Phil stole the show again. And put a thrill in the fans at 16 as he just misses an ace.
Padraig Harrington signing with 49er's on Monday? Maybe.
And finally...which one did you bet on? The caddie races!!!!
Phil stole the show again. And put a thrill in the fans at 16 as he just misses an ace.
Padraig Harrington signing with 49er's on Monday? Maybe.
And finally...which one did you bet on? The caddie races!!!!
In our weekly dissection of PGA TOUR winners, we usually see that the victor is dominant in at least one statistical category or is ranked in the top ten in two or more statistical categories. Before looking at the numbers Tiger Woods put up at Torrey Pines, a little recent history for new readers is in order.
By way of review, recall that Dustin Johnson in his season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions victory (read it here) put up the following statistics:
--ranked 2nd in Driving Distance;
--ranked 2nd in Greens in Regulation;
--ranked 9th in Ball Striking;
--ranked 2nd in Total Putting;
--ranked 3rd in Putting Average;
--ranked 2nd in Birdie or Better Conversion Percentage;
--ranked 6th in Strokes Gained-Putting.
In the second event of the year,TOUR rookie Russell Henley captured the Sony Open in Hawaii (read it here) as he put up the following numbers:
--ranked T8th in Driving Accuracy;
--ranked 2nd in Greens in Regulation;
--ranked T4th in Scrambling;
--ranked 1st Strokes Gained-Putting.
The Tour moved to California and Brian Gay captured the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation (read it here) as he put up these numbers:
--ranked 2nd in Driving Accuracy;
--ranked T4th in Greens in Regulation;
--ranked 4th in Scrambling.
Let's turn to Tiger's stats in the Farmers.
Driving Distance: Woods ranked 2nd at 307.3 yards. The leader for the tournament was Robert Garrigus at 310.3 yards. Garrigus finished 6th.
Driving Accuracy: Woods ranked T17th as he hit 57.14% of his fairways. For the most part though, until he had some difficulties in the final round, Woods was just fine off the tee. The leader for the tournament was Bryce Molder at 78.57%. Molder finished T68th. Interesting sidenote: Molder led in Strokes Gained-Putting at the Humana Challenge.
Greens In Regulation: Woods ranked T34th as he hit 69.44% of his greens. Charles Howell III was ranked 1st at 79.17%; Howell finished T9th.
Proximity to Hole: Woods ranked T49th at 38'0". Brandt Snedeker,winner at the Farmers last year, was ranked 1st at 30'0". Snedeker finished T2nd.
Scrambling: In the 2012 season, Woods was ranked 4th overall in Scrambling which was a huge improvement from his 2011 rank of 141st. In the Farmers, Woods was ranked 42nd as he saved par or better 59.09% of the time after missing the green in regulation. The leaders were Snedeker and Nick Watney at 77.78%. Watney finished T4th.
Strokes Gained-Putting: Woods ranked 28th in at .689 strokes gained per round. Josh Teater, who finished T2nd, was ranked 1st at 2.736 strokes per round.
Woods was able to win at Torrey Pines even though he was ranked in the top ten in only one category--Driving Distance. So, how did he win?
One answer is his performance on par 5's
From 1997-2009, and not counting 2008 because he missed much of the year with injury, Woods dominated on the par 5's. He was ranked either first or second in every one of those years in the category Par 5 Birdie or Better Leaders.
Though it is early in the season and he has only four official rounds for statistical purposes, Woods managed birdie or better on eleven of the sixteen par 5 holes he played at Torrey Pines which included an eagle in each of the first two rounds. His 68.75% Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage at the Farmers is a reminder of his dominant form of his past glory days. And while a 68.75% in such statistic is not realistic to maintain over a full season---his best season was 61.89% in 2000--would it surprise anyone if he was once again in the top two or three by the end of the year?
Here is another thought to ponder: In 2012, a decent year with three wins, Woods had only four eagles on the entire year (all holes--not just par5's) and ranked T132nd. He now has half that many eagles after just one tournament.
A few final thoughts:
--Woods wins at Torrey Pines because he knows the course better than any other player and his record there proves it. Eight times in his career, including the 91 hole victory in the U.S. Open in 2008, Woods has left Torrey Pines with the trophy in his trunk and the winner's check in his wallet.
--Woods has won 75 of 280 official events on the PGA TOUR that he has started.
--Woods is now within seven victories of the all time career victory mark of 82 set by Sam Snead.
The third tournament of the year on the PGA TOUR, the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, concluded with three-man playoff between Brian Gay, Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth with Gay winning on the second hole over Howell. Lingmerth had bogeyed the first playoff hole to drop out of contention. Gay, who had started the day six strokes back of 54-hole leader Scott Stallings, shot a final round 63 and claimed his fourth career victory.
We will walk tee to green and look at several key metrics to see how Gay performed against the statistical leader in each of those categories.
Driving Distance: As I discussed in the entry about Russell Henley's victory, driving distance is a stat which measures only two drives per round or eight drives over an entire tournament and thus can be a little misleading.
Gay, who has never been a long hitter, averaged 279.9 yards and ranked 75th. The tournament leader was Luke List who averaged 321.8 yards. List finished in a T65th
Driving Accuracy: Another misleading stat in that a drive two feet off the fairway may be every bit as good as a drive in the fairway which may have a more difficult approach shot. However, the more one plays from the middle of the fairway, the better the chances of a decent score on that hole.
Gay hit 81.48% of his fairways to tie for 2d. Kevin Stadler hit 83.33% of his fairways and finished in a T27th.
Greens in Regulation: This stat measures the percent of time a player hits the green in regulation. The regulation stroke is two strokes less than par for any hole.
Gay hit 83.33 to T4th in GIR. Jerry Kelly hit 87.50% of his greens and yet finished only T47. Mr. Kelly, David Stockton is on line 1, please pick up.
Proximity to Hole: Measure the average distance the ball comes to rest from the hole after the player's approach shot an the approach shot must not originate from or around the green which is defined as within thirty yards of the edge of the green.
Gay averaged 31'3" and ranked 42nd. Tag Ridings averaged 21'7" and finished T56th.
Scrambling: Measure the percent of time a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better.
Gay successfully scrambled 83.33% on his missed greens and ranked 4th. Carl Pettersson's scrambling percentage was 89.47% and he finished T47th.
Strokes Gained--Putting: This might be the most complex stat to explain so I will defer to the PGA TOUR definition which calculates it as "the number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player's strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player's Strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played."
Gay picked up .899 strokes per round and ranked 25th. Bryce Molder picked up 3.383 strokes per round and finished T16th.
Some other numbers for Gay who is quietly one of the better short game players on the TOUR. These numbers are through his first two tournaments of 2013:
--he has three putted only one green in 144 holes (ranks T20th as there are 19 others who have yet to three-putt this year);
--he has made 99 of 105 putts inside ten feet (ranks 8th);
--he has made 44 birdies against 10 bogeys for a 4.40 birdie to bogey ratio (ranks 9th.)
Thank you for reading. Check back next week for the stats on the winner of the Farmers Insurance Open.
Over Sunday morning coffee, while waiting for the Humana Challenge and football to come on later, I decided to take a look some final 2012 stats to get a handle on how the top ten players in the world achieve their lofty status.
First, let's look at the top ten players in the world as of the end of 2012 and also their rank as of the end of 2011. The Official World Golf Rankings is measured over 104 weeks; therefore we need to see rankings for 2012 and 2011.
2012 Rank 2011
1. Rory McIlroy 3
2. Luke Donald 1
3. Tiger Woods 23
4. Justin Rose 17
5. Adam Scott 5
6. Louis Oosthuizen 39
7. Lee Westwood 2
8. Bubba Watson 21
9. Jason Dufner 33
10. Brandt Snedeker 38
While there are a multitude of statistical categories to look at---I never get tired of finding some new nuggets of fascinating data---the game of golf essentially boils down to: 1) driving the ball, 2) approach shot to the green, 3) often a shot to have opportunity to save par and 4) putting. With this in mind, I looked at five key statistical categories from tee to green to determine how the very best do it, discover their strengths and weaknesses and see how their performances translate into their Money Rank.
The five stats I looked at were:
1.Total Driving (TD)
2. Greens or Fringe in Regulation (G/Fr-Reg)
3. Scrambling (SCR)
4.Strokes Gained-Putting (SGP)
5. Three-Putt Avoidance (3-Putt AVD).
You may be asking yourself why I used Greens or Fringe in Regulation instead of the more traditional Greens in Regulation (GIR). My rationale is that a player would get credit for hitting a green in regulation and might have a 60-foot putt with a lot of break and a possible 3-jack while another player hits the fringe in regulation and has a pretty simple up and down from 10 feet. I think the G/Fr-Reg stat takes more information into account and gives us a better read on a player's ability.
The graph below lays out the rank in each statistical category I looked at for the top ten players in the world. Where there is no data (xxx) for players in 2011, it is because of injury, lack of official PGA TOUR events or otherwise not qualifying for that particular statistical measure.
I think you'll be quite surprised with several of the numbers and be interested to see how players progressed or regressed by observing their movements on the stats lines.
TD G/Fr-Reg SCR SGP 3-Putt AVD Money
McIlroy 54 20 33 82 T96 1
2011 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
Donald 121 84 5 3 T7 14
2011 T127 59 8 1 1 1
Woods 6 1 4 35 T71 2
2011 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
Rose 15 6 12 129 T112 7
2011 T68 23 95 96 T149 18
Scott 28 52 128 148 162 25
2011 5 20 T62 143 178 11
O'sthzn 7 5 137 92 T112 15
2011 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx 117
W'wood 13 11 191 175 T159 24
2011 xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
Watson 31 2 110 157 T51 5
2011 T35 10 184 T120 154 16
Dufner 4 14 8 80 T121 4
2011 T60 67 70 116 152 21
Snedeker 134 143 10 1 T21 3
2011 T97 149 22 10 39 14
A few observations:
--For all the talk about Adam Scott anchoring his putter, his numbers in SGP and 3-Putt AVD have not significantly improved;
--notice that Luke Donald is outsidethe top 100 in TD in both years but is in the top 10 in SCR, SGP and 3-Putt Avd in both years;
--in 2012, Lee Westwood finished 191st in SCR--this was last place in that category;
--Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson improved in every statistical category from 2011 to 2012 and their wallets proved it.
Thank you for reading.
"You drive for show but you putt for dough."
That timeless piece of golf wisdom was on display once again this past weekend at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Russell Henley, 23, playing in his first PGA TOUR event cruised to a three-shot victory mainly on the strength of his dominating performance on the greens at the Waialea Country Club. Let's walk from to to green and look at several key statistical numbers to get a better understanding of how this rookie from the University of Georgia won the second event of the year.
Driving Distance: This is perhaps one of the most overrated and most misunderstood stats among golf fans. The PGA TOUR, for purposes of this statistic, measures only two drives per round per player. To counter the effects of any wind, the TOUR measures on holes going in different directions and then posts the average yardage from the two drives. So Player 1 might outdrive Player 2 on two holes per round but may not truly be a longer hitter than Player 2 overall.
Henley ranked 51st in Driving Distance at 293 yards. The tournament leader was Scott Piercy at 322.3 yards. Piercy finished the Sony Open T15th.
Driving Accuracy: This is another misunderstood stat. Driving accuracy measures the percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway regardless of what club was used. Why is the stat misunderstood? Player 1 hits the fairway but might have a tree or trees in his line for his second shot to the green (dogleg left). Player 2 just misses the fairway to the right but has a nice lie and a clear shot to the green. Which player is in better shape? Player 1 gets credit for finding the fairway and player does not. Get it?
Henley ranked T8th in Driving Accuracy as he hit the fairway on 55.36% of his tee shots. Bart Bryant and Brian Stuard were T1st in this category. Bryant finished T41st and Stuard finished T5th .
Greens in Regulation: This stat measure the percent of time a player hits the green in regulation. The regulation stroke is two strokes less than par for any hole.
Henley finished 2nd in GIR as he hit 60 of 72 greens or 83.33%. The leader for the tournament was Vijay Singh who hit 61 of 72 or 84.72%. Singh finished T20th.
Proximity to Hole: measures the distance to the hole when the approach shot lands on the green.
Henley ranked 14th in this category at an average of 30 feet 4 inches. Webb Simpson ranked 1st at 26 feet 6 inches. Simpson finished T 20th.
Scrambling:The percent of time a player makes par or better after missing the green in regulation.
Henley was T4th at 83.33%. Recall that he missed 12 greens in regulation. Math tells us that Henley saved par (or better) on 10 of those occasions. The leader in this category was Tim Clark at 89.47 %. Clark finished 2nd.
Strokes Gained Putting: This might be the most complex stat to explain so I will defer to the PGA TOUR definition which calculates it as "the number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player's strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player's Strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played."
This is where Henley won the tournament. His SGP number was 3.042. Folks, that is 3.042 strokes gained PER ROUND!!. Multiply that by 4 and Henley gained 12.167 strokes on the greens for the entire tournament. Compare that to the 2012 statistical leader, Brandt Snedeker who averaged .860 strokes gained per round for the entire year and and 55.874 strokes gained for the entire year over 65 rounds of golf.
There you have it. Numbers do not lie; they tell a story. And, just as Dustin Johnson won at Kapalua on the strength of his putting, so too did Russell Henley show what great putting can do. A lesson for all those people who spend countless hours hitting driver and spending big money on a club that gives most people little return.
By now you probably know that Dustin Johnson won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on the island of Maui after three days of weather related delays. But you may not know,statistically speaking, what DJ's strong points were in victory. That's what we'll look at today. You may be surprised by some of the numbers. Keep in mind, however, that the TOC was only a 30-man field.
We all know that Johnson is long---"stupid long"---off the tee as Tiger Woods likes to say. So, on a course with a lot of elevation changes and downhill rolls, it's not surprising to learn that he had five drives of 375 yards or more over the 54-hole tournament.
The following is a breakdown of Johnson's statistical performance on ten key measurements from tee to green:
Driving Distance: this stat measure only the drives on two holes per round and uses holes facing in two different directions to counter the effects of wind. Thus, only six drives were measured. Johnson ranked 2nd (Bubba Watson was 1st) at 279.5 yards.
Driving Accuracy: measures the percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway regardless of what club was used. Johnson ranked 30th as he hit only 23 of 45 possible fairways for a 51.11 percentage.
Total Driving: computed by totaling a player's rank in both driving distance and driving accuracy. Johnson ranked 18th as his driving accuracy numbers drove his overall number higher in a category where lower number is better.
Greens in Regulation Percentage: measures the percent of time a player gets his ball on the putting green in regulation which is determined by subtracting two from the par score for the hole. Johnson ranked 2nd as he hit 48 of 54 greens in regulation for 88.89%.
Ball Striking: is the total of a player's rank in both Total Driving and Greens in Regulation. Johnson ranked 9th with a score of 20.
Scrambling: the percent of time a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better. Johnson was 18th as he missed six greens in regulation but still made par or better three times (50%).
Total Putting: uses a combination of six different putting statistics of which five are putting performance from various distances and the sixth is Three-Putt Avoidance. Johnson ranked 2nd overall in Total Putting.
Putting Average: measure the average number of putts per GIR. Johnson ranked 3rd as he averaged 1.75 putts per 48 greens hit in regulation or 84 putts overall.
Birdie or better conversion percentage: the percentage of a player makes birdie or better after hitting the green in regulation. Johnson ranked 2nd as he made 18 birdies on 48 greens hit in regulation.
Strokes Gained--Putting: The number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player's strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player's Strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played. Johnson ranked 6th in this category as he gained a total of 2.874 strokes on the green.
Hope GST 101 was helpful. If you have questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.
For GST 102, we will look at two putting statistics you may hear when watching golf broadcasts or listening on the radio:Total Putting and Putting Average.
To determine Total Putting, the PGA TOUR looks at six different putting statistics: putting from 3-5 feet, putting from 5-10 feet, putting from 10-15 feet, putting from 15-20 feet, putting from 20-25 feet and three putt avoidance from greater than 25 feet.
For the first five of those categories, the PGA TOUR would define each category as "for all holes where putting distance was determined with a laser, the percent of putts made when the ball is greater than __ feet and less than or equal to __ feet from the hole. In order to be ranked, a minimum of ten attempts must be made."
For three putt avoidance from greater than 25 feet, the PGA TOUR looks at "those holes where putting distance was determined with a laser, the percent of time 3 or more putts were taken for a hole (total 3-putts, 4-putts, etc./total holes played) when the initial putt is greater than or equal to 25 feet from the hole. NOTE: In order to be ranked in this YTD statistic, a minimum of ten attempts must be made."
To then compute the figures and arrive at the Total Putting number "each statistic is given a numerical weighting based on the frequency of putts attempted from each distance. The players rank in each of the statistics used is multiplied by the corresponding weigh factor, totalled, and divided by the number of statistics used to produce the Total Putting Value."
For the 2012 season, Luke Donald was far and away the leader in Total Putting with a figure of 16.8. The next best on the Tour was Brandt Snedeker with a figure of 61.8.
Putting Average is a completely different measurement. It is defined by the PGA TOUR as "the average number of putts per green in regulation. By using greens hit in regulation, we are able to eliminate the effects of chipping close and one-putting in the computation." Another way to think of Putting Average is Greens In Regulation Putts/Greens in Regulation.
Example:in 2012, Jonas Blixt took 1,378 GIR Putts after he hit 802 Greens in Regulation (he was ranked T 134th in GIR) for an average of 1.718. Brandt Snedeker (no surprise there) was 2nd in Putting Average at 1.725.
Remember in GST 101(http://bit.ly/UNetNm) we saw that Boo Weekley was number 1 in Balll Striking and number 1 in Total Driving . If we look at his numbers in Total Putting and Putting Average, we will see an altogether different scenario. In Total Putting for 2012, Weekley ranked 189th of 191 players ranked. In Putting Average, Weekley ranked 187th of 191 players ranked. Contrast Weekley with Luke Donald. Donald was 112th in Ball Striking and 121st in Total Driving but was number 1 in Total Putting and was number 14 in Putting Average.
How many times have you been watching a golf tournament and the announcer says, "Harry Hooker is a great ball striker---he's number three on the tour in ball striking." And you think to yourself: That's great, but I wish I knew what they meant by ball striking.
Or the announcer will say, " Sammy Slicer leads the tour in total driving." What exactly is "total driving?"
Let's delve into the statistical language of the PGA TOUR for an understanding of "Ball Striking" and "Total Driving." A basic understanding of each term will require an understanding of several other terms. But, for now, let's try to keep this as simple as possible.
"Ball Striking" is a pretty simple concept to grasp if you know the underlying components that go into the computation of that statistic. It is computed "by totaling a player's rank in both Total Driving and Greens in Regulation." For example, in 2012, Boo Weekley was number 1 in Total Driving and number 5 in Greens in Regulation for a combined value of 6 in overall Ball Striking. The lower the combined value, the better the overall rank. Jason Dufner was number 2 in Ball Striking with an overall value of 12 (number 4 in Total Driving and number 8 in Greens in Regulation.)
OK, but what is meant by "Total Driving?" Total Driving "is computed by totaling a player's rank in both Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy." Again, the lower the overall value is the better the rank in the category. In 2012, Boo Weekley was number 1 in Total Driving with a value of 74 (number 36 in Driving Distance and number 38 in Driving Accuracy.)
Greens in Regulation Percentage is quite simple. A green is considered to be hit in regulation "if any portion of the ball is touching the putting surface after the GIR stroke has been taken." The GIR stroke is defined as two strokes less than par. On the green in two strokes on a par 4 is on the green in regulation; on in three strokes on a par 5 is on the green in regulation. To arrive at the GIR percentage, the computation is greens hit in regulation divided by number of holes played.
Total Driving gives us two more terms to understand: Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy. Thankfully, before our brains explode, these two terms do not incorporate other terms into their computations.
Driving Distance is "the average number of yards per measured drive." Let's clear up a common misunderstanding. The PGA TOUR does not measure every single drive hit by every player. To compute Driving Distance, drives are measured on two holes per round. The Tour selects two holes which face in opposite directions to counter the effects of wind when measuring drives. Finally, remember that "drives are measured to the point at which they come to rest regardless of whether they are in the fairway or not." Bubba Watson was number 1 in Driving Distance at 315.5 yards per measured drive .
Driving Accuracy is defined as "the percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway (regardless of club)." Jerry Kelly was number 1 in Driving Accuracy in 2012 as his drives hit the fairways 73% of the time (814 fairways hit divided by 1,115 possible fairways.)
I hope this explanation helps you better understand some of the golf terms used on golf broadcasts and makes your golf viewing more pleasurable.
Let's see, I did not have Webb Simpson winning the U.S. Open, I missed Ernie Els winning The Open Championship and Bubba Watson winning the Masters never entered my mind.
I must also confess up front that I did not have Charlie Beljan, Tommy " Two Gloves" Gainey, Kyle Stanley, Jonas Blixt, John Huh or George McNeill as winners in 2012.
And I told anyone who would listen that Team USA was a lock to win the Ryder Cup.
So, you ask, who am I to make predictions about golf surprises in 2013?
Well, let me tell you. I did get one of my prognostications correct.
That's right, I had Rory winning another major. At least I've got that going for me.
Before I fearlessly jump into my 2013 surprises, I must explain what is meant by a "surprise." A "surprise" is an event or occurrence which is not foreseen as being likely during the upcoming year by golf watchers and golf writers but which, in my estimation, has a 25% chance of happening. With that, let's jump into my top ten surprises for 2013.
Surprise No. 1: After a disappointing start to the new year, Tiger Woods parts company with Sean Foley and announces that he will never work with another swing coach again. He explains to the media that "this is all a process and it's something I must work at on my own."
Woods then rattles off victories at the WGC-Cadillac at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill setting up high expectations for the Masters. Foley is approached by numerous publishing houses about writing a book on his experiences with Tiger.
Surprise No. 2. Justin Rose, a Sean Foley disciple, wins his first major by taking the Masters. The victory is especially sweet for Foley as Rose, tied for 2d place with Phil Mickelson after 54 holes and one stroke off the lead held by Woods and Adam Scott. On the practice green prior to the final round, Scott's caddy, Stevie Williams has a few choice words with Woods while Mickelson is overheard saying to Rose, "you're not gonna pull that Ryder Cup crap again, are you?" As Bubba Watson helps Rose put on his green jacket, he is heard mentioning to Rose that the Golf Boys are looking for new members.
Surprise No. 3. In a move that stuns the golf world, Miguel Angel Jiminez, 49, announces his retirement from professional golf. Jiminez, with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other, says that his new commitments with the Spanish Olympic ski team will not allow him the necessary time to devote to golf.
Surprise No. 4. At the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley are tied for the lead and are paired together going for the final round. In a surprise move, a Las Vegas hotel quickly puts out a line on how many times each player will back off of putts during their round. The line on Furyk is 7 and the line on Bradley is 8. Over/Under bets are allowed on each player or on the total of 15. Parlays are also accepted. In a 5 hour 37 minute final round marathon, both players go over their respective numbers------on the front nine-----and fail to break par. Jason Dufner, one stroke back at the start of the final round, fires a blistering 64 to win his first major as Furyk and Bradley fade to a tie for third place.
In the NBC telecast booth, Johnny Miller says " Dufner has the type of game and demeanor young kids should emulate, but I'm not really fond of the chewing tobacco."
Surprise No. 5. At the trophy presentation, as Bob Costas of NBC Sports is interviewing Dufner and trying to elicit more than a three word response, a weird noise is heard in the background. Suddenly Andrew Dudley, a/k/a Jungle Bird, appears on televisions screens across the country for a split second before USGA Executive Director Mike Davis body slams him to the ground. Later, over a hot mic when he thinks NBC is of the air, Costas is overheard by millions as he says, "I hope that guy isn't carrying a gun; golf and guns just do not mix."
Surprise No. 6. At The Open Championship at Muirfield Golf Links, Ian Poulter overcomes a two-shot deficit to defeat Luke Donald and Lee Westwood and win his first major. Later, when asked to compare winning The Open to the Ryder Cup, Poulter shrugs and says, "this is nice, don't get me wrong, but nothing is as special as the Ryder Cup. I just feel bad that it was my Ryder Cup teammates I had to beat to win this."
Surprise No. 7. Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki announce their engagement and their plans to marry sometime "after the season is over at an undisclosed location." McIlroy also announces that Tiger Woods will be his best man. An unemotional Woods was overheard to say "I had to let him go sometime. But I'm very happy for both of them and I wish them the very best. Marriage is a process you know, and you have to keep working at it."
Surprise No. 8. At the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, NY, Justin Rose wins his second major of the year as he holds on to defeat Brandt Snedeker by one shot when Snedeker bogeys the final hole. Rose is effusive in his praise for Sean Foley. Foley, in response to a question, says he has no need and no desire to write a book on Tiger Woods. "I'd rather write a book on Justin Rose," Foley says with a smile.
Surprise No. 9. Rory McIlroy fails to win a major in 2013. Nike golf executives panic.
Surprise No. 10. For the fifth consecutive year, Tiger Woods fails to win a major. Does that qualify as a surprise anymore?
By Mike Verrastro
Follow Mike on Twitter @mjv1230
Looking at the calendar and trying to ignore the snow here in upstate NY, I see there are only 15 weeks separating us from the first Major of 2013. And while it may be too early to cue the commercial in which we we hear Jim Nantz say "A tradition unlike any other---the Masters on CBS," it's never too early to talk about best players who have never won a major.
It's one of the great talking points in all of golf. Because whatever opinion you have, someone else can usually name another player who has better credentials. And in the dead of winter it is a great way to pass a night with your golfing buddies.
When I think about best players who have never won a major, four criteria come to my mind: longevity or age, official world golf ranking, money earned and top five finishes in majors in last five years. Let me discuss these criteria in greater detail.
Longevity or age: I am looking for players who have been around and not some overnight sensations who grab our attention for a year or two and fade away. With that in mind, I established a minimum age of 30 to be included on this list. In their thirties, many players are just starting to reach their peak and have worked through the issues of being on golf's biggest stage. Priorities are in order and the temptations of youth are behind them. And if they are still in the game in their thirties, the golf gods are smiling down on them.
Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): My standard is that a player must be in the top 25 in the world to meet this criteria. We could talk about all the thirty-somethings that are out there, but if they are below the top 25 in the world then are they really one of the "best" players to never win a major?
Money Earned: Difficult standard given the inflated purses that are out there. But when you combine this element with Longevity/Age, I think a figure of $20 million in career earnings is a fair measure of ability. That dollar figure demonstrates achievement, dedication and perseverance.
Top 5 finish in a major in last five years: A top 5 finish in a major in the last five years shows us golf fans that a player has what it takes to compete in the big events. Of course, the flip side of this is if a player has many top 5 finishes but fails to clinch the deal. Then again, Jack Nicklaus had 19 second place and 9 third place finishes in majors.
So, with these criteria established, I settled down with a bottle of Evan Williams EggNog (highly recommended) and immersed myself in the pgatour.com stats page. Here are the five names, in no certain order, I designate as the best players to never win a major based on the criteria above. I also include some brief statistical notes form 2012 on each player to point out strengths and weaknesses. I will leave it to you and your friends to argue the merits of these selections.
1. Luke Donald: Pretty much a no-brainer selection, this former number 1 player in the world just turned 35 a few weeks ago. Donald has five career victories on the PGA TOUR.
Career earnings: over $28 million.
Majors last five years: T4th 2011 Masters; T 5th 2012 Open.
Stat strengths: No. 3 in Strokes Gained-Putting; No.1 in Total Putting.
Room for improvement: No. 156 on the PGA TOUR in Greens in Regulation Percentage on approach shots from 75 yards or less.
2. Sergio Garcia: Seems like only yesterday when we saw a 19 year old Garcia skipping and scissor kicking down the fairway in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah in pursuit of Tiger Woods. Garcia, who turns 33 in early January, 2013 has eight career PGA TOUR victories to his credit.
Career earnings: over $30 million.
Majors last five years: T 2d 2008 PGA Championship
Stat strengths: No. 7 in 3-Putt Avoidance; No. 3 in Putting from 3-5 feet (93.48%)
Room for improvement: No. 179 in Greens in Regulation from 75-100 yards; No. 173 in Putting from 15-25 feet
3. Adam Scott: Missed out on his first career Major when he bogeyed the last four holes at The Open earlier this year and allowed Ernie Els to sneak in. Scott has eight career PGA TOUR victories including the 2004 Players Championship and the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Scott will turn 33 in July, 2013.
Career earnings: over $28 million.
Majors last five years: T 2d 2011 Masters; 2nd 2012 The Open
Stat strengths: No. 6 in Scoring Average; No. 4 in Putting from greater than 25 feet.
Room for improvement: No. 162 in 3-Putt Avoidance; No. 145 in Strokes Gained--Putting.
4. Justin Rose: The man who is probably best remembered for making the big putts on the 17th and 18th holes at the 2012 Ryder Cup to defeat Phil Mickelson. Rose will turn 33 in July, 2013. With four career victories on the PGA TOUR, Rose seems primed for big things in the near future.
Career earnings: over $21 million
Majors last five years: T 3rd 2012 PGA Championship
Stat Strengths: No.1 in Greens in Regulation Percentage; No. 4 in Sand save Percentage
Room for Improvement: No. 181 in Putting from 5-10 feet; No. 129 in Strokes Gained--Putting
5. Matt Kuchar: The 2012 Players Championship winner turns 35 in June, 2013 and has recorded four career PGA TOUR victories.
Career earnings: over $20 million
Majors last five years: T3rd 2012 Masters
Stat Strengths: No. 5 Scoring Average; No. 7 Scrambling
Room for improvement: No. 169 in Greens in Regulation Percentage from 100-125 yards; No. 137 in Putting from 15-20 feet.
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