LPGA winners outshining male counterparts in '14

By Jason SobelApril 28, 2014, 2:31 pm

Let’s call this A Tale of Two Tours, which is sort of like A Tale of Two Cities, except without the peasantry and the revolution is only a metaphorical one.

So far this year, the LPGA has been everything it’s needed to be – fun, exciting, dramatic and relevant. The last three tournaments, in order, have featured teenage sensation Lexi Thompson topping Michelle Wie in a major; then Wie, the tour’s most recognizable star, winning on home turf; followed by another teenager, Lydia Ko, prevailing for a mind-numbing third time just days after her 17th birthday.

The way things are going, we should all start consulting commissioner Michael Whan for Powerball numbers.

Meanwhile, the PGA Tour has been a tedious hodgepodge of snoozer Sundays, save for the rare hole-out by a Matt. (Kuchar in regulation at Harbour Town; Jones in a playoff in Houston.) The champions’ list is confoundingly eclectic, with few winners this side of Bubba Watson drawing more than just the most diehard fans to the television screen.

It’s like the golf gods are playing Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the, uh … less rich.

It’s like one tour’s season has been scripted in Hollywood, while the other’s was scripted by Ed Wood, king of the low-budget films.

It’s like we all have selective memories.

No, that last one doesn’t necessarily fit the theme, but that’s because this theme – to an extent – is misguided.

Based on the collective objection that this year’s PGA Tour winners are largely unknowns and journeymen, I crunched some numbers to see how they compare with last year’s list to this point.

What I found will probably surprise you.

(For the sake of keeping things uniform, I didn’t include the six winners during last year’s portion of the 2013-14 schedule, instead just matching up the first 18 of the last two calendar years, from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions through this past week’s Zurich Classic.)

This year’s champions have held an average position of 83.5 on the Official World Golf Ranking at the time of their victories. None of them were ranked inside the top five when they won and six (Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Russell Henley, John Senden, Steven Bowditch and Seung-yul Noh) were ranked outside the top 100.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It does to me.

And yet …

Last year’s champions to this point had an average world ranking of 99.4, with eight of them (Henley, Brian Gay, John Merrick, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown, Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points and Martin Laird) ranked outside the top 100 at the time of their wins.

Based on the numbers alone, this year’s winners have been less eclectic and more calculable than those of last year.

Of course, then there’s the Tiger Factor.

By this point a year ago, Tiger Woods had already claimed three titles – the Farmers Insurance Open, WGC-Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. His smiling face gleaming in the reflection of a trophy on a Sunday evening (or Monday afternoon, as was the case in two of those wins) can obviously do wonders for public perception on the state of the PGA Tour.

Looking at it another way, though, last year’s champions’ list was even more unpredictable. Take out Tiger, who was ranked second when he won each of those three tournaments between January and April, and the average world ranking of the other 15 winners increases to 118.9.

Not that world ranking should serve as the be-all, end-all for this debate. Compare them based on previous wins and you’ll find that this year’s 18 champions (which includes two apiece from Watson, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker) had won a combined total of 36 titles prior to their most recent one.

Last year’s number looked decidedly different. Those winners had previously won 294 career PGA Tour titles, if we correctly include Woods, who owned 74, 75 and 76 wins, respectively, before each his three titles. Again, as always, he skews the stats. Remove him from this list and last year’s other first 15 champions had a combined 69 career wins, largely buoyed by the 40 from Phil Mickelson prior to his victory in Phoenix.

What does it all mean? Well, a few things.

First and foremost, having a couple of Hall of Fame members combine for a win each month during the year’s first quarter can do wonders for soothing whatever perceived ailments are affecting the Tour. A victory by a guy ranked 176th is deemed more palatable when it’s preceded or followed by one from a household name. (And that’s not to invalidate the importance of a win from Noh, a 22-year-old up-and-comer, whose roots in the burgeoning golf hotbed of Asia should be viewed in Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters as an unmitigated success.)

Second and perhaps just as important, is that these numbers should help quash the notion that the PGA Tour is undergoing some type of never-before-seen transitional phase that’s led to a half-dozen first-time winners already. Sure, we can argue that fields are deeper and it’s more difficult to win than ever before and anything can happen on the proverbial Any Given Sunday, but we can’t portray this as a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon zipping through the atmosphere like Halley’s Comet.

The level of excitement on the LPGA in recent months has unquestionably surpassed that of its gender counterpart. The tournament finales have featured more drama and the winners’ list reads like a “Who’s Who” rather than a “Who’s He?”

The disparity is evident, but that doesn’t mean times have changed on the PGA Tour and we’re venturing into an unfamiliar frontier where randomness is the new norm. It doesn’t mean this tale of two tours has to end in Dickensian fashion, either.

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Key stats from Woods' historic win at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 23, 2018, 10:47 pm

Tiger Woods won his 80th career PGA Tour title on Sunday with a two-stroke victory at the Tour Championship. Here are the key stats from the final round at East Lake.

• 80th career PGA Tour win; first since 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

• Two wins behind Sam Snead for most in PGA Tour history

• Snead was 47 years old when he won his 80th career PGA Tour title (Woods is 42)

• 43-for-45 converting outright 54-hole leads in PGA Tour career

• 24-for-24 converting 54-hole leads of three or more shots

• First win in 1,876 days; 118 players won on PGA Tour between Woods' wins

• Third career Tour Championship victory (most all-time)

• Has won Tour Championship in three different decades (1999, 2007, 2018)

• Fifth PGA Tour event won in three different decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s)

• Projected to move to 13th in World Ranking with victory

• Was ranked 1,199 before beginning of 2017 Hero World Challenge

• Snead won 11 times after turning 43 (Woods turns 43 in December)

• Eighth PGA Tour win in Georgia; fourth-most of any state (Fla., Calif., Ohio)

• Extended lead to four strokes with birdie on first hole of round

• Second in field in strokes gained: putting this week

• First in field in scrambling this week (17-for-24)

• Finished second in FedExCup; was making first Tour Championship start since 2013

• Led field in one-putt percentage this week (51.4%)

• Finishes season first on PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)

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Rose captures FedExCup, $10 million

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 10:45 pm

ATLANTA – Like the “Price is Right” big wheel, $10 million spun around and around on Sunday, waiting to land on someone. It rolled past Dustin Johnson, looked like it was going to settle on Tiger Woods, and then made a final tick to rest on an ecstatic Justin Rose.

Rose won the FedExCup title on Sunday at the Tour Championship, two-putting for birdie on the par-5 18th to secure the big bonus. Woods, who won the tournament, finished second, with Bryson DeChambeau third.

Rose entered the final round as the projected winner, tied for second in the event, three shots back of Woods. However, it was a struggle from the start for the – now former – world No. 1. Rose made four bogeys and one birdie over his first 15 holes, and when he bogeyed the par-4 16th, the scenario became clear: Play the last two in 1 under or lose the cup.

Final FedExCup results and payout breakdown

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson had an outside shot at claiming the $10 million, but parred the last. He finished in solo third place, four back of Woods.

Woods, meanwhile, was in command of the tournament from the start on Sunday. He played steadily, for the most part, and no one provided a challenge. In order to win the cup, he needed to win the event – which was close to a lock all day – and Rose needed to finish in a three-way tie for fifth or worse.

So, here he was, Rose, tied for SIXTH place on the 18th hole. A birdie and he’d jump into a three-way tie for fourth – as well as into a mountain of cash.

Rose hit the par-5 18th in two and successfully two-putted to clinch the cup. He didn’t win a playoff event, but his MC-2-2-T4 results were good enough, points wise, to capture the season-long race.

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Social media explodes over Tiger's 80th win

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 23, 2018, 10:45 pm

After a five-year hiatus, Tiger Woods made his triumphant return to the winner's circle on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

As evidenced by a quick look at social media, Woods' win set the golf world on fire, with everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Michelle Wie sending their congratulations to the 42-year-old.

Here are the best reactions from a wild Sunday at East Lake, where Woods claimed PGA Tour victory No. 80:

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Highlights: Tiger's final round at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 23, 2018, 10:40 pm

Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship on Sunday by two strokes. Here are the highlights from the final round.

Woods got off to a great start with a birdie on No. 1.

He then made eight straight pars to close out the front nine in 1 under par. Woods started the back nine with a bogey at 10, but he rebounded with this birdie at No. 13.

Woods leaked some oil coming in with bogeys at 15 and 16, but this par putt on 17 gave him a crucial two-stroke lead heading to 18.

For the fourth straight day, Woods smoked his drive on 18.

A huge gallery followed Woods up the 18th hole.

Woods missed his birdie putt on 18, but it was an easy par for a two-stroke victory and win No. 80.