Stat attack!: Wyndham Championship review

By John AntoniniAugust 18, 2014, 1:32 am

It would be nice to say that Camilo Villegas was light’s out at the Wyndham Championship from start to finish. But that wouldn’t quite be true.

On Friday and Saturday Villegas had rounds of 69-68, pedestrian to say the least on a week when the field had to be under par in the first two rounds just to make the cut.

Instead it was Villegas’ start and finish that earned him his fourth PGA Tour victory and first in more than four years, bookend 63s lifting him to a 17-under 263 for a one-stroke victory over Nick Watney and Freddie Jacobson.

Villegas is the first PGA Tour player to start and finish the week with scores of 63 or better since James Hahn at the 2013 Humana Challenge. Of the six players since 2000 to begin and end their weeks with such low scores, only three wound up winners.

Starting and finishing the week with a score of 63 or better: 2000-2014

 Player Tournament Scores Finish
 Camilo Villegas 2014 Wyndham Championship 63-69-68-63—263 Won
 James  Hahn 2013 Humana Challenge 63-67-72-62—264 T-4
 Russell Henley 2013 Sony Open 63-63-67-63—256 Won
 Kenny Perry 2009 Travelers 61-68-66-63—258 Won
 Martin Laird 2008 Wyndham Championship 63-74-64-63—264 T-4
 Aaron Baddeley 2003 Valero Texas Open 62-70-69-62—263 T-5

Not surprisingly, Villegas matched the season best for lowest first-round score by a winner and for lowest final-round score by a winner. According to the PGA Tour Media Guide, this is just the third time since 1970 that the same week provided the year’s best score in both categories. In addition to Villegas, Kenny Perry turned the trick at the 2009 Travelers Championship as did Grier Jones at the 1972 Hawaiian Open.

Lowest first-round score by a winner in 2013-14

 Score Player Tournament
 63 Camilo Villegas Wyndham Championship
 63 Brian Harman John Deere Classic
 63 Ben Crane FedEx St. Jude Classic
 63 Martin Kaymer Players 
 63 Patrick Reed Humana Challenge
 63 Ryan Moore CIMB Classic

Lowest final-round score by a winner in 2013-14

 Score Player Tournament
 63 Camilo Villegas Wyndham Championship
 63 Jimmy Walker Sony Open
 64 Matt Kuchar RBC Heritage
 64 Bubba Watson Northern Trust Open
 64 Kevin Streelman Travelers Championship
 64 Angel Cabrera Greenbrier Classic

Villegas’ victory wasn’t quite expected. The veteran hadn’t won since the 2010 Honda Classic, and although he made the cut in 17 of 25 starts this season his best finish was a T-11 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Although he was 136th on the PGA Tour money list entering the week, he had secured his position in the PGA Tour playoffs at 105th in the FedEx Cup standings. He is one of six winners this season who didn’t have another top-10 finish in the regular season.

PGA Tour winners with no other top 10s in 2013-14

 Player Tournament
 Camilo Villegas Wyndham Championship
 Geoff Ogilvy Barracuda Championship
 Angel Cabrera Greenbrier Classic
 Matt Jones Shell Houston Open
 Steven Bowditch Valero Texas Open
 Scott Stallings Farmers Insurance Open

Entering the week, Villegas ranked just 126th on Tour in driving accuracy, but he had control of his drives at Sedgefield. In fact he had uncanny accuracy off the tee and onto the green, finishing in the top 10 in the field in fairways hit and greens in regulation.

Villegas' top stats at the Wyndham Championship

 Stat Percentage Rank
 Fairways hit 76.79% T-5
 Greens in regulation 77.78 T-8
 Proximity to hole 29 feet, five inches T-7

His improvement is noticeable. His percentage of fairways hit was his best this year in a tournament in which he made the cut (he had a better percentage only at the Valspar Championship, where he failed to play the weekend. It was his second-best week of the year in GIR percentage.

Villegas’ best weeks in driving accuracy in 2013-14

 Tournament Accuracy percentage Finish
 Valspar Championship 76.92% MC
 Wyndham Championship 76.79 Won
 Travelers Championship 75.00 T-67
 McGladrey Classic 73.21 T-40
 Humana Challenge 68.52 T-33

Villegas’ best weeks in greens in regulation in 2013-14

 Tournament GIR percentage Finish
 Waste Management Phoenix 80.56% T-37
 Wyndham Championship 77.78 Won Open 77.78 T-26
 John Deere Classic 73.61 T-45
 Mayakoba Classic  73.61 T-36

Villegas' pinpoint accuracy helped him hit a tournament-best 21 consecutive greens during the Wyndham. Villegas his 16 straight greens Thursday (starting with No. 12, his third hole of the day), and his first five on Friday. It was eight more than he hit during any other tournament this year.

Most consecutive greens hit at the Wyndham Championship

 Player Consecutive greens hit
 Camilo Villegas  21
 Justin Hicks 19
 Joe Durant 19
 Will Wilcox 18
 Tyrone Van Aswegen 18
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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.