Tiger has edge on Rory in head-to-head play

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
10:58
AM ET

Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will be paired together for the TOUR Championship.
The TOUR Championship, the final leg of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, tees off Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

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.

Marquee matchup
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.

Red-hot Rory
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.

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