Stats & Info: Paul Lawrie

Americans own edge on greens at Medinah

September, 26, 2012

Getty ImagesBrandt Snedeker's excellent putting this year gives the Americans an advantage on the greens.
The Europeans won the Ryder Cup in 2010 in perhaps the most exciting final day in Ryder Cup history. After multiple rain delays, the new Monday finish came down to the final singles match between Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan.

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.

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Adam Scott is the leader after the first round of the 141st Open Championship.
The 141st edition of the Open Championship teed off on Thursday morning and the first-round leader, Adam Scott, took advantage of favorable conditions.

The former No. 3 in the world used eight birdies to post a 6-under 64 in the opening round, his lowest career round in a major. The 64 also tied the record for lowest round in an Open at Royal Lytham (Tom Lehman, 1996) and gave him his first career lead after any round in any major.

There's a long way to go, but should he hang on, Scott would continue the recent trend of golf major parity. Since Padraig Harrington won the 2008 PGA Championship, there have been 15 different winners in the past 15 majors (Scott would be the 16th) and the past nine have been first-time winners (Scott would be the 10th).

Elsewhere on the course, Tiger Woods birdied three of his first six holes and hit 13 of 14 fairways en route to posting a 3-under 67. In the previous 10 instances that Woods shot a 67 or better in the first round of a major, he went on to win six times with two more top-3 finishes.

Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts finished the day tied for second, one shot back of the lead. Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, tied his lowest career score at a major and Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, broke par in the first round at the Open for the first time in his career.

The winner of last week’s John Deere Classic, Johnson is looking to become the first player since Lee Trevino in 1971 to win the Open after winning the previous week on TOUR.

Colsaerts posted the lowest round of his major career Thursday and is hoping to bounce back from his late struggles at the U.S. Open. He was tied for fourth at Olympic heading into the final round but finished tied for 27th after shooting a 6-over 76 on Sunday.

Looking ahead to Friday, Tiger Woods tees off at 9:43 AM ET and hopes to build on his play in the first round. Unfortunately for him, first-round success has not carried over so far this year. In 2012, he is -4 in the first round of majors but +13 in the final three rounds including a +8 during the weekend at the U.S. Open.

An hour earlier, clubhouse leader Adam Scott tees off at 8:43 AM ET. While Scott played well in the first round, history is not on his side moving forward. Only five first-round leaders have gone on to win the Open since 1975, most recently Tiger Woods in 2005.

Seve Ballesteros was the last player to accomplish the feat at Royal Lytham when he won his final major at the Open in 1988.
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.