Stat attack!: U.S. Open preview

By John AntoniniJune 10, 2014, 2:14 pm

The 2013-14 PGA Tour season has taken some getting used to. Tiger Woods is injured and has been supplanted – at least for the time being – by Jordan Spieth as the game’s must-watch star. Phil Mickelson doesn’t have a top-10 finish on Tour. And of the top-10 players on the FedEx Cup standings, only Bubba Watson has won a major in his career. Should any of them be on our radar at the U.S. Open?

The top 10 players on the FedEx Cup standings

Player World
U.S. Open history
 1 Jimmy Walker 19 2 starts, none since 2002
 2  Bubba Watson 3 8 starts, 4 cuts, T-5 in 2007
 3 Matt Kuchar 5 11 starts, 6 cuts, T-6 in 2010
 4 Dustin Johnson (pictured) 15 6 starts, 5 cuts, T-8 in 2010
 5 Jordan Spieth 10 2 starts, 1 cut, T-21 in 2012
 6 Chris Kirk 43 2 starts, 1 cut, none since 2009
 7 Patrick Reed 26 Making his tournament debut
 8 Harris English 48 Making his tournament debut
 9 Brendon Todd 55 Making his tournament debut
 10 Kevin Na 40 3 starts, 1 cut, T-29 in 2012

Initially, there doesn’t appear to be a lot to choose from. Only three players have a top-10 finish in the U.S. Open, and five haven’t played in any of the last four Opens. But that’s to be expected, isn’t it. FedEx Cup leaders don’t usually win the Open. Since the inception of the PGA Tour Playoffs, only Tiger Woods was ranked in the top 25 of the standings at the time of his U.S. Open victory, and he had to go extra holes on a broken leg to beat Rocco Mediate, who was 127th at the time.

Rankings of U.S. Open champions at time of win

 Year Player FedEx Rank World Rank
 2013 Justin Rose 30 5
 2012 Webb Simpson 32 14
 2011 Rory McIlroy NA 5
 2010 Graeme McDowell NA 37
 2009 Lucas Glover 26 71
 2008 Tiger Woods 1 1
 2007 Angel Cabrera 155 41

But if the U.S. Open winner wasn’t a FedEx Cup leader, recent history shows he was a world-class player. The last four Open champions have been first-time major winners, three of whom were ranked among the top 14 players in the world. All four were age 32 or younger (the Open winner has skewed young since 2007, when 37-year-old Angel Cabrera took the title). Four of the last six winners were in the top 32 on the FedEx standings, and the two who weren’t did not have Tour status but were worldwide stars in their own right. If the trend continues we can expect a young veteran star who has played well this year in the U.S. or Europe to win his first career major at Pinehurst. A second look at the current FedEx Cup leaderboard above reveals five players with a better-than-average chance at Pinehurst.

Major-less players in the top 30 on the World Ranking and the FedEx Standings

 Player FedEx Rank World Rank Age
 Jimmy Walker 1 19 35
 Matt Kuchar 3 5 35
 Dustin Johnson 4 15 29
 Jordan Spieth 5 10 20
 Patrick Reed 7 26 23
 Hideki Matsuyama 16 13 22
 Victor Dubuisson NA 20 24
 Jamie Donaldson NA 29 38

Like McIlroy and McDowell when they won the Open, Dubuisson and Donaldson are not PGA Tour members, but I’ve inlcuded them here because they fit the criteria. They are in the top-five on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Among the group, you can probably eliminate Reed and Dubuisson for lack of Open experience and Donaldson as being too old. The others – although Kuchar and Walker are a bit over age 32 – fit our parameters. If form holds, the Open champion at Pinehurst will come from among Walker, Kuchar, Johnson, Spieth or Matsuyama.

But we know how often form doesn’t hold at a major. How else do you explain Angel Cabrera or Y.E. Yang. Are there any other ways to determine who might play well this week?

The typical U.S. Open set up – tight fairways, deep rough, slick greens – leans toward a player who hits greens and capitalizes by making putts. In the last 10 years no Open champ has finished outside the top 20 in greens in regulation or putts per GIR. Because of the variation between Open courses, distance and accuracy carry less weight. Case in point: When Simpson won in 2012 at Olympic Club he averaged less than 280 yards off the tee and ranked T-13 in accuracy at just 55.4 percent. A year earlier at Congressional, McIlroy averaged 32 more yards per drive, and ranked T-26 in fairways hit despite hitting five more fairways than Simpson. Here are the basic stats for the last 10 U.S. Open champions.

Statistics of U.S. Open champions: 2004-2013

 Year Winner Distance Accuracy GIR Scrambling Putts per GIR
 2013 Justin
300.4 (15)  75.0% (T-2)  69.4% (T-7)  45.5% (25)  1.820 (15)
 2012 Webb
278.9 (53)  55.4 (T-13)  58.3 (T-16)  60.0% (T-9) 1.738 (9) 
 2011 Rory
310.6 (7)  64.3 (T-26) 86.11 (1) 70.0% (T-3)  1.710 (6) 
 2010  Graeme
293.8 (31)  66.1 (T-34)  58.3 (T-12)  53.3% (22)  1.690 (2) 
 2009 Lucas
291.1 (8)  71.4 (T-13)  72.2 (4)  55.0% (19)  1.731 (4) 
 2008 Tiger
320.9 (2)  53.6 (T-56)  63.9 (T-14)  53.9 (27)  1.739 (10) 
 2007  Angel
310.9 (2)  48.2 (T-48)  65.3 (T-3)  36.0 (T-50)  1.787 (6) 
 2006 Geoff
306.4 (6)  57.1 (T-21)  58.3 (T-13)  60.0 (3)  1.833 (18) 
 2005 Michael
294.3 (36)  64.3 (T-8)  56.9 (T-16)  61.3 (9)  1.805 (16) 
 2004 Retief
314.0 (T-5) 58.9 (T-12) 58.3 (T-9) 70.0 (1) 1.738 (T-10)

What players rank among the leaders on Tour in greens in regulation and putts per GIR? There are seven players who rank among the top 30 in both statistics.

U.S. Open players in the top 30 on the PGA Tour in GIR and putting average

 Player GIR rank Putts per GIR rank
 Bubba Watson 6 2
 Sergio Garcia 8 18
 Dustin Johnson 12 9
 Ryan Palmer 21 13
 Jimmy Walker 23 7
 Adam Scott 25 12
 Rory McIlroy 28 1

Now that’s a list! There are no players the USGA and NBC would not be excited about if they  were in the final pairing Sunday. Maybe Palmer and Walker, but that's about it. And it gets better. Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Ryan Moore are in the top 50 in each stat, and Phil Mickelson ranks in the top 60 in both. 

Three players - Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Matt Kuchar - fit both criterias, so let's call them the Open favorites. Here's how they've fared in previous Opens.

Johnson, Walker and Kuchar in the U.S. Open

  Johnson Walker Kuchar
 Starts 6 2 11
 Cuts  5 1 6
 Top 10s 1 0 1
 Best finish T-8 (2010) T52 (2001) T-6 (2010)
 Last year 55 DNP T-28
 scoring avg.
72.86 74.17 73.24

One final thought: Of this group, Johnson has come the closest to winning an Open. He held a three-stroke lead through 54 holes at Pebble Beach in 2010, but began his final round with a par, triple bogey and double bogey, shot 82 and fell to T-8. The 82 is the highest final-round score by a 54-hole leader since World War II, and Johnson has the second-biggest 54-hole lead lost at the Open in that span (Payne Stewart, four strokes  in 1998, is the biggest).

If you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

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Fleetwood: Carnoustie course record won't help at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, but he’s skeptical that his past experience will help him at The Open.

Last fall, in the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, Fleetwood birdied six of his last eight holes to card a bogey-free, 9-under 63, the lowest score ever at what is widely considered to be the most difficult course in the Open rota.

No one expects a repeat this week at Carnoustie – not with the conditions this brown, firm and fast.

“It’s a completely different course,” Fleetwood said Monday. “Shots that you’ve hit have literally no relevance for a lot of it.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It doesn’t do any harm to have played it for a few years. It doesn’t do any harm to have a course record, but it’s a completely different challenge to what we normally face.”

Fleetwood took a much-needed two-week break after the French Open, deciding to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open for a bit more time in his own bed. (He said it was his last full week at home until mid-October.) Since his sparkling 63 to nearly steal the U.S. Open, the Englishman said that he’d “run out of steam” but now feels energized.  

“There’s not really a good reason why I couldn’t do it (this week),” he said. “It really doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past. The only thing they could do is build your confidence and give you examples of what you can do – examples that you can end up there, and you have the game to compete.”

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NBC Sports Group Kicks Off All-Encompassing Coverage From The 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 16, 2018, 1:25 pm

Five Past “Champion Golfers of The Year” Highlight Broadcast Team

Technology Enhancements: Links-Optimized Toptracer, Wind Gauges and Bunker Cams, Including “Johnny Miller Bunker” Along 18th Fairway

NBC Sports Group’s all-encompassing coverage from The 147TH Open kicked off today with Golf Central Live From The Open, which throughout the week will deliver nearly 50 hours of news and analysis on Golf Channel from Carnoustie Golf Links on the east coast of Scotland. The network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage will feature another 50 live hours being broadcast on linear television (Golf Channel, NBC), spanning from the opening tee shot at 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday through the final putt on Sunday. An additional 170 complementary hours of streaming coverage will include featured holes and groups, bringing NBC Sports’ overall production to more than 350 total hours surrounding The Open.

“The Open is unique. Golf’s original championship isn’t just steeped in nearly 150 years of tradition; it features a multitude of storylines that fuel our comprehensive coverage plan,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “Fans look forward to the best players in the world conquering nature’s elements – this year at iconic Carnoustie Golf Links – in their quest to become the Champion Golfer of the Year. Our extensive approach utilizes a deep roster of commentators to set the stage leading up to our unprecedented coverage from the first tee shot early Thursday morning through the last putt on Sunday evening.”

Led by the deepest and most-experienced roster of analysts, hosts, reporters and personalities in the game, coverage will set the scene for golf fans with a focus on key storylines and showcase the unique traditions synonymous with golf’s original championship, culminating in the winner being awarded the iconic Claret Jug and introduced as the Champion Golfer of the Year.


NBC Sports’ live tournament and news coverage will utilize several past “Champion Golfers of the Year,” including NBC Sports’ lead analyst Johnny Miller (1976), as well as Nick Faldo (1987, ’90, ’92) and Justin Leonard (1997). David Duval (2001) and Tom Lehman (1996) are in the field as past champions, and also are scheduled to contribute to coverage. *Full broadcast teams outlined below*

THE MOST LIVE COVERAGE FROM ANY GOLF EVENT: NBC Sports’ 50 hours of live tournament coverage will utilize more than 100 available cameras and employ several technology enhancements to showcase Carnoustie’s distinct characteristics:

  • “Links Toptracer”: A reverse ball flight configuration optimized for links golf will showcase not only where shots land, but also – given players’ strategic use of the ground in links golf – “Links Toptracer” will track how shots roll out.
  • “Bunker Cam”: Coverage will feature NBC Sports’ popular “bunker cam” technology in a total of eight bunkers on Holes 5, 8, 12, 13 and 18, including in several of Carnoustie’s challenging pot bunkers. For the first time, the network will use the embedded camera technology in the face of fairway bunkers (Holes 12 & 18), including the “Johnny Miller bunker,” positioned along the right side of the fairway on the par-4 18th hole. The bunker is named in his honor after it took him two shots to get out of it during The Open in 1975.
  • Influence of Wind: Wind indicators will be utilized around the course to measure changes in wind conditions in real-time, providing immediate ultra-precise data so viewers can easily distinguish what a player is facing over a given shot.
  • “Playing Through” Returns; Callaway to Feature Custom Creative Content: Enhancing both the viewership and commercial experience, NBC Sports’ popular “Playing Through” split-screen commercial format returns for The Open, ensuring viewers don’t miss key stretches of the action during commercial breaks. For the first time at The Open, Callaway has produced an innovative “Playing Through” 30-second spot featuring 2013 Open champion Phil Mickelson. During NBC Sports’ coverage of The Open at Royal Birkdale last year, an additional 200 shots of live golf were shown via “Playing Through.”

MORE THAN 170 HOURS OF COMPLEMENTARY LIVE STREAMING COVERAGE: Complementing traditional linear broadcast coverage, NBC Sports will showcase more than 170 hours of live tournament feeds being streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms and These feeds also will be available as part of DirecTV’s featured mosaic coverage of The Open. The four feeds will include a simulcast of tournament coverage; a “Marquee Group,” for both the morning and afternoon waves of competition; a “3-Hole Channel,” featuring tournament play on Holes 8, 9 and 10; and “Spotlight,” (also available in 4K) showcasing competition taking place on Holes 1 and 18, along with competitor interviews on the range and inside the press center.

Additional Highlights Surrounding NBC Sports’ Coverage of The 147TH Open:

  • NBC News’ Dylan Dreyer to Contribute from Carnoustie: Golf enthusiast Dylan Dreyer of NBC News’ TODAY will offer contributions from on-site at Carnoustie. Given the extensive influence weather tends to have on The Open, Dreyer’s experience as a weather anchor and a golf fan will provide a unique perspective.
  • NBC Universo Airing Simulcast of The Open: NBC Universo will deliver live Spanish-language coverage of the third and final rounds of The Open, Saturday and Sunday, July 21-22. Third round coverage will air live from 1-3 p.m. ET on Saturday, and final round coverage will air live from Noon-2 p.m. ET on Sunday. Coverage will be led by play-by-play host Miguel Gurwitz alongside analyst Edgar Lopez.
  • Conor Moore, Vernon Kay to contribute to NBC Sports’ Digital and Social Media Platforms:After grabbing the attention of the golf world leading up to the Masters earlier this year, social media influencer Conor Moore has partnered with NBC Sports to contribute to the network’s digital and social media platforms surrounding The Open, including a series of impersonations of top players in the field. Additional social media efforts throughout the week will offer expanded original content, including: a collaboration with British television host Vernon Kay, reports from Golf Channel social media correspondent Alexandra O’Laughlin, and a Lego recreation of Jean Van de Velde’s collapse in 1999.

NBC Sports Live Tournament Broadcast Team

Tom Abbott, Notah Begay, Billy Ray Brown, Curt Byrum, Nick Faldo, David Feherty, Jerry Foltz, Terry Gannon, Dan Hicks, Peter Jacobsen, Gary Koch, Justin Leonard, Todd Lewis, Jim “Bones” Mackay, Roger Maltbie, Johnny Miller, Frank Nobilo, Jimmy Roberts, Mark Rolfing, Tim Rosaforte, Steve Sands, Mike Tirico

Golf Central Live From The Open Broadcast Team

Cara Banks, Notah Begay, Steve Burkowski, Brandel Chamblee, Jaime Diaz, Rex Hoggard, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard, Rich Lerner, Todd Lewis, Frank Nobilo, Mark Rolfing, Tim Rosaforte, Ken Schofield

Morning Drive

John Cook and Damon Hack on-site at Carnoustie

Complementary Streaming Coverage Broadcast Team

Tom Abbott, Cara Banks, Steve Burkowski, Ryan Burr, Curt Byrum, John Cook, Damon Hack, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard

NBC Universo Broadcast Team

Miguel Gurwitz, Edgar Lopez

Golf Channel Digital

Mercer Baggs, Jay Coffin, Rex Hoggard, Ryan Lavner, Bailey Mosier, Ryan Reiterman, Brandon Tucker

Social Media Contributors

Vernon Kay, Conor Moore, Alexandra O’Laughlin

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What's in the bag: John Deere winner Michael Kim

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 1:11 pm

Michael Kim won his first career PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic. Here's a look inside his bag:

Driver: Titleist TS2 (10.5 degrees), with Aldila Rogue Black 60X shaft

Fairway wood:  Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Rogue Black 70 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (21 degrees), Graphite Design Tour AD DI-85 X Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4), 718 AP2 (5-PW), with True Temper XP 115 shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GSS Newport 350 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 12:20 pm

Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Other notable groupings:

  • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
  • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
  • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
  • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
  • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
  • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon