Numbers Dont Lie Do They
If you consistently put up the best scores on the PGA Tour, like Tiger Woods did again in 2009, you will lead the Tour in scoring average, as Woods did this past season.
Sometimes, though, stats can confuse and befuddle and mislead.
Here’s a look back at the numbers in ’09.
We saw Woods more agitated than usual on the course this year.
The tomahawked club into the brush at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the bounced club into the crowd in Australia, the more pronounced cursing, they were signs of heightened frustration. Of course, it’s harder to tell now what was really going on in his head and heart.
The numbers, though, reveal what must have been a source of frustration.
While Woods is one of the best putters who ever lived, he ranked 158th on the PGA Tour in putting this year from the 15-to-25-foot range. He was first in that stat in ’08.
Here’s another notable item in Woods’ ’09 stats. As much as we want to blame his tee shots when he’s off his game, he ranked 12th in total driving this past season, up from 197th in ’08.
A lot of big names saw their scoring averages balloon this past year.
That involved different kinds of pain for different men.
A look at the numbers and what they meant:
Adam Scott 71.72 (+1.63).
Scott had his worst year on the PGA Tour, enduring six consecutive cuts in the spring while logging just one top-10 finish in 19 starts. Scott showed signs he’s finding his old form, though, winning the Australian Open earlier this month.
Anthony Kim 70.51 (+1.23).
Kim had his moments, tying for second at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, finishing third at the AT&T National and tying for third at the RBC Canadian Open, but those were his lone top-10s a year after he won twice. It was a strange year for Kim, because the scoring average makes it look worse than it was. His Masters’ effort typifies the year. He made a record 11 birdies in the second round at Augusta National but finished the championship tied for 20th. Injuries and an overly ambitious worldwide scheduled were surely factors. While Kim has fought a reputation for having too much fun off the course, he says he’s committed to fitness and getting better.
Phil Mickelson 70.22 (+1.05)
Given the tumult of dealing with his wife and mother both being diagnosed with breast cancer, Mickelson had a strong year, regardless of the scoring average. He won three times on the PGA Tour and also won the HSBC Champions World Golf Championship event in China.
Vijay Singh 70.66 (+1.08)
Knee surgery at the start of the year doesn’t bode well when you’re 46 years old. Near year’s end, Singh said the knee still bothered him when he returned home at the end of a day. Singh will turn 47 on Feb. 22.
Padraig Harrington 70.23 (+.95)
A lot was made of Harrington’s desire to improve his swing after he won two majors in ’08, but despite his drop off early in the year he finished strong. In his last six PGA Tour starts of ’09, Harrington’s finishes looked like this: T-2, T-10, T-2, T-4, T-6, T-4. Throw out some untimely wild wedges into the water, and his finish would have been even better.
Sergio Garcia 70.06 (+.94)
Garcia revealed that a breakup with his girlfriend, Morgan Leigh Norman, daughter to Greg Norman, hurt his confidence and game this past season. Now, there’s word that his right hand is still bothering him after he hurt it last month in the Dubai World Championship.
MORE ON SCORING AVERAGES
Zach Johnson enjoyed terrific improvement in scoring in ’09.
Johnson’s scoring average was exactly a full stroke better this past year than in ‘08, jumping from 70.60 to 69.60. He won twice (Sony Open, Valero Texas Open).
Scoring averages don’t always register with what your eyes tell you, though.
Take Brian Gay. He found something special in ’09, winning in a pair of dominant performances at the Verizon Heritage and St. Jude Classic. He did this in a year in which his scoring average actually went up .38 to 70.40. His putting explains a lot, though. He was No. 1 on Tour in total putting, a combination of six ShotLink putting categories.
And then there’s Stewart Cink, who broke through to win the British Open in a season in which his scoring average went up nearly a half stroke (.44). He didn’t finish among the top 75 in putting average (92nd), GIR (144th) or total driving (97th) but had a year most of his peers would have relished.
Robert Garrigus led the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 312.0 yards per drive, ending Bubba Watson’s run of three consecutive long-distance titles.
While there were 47 recorded drives of 400 yards or longer this season, Garrigus didn’t hit any of them. His longest drive of record was 381 yards, which was tied for the 345th longest drive of the season.
Those 47 drives of 400 yards or longer were a PGA Tour record, 35 more than were recorded last year.
Charley Hoffman hit the longest recorded drive this year – 467 yards at the first hole in the third round of the Valero Texas Open – as one of two he blasted beyond the 400-yard mark. Dustin Johnson recorded five blasts of 400 yards or more, the most on Tour. Andres Romero was next with four.
DRIVE FOR SHOW AND . . .
Joe Durant led the Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 74.9 percent of his fairways. He was third in greens in regulation, hitting 70.58 percent. That kind of ball striking might lead you to believe Durant enjoyed a stellar season, but he finished 182nd on the money list. His putter, of course, explains everything. He was 137th in putting average.
By the way, it marked the second straight year that the player who led the tour in driving accuracy failed to retain fully exempt playing privileges. Olin Browne led the Tour in driving accuracy in ’08 and finished 204th on the money list.
MORE ON BALL STRIKING
Jonathan Byrd was second in hitting greens in regulation, trailing only John Senden. He jumped from 149th in GIR in ’08. Byrd also finished first in total driving. That’s a terrific combination that helped him finish No. 1 on Tour in ball striking. His putting average wasn’t bad, ranking 42nd on the PGA Tour, but Byrd’s overall performance wasn’t as stellar as you would suspect based on those numbers. He finished 67th on the money list.
What none of these stats can measure is what’s happening in a man’s personal life and how it’s affecting him. Byrd’s father, James, died in July from brain cancer. He’d been sick a couple years. Numbers can’t give us the total picture of a player’s game. Mostly, they’re clues.
Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie
While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.
There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.
According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)
Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.
McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1
They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.
McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.
On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.
Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
12/1: Tony Finau
14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
20/1: Francesco Molinari
25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner
30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka
40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day
50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate
80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na
100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman
Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience
Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.
It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.
Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.
“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.
“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.
At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.
Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.
“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.
“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.
“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”
After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.
“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”
Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.
“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.
“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”
On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.
Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.
“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”
Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.
At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.
At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.
Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.
“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”
Her overall assessment of her day?
“It was a great experience,” she said.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.