Per GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard:

The No. 1 player on the post-season points list will begin the finale at 10 under par. The next four players will start at 8 under through 5 under, respectively, while Nos. 6-10 will begin the tournament at 4 under par with the total regressing by one stroke every five players with those ranked 26th through 30thstarting at even par. The winner at East Lake will also claim the FedExCup.

Here's a look at where players would start this year's Tour Championship under the new format (through the three events already contested):

1 Bryson DeChambeau 10 under
2 Justin Rose 8 under
3 Tony Finau 7 under
4 Dustin Johnson 6 under
5 Justin Thomas 5 under
T-6 Keegan Bradley 4 under
T-6 Brooks Koepka 4 under
T-6 Bubba Watson 4 under
T-6 Billy Horschel 4 under
T-6 Cameron Smith 4 under
T-11 Webb Simpson 3 under
T-11 Jason Day 3 under
T-11 Francesco Molinari 3 under
T-11 Phil Mickelson 3 under
T-11 Patrick Reed 3 under
T-16 Patrick Cantlay 2 under
T-16 Rory McIlroy 2 under
T-16 Xander Schauffele 2 under
T-16 Tommy Fleetwood 2 under
T-16 Tiger Woods 2 under
T-21 Aaron Wise 1 under
T-21 Kevin Na 1 under
T-21 Rickie Fowler 1 under
T-21 Jon Rahm 1 under
T-21 Kyle Stanley 1 under
T-26 Paul Casey Even par
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama Even par
T-26 Gary Woodland Even par
T-26 Marc Leishman Even par
T-26 Patton Kizzire Even par

Here's a look at how last year's Tour Championship played out, with Xander Schauffele winning the event and Justin Thomas claiming the overall FedExCup title, and how it would have looked, all things equal, under the new system (in which Jordan Spieth began the finale as the No. 1 seed and would have started the event at 10 under par). In the new system, Thomas would have been the FedExCup champion.

2017 Tour Championship Player Final score   2017 in new system Player Final score
1 Xander Schauffele -12   1 Justin Thomas  -19
2 Justin Thomas  -11    2 Jordan Spieth  -17 
T-3 Russell Henley  -10    3 Paul Casey  -13 
T-3 Kevin Kisner  -10    T-4 Jon Rahm  -12 
5 Paul Casey  -9    T-4 Brooks Koepka  -12 
6 Brooks Koepka  -8    T-4 Kevin Kisner  -12 
T-7 Tony Finau  -7    T-4 Xander Schauffele   -12
T-7 Jon Rahm  -7    T-8 Justin Rose  -10 
T-7 Jordan Spieth  -7    T-8 Russell Henley  -10 
T-10 Sergio Garcia  -6    T-10 Dustin Johnson  -9 
T-10 Matt Kuchar  -6    T-10 Matt Kuchar  -9 
T-10 Justin Rose  -6    12 Tony Finau  -8 
T-13 Patrick Reed  -5    T-13 Daniel Berger  -7 
T-13 Webb Simpson  -5    T-13 Webb Simpson  -7 
15 Daniel Berger  -4    T-13 Sergio Garcia  -7 
16 Pat Perez  -3    T-16 Pat Perez  -6 
T-17 Jason Day  -2    T-16 Patrick Reed -6 
T-17 Dustin Johnson  -2    18 Marc Leishman  -3
19 Gary Woodland  -1     T-19 Kyle Stanley  -1 
T-20 Patrick Cantlay    T-19 Gary Woodland  -1 
T-20 Jason Dufner    T-21 Jason Day 
T-20 Kyle Stanley  E   T-21 Adam Hadwin 
23 Adam Hadwin  +1   T-21 Patrick Cantlay 
T-24 Brian Harman  +3    T-21 Jason Dufner 
T-24 Marc Leishman  +3    25 Brian Harman  +1 
T-26 Rickie Fowler +6    T-26 Rickie Fowler  +2 
T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +6    T-26 Hideki Matsuyama  +2 
T-28 Kevin Chappell  +9    28 Charley Hoffman  +6 
T-28 Charley Hoffman  +9    29 Kevin Chappell  +7 
30 Jnonattan Vegas  +10    30 Jhonattan Vegas  +8 
Getty Images

Stock Watch: Up or down for FedExCup changes?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2018, 2:20 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Angela Stanford (+9%): In this era of youthful dominance, Justin Rose and now Stanford offer reminders that sometimes the long, winding journey is even more rewarding. It took Rose 20 years to reach world No. 1; for Stanford, she needed 76 major starts (and 15 years after a major playoff loss) before she finally became a Grand Slam winner, at age 40.

Sang-Moon Bae (+6%): The next time you complain about losing your game after a few weeks away, remember that the two-time Tour winner shelved his clubs for TWO YEARS to fulfill his South Korean military obligations and then regained his card. That’s a heckuva achievement.

FedExCup changes (+5%): Though the Tour Championship shouldn’t count as an official victory – come on, the playoffs leader has a TEN-SHOT head start over No. 26! – the strokes-based system is no doubt easier to follow than the various points fluctuations. RIP, Steve Sands’ whiteboard.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): Maybe he’s on his way to challenging his famous father, who won 10 times on the PGA Tour. A three-time winner this season in Canada, McCumber clinched Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year honors and will be one to watch next year on the Web.

Matthew Wolff (+2%): The reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year is now 2-for-2 this season, winning at both Pebble Beach and Olympia Fields with a 67.2 scoring average. He’s a primetime player.  


FALLING

Amy Olson (-1%): To win a major most need to have their heart broken at least once … but that ugly 72nd-hole double bogey could linger for longer than she probably hoped.  

Lexi (-2%): As heartwarming as it was to watch Stanford snap her major-less drought, keep in mind that the best U.S. player – the 23-year-old Thompson – next April will be five years removed from her lone LPGA major title.

Web final (-3%): Twenty-five Tour cards will be on the line this week at the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship, but here’s guessing you won’t even notice – for some reason, it conflicts with the big tour’s season finale. Why couldn’t this have been played last week, when the Tour was dark and the Web could get some much-needed exposure?

Player of the Year debate (-5%): As much as the Tour might promote otherwise during its big-money conclusion, Justin Thomas said it best on Twitter: Majors trump all. It’s Brooks Koepka’s trophy this year.  

Repairing damage (-6%): Golf’s governing bodies are confident that the new rules (out Jan. 1!) will speed up pace of play, but it’s hard to see how that’s possible when they now will allow players to tap down spike marks on the green. With $1 million and major titles on the line, you don’t think guys will spend an extra minute or two gardening?