Stats & Info: Lee Westwood

Stats to know: 18 holes left at The Open

July, 20, 2013
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Victory is in sight for both Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood.

Ten of the last 11 Open winners in The Open Championships held at Muirfield were either first or second after 54 holes.

With that in mind, let’s look at the first and second place golfers heading into Sunday’s final round.

Lee Westwood
This is Lee Westwood’s second career 54-hole lead in a major. The other came at the 2010 Masters, when he held a one-shot lead over eventual champion Phil Mickelson. Westwood finished second.

Nobody has more top-3 finishes in majors in golf’s modern era (since 1934) without a win than Lee Westwood’s seven. If Westwood won, it would mark the first time that Englishmen won consecutive majors since 1909.

Westwood has played the font nine in -5 this week, the best of any golfer in the field. His 26 one-putts are the most of anyone at the Open.

Westwood hit 11 of 18 greens in regulation, but his putter saved him at least two strokes when he made a long eagle putt from just off the green on Par-5 5th hole and when he hit a long putt on the Par-3 16th for a bogey.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods enters the final round tied for second. This is his best 54-hole position in a major since the 2009 PGA, when he failed to convert with a share of the 54-hole lead in a major for the only time in his career.

Woods has never won a major without at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He’s trying for his fourth Open title. The only Ameicans with four or more are Tom Watson (5) and Walter Hagen (4).

Woods has fared better on the Par 4s and 5s in this tournament when teeing off with an iron. He’s -4 on those holes in which he’s used an iron, +2 when teeing off with a driver or wood.

Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan is tied for second entering the final round of the second straight major.

Mahan began the third round tied for 20th. Only three players have ever won the Open when 20th or worse through 36 holes- Gary Player (tied for 20th in 1959), Ian Baker-Finch (tied for 28th in 1991) and David Duval (tied for 35th in 2001).

Mahan has 13 birdies, tied for the most of anyone in the field.
Mahan is seeking his first major title. His best major finish was tied for fourth at this year’s U.S. Open.

Other notable contenders
Adam Scott is three shots back of the lead. He's trying to become the first golfer to win the Masters and Open Championship since Woods in 2005. He finished second last year, blowing the four-shot lead he had entering the final round.

Zach Johnson is among a group that is four shots back of the lead, but he doesn't have a good final-round history. His last eight final rounds in majors have been par or worse.

Angel Cabrera is also four shots back. He's trying to become the second Argentine golfer to win the Open, joining Roberto De Vicenzo (1967).

Cabrera's best finish at the Open was a tie for fourth in 1999.

Top Stats to Know: Open Championship

July, 17, 2013
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesDefending champion Ernie Els is looking to do something that hasn't been done in over 100 years.
The Open Championship tees off at Muirfield early Thursday morning, with coverage starting at 4 a.m. Eastern on ESPN. To get you ready, we take you through 18 things you need to know.

•  Muirfield is hosting the Open Championship for the 16th time. Among venues currently in the Open Championship rotation, only St. Andrews has hosted more often.

•  Eight of the last 13 leaders after 54 holes have gone on to win the Open Championship. And 11 of the 13 champions were in the Top-3 entering Sunday.

•  The last 19 majors contested have produced 18 different winners. Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship) is the only player to win multiple major titles during this span.

•  Twenty major championships have come and gone since Tiger Woods last victory. That’s twice as long as the next longest drought since Woods played his first full season as a professional in 1997.

•  Tiger missed four of those majors and has only two Top-3 finishes in his last 16 majors. Over his first 46 majors, he had 14 victories and 22 Top-2 finishes.

•  Woods has struggled recently on Saturday and Sunday in the majors. In his last six majors, he is 6-under in the first two rounds and 21-over in rounds three and four. He has not shot a subpar round on the weekend at the Open Championship since 2007.

•  Muirfield is the site of the worst round of Tiger’s major career as a professional. He shot an 81 in the third round in 2002, four shots worse than any other round he’s played at a major as a pro.

•  Ernie Els returns to defend his Open Championship at Muirfield, where he won the last time the Open was contested here. He’s the first player since Greg Norman at Turnberry in 1994 to attempt a title defense while also being the last winner at a particular venue.

•  The only time a golfer successfully defended an Open Championship while also being the last winner at the current course? James Braid at Muirfield in 1906.

•  Rory McIlroy has a history of starting fast at the Open Championship. In five appearances, he has averaged a 67.6 in the first round but slumped to a 72.9 average over the last three rounds.

•  Phil Mickelson hasn’t had much success across the pond – he has only two Top-10 finishes in 19 career Open Championships, and last year was the fourth time he missed the cut.

•  Matt Kuchar is another golfer who isn’t a fan of the Open Championship. He has missed the cut in six of eight appearances, but finished tied for ninth last year.

•  Lee Westwood has never won a major, but has finished in the Top-3 seven times since 2008. Those seven Top-3 finishes without a major title are the most since 1934.

•  Dustin Johnson is the only player under par at the Open Championship in the last two years combined.

•  Johnson is also the only player to finish in the Top 15 each of the last three years.

•  Sergio Garcia has 18 Top-10 finishes in majors, with seven of those coming at the Open Championship.

•  Louis Oosthuizen is one of four South African players to win the Open Championship; the other three have all won multiple times.

•  Only four players have made the cut in each of the last six majors -– Jason Dufner, Adam Scott, Steve Stricker (who is not at Muirfield) and Tiger Woods.
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.

English Lesson
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.

How Tiger's putter can help him regain No. 1

March, 20, 2013

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaSince last year’s Arnold Palmer Invite, Woods has made 19 starts and has a PGA TOUR best five wins.
Despite playing just four PGA TOUR events in 2013, Tiger Woods is the only player with multiple PGA TOUR wins this season (2).

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.

Garcia, Westwood 'almost' have formula

August, 8, 2012

AP Photo/Peter MorrisonSergio Garcia has 17 top-10s in majors but has never won a major championship.
The PGA Championship is billed as “Glory’s Last Shot.” For many elite players who are without a major championship to their credit, that marketing slogan is more and more true every year.

Lee Westwood has won 22 times on the European Tour, but never a major. He turns 40 in April. Steve Stricker has won 12 times on the PGA TOUR and is major-less. He’ll be 46 in February.

But which player in this week’s PGA Championship is really the best without a major title?

The “Almost Index” is a formula that attempts to statistically deduce who the best player in the world is without a major title. The formula takes into account PGA TOUR wins and top-10’s, European Tour wins and top-10’s, success in major championships, and holding a 54-hole lead in a major.

Here are your top five in the Almost Index entering the PGA Championship:

5. Dustin Johnson
PGA + European Tour wins: 6
Top-10’s in majors: 5
Almost Index: 22.8

In his young career, Johnson has been the definition of “almost” in majors. He held a three-shot lead entering the final round of 2010 U.S. Open. He had an untimely rules violation later that year at the PGA Championship. And he was in contention on Sunday last year at the Open Championship before a triple-bogey on the 14th hole.

4. Steve Stricker
PGA + European Tour wins: 12
Top-10’s in majors: 9
Almost Index: 24.9

Stricker has eight wins in the last four years but has been a non-factor in major championships. Stricker’s last top-5 finish in a major came at the 1999 U.S. Open. No active player on the PGA TOUR today has more wins without a major title than Stricker.

3. Adam Scott
PGA + European Tour wins: 13
Top-10’s in majors: 8
Almost Index: 25.3

Only two players since 1960 have blown a 54-hole lead of four-or-more shots at the Open Championship: Jean Van de Velde and Adam Scott. Scott has finished in the top-15 in each of the last four majors, and has a pair of runner-up finishes in majors in the last two years.

2. Lee Westwood
PGA + European Tour wins: 24
Top-10’s in majors: 14
Almost Index: 33.7

Lee Westwood has finished in the top-3 in seven major championships, the most for anyone in the modern era without a victory. At the U.S. Open this year, he entered Sunday just three shots back of leaders Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell, but made double-bogey on the fifth hole and never recovered.

1. Sergio Garcia
PGA + European Tour wins: 16
Top-10’s in majors: 17
Almost Index: 33.8

Westwood has closed the gap on Garcia, but the perennial leader of the “Almost Index” remains at the top of the list for now. Garcia has 17 top-10 finishes in majors since the 1999 PGA -- more than Vijay Singh (16) or Furyk (12) in that same span. Garcia missed the cut at the Open Championship this year after finishing tied for 38th at the U.S. Open.

Should Tiger be the favorite at The Open?

July, 18, 2012

David Cannon/Getty ImagesTiger Woods will look to end his major drought this week at Royal Lytham & St Annes
Tiger Woods is the oddsmakers favorite at the 2012 Open Championship – slightly ahead of Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, but should he be?

Woods has shown life this year with three wins. His victories have come on courses in which he has combined to capture 16 of his 74 PGA TOUR career wins. But the only time Woods played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, he finished T-25 after posting three rounds in the 70s.

There is also Woods well-documented major drought, having played in 12 since his last win at the 2008 U.S. Open. His recent play at majors does not point to a 15th career major win.

In his last ten rounds at majors, Woods has been under par only once. In those same ten rounds – which span three majors, Woods has shot 75 or worse three times. In 68 rounds from the 2006 U.S. Open through the 2011 Masters (18 majors), Woods had four rounds of 75 or worse.

This year has been especially troubling for Woods at majors as 2012 marked the first time as a pro that he played in both the Masters and U.S. Open and didn't post a Top 20 finish in either. Strangely, both of those tournaments came in the event immediately following his first two wins of the year.

In his last 6 majors, Woods finished within 5 shots of the lead only once (2011 Masters) and his T-40 finish at the Masters in 2012 was his worst major finish as a pro.

After entering the weekend at the 2012 U.S. Open with a share of the lead, a 75-73 (+8) weekend accounted for his second-worst weekend score at a major. It also marked the second straight major that Woods was unable to win after holding a share of the 36-hole lead.

Prior to Y.E. Yang conquering Woods in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship, Woods had been a perfect 8-for-8 in majors in which he held the 36-hole lead. Is the mystique gone? In his last 12 weekend rounds at majors, Woods has broken par in two of them.

So while it would be a surprise to no one if Woods again hoisted the Claret Jug, it would also not be a surprise to see Tiger with an earlier tee time than he would like come Sunday.

Improved putter play revives Garcia's game

July, 17, 2012

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Sergio Garcia is up to No. 23 in the world and poised to win his first major after five top-three finishes.

Last year's Open Championship provided a feel-good story for the ages, with 42 year-old Darren Clarke capturing his first major. Could 2012's feel-good story be Sergio Garcia?

Garcia may have caught some people off guard at the Masters when he spoke from the heart about his ability to win a major, "I'm not good enough ... I don't have the thing I need to have...In 13 years I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place."

His frustration is understandable. Garcia has five top-three finishes without a win - only three players have more (Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie and Doug Sanders.) His 52nd major as a pro might be the time for that elusive first win. Phil Mickelson had eight top-three finishes in his first 41 majors as a pro before his first win. Mickelson won his first major at age 33. Garcia turned 32 in January.

Garcia's game is far removed from the player who fell to No. 85 in the world before the 2011 Masters. He's up to No. 23 in the world and has finished in the top 12 in four of the last five majors. One reason for the turnaround, and optimism heading into this weekend, is his improved putting.

Garcia has made 87.4 percent of his putts from inside 10 feet on TOUR this season after making only 85.6 percent in 2011. Inside 5 feet, his make percentage ranks seventh on TOUR (97.9) after he finished 71st in 2011 (96.5).

Why can't he be the 10th straight first-timer to capture a major? The scene sets up perfectly to erase the ghosts of two of his biggest near-misses. Five years ago, Garcia had his only 54-hole lead in a major, bogeyed 15 and 18 en route to a final-round 73 before losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie.

His playing partner for the first two rounds, Tiger Woods, captured the 1999 PGA Championship at Garcia's expense. Despite a 1-under 71 in the final round with a crucial bogey on 15, a 19-year-old Garcia fell one shot short of Woods for the tournament.
AP Photo/David J. PhillipFred Couples, who has the best career average at the Masters among golfers with at least 100 rounds, is in position to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his 1992 title with another green jacket.
The leader board firmed up early in the second round at Augusta, as the seven players who finished at 4-under par or better through 36 holes started in the first 15 groups. The result was a Masters record-tying seven golfers within one shot of the lead after two rounds.

This is the seventh time in Masters history that five or more golfers are within one shot of the lead through 36 holes. In the six previous instances, the eventual winner came from that group.

Sixty-three players made the cut this year, tied for the second-most at the Masters, trailing 1966 by a single golfer. The other time that exactly 63 players made the cut was 1992 – current co-leader Fred Couples won that year.

Looking at the Co-leaders
Couples and Jason Dufner are tied atop the leader board at 5-under par.

Couples, 52, is looking to become the oldest winner of a major championship. Julius Boros was 48 years old when he won the PGA Championship in 1968. The oldest Masters winner was Jack Nicklaus, who donned the green jacket at 46 after winning in 1986.

Couples entered this year's Masters with the best career scoring average among players with at least 100 rounds. He has had success recently as well. Since 2010, only Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood have a better scoring average at the Masters than Couples among players to play all three years.

Dufner has never won on the PGA TOUR, but has finished in the top-five in two of his last four starts in a major. He lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley at last year’s PGA Championship.

Three players have won the Masters as their first career PGA TOUR victory, including Charl Schwartzel last year.

The chasers
The quantity atop the leader board is also high quality.

Rory McIlroy, who won last year’s U.S. Open, is one shot back. Since the 2010 Masters, he has finished 12 rounds in the top-five at majors and eight as either the leader or co-leader.

Also at 4-under are perpetual bridesmaids Westwood and Sergio Garcia. The two have combined for 29 top-10 finishes in majors without a victory. Westwood has finished second twice at Augusta, and Garcia has finished as runner-up in three majors.

Multiple major winners Vijay Singh and Mickelson lurk three shots behind the leaders; past Open Championship winners Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Lawrie are in the top-10.

Tiger drops off pace
Tiger Woods shot a 75 on Friday, his worst second-round score at the Masters and tied for his second-worst score as a pro at Augusta. Woods failed to birdie a par-5 on Friday, just the third time he has failed to do so during the Masters.

Tiger has never won a major when outside the top-five or with a score worse than 2-under through 36 holes.

Looking ahead to Saturday
The only Masters champion in the last 25 years who was not inside the top-10 after 36 holes was Schwartzel last year.

The largest comeback at the Masters after the second round is eight strokes, by Jack Burke in 1956.

Only one 36-hole leader has won the Masters in the last six years. Trevor Immelman shot a third-round 69 in 2008 on his way to victory.

Westwood a major threat ... as usual

April, 6, 2012

Tim Dominick/The State/MCT via Getty Images
Since the beginning of 2009, 49 rounds have been held in major championships, Lee Westwood has been in the top-10 following 21 of them during that span, the most among all golfers.
Lee Westwood shot an opening-round 67 of the Masters Tournament and stood alone at the top of the leaderboard at 5-under-par. Westwood has never won a major, but this was the third time he opened a major with a 67 (all coming in the Masters), and the previous two times he finished in second place.

Since the beginning of 2009, there have been 49 rounds in major championships. Westwood has been in the top 10 following 21 of them - 41.7 percent.

History tells us leading, or at least sharing the lead, after the first round of the Masters does not bode well. Just one player in the previous 27 years has won the Masters after holding at least a share of the first-round lead. That was Trevor Immelman, who was tied with Justin Rose after the first round in 2008. The last player to win the Masters after holding the outright first-round lead was Ben Crenshaw in 1984.

Player Notes
Tiger Woods shot an even-par 72 and was tied for 29th after the opening round. That might sound like he’s out of contention, but the last time he was this far back after the opening round was 2005 when he was tied for 33rd. That year he went on to win the Masters, his last win there. Looking ahead to Friday, he’ll hope to repeat that 2005 success. He shot a 66 in the second round en route to his win.

After a double bogey on 1, Rory McIlroy had played 10 consecutive holes at the Masters in 9-over par. However, McIlroy birdied 17 and 18 – one of two players to accomplish that Thursday (Louis Oosthuizen) – and finished at 1-under. McIlroy hit just 6 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens.

Phil Mickelson triple-bogeyed the 10th hole, but rallied to birdie three of the final six holes. Mickelson’s putter saved him (a first-round low 25 putts), as he hit only eight of 18 greens and nine of 14 fairways. The triple bogey was the second of his Masters career (in his 75th round). His other triple bogey was on the first hole in the fourth round of the 2007 Masters.

Other Notables
Adam Scott's 75 snapped a streak of six straight round of par or better at the Masters.

Padraig Harrington's 71 was his first sub-par round at the Masters since the first round in 2009.

After an opening-round 71, Steve Stricker has six straight rounds of par or better at the Masters.

Francesco Molinari's 69 was his best career round at the Masters.

Course Info
• Hole No. 1 played the toughest Thursday (4.379). Only three players made birdie (Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Dufner, Peter Hanson).
• Predictably, the 11th hole was second toughest (4.368), yielding only three birdies as well (Ben Crane, Vijay Singh, Hanson).
• No. 16 rated the third toughest (3.168). The only birdies there coming from Sang-Moon Bae, Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie.
• There were eight eagles, with half coming from two players – Henrik Stenson and Paul Lawrie.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. THE BEST GOLFER WITHOUT A MAJOR? After the opening round of the Masters Tournament, Lee Westwood stands alone at the top at -5. Westwood has never won a major but has been a bridesmaid multiple times. This is the third time he’s opened a major with a 67, and both times he finished the major in second place.
Tiger Woods

2. TIGER ON THE PROWL Tiger Woods shot an even-par 72 at the Masters and is tied for 29th after the opening round. That might sound like he’s a ways back, but not for Tiger. The last time he was this far back after the opening round was 2005, when he was tied for 33rd. That year he went on to win the Masters, his last win there. Looking ahead to Friday, he’ll hope to repeat that 2005 success. He shot a 66 in the second round en route to his win.

3. PITCHERS DOMINATE OPENING DAY The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians treated fans to free baseball on their Opening Day. The 16 innings they played made it the longest season-opening game in MLB history. But pitchers stole the show for the day. FROM ELIAS: Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Justin Masterson each allowed two hits in eight innings on Thursday while Ryan Dempster surrendered two knocks in 7⅔ innings. It was the first day on which four pitchers threw more than seven innings and allowed no more than two hits since Sept. 27, 1986.

4. NO MAGIC IN ORLANDO Dwight Howard scored just two points through three quarters in an Orlando Magic loss to the New York Knicks and finished with eight points for the game. It was just the third time this season that Howard failed to score in double-digits and two of those have come against the Knicks. His team’s woes continue: the Magic have lost five straight, their longest losing streak since Jan. 12-20, 2007.
Steven Stamkos

5. STAMKOS STALKING 60 Two big happenings in the NHL on Thursday: the eight playoff spots in each conference were decided BUT the seeding of each team is still up in the air. Also, Steven Stamkos moved one step closer to a landmark when he scored his 59th goal of the season. Stamkos has one game left, at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, and will try to become just the second player since 1996 to score 60 goals in a season.

Tiger on verge of ending winless drought

March, 7, 2012

Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesLast year at Doral, Rory McIlroy (left) and Tiger Woods finished tied for 10th at 8-under.
Tiger Woods has made 29 official worldwide starts since his last win (25 on the PGA TOUR), but if his winless drought is going to come to an end, Doral is one of the most likely places for it to happen.

The WGC-Cadillac Championship features the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking -- the first event that has had that rich a field since the 2011 Masters -- but all eyes will be on Woods and the world’s new No. 1 player, Rory McIlroy.

Woods should feel good about his chances of winning on the PGA TOUR for the first time since September 2009. He’s won this event six times and finished in the top 10 in all 11 career starts. The only event he has won more in his career is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (7). Woods has dominated the World Golf Championships events, winning 16 titles. Geoff Ogilvy (3) is second on the WGC wins list, and is one of only five players with multiple WGC titles.

Woods’ run last week at The Honda Classic was fueled by some much-improved putting. In the third and fourth rounds at the Honda, Woods gained 4.63 strokes to the field just on putting alone. He also made 29 of 32 putts (90.6 percent) inside of 10 feet after making 83.1 percent of such putts in his previous three stroke-play rounds.

From tee to green, Tiger’s game hasn’t been this good in a quite some time. He ranks first on the PGA TOUR in total driving, third in adjusted stroke average and fifth in driving accuracy.

As for McIlroy, he has three wins in his last 12 worldwide events. If he wins this week, then McIlroy would have four PGA TOUR wins at age 22, tying Young Tom Morris and Gene Sarazen for the third-most among players 22 or younger. (Horton Smith holds the record with 14 wins at 22 years of age.)

Although Tiger ranks in the top five in driving accuracy, McIlroy is not nearly as efficient. He's hit 60.7 percent of his fairways, which ranks 72nd on tour. However, his strokes gained per round (1.56) ranks first on the PGA TOUR this season, and his sand-save percent of 77.8 is second only to Lee Westwood.

Don’t forget about Phil Mickelson, who won this event in 2009. Mickelson has struggled with his putter the last few seasons, but seems to have found a rhythm early in 2012. At .914, Mickelson ranks 10th on tour this season in strokes gained putting per round. From 2009-11, Mickelson ranked between 130th and 134th.
The Open Championship tees off Thursday morning at Royal St. Georges Golf Club in Sandwich, England, the first time the course has hosted the Open Championship since Ben Curtis won it in 2003. The last time the event was played here just one player – Curtis – finished under par, and only two were at even par, runners-up Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn.

Rory McIlroy tees it up for the first time since winning the U.S. Open by eight shots last month. He’ll be trying to join a select group by winning both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship in the same season. Since 1960, only three men have done that: Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino.

Recent history doesn’t favor him, as just two of the past 10 U.S. Open winners have even finished in the top 10 in the following Open Championship. But McIlroy has been on a hot streak of late. He’s had a lead after seven of the last eight major rounds this season, and has finished in the top three in three of his last four majors played.

Phil Mickelson has traditionally struggled at the Open Championship in his career. He has just one top 10 finish in 16 appearances as a professional, a third-place finish in 2004. In fact, in 10 of his 16 starts, he’s finished 40th or worse, including a 48th place finish last year.

Luke Donald, the top-ranked golfer according to the latest Official World Golf Rankings, enters the Open Championship fresh off his victory at the Scottish Open. However, he’s historically not played well here, making the cut in just five of 10 starts. Furthermore, it’s been almost two decades since an Englishman won, when Nick Faldo hoisted the trophy in 1992.

Lee Westwood is perhaps the best player to never have won a major, with eight top-five major finishes and two second place finishes. Yet Westwood appears poised to finally break through, having finished among the top three in five of his last seven majors, including each of the last two Open Championships.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen will try to become the third man in the last six years to successfully defend his Open Championship title. Oosthuizen finished tied for ninth at last month’s U.S. Open, his highest major finish outside the 2010 Open Championship win. But overall Oosthuizen has largely been a non-factor at majors, with nine missed cuts in 12 majors played.

Having trouble picking a winner from the field? You’re not alone. Over the last 11 majors played, there have been 11 different winners. It's the longest stretch of its kind since 2002-05, when there were 12 consecutive majors won by 12 different players.

Your best bet might be to pick a golfer without a United States flag next to his name. The last five majors have been won by non-Americans, the first time that's happened in Major Championship Golf history. Three of the last four Open Championships have been won by non-Americans, and last year at St. Andrews, no American finished in the top five for the first time since 2002.