Stats & Info: GOLF
May, 12, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Richard Heathcote/Getty ImagesTiger Woods had the right touch in his PLAYERS Championship win.
The wins keep coming for Tiger Woods, at a pace unlike any other year in which he's been a professional golfer.
Here's a recap of the best notes from his win at the PLAYERS Championship on Sunday.
• This was Woods’ 300th career PGA TOUR start and his 78th career victory. Woods has done well in round-number starts. He also won his 100th and 200th career starts.
• This was Woods’ fourth win in seven events this season. It’s the fewest starts he’s needed to reach four wins in any season in his career and marks only the second time he’s had four wins before June 1 (the other was in 2000, a year in which he won nine tour events).
• Woods has now won 53 of 57 tournaments, when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes.
• Woods was a tournament-best 12-under on the par-5s this week. It was the second time this season that Woods led the field in par-5 scoring.
He also did it in his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has won all four events this season in which he was 9-under or better or the par-5s.
• Woods’ average approach shot from the fairway stopped a season-best 26 feet, 5 inches from the pin during the Players Championship. His irons were the key.
He led the field in proximity to the hole from the fairway on shots from 100 yards or longer (27 feet, 8 inches).
Woods hit the green or fringe in regulation a season-high 79 percent of the time, fourth-best in the field.
It was the eighth time in the last two seasons that he hit the green or fringe in regulation on more than 75 percent of his attempts. In those eight events, Woods has four wins and eight top-10 finishes.
• Woods has now won on Mother's Day twice in his career. The other was a one-shot win over Jay Don Blake in the 1998 BellSouth Classic. Woods has won on Father’s Day three times (all being U.S. Open wins).
• This was Woods’ 78th PGA TOUR win. The only person he’s chasing on the PGA TOUR wins list, Sam Snead (82 career wins), didn’t win his 78th PGA Tour event until he was 46. Woods is 37 years old.
April, 14, 2013
By Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesThe final holes of the 2013 Masters belonged to Adam Scott
The story of the 2013 Masters Tournament was how it came down to some incredibly clutch play from someone who'd never been fully rewarded for such an effort at this tournament previously.
For Adam Scott, his playoff win marked his first career major championship. He became the first Australian player to win the Masters and the first Australian to win any major since Geoff Oglivy won the 2006 U.S. Open.
Let’s run through some of the other notes to know from this triumph:
• Scott has been clutch on Sunday’s at The Masters the last four years, shooting a combined 15-under-par. The 69 he shot Sunday was actually the third-best of those four rounds, trailing the 66 he shot when he finished tied for eighth last year and the 67 he shot when he tied for second two years ago.
But he birdied three of the last six regulation holes to get to the playoff.
• Scott is the fifth player to win The Masters with a birdie in a sudden-death playoff, the first since Tiger Woods won on the first hole in 2005. The others to win with birdies are Fuzzy Zoeller (1979), Larry Mize (1987), and Nick Faldo (1989).
• This is the 5th straight year a player has won their first major title in a playoff.
That run started in 2009 when Stewart Cink won the Open Championship. Martin Kaymer followed that with a win in the 2010 PGA Championship. Keegan Bradley won in a playoff in that event as well in 2011. Then last year, Bubba Watson won the Masters in a playoff.
This marked only the second time that the Masters went to a playoff in back-to-back years. It also happened in 1989 and 1990, with Faldo winning on both occasions.
Cabrera was trying to join Faldo as the only players to win two Masters playoffs. His second-place finish bucked a trend of his finishing outside the top-30 in his seven previous major starts.
• Scott is the fourth major champion among the last six to use a long putter, joining Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (2012 Open Championship).
• Tiger Woods played the last 10 holes in 4-under par, good enough to net him a tie for fourth overall. That gave him 11 Top-5 finishes at the Masters, second to Jack Nicklaus' 15.
April, 9, 2013
By Chris Fallica | ESPN.com
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesBubba Watson will try to become the rare repeat Masters winner.With three wins this year, Tiger Woods has regained the No. 1 ranking in the world and dominated the headlines entering the Masters. But 18 majors have been played since Woods last won one, so let’s examine the “Front Nine” and key storylines surrounding other players with a chance to put on the Green Jacket Sunday afternoon.
Don’t Expect Bubba Watson to Repeat
Only three players have repeated as Masters champion and the list reads of golf royalty – Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus.
In fact, each of the last six Masters champions has finished outside the Top 15 each the following year. Considering Watson has just three Top 10s in 20 majors, don’t be surprised to see this trend continue.
The fall – and rise? – of McIlroy
Following a highly publicized equipment switch this season, McIlroy’s game was a work in progress to being the season.
In 2012, McIlroy had five Top-3 finishes and a scoring average of 68.3 entering the Masters. Over his first five events, he did not post a Top-3 finish and his scoring average was nearly three strokes worse than 2012. That was until a runner-up finish in the Valero Texas Open where McIlroy led the field in greens-in-regulation and shot a final round 66.
While McIlroy's game appears to be rounding into form, McIlroy too has had his problems on the weekend at Augusta, putting up Saturday-Sunday scores of 150 and 153 the last two years.
Phil Mickelson looks to equal Arnie and Tiger
Phil Mickelson has his own chase with history going. Mickelson is looking for his fourth Masters title, which is the same number Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have.
Since 2001, Mickelson has three wins and nine Top-5 finishes at Augusta, which is the same number of wins and one more Top-5 finish than Woods has in that span.
Mickelson’s biggest problem lately? Getting off to a good start.
In his last 11 majors, Mickelson has been over par after the first round in nine of them. His average position on the leaderboard after Round One—62nd.
Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker
The two are linked by near misses both at Augusta and last year at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Snedeker led after 36 holes, while Scott led by four on the back nine before his historic collapse. But their time is coming.
Scott made the cut in all four majors last year and had the best cumulative score of those players which did. He’s been in the Top 15 in six of the last eight majors and leads the TOUR in par 5 birdie-or-better percentage, an all important stat at Augusta.
If Snedeker is healthy, he also could capture his first major. In his last 16 events, Snedeker has a better scoring average and the same number of Top-5 finishes than Tiger Woods does in that stretch.
If you have won, forget about winning. And if you win, forget about winning
Each of the last six Masters winners did not have a win prior to the Masters the year they won the event. And for the last five Masters champions, it has been a struggle since.
The last five Masters champions have combined for three wins (all by Phil Mickelson) in 327 events since their Masters win.
The last Masters winner not named Mickelson to have a win since capturing the Green Jacket? 2007 winner Zach Johnson.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are among the top players in the world, but each is seeking his first major victory. And they couldn’t be any more opposite in their pursuit and shortcoming.
Donald has been a very poor starter in majors, as just five of his last 44 rounds on Thursday and Friday have been under par (31 have been over par). As a result, not surprisingly, Donald has missed the cut or finished outside the Top 20 in 26 of his 38 majors.
Westwood on the other hand has 7 Top 3 finishes in majors since 2008, which is the most by any player in history without a major title. Westwood led the Masters after the first round last year, but given he is 115th in strokes gained putting this year, his putter again could be his undoing.
Greens, Greens and more Greens
If there is one stat which has been the biggest harbinger of Masters success lately, it has been greens in regulation.
Ten of the last 13 Masters champions have been in the Top 4 in GIR for the tournament. And the three which were not – Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir – were each in the Top 12 in putting.
Some notable names atop the GIR ranking this year include 2012 winner Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.
Someone new again?
The last 17 majors have been won by 16 different players – only Rory McIlroy has two in that span. And nine of the last eleven major winners were first-time major winners.
Also interesting, since 2009, three players ranked inside the Top 10 have won a major and three players outside the Top 100 have won a major.
Runner-up Need Not Apply
Like Louis Oosthuizen’s chances after losing in a playoff last year?
After reading this, your hopes may be tempered some.
Just once in the last 40 years has someone won the Masters the year after finishing second. That was Ben Crenshaw in 1984. Before that? Jack Nicklaus in 1972.
So while Oosthuizen’s game stamps him as a contender. History says otherwise.
March, 25, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Scott Miller/ReutersWith his second Monday win of the season, Tiger is one win closer to Sam Snead's all-time record.
With his win Monday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods ascends to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since Oct. 30, 2010. This is Woods' 624th week at No. 1 -- that's exactly 12 years. That's twice as many years as Rory McIlroy has PGA Tour wins.
In the past, the No. 1 spot in the world has been a sort of major championship curse. Only 13 majors have been won by players ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Fortunately for Woods, he has accounted for 11 of those majors.
Eight times a charm
Monday's win was Woods' eighth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, joining Sam Snead (Greater Greensboro Open) as the only players to win a PGA Tour event eight times.
Woods has now won eight times at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, which becomes the second course (along with Torrey Pines) where Woods has eight wins. No other golfer in history has won at a single course more than six times.
Tiger appears to have regained his championship form, winning for the sixth time in his past 20 tournaments and the third time this season. No other golfer has more wins than Tiger’s six since the start of last season.
2013 marks the fourth time in Woods' career that he will have three wins entering the Masters. (This was his last event before Augusta.) In two of the previous three instances, he went on to win a major that year, but it wasn't the Masters.
Two of Woods' three wins this season have come on a Monday. Tiger won at Torrey Pines on a Monday when the Farmers Insurance Open lost a day to fog.
With his 77th career PGA Tour win, Tiger is five shy of matching Snead for the most victories in PGA Tour history. Snead won his 77th event at the Dallas Open in 1957 at the age of 45. Tiger is just 37 years old.
How he won
Is Tiger putting better than he ever has before? Woods registered a total of +2.81 strokes gained putting per round, a stat kept on tour since 2004. That's by far the best performance of his career. In fact, two of his three best weeks in the statistic have been in his past two starts.
Woods has dominated the par 5s at the Arnold Palmer Invitational throughout his career, and this week was no exception. He birdied all four par 5s in the final round, and played them 14-under for the tournament.
One final note, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau. Woods now has won the same tournament in each of back-to-back years 21 times since his first victory at Bay Hill in 2000. Over that span, all other PGA Tour players have combined to win the same PGA Tour tournament in consecutive years 22 times. Phil Mickelson leads that group with four; no other player has more than two.
March, 20, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaSince last year’s Arnold Palmer Invite, Woods has made 19 starts and has a PGA TOUR best five wins.
If he picks up his third this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods will regain the world No. 1 ranking on Monday. Tiger hasn’t been No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking since Lee Westwood moved past him on Halloween in 2010.
Woods has won seven times at Bay Hill, site of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, including a five-stroke win last year. This is one of four events Woods has won seven times, and he's one shy of the PGA TOUR record for most victories at a single event. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times from 1938 to 1965.
In 2013, Woods' wedge play has been a key to his success. In 2011 on approach shots ranging from 50 to 125 yards from the hole, Tiger's average approach was almost 21 feet from the hole. That ranked outside the top 160 on tour. This season, those approach shots are landing just inside 15 feet from the cup, which ranks tied for 13th.
If Tiger continues to hit his approach shots well, he may be able to continue his putting success. At the Honda Classic, Woods gained 1.1 strokes putting against the field, had eight misses inside of 10 feet and made just three putts outside of 15 feet. However, in his win two weeks ago at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Woods gained 7.9 strokes putting against the field, missed just three putts inside of 10 feet and made seven outside of 15 feet.
The week’s event is the last time we’ll see Tiger before the Masters. He will have multiple PGA TOUR wins entering the Masters for the eighth time in his career, and in six of the previous seven instances, Tiger went on to win at least one major.
If Tiger wins the Arnold Palmer, it would be the fourth time in his career he’s entered the Masters with three wins. He did not win the green jacket in any of the other three years, but he did finish in the top five twice, and his worst finish was 15th.
March, 4, 2013
By Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods needs to pick up his major-winning pace.
-- Jack Nicklaus on Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is four majors behind Nicklaus' record of 18. With Woods now 37, Jack may be on to something about Woods ‘getting with it.’
Only one player in golf history has won more than four majors after turning 37 -- Ben Hogan, with six.
Coincidentally, Hogan won the 1950 U.S. Open at age 37 (Woods’ age), when it was held at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia.
Where is this year’s Open to be held?
That’s right – Merion.
How difficult will winning FOUR or FIVE more majors be?
Consider this: there are only two players currently under age 40 who have multiple major titles to their name. Those players are Woods (14) and Rory McIlroy (2).
Only 18 players in the history of the sport have five majors or more. The only one of them still playing competitively on a regular basis today is Woods.
There’s a fascinating bit of symmetry for Nicklaus and Woods entering this major season. Nicklaus turned 37 in January of 1977.
Entering that April’s Masters, he had won 14 majors in 60 starts as a pro.
Woods turned 37 last December. Entering this year’s Masters – he’s won 14 majors in 60 starts as a pro.
Though he hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, consider this – he still has six more chances before he’s behind Jack’s pace. Nicklaus’ 15th major title came at the 1978 Open Championship.
February, 27, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
The PGA TOUR heads to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. this week, where the 2013 Honda Classic starts on Thursday. Rory McIlroy returns to PGA National where his victory last season propelled him to No. 1 in the world for the first time. But if history is any indication, returning as the defending champion doesn’t bode well for him.
This is the third time McIlroy will defend a tournament title on the PGA TOUR in his career, and in each of the previous two instances (2011 Wells Fargo Championship, 2012 U.S. Open), he missed the cut.
What else is working against McIlroy? Simply, his play so far in 2013. He’s played three competitive rounds since signing an endorsement deal with Nike in January, and none have gone as planned.
McIlroy shot a 75 in his first round of the season at Abu Dhabi, the worst round he’d ever played at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He followed that up with another 75 the next day and missed the cut.
Then, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play last weekend, he was eliminated in the first round by 16-seed Shane Lowry, becoming the fourth No. 1-overall seed to be eliminated in the opening round in the 15-year history of the event.
If he’s going to turn things around and be in contention this week, he’ll need to repeat last season's performance at “The Bear Trap.” “The Bear Trap” consists of holes 15, 16 and 17 -- one of the toughest three-hole stretches on tour. In fact, the 15th and 17th holes played as the two toughest par-3s on the PGA Tour back in 2011.
Last year, en route to victory, McIlroy was 3-under for the week at “The Bear Trap.” In his first three starts at the Honda Classic, he was a combined 16-over par on the three-hole stretch.
SUCCESS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, will also be in the field. Woods finished second in this event last season, and more success in Florida this week would not be surprising.
During the Tour’s “Florida Swing” over his pro career (Honda, WGC-Cadillac, Arnold Palmer and Tampa Bay), he’s won 13 times with 20 top 10s, and has shot a combined 258-under par in 28 events.
His 13 Tour wins in the state of Florida are his second-most in any state (14 in California). To put that number into perspective, only five Tour card-holding players in 2013 have more than 13 career wins in any state.
The previous two times, Woods followed it up with a top-10 finish at Doral (second in 2002 and T-10th in 2011). Woods will try to do the same this week -- this time about 80 miles north at PGA National.
January, 28, 2013
By Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Stan Badz/PGA Tour/Getty ImagesTiger Woods was in command at Torrey Pines again.
This is the seventh time in Woods’ career he has opened his PGA TOUR season with a victory. Five of the previous six times he did it, he went on to win a major that year.
This is the seventh time in Woods’ career he has won this event, tying Tiger’s career best for any single tournament. Woods has also won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational seven times each.
Only Sam Snead, who won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times (at two different venues), has won a single event more in PGA TOUR history.
Along with the 2008 U.S. Open, this is the eighth PGA TOUR victory for Woods at Torrey Pines, a record for most wins at a single course.
Woods also has seven wins at Bay Hill and at Firestone Country Club
No other player has won more than six times at one course in TOUR history.
With 75 career wins, Woods trails only Sam Snead (82 wins) for most in PGA TOUR history. Woods reaches the 75-win mark at age 37 years, 0 months.
Snead was 43 years, 10 months old when he won his 75th TOUR event.
How did Woods go about winning this time?
Woods racked up 11 birdies/eagles on par fives for the week. That was tied for second-most in the field, trailing only Jason Day (12).
Woods also made the putts he needed to down the stretch, making all 16 of his attempts inside ten feet in the final round.
Woods also led the field this week in total driving (the sum of a player’s ranks in driving distance and accuracy) -- a statistic he ranked 6th on the PGA TOUR in a season ago.
Had Woods played enough rounds to qualify in 2010 and 2011, he would have ranked 192nd and 186th.
January, 22, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
Warren Little/Getty Images Can Tiger Woods find the form that helped him win the Farmers Insurance Open four years in a row?You can't blame Tiger Woods for starting his season at Torrey Pines, a place he's won 7 times (including his last major victory at the 2008 U.S. Open). He has 11 top-10 finishes in 12 starts at the Farmers Insurance Open, which starts this Thursday in La Jolla, Calif.
He's been even better when starting his season at Torrey Pines -- this will be the fifth time that Woods has opened his PGA TOUR schedule with the Farmers Insurance Open (formerly the Buick Invitational).
On the previous four occasions, he has notched three wins and a tie for 44th (2011).
But after four years have come and gone without a Woods victory at Torrey Pines, is his game still suited to dominate at one of his favorite courses?
In his last five starts at this event (four wins and a T-44th), Woods was a cumulative 45 under par on the par 5s.
On all other holes combined, he was 16 under par.
In 2011, his play on the par 5s was the difference. Woods was only -4 on the par 5s that week (compare that to winner Bubba Watson, who was -13 on those holes).
In his 3 PGA TOUR wins last season, he took advantage of the longest holes on the course.
He was 24 under par on the par 5s at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament and AT&T National.
He was only six under par on all other holes.
Can Woods get back in the winner's circle at Torrey Pines?
History says whoever wins this week will fare well on the par 5s.
Of the last five winners, four were -9 or better on those holes (Ben Crane was the lone exception at -5).
January, 15, 2013
By Justin Ray and Zach Jones, ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
McIlroy and Woods have been paired together nine times in official events.
7 – Woods and McIlroy have been grouped together nine different times in official events around the world. Seven of those times, Woods has posted the better score. In fact, in those nine rounds, Tiger is a combined 38-under, while Rory is 24-under.
Neither may post the best score in their group the first two rounds, though. European Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer will play with Woods and McIlroy Thursday and Friday. Kaymer has won this event three times in the previous five years (2011, 2010 and 2008).
6 – Woods is entering his 17th full season as a professional. In his previous 16 season openers, he has six victories and 14 top-ten finishes. Twelve times, he has finished in the top-5, including last year at this event (tied for 3rd).
5 – Each of the last four years, McIlroy has teed it up in this event. He’s finished in the top five each time. In both 2011 and 2012, Rory finished second. The last time the world number one was in the United Arab Emirates, it was last November. McIlroy shot back-to-back 66’s on the weekend to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
47 – McIlroy has played 54 tournament rounds in the United Arab Emirates as a professional. In 47 of those rounds (87 percent), he has broken par. In his 14 starts there, he has ten top-five finishes and a pair of victories. McIlroy’s career scoring average in 20 rounds at this tournament is 68.45.
December, 30, 2012
By Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesTiger Woods can look ahead to 2013 after a rough 2012.
Woods has been stuck on 14 major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open. In 2012, he failed to break par in rounds three or four of any major for the first time in his career.
If Woods is going to pass Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major championships, he’s going to make more history in the process.
Only one player since 1900 has won more than four majors after turning 37 years old: Ben Hogan, who won six, including the 1950 U.S. Open at age 37.
Though the focus in recent seasons has been on what Tiger has been unable to accomplish, Woods has long since re-written golf’s record book.
On his birthday, we note a few accomplishments you may not have known on Tiger’s decorated resume:
• At the 2000 Open Championship, Woods set the record for most strokes under par by a major champion at 19-under. Tiger doesn’t just hold the top spot on that list, he holds five of the top six positions.
Woods has finished 18-under or better in five of his major victories. The only other player to do that even once is Nick Faldo at the 1990 Open Championship.
• Woods has each of the four best seasons in PGA TOUR history in scoring average. His 2000 season average of 68.17 was better than the old record, held by Sam Snead in 1950, by more than an entire stroke.
• In 2012, Woods became the first player in PGA TOUR history to amass over $100 million in career earnings. At the end of 1996, the last full year Woods was not on TOUR, only one player (Greg Norman) had even earned $10 million.
• From July of 2006 through January of 2007, Woods won seven consecutive PGA TOUR starts. Since 1950, the only other player (besides Tiger, who’s done it three times) to even win five in a row is Ben Hogan, who did it in 1953.
• Tiger Woods is the only player in PGA TOUR history to win seven PGA TOUR events on the same course. He’s done it at three different courses: Torrey Pines GC, Firestone CC, and Bay Hill.
September, 28, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelPhil Mickelson did something in the Ryder Cup he'd never done before.
1- It was a big day for rookies. Teams from the United States and Europe that had rookies competing went a combined 5-1. Rookie-free teams were a combined 3-7.
2--The U.S. leads by 2 points after day 1. Over the previous 20 Ryder Cups, teams who lead by two or more points after two sessions go on to win two-thirds of the time (8-for-12).
History says the Americans could have used more pad, though. Those who lead by three or more win three-quarters of the time (6-for-8) Those who lead by four-or more have won four times in five chances.
3--Over the previous 20 Ryder Cups, the United States has held a lead of two points or more six times after the first two sessions. The two teams the lead was two, Europe won. The four times it was three or more, the United States won.
4--The team of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald entered 14-0-1 combined in their career in foursomes entering their match with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. That loss-free streak ended with a 4 & 3 defeat.
5--This marked the first time in nine Ryder Cups for Phil Mickelson that he won two matches in the same day. He was paired with Keegan Bradley for each of his victories Friday.
September, 27, 2012
By Zach Jones | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesLuke Donald and Tiger Woods headline the European and American Ryder Cup teams.
Home-course advantage has been a big factor in the Ryder Cup recently, as the past three cups have gone to the home team. Americans have won 16 of 19 times when the Ryder Cup matches have been in America, including each of the first 13 Ryder Cups held on United States soil.
But in 1987, the Europeans won for the first time on U.S. soil at Muirfield Village in Ohio. Since then, the two teams have alternated victories when the event has been in the U.S.
UNITED STATES TEAM
Tiger Woods, who was No. 1 on the United States Ryder Cup points list, is likely looking forward to returning to Medinah Country Club. He has won the past two major championships there (1999 PGA Championship and 2006 PGA Championship) and was a combined 29 under par in those wins, shooting par or better in all eight rounds.
Woods is making his seventh appearance in the Ryder Cup. He has made his mark in singles play (4-1-1) but has struggled to earn points in foursomes (4-7-1) and four-balls (5-6-0).
So whom does Woods not want to see at Medinah? Lee Westwood, who has defeated Woods in six of seven previous Ryder Cup matches.
Phil Mickelson is appearing in the Ryder Cup for the ninth time, the most ever by an American player. As a result of his longevity, he also has the distinction of losing more matches (17) than any other American.
Mickelson played well in his first four appearances, winning eight of 16 matches, but has struggled since then. He has lost 12 times and has only three wins in 18 matches over his past four appearances.
This is quietly one of the strongest European teams in history from a statistical perspective. The players with the highest point percentage in European team history with a minimum of three Ryder Cups played (Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia) are all on this year’s squad.
The Europeans also have their good-luck charm in place, with Donald on the team. Donald is playing in his sixth team match-play event, including four Ryder Cups. He is personally 15-3-1 in his own matches, and his teams are a perfect 5-0 (3-0 at the Ryder Cup).
Garcia also should be able to help the European effort this weekend, especially in foursomes. He has never lost in nine foursomes matches, surrendering only a half point in a 2008 match with Lee Westwood.
September, 26, 2012
By Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesBrandt Snedeker's excellent putting this year gives the Americans an advantage on the greens.
McDowell won when he holed a 15-foot birdie putt, marking the first time since 1991 that the outcome was decided by the final singles match.
If the competition comes down to a pressure-packed putt again on the last day this year, which team has the advantage? The numbers say the Americans.
Strokes gained putting (SGP) is a measurement of how many strokes a player gains on the rest of the field while on the green. A statistic exclusive to PGA TOUR events, it is also regarded as the most comprehensive putting statistic available in the history of golf.
Every player on the American team played enough PGA TOUR rounds to qualify for the statistic in 2012. Seven of the 12 European Tour members did.
Despite that fact, the European team has three of the four worst performers in the field in strokes gained putting. Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose all rank 130th or worse in SGP on the PGA TOUR in 2012.
On the other side, FedExCup champion and American team member Brandt Snedeker leads the TOUR in SGP this year, and two other U.S. team members are ranked in the top ten (Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson). Luke Donald is the only European team member ranked in the top ten this year.
Some may argue that the impact of this putting statistic is flawed because only seven of the 12 European players qualified for the PGA TOUR-only stat.
However, of the five European Ryder Cup players who did NOT qualify for SGP, only one (Paul Lawrie) ranked in the top-35 on the European Tour in putts per green in regulation.
Ryder Cup history tells us that players will stand over a host of crucial putts this weekend at Medinah. The numbers say that more of those will roll in for the Americans than for Team Europe.
September, 20, 2012
By Zach Jones and Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will be paired together for the TOUR Championship.
Each of the top five players in the standings entering this week (Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker) controls his own destiny. Any of those players will automatically win the FedExCup with a victory this week.
All eyes will be on the final pairing of the day, Woods and McIlroy.
The duo have played four of their last 12 rounds together with Woods shooting the better score in three of those four rounds. However, McIlroy has finished better in both events, including his win at the BMW Championship.
McIlroy and Woods are ranked 1-2 in the Official Golf World Rankings and own the top two spots in the FedExCup standings. McIlroy (4) and Woods (3) are also the only two golfers to win more than two PGA TOUR events this year.
McIlroy heads to East Lake having won his last two events on the PGA TOUR. The last time a player won three consecutive starts was 2007, when Tiger Woods won five in a row from the 2007 BMW Championship to the 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He has three wins in his last four events starting with the PGA Championship, scoring a 67 or better in nine of his 16 rounds and breaking par in 13 of those 16 rounds as well.
Tiger trending upward
Woods enters the TOUR Championship riding a streak of eight consecutive under-par rounds. It’s his longest streak of the season and his longest in a single season since 2007, when he played 11 straight rounds under par from the Deutsche Bank Championship through the TOUR Championship.
One of the prevailing themes for Woods since his victory at the AT&T National has been fast starts followed by disappointing play on the weekends.
His scoring average in the two rounds before the cut ranks second, but his scoring averages in the third and fourth rounds don’t even crack the top 20.
Woods has won the FedExCup in two of the five years since its inception, but in both of those seasons he led the FedExCup standings entering the TOUR Championship.
Key Stat: Strokes Gained Putting
“Strokes gained – putting” (SGP), a statistic exclusive to PGA TOUR events, is a measurement of how many strokes a player gains on the rest of the field while on the green. The higher the number, the better.
How important is that statistic in winning for the top two golfers in the world – Woods and McIlroy?
Four times in McIlroy’s PGA TOUR career, he’s played a full four rounds in an event with an average SGP number of +1.2 or higher. He won three of those four events and finished fifth in the other.
Woods has had four tournaments this year where he averaged a net gain of more than a full stroke per round on the field when putting. He has two wins and hasn’t finished worse than third in any of those four events.