Stats & Info: Phil Mickelson

Top stats to know: PGA Championship

August, 4, 2014
>Rory McIlroy is trying to join elite company with a win this weekend.
The PGA Championship begins Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club on Thursday. Let's take a look at some of the top storylines as the golf world awaits word on the presence of its biggest star.

No. 1 doesn’t usually finish No. 1
Rory McIlroy enters the PGA Championship on top of the world – with his win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he is now No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking (40th week of his career).

However, the last time a player other than Tiger Woods won a major as the No. 1 player in the world was 1992, when Fred Couples won the Masters.

Coming off his win at The Open Championship, McIlroy is trying to become the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2008 to win back-to-back majors (Harrington also won The Open Championship and PGA Championship) and the first player since Tiger Woods in 2007 to win a major the week after winning on the PGA TOUR.

The dominance McIlroy has displayed of late is reminiscent of Tiger Woods in 2000. Entering the PGA Championship, their numbers on the PGA TOUR are very similar, as noted in the chart on the right.

The last player to win in back-to-back weeks on the PGA TOUR was McIlroy in 2012 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship.

Also of note: each of the last eight major winners have come from the Top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Eyes on the Tiger
Will Tiger Woods play this week at Valhalla? He won here the last time the course hosted a major (2000 PGA Championship), but after his withdrawal at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he could miss his seventh major as a professional.

Jack Nicklaus was 61 years old before he missed his seventh major after turning pro.

If Woods doesn’t play and win this week, he will enter next year’s Masters at 39 years old (he turns 39 in December), needing four major wins to match Jack Nicklaus. In the Masters era (since 1934), no player has won more than three majors after his 39th birthday.

If Woods played and won, he would do something he’s never done before- get his first victory of the season at a major.

Mickelson struggling
Phil Mickelson enters the PGA Championship without a single top-10 finish on the PGA TOUR this season. His only top-10 of the year came back in January at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

If you’re looking for a weakness in his game, it’s been the putter, which was one of his strengths a year ago.

Mickelson has eight top-5 finishes in majors since the beginning of 2009, but none of them have come at the PGA Championship. He finished tied for 72nd at last year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Shortage of Drama
For the first time since 1972, the first three majors of the year have been won by the 36- and 54-hole leader. There has never been a year when all four majors were won by the 36- and 54-hole leader.

For the first time in major championship history, there have been back-to-back wire-to-wire major winners (Martin Kaymer and McIlroy) who held the lead outright after each round.

Trend to Watch: Repeat Winners
Each of the first three major winners this year had at least one previous major championship. The last time a year started with three repeat major winners was 2000, when all four winners were of the repeat variety (Vijay Singh at the Masters, followed by Tiger Woods at the final three majors).

Top stats to know: The Open Championship

July, 15, 2014

oss Kinnaird/Getty ImagesRoyal Liverpool will play just 54 yards longer than it did in 2006, when Tiger Woods won.

Twenty-four major championships have come and gone since Tiger Woods last won one, the 2008 U.S. Open. That’s more than twice as long as his next-longest drought since he played his first full season as a professional in 1997.

Woods returns to Royal Liverpool this week, the site of his third and most recent Open Championship victory (2006). He famously hit his driver just once that week, finishing at 18 under (the second-lowest score to par in the history of the Open Championship) and 14 under on the par 5s.

Let’s run through some of the key stats for a few notable players who could make things interesting at this year's Open Championship.

Tiger Woods
Woods is winless this season and has never won a major without winning another event earlier in the season.

Woods has rarely put himself in contention in recent majors, largely due to his struggles on the weekend. He’s a cumulative 27 over on the weekend in his past 12 major starts.

In his 2006 victory in Hoylake, Woods made short work of the par 5s, holing 10 birdies and two eagles on those four holes (14 under) over the course of the week.

Woods turned 38 in December and is still four major titles shy of tying Jack Nicklaus. It's worth noting that only two players have won four or more majors after their 38th birthday since the “modern” era of majors began in 1934 with the first Masters Tournament: Ben Hogan (five) and Nicklaus (four).

So how does Woods' drought of 18 majors played without a win compare to major droughts of other golf greats?

Nicklaus went 20 majors between his win at age 40 in the 1980 PGA Championship and his miraculous win at age 46 in the 1986 Masters.

Gary Player's longest span between major wins was 15. Tom Watson's was 11.

Hogan never had a stretch longer than four between major wins, and Arnold Palmer never had one longer than five.

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson, the event’s defending champion, enters this year’s Open without a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour and no wins worldwide. He's looking to become the first golfer to win back-to-back Opens since Padraig Harrington in 2007-2008.

It’s the first time in his career that Mickelson has entered the Open Championship without at least one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour and the first time since 2003 that he comes in without a win.

Looking for the cause of his woes? Look no further than the putter -- he's struggling on short putts again, an area where he had improved over the past few years. He’s currently tied for 108th on the PGA Tour in 1-putt percentage inside 10 feet.

This event has been kind to veterans in recent years, however. Each of the past three Open champions (Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Mickelson) was in his 40s. It’s the only time in the 20th century we’ve seen three straight 40-year-old winners at a single major.

Adam Scott
Adam Scott is trying to become the fourth player ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking to win a major. The other three are Tiger Woods (11 times), Fred Couples (once) and Ian Woosnam (once).

Each of the last 12 majors contested have featured Scott making the cut. That’s twice as long as the next active streak (six, by five different golfers).

Top stats to know: U.S. Open

June, 10, 2014

Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesPinehurst No. 2 has hosted two previous U.S. Opens, in 1999 and in 2005.
There’s no Tiger Woods in this week’s field at the U.S. Open, but there are plenty of storylines to go around as our national championship returns to Pinehurst for the third time in 16 years.

It's a whole new course
Pinehurst has been “restored” to its original character, which means traditional U.S. Open rough will be replaced by expanses of sandy soil native to this part of North Carolina.

The course has also been lengthened – it will play 348 yards longer than it did in 2005 and will feature four par 4s that will be over 500 yards on the scorecard.

This makes it the third longest course in U.S. Open history, and the fourth hole (529 yards) and 16th hole (528 yards) are the two longest par fours in the event’s history.

Another first-time major winner, perhaps an American?
First-time major winners have been the norm over the last five years at this event.

That’s the most consecutive first-time major winners at the U.S. Open since we had five in a row from 1992-96. If the streak grows to six this year, it would match the longest such streak in U.S. Open history.

Meanwhile, it’s also been good to be an American at the majors lately. The last three major winners (Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson) are from the United States, and an American winner at Pinehurst would make it four straight for the first time since 2003-04.

Look out on Sunday
If we’ve learned anything at the U.S. Open in recent years, it’s that the 54-hole leader is no sure bet to win. In fact, over the last nine U.S. Opens, only a pair of winners held the outright lead after 54 holes.

In that same span, four eventual champions came from at least three shots back entering the final round.

Over the last five years, the players who held at least a share of the 54-hole lead were a combined +26 in the final round.

In that stretch, only Rory McIlroy (69 in final round en route to win in 2011) broke par in the final round.

Top stats to know: Masters preview

April, 8, 2014

Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesDefending champion Adam Scott looks to become the fourth player to win the Masters in back-to-back years.
The Masters gets underway on Thursday, with ESPN's coverage beginning on Wednesday. Even without Tiger Woods in the mix, there are plenty of storylines coming out of Augusta.

Here are some of the top statistical storylines we'll be covering.

Defending Champ
Adam Scott is the defending champion. He’s attempting to become the fourth player to win this event in back-to-back years, joining Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02).

In the last eight majors, Scott is the only player to make the cut in all eight and post a combined score under par (-4).

Phil has a good history
Phil Mickelson is seeking to become the fourth player to win four Masters titles. Since 2001, Mickelson has won the Masters three times and finished in the Top 5 nine times.

This is the first Masters since 1994 in which Tiger Woods will not compete. Woods has finished in the Top 6 eight times in the last nine Masters’.

McIlroy doesn’t have a good history
Last year was a lost year of majors for Rory McIlroy, as he never really found himself in contention and didn’t finish better than seven shots behind the winner.

At the Masters, McIlroy has more rounds of 76 or worse (5) than he does in the 60s (4). Four of those rounds of 76 or worse have come in his last five weekend rounds at Augusta (beginning with his final round 80 in 2011).

The last 21 majors (beginning with Padraig Harrington at the 2008 PGA Championship) have been won by 19 different players. The only repeat winners during this stretch are McIlroy and Mickelson. Fifteen of the champions during this stretch have been first-time major winners, including 12 of the last 15 majors.

First-Round Leader
Just one player in the last 29 years has won the Masters after holding at least a share of the first-round lead. That was Trevor Immelman who shared the first-round lead in 2008 with Justin Rose. The last player to win the Masters after holding the outright first-round lead was Ben Crenshaw in 1984.

36-Hole Leader
Just two players in the last 14 years have won the Masters after holding the 36-hole lead. Trevor Immelman held a one-shot lead over Brandt Snedeker after the second round in 2008, while Mike Weir held a 4-shot lead after 36 holes in 2003 and went on to win in a playoff over Len Mattiace.

Best Bet on Sunday
The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing 19 out of the last 23 years, but each of the last three winners --Charl Schwartzel (2011), Bubba Watson (2012) and Adam Scott (2013) – have come from outside that pairing.

Cream Rises to the Top
Since 1986, the Masters has been won 17 times by a player with an Official World Golf Ranking in the top 10, more than any other major.

Dufner rallies for first major win

August, 11, 2013

US PresswireJason Dufner won his first career major at the 2013 PGA Championship on Sunday.
Jason Dufner shot a 68 in the final round of the PGA championship to win his first career major and third PGA TOUR title overall.

A newcomer on top of the leaderboard is no surprise here at the PGA.

Dufner is the fourth player in last five years to win first career major at the PGA Championship, joining Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010) and Keegan Bradley (2011).

Dufner also becomes the 15th different first-time major winner in the last 19 contested and the 19th different winner in the last 21 majors overall. Over the previous 20 majors, there were just 12 different winners.

Dufner trailed by a stroke after 54 holes but that proved to be no obstacle for the 36-year-old, continuing a recent trend of comebacks in majors. All four major winners this year and 15 of the last 19 were trailing entering the final round.

Jim Furyk faded in the final round, shooting a 1-over 71 to finish second. Furyk still has only one major title (2003 U.S. Open), to go along with his three runner-up finishes.

Tiger Woods was not a factor on the weekend and ultimately finished tied for 40th with a plus-4. That matches his worst finish in a major as a professional, excluding events where he missed the cut or withdrew. He also finished tied for 40th at the 2012 Masters.

Woods is now a combined plus-16 in eight PGA Championship rounds at Oak Hill, and has never broken par in any of those rounds.

He is winless in last 18 majors and remains stuck on 14 major wins, which is four behind Jack Nicklaus.

Woods wasn’t the only highly-ranked golfer to struggle at the PGA this weekend. Phil Mickelson, fresh off his Open Championship title, shot a 12-over for the tournament and failed to make par or better in any round. He finished tied for 72nd among the 75 players that made the cut.

Did you know?
Dufner is the sixth golfer to shoot 63 in a round in a major and win. The others are Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, and Tiger Woods.

Could be 1st time in long time for Furyk

August, 10, 2013

Rob Carr/Getty ImagesThings went right for Jim Furyk on Saturday.
Jim Furyk has the lead through three rounds at the PGA Championship, one shot better than Jason Dufner on a day in which good scores were a lot harder to come by.

Here's a look at some of the statistical highlights that recap Saturday and preview Sunday.

Furyk’s furious run
This is the third time Furyk has held at least a share of the third-round lead at a major. He won the 2003 U.S. Open (his only major win) and finished tied for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open the previous two times.

Furyk is trying to become the second straight 43-year-old to win a major, joining Phil Mickelson.

The last time two majors were won in same season by players 43 or older: Jack Nicklaus (Masters) and Raymond Floyd (U.S. Open) in 1986.

Since 2003, Furyk is 6-for-7 converting outright 54-hole leads into wins.

Furyk shot 28-over in the first three majors of 2013.

He is trying to join Ben Crenshaw and Julius Boros as the only players to wait more than a decade for their second major title.

If Furyk wins, 41 majors will have been played between his two wins. That would be the longest gap since Hale Irwin (43, 1979-90).

Phil & Tiger bringing up the back
Only Gary Woodland has a worse score than Mickelson after three rounds.

Mickelson is 74th at +10 after shooting 78 on Saturday. He’s only fared worse twice through three rounds of a major, in 1996 at the U.S. Open (tied for 80th) and in 1998 at the Open Championship (tied for 79th).

Mickelson's 78 is his highest third-round score in a major in more than 10 years (2002 PGA Championship was his last score that bad).

Oak Hill does not agree with Tiger Woods. When the PGA Championship was held there in 2003, Woods did not break par in any round and finished in a tie for 39th.

He hasn't broken par in any of the first three rounds this year.

Woods is currently tied for 48th. He’s only had two majors in which he fared worse through 54 holes in a major. He was tied for 95th at the 1996 U.S. Open and tied for 67th at the 2002 Open Championship.

Since 1997, Woods and Mickelson have never had a tournament in which both made the cut and both finished outside the top 50.

The international perspective
Henrik Stenson (7-under) and Jonas Blixt (6-under): are third and fourth respectively. Both are natives of Sweden (no Swedish male has ever won a major).

Adam Scott at five-under is trying to become the first Australian-born player to win two majors in the same season. He’s trying to become the first player to win the Masters and PGA Championship in the same year since Nicklaus in 1975.

Stat storylines: 2013 PGA Championship

August, 7, 2013

If you’re curious for the top Tiger Woods storylines heading into the PGA Championship, click here.

But let’s use this space to look at the other notable statistical storylines.

Unpredictability factor
The last 20 majors (since the 2008 PGA) have been won by 18 different players. The only players to win multiple majors in that span are Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, with two apiece.

Young man’s game
The average age of the last three PGA Champions is 24.3. Compare that to the Open Championship, which has had three straight winners age 42 or older.

The PGA Championship has been won each of the last three years by players age 25 and younger. This is the first time that has happened at a major since the inception of the Masters in 1934.

The defending champ
Two-time major champion McIlroy has two more majors to play before turning 25. In the last century, only four players have won three majors before their 25th birthday: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.

McIlroy famously signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike before the 2013 season.

The numbers say there could be some validity in the theory that he’s still struggling with his new equipment. His scoring average dropped from best among all golfers in 2012 to 33rd in 2013.

In the last nine majors, McIlroy has one top-20 finish: his win at the 2012 PGA Championship.

Phil the thrill
Phil Mickelson will try to win back-to-back majors for the second time in his career (2005 PGA, 2006 Masters). He has now won five majors since 2004, second most in the sport in that span (behind only Woods, who has six).

Only three other players have won five or more majors since 1980: Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Woods.

Looking for consistency? Try Adam Scott
Only three players have made the cut in each of the last seven major championships: Adam Scott, Woods and Jason Dufner.

Scott has shot even par -- 14 shots better than Woods, 22 better than Dufner.

Comeback Sunday
Since the 2008 PGA Championship, there have been as many eventual major winners who were fifth or worse entering the final round as 54-hole leaders (five each).

Nine of the 21 winners entered Sunday trailing by at least 3 shots.

Numbers don't favor a Woods win

August, 6, 2013

The PGA Championship is Tiger Woods' final chance to capture a major before turning 38 in December. If he doesn't, his major drought will reach 18 and all eyes will then turn to The Masters in April.

In August 2012, Woods shared the 36-hole lead in the 2012 PGA Championship. But Woods struggled to a 2-over 74 in the third round, and eventual winner Rory McIlroy fired a 67, turning a two-shot deficit into a three-shot lead on the field -- and five shots on Woods.

The PGA Championship also represents the only major Woods failed to win after holding a 54-hole lead: in 2009 when Y.E. Yang emerged victorious after a 3-over 75 by Woods on Sunday.

This PGA Championship also carries significance for Woods' future success.

Only two players have won four majors after turning 38 -- Ben Hogan (5) and Jack Nicklaus (4). Four is the key number as it represents the gap between Nicklaus' record 18 major wins and Woods' 14.

Mickelson's success
What might be surprising though, as Woods has struggled in majors with age, rival Phil Mickelson has gotten better with age.

Mickelson didn't capture his first major until turning 33. Since then, Mickelson has won four more majors and finished in the Top 3 in 12 of 40 majors.

Mickelson is three wins shy of the record for most majors won at age 33 or older. Ben Hogan has the most with eight, one more than Nicklaus, two more than Sam Snead and Harry Vardon.

Woods has played in 17 majors since turning 33. He's won none.

Major trends

The last three winners of the Open Championship were at least 42 years old, and two of the last five Masters winners were at least 39 years old.

But the other two majors have trended toward younger winners.

Forty-two-year old Payne Stewart's win at Pinehurst in 1999 is the only U.S. Open in the last 21 years to be won by a player at least 38 years old.

And 41-year-old Vijay Singh's win in the 2004 PGA Championship is the only one of the last 25 to be won by a player at least 38 years old.

Woods vs. the greats
How does Woods' drought of 17 majors played without a win compare to major droughts of other golf greats?

Nicklaus went 20 majors between his win at age 40 in the 1980 PGA Championship and his miraculous win at age 46 in the 1986 Masters. Nicklaus' second-longest span between major wins was 12 -- between the 1967 U.S. Open and 1970 Open Championship. Gary Player's longest span between major wins was 15. Tom Watson's was 11.

Amazingly, Ben Hogan never had a stretch longer than four between major wins and Arnold Palmer never had one longer than five.

Dreading the weekend?
Woods has been in contention since capturing his last major win in the 2008 U.S. Open -- he has nine Top 6 finishes since then, most of anyone in the sport. But his weekend struggles have been well documented.

In the last six majors, Woods is 11-under in rounds 1 and 2, compared to 23-over in rounds 3 and 4. In his last 20 weekend rounds, Woods is 24-over par. If you eliminate six weekend rounds at Augusta National, Woods is 29-over in the other 14 rounds.

In his last 13 Sunday rounds in majors, Woods shot plus-3 or worse six times. In his first 46 Sunday rounds as a pro, that happened only eight times. And twice in his last 11 Sunday rounds, Woods shot 4-over or worse. That happened only twice in his first 47 Sunday rounds as a pro.

Woods' last sub-par Sunday round in a major other than the Masters came in the 2009 U.S. Open.

The ghost of past struggles
The 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill represents his second-worst major finish in terms of position as a pro (12-over, tied for 39th). It is also one of three majors in which Woods failed to shoot par in any round, joining the 1998 U.S. Open (10-over, tied for 18th) and 1999 Open Championship (10-over, tied for 7th).

Woods entered the 2003 PGA with seven wins in his previous 17 majors, compared to the 0-for-17 drought he is currently enduring.

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.

Rose's final-round birdies net win

June, 16, 2013

David Cannon/Getty ImagesJustin Rose came through with a host of big shots on Sunday.

Phil Mickelson came oh-so-close to ending his U.S. Open drought on Sunday, but could not finish off the lead he built on the first three days.

Instead it was Justin Rose winning as the best of the field against an extremely tough course at Merion.

Here’s a run-through of all the statistical storylines.

Sweet for Rose
Rose finished the tournament at one shot over par, making this the second straight year that a U.S. Open champ finished over par (Webb Simpson did last year). From 2009 to 2011, there were no instances of a major winner finishing over par.

He’s the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo won the 1996 Masters and the first to win a U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

Since 14-time major winner Tiger Woods last won one at the 2008 U.S. Open, there have been 14 first-time major winners, including Rose.

Rose is the third straight top-10 player to win a major, joining Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott. It’s only the third time since world rankings have been in existence that three different players in thetop 10 won three straight majors (1988, 1993).

Rose made five birdies in the final round on the way to the win. He's the first U.S. Open champ to make that many since Angel Cabrera in 2007.

The money holes for Rose were the seventh through 13th. He had nine birdies and a bogey on those holes and his -8 score was tied for the best on these holes with Luke Donald.

Always the bridesmaid
This marked the sixth time that Mickelson finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, the most of any golfer. It is Mickelson’s eight career runner-up finish at a major, tied for the third-most all-time. Only Jack Nicklaus (19) and Arnold Palmer (10) have more.

Mickelson’s 37 putts on Sunday were the most of any golfer on the course for the day.

Tiger’s worst round
Woods finished 13-over and tied for 32nd. His score to par was his worst at a major as a professional golfer.

Woods had 21 holes in which he shot a bogey or worse, his most-ever at a major as a pro and his second-most in any PGA Tour event.

This comes after Woods shot an 8-over at the Memorial. It’s the first time since 1997 that he shot 5-over or worse in back-to-back tournaments.

Jason Day now has three runner-up finishes (2011 Masters, 2011 U.S. Open; 2013 U.S. Open) and a third-place finish (2013 Masters) in the last 10 majors.

Stricker's struggles
Steve Stricker entered the final round even par, one shot back. He finished with a 6-over 76. It's the fourth time he has entered the final round of the U.S. Open in the Top 5. He has shot 3-over or worse in the final round each time.

Sunday's stat storylines: Mickelson & more

June, 15, 2013
Here are the numbers behind the storylines heading into Sunday's final round of the U.S. Open.

Can Phil Mickelson finally win a U.S. Open?
Mickelson has five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, the most in tournament history.

This is his first 54-hole lead at a major since 2006 U.S. Open (finished tied for second) and the fifth time he's led a major entering the final round (won three of previous four times)

Mickelson is trying to join Rory McIlroy (2011) as the only wire-to-wire winners since 2003.

Can 46-year-old Steve Stricker finally win a major?
If Stricker wins, he’d be the oldest first-time major winner and the oldest champ in U.S. Open history (currently Hale Irwin, 45 in 1990)

Will there be another first-time champion?
Of the nine players within five strokes of the lead, eight have never won a major.

Among them is Hunter Mahan, whose current tied-for-second standing is his best-ever position at a major.

Tiger Woods: out of contention
Saturday marked the first time as a pro that Tiger Woods had at least seven bogeys and one birdie or fewer in a round at the U.S. Open.

The only other round at a major in which Woods had at least 7 bogeys (or worse) and 0 or one birdies (as a professional) was the 3rd round at Muirfield in the 2002 Open Championship. Much of that round was played in a torrential downpour.

Sunday is five years to the day (June 16, 2008) of the playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open won by Woods.

Woods has not won a major since that one. This would be his 16th straight major without a victory.

What will happen on the 18th hole?
The 18th hole is currently playing as second-hardest hole at U.S. Open over the last 25 years. There were no birdies on the 18th hole in the third round, when it played as the longest Par 4 in U.S. Open history.

The 18th hole hasn’t been the only score-wrecker. The 73 players that made the cut are a combined 691 strokes over par through three rounds.

Top things to know: U.S. Open

June, 12, 2013
The 113th U.S. Open gets underway Thursday at Merion Golf Club. Here are the top things to know this week:

• The U.S. Open returns to Merion Golf Club for the fifth time (first time since 1981). Merion Golf Club enjoys the distinction of hosting more USGA championships (the 2013 U.S. Open will be its 18th) than any other club in the country.

• Tiger Woods has not won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open. The Sunday of this year’s U.S. Open will be five years to the day since he defeated Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff to claim his 14th major title.

• Only one player has ever won more than four major championships after their 37th birthday: Ben Hogan, who won six. That included the 1950 U.S. Open, when Hogan was 37. Strangely enough, the 1950 U.S. Open that Hogan won came at Merion.

• The last reigning Masters champion to win the U.S. Open that same year was Woods in 2002. Masters champ Adam Scott is one of eight players who have made the cut in each of the previous five majors. Scott is a combined minus-15 in those five events -- Tiger Woods is second best in that group at plus-2.

• Webb Simpson is the defending U.S. Open champion. Simpson will attempt to become the first player to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles since Curtis Strange did it in 1988-89.

Tiger Woods
Since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, 19 majors have been played without a Woods victory, although he has competed in just 15 of them.

Despite not winning since the U.S. Open in 2008, Tiger has had his share of close calls. Tiger has eight top-six finishes in majors since the 2008 Open Championship -- two more than any other player in that span.

Tiger still trails Jack Nicklaus by four majors (18-14). It’s worth noting that only three players have won four or more majors after their 37th birthday.

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has been over par in 12 of his past 14 rounds at majors. He has been over par after the first round in 10 of the past 12 majors. In fact, the most recent major other than the Masters in which Mickelson has been under par after the first round was the 2009 U.S. Open (finished second). In the past three U.S. Opens, Mickelson has been T-93, T-62 and T-66 after the first round.

Mickelson hasn’t finished in the top 10 in any of the past four majors. The most recent time he had a streak of four majors without a top-10 finish, he nearly won the 2011 Open Championship, finishing tied for second (with Dustin Johnson) behind Darren Clarke.
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.

Rookies, Mickelson lead way on Day 1

September, 28, 2012

AP Photo/Charlie RiedelPhil Mickelson did something in the Ryder Cup he'd never done before.
Five notes to know from today's Ryder Cup action:

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.

Home-course advantage big at Ryder Cup

September, 27, 2012

Getty ImagesLuke Donald and Tiger Woods headline the European and American Ryder Cup teams.
The 2012 Ryder Cup tees off on Friday morning at Medinah Country Club in Illinois, where the Europeans will try to win their second straight cup and seventh since 1995.

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.

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.