Stats & Info: Rory McIlroy
August, 4, 2014
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
>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.
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).
July, 20, 2014
By Zach Jones | ESPN.com
Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy's drives were the most powerful in the field.
The 25-year-old McIlroy is the third-youngest player in the Masters era to win three majors and the third-youngest to win three legs of the career Grand Slam, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (23) and Tiger Woods (24).
McIlroy is now a Masters win away from joining the small group of players who have won the career Grand Slam. Those in that club are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods.
McIlroy became the seventh player to win the Open Championship in wire-to-wire fashion (without ties) and joins Woods and Raymond Floyd as the only players with multiple wire-to-wire major wins.
The last time consecutive majors were won in wire-to-wire fashion was in 2005, when Woods won the Open Championship at St Andrews and Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
McIlroy finished the week at 17-under-par 271, one shot off the Royal Liverpool scoring record set by Woods in 2006 and two shots off the record for most strokes under par at a major (Woods at the 2000 Open Championship).
What made McIlroy so good?
He led the field with an average drive of 327.8 yards, shot 12-under on the par-5 holes and tied for the best in the field at 12-under on the back-nine holes.
McIlroy reached seven par-5s in two shots, creating frequent opportunities to two-putt for birdie.
Sergio Garcia, who finished tied for second, notched his first top-five finish since the 2008 PGA Championship -- 23 majors ago. He tied with Rickie Fowler, who became the first golfer to shoot four Open Championship rounds in the 60s and not win since Ernie Els in 2004.
Woods shot a final-round 75 to finish 69th. It’s his worst finish as a pro at a major where he made the cut.
There have now been 25 straight majors without a Woods victory. He falls behind Nicklaus’ major pace, as Nicklaus won his 15th major at The Open Championship at the age of 38.
July, 18, 2014
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy pulled away from the pack with another 66 in the second round of the Open Championship
Here are the top stats to know on McIlroy and Woods entering the weekend.
McIlroy running away
McIlroy’s total score of 132 matches Tiger Woods’ 36-hole record at Royal Liverpool. Woods posted that score in 2006 and went on to win the Open Championship.
This year’s Open Championship looks a lot like another major won by McIlroy - the 2011 U.S. Open. In that event McIlroy shot a 131 and had a six-stroke lead after 36 holes. He went on to win by eight strokes.
Prior to shooting a 66 in each of the first two rounds of the 2014 Open Championship, McIlroy led the PGA TOUR with an average first-round score of 68.0. McIlroy’s 66 on Friday helped him rebound from a season-long trend of bad second-round scores that ranked 181st on the tour (72.9).
If McIlroy can hang on to win, he will join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to win three majors by age 25 since the Masters began in 1934.
Tiger in trouble
Tiger Woods followed up his first-round 69 (-3) with a second-round 77 (+5). It took a birdie on 18 after a triple-bogey on 17 to get Woods back under the cut line at +2 for the tournament. Woods had previously missed the cut as a professional just three times in Majors (2011 PGA Championship, 2009 Open Championship, 2006 U.S. Open).
Woods’ second-round 77 was his worst second-round score at a major since he shot an 85 at the 1995 U.S. Open as an amateur. It also tied his second worst round at the Open Championship as a pro. Woods shot an 81 in the third round in 2002 and a 77 in 1998.
The driver gave Woods trouble all day. Woods missed the fairway on all five holes where he used his driver, posting a score of +6. Woods hit the fairway on 7-of-9 par 4/5 tee shots with a fairway wood or iron. He was one under par on those holes.
Notables to miss the cut
Lee Westwood (+3), Boo Weekley (+4), Bubba Watson (+4), Ernie Els (+8) and Padraig Harrington (+8) missed the cut line of +2.
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesPinehurst No. 2 has hosted two previous U.S. Opens, in 1999 and in 2005.
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.
April, 8, 2014
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesDefending champion Adam Scott looks to become the fourth player to win the Masters in back-to-back years.
Here are some of the top statistical storylines we'll be covering.
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.
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.
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.
August, 7, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
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.
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.
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.
July, 17, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
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.
April, 9, 2013
By Chris Fallica | ESPN.com
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesBubba Watson will try to become the rare repeat Masters winner.With three wins this year, Tiger Woods has regained the No. 1 ranking in the world and dominated the headlines entering the Masters. But 18 majors have been played since Woods last won one, so let’s examine the “Front Nine” and key storylines surrounding other players with a chance to put on the Green Jacket Sunday afternoon.
Don’t Expect Bubba Watson to Repeat
Only three players have repeated as Masters champion and the list reads of golf royalty – Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus.
In fact, each of the last six Masters champions has finished outside the Top 15 each the following year. Considering Watson has just three Top 10s in 20 majors, don’t be surprised to see this trend continue.
The fall – and rise? – of McIlroy
Following a highly publicized equipment switch this season, McIlroy’s game was a work in progress to being the season.
In 2012, McIlroy had five Top-3 finishes and a scoring average of 68.3 entering the Masters. Over his first five events, he did not post a Top-3 finish and his scoring average was nearly three strokes worse than 2012. That was until a runner-up finish in the Valero Texas Open where McIlroy led the field in greens-in-regulation and shot a final round 66.
While McIlroy's game appears to be rounding into form, McIlroy too has had his problems on the weekend at Augusta, putting up Saturday-Sunday scores of 150 and 153 the last two years.
Phil Mickelson looks to equal Arnie and Tiger
Phil Mickelson has his own chase with history going. Mickelson is looking for his fourth Masters title, which is the same number Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have.
Since 2001, Mickelson has three wins and nine Top-5 finishes at Augusta, which is the same number of wins and one more Top-5 finish than Woods has in that span.
Mickelson’s biggest problem lately? Getting off to a good start.
In his last 11 majors, Mickelson has been over par after the first round in nine of them. His average position on the leaderboard after Round One—62nd.
Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker
The two are linked by near misses both at Augusta and last year at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Snedeker led after 36 holes, while Scott led by four on the back nine before his historic collapse. But their time is coming.
Scott made the cut in all four majors last year and had the best cumulative score of those players which did. He’s been in the Top 15 in six of the last eight majors and leads the TOUR in par 5 birdie-or-better percentage, an all important stat at Augusta.
If Snedeker is healthy, he also could capture his first major. In his last 16 events, Snedeker has a better scoring average and the same number of Top-5 finishes than Tiger Woods does in that stretch.
If you have won, forget about winning. And if you win, forget about winning
Each of the last six Masters winners did not have a win prior to the Masters the year they won the event. And for the last five Masters champions, it has been a struggle since.
The last five Masters champions have combined for three wins (all by Phil Mickelson) in 327 events since their Masters win.
The last Masters winner not named Mickelson to have a win since capturing the Green Jacket? 2007 winner Zach Johnson.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are among the top players in the world, but each is seeking his first major victory. And they couldn’t be any more opposite in their pursuit and shortcoming.
Donald has been a very poor starter in majors, as just five of his last 44 rounds on Thursday and Friday have been under par (31 have been over par). As a result, not surprisingly, Donald has missed the cut or finished outside the Top 20 in 26 of his 38 majors.
Westwood on the other hand has 7 Top 3 finishes in majors since 2008, which is the most by any player in history without a major title. Westwood led the Masters after the first round last year, but given he is 115th in strokes gained putting this year, his putter again could be his undoing.
Greens, Greens and more Greens
If there is one stat which has been the biggest harbinger of Masters success lately, it has been greens in regulation.
Ten of the last 13 Masters champions have been in the Top 4 in GIR for the tournament. And the three which were not – Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir – were each in the Top 12 in putting.
Some notable names atop the GIR ranking this year include 2012 winner Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.
Someone new again?
The last 17 majors have been won by 16 different players – only Rory McIlroy has two in that span. And nine of the last eleven major winners were first-time major winners.
Also interesting, since 2009, three players ranked inside the Top 10 have won a major and three players outside the Top 100 have won a major.
Runner-up Need Not Apply
Like Louis Oosthuizen’s chances after losing in a playoff last year?
After reading this, your hopes may be tempered some.
Just once in the last 40 years has someone won the Masters the year after finishing second. That was Ben Crenshaw in 1984. Before that? Jack Nicklaus in 1972.
So while Oosthuizen’s game stamps him as a contender. History says otherwise.
February, 27, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
The PGA TOUR heads to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. this week, where the 2013 Honda Classic starts on Thursday. Rory McIlroy returns to PGA National where his victory last season propelled him to No. 1 in the world for the first time. But if history is any indication, returning as the defending champion doesn’t bode well for him.
This is the third time McIlroy will defend a tournament title on the PGA TOUR in his career, and in each of the previous two instances (2011 Wells Fargo Championship, 2012 U.S. Open), he missed the cut.
What else is working against McIlroy? Simply, his play so far in 2013. He’s played three competitive rounds since signing an endorsement deal with Nike in January, and none have gone as planned.
McIlroy shot a 75 in his first round of the season at Abu Dhabi, the worst round he’d ever played at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He followed that up with another 75 the next day and missed the cut.
Then, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play last weekend, he was eliminated in the first round by 16-seed Shane Lowry, becoming the fourth No. 1-overall seed to be eliminated in the opening round in the 15-year history of the event.
If he’s going to turn things around and be in contention this week, he’ll need to repeat last season's performance at “The Bear Trap.” “The Bear Trap” consists of holes 15, 16 and 17 -- one of the toughest three-hole stretches on tour. In fact, the 15th and 17th holes played as the two toughest par-3s on the PGA Tour back in 2011.
Last year, en route to victory, McIlroy was 3-under for the week at “The Bear Trap.” In his first three starts at the Honda Classic, he was a combined 16-over par on the three-hole stretch.
SUCCESS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Tiger Woods, the world’s No. 2-ranked player, will also be in the field. Woods finished second in this event last season, and more success in Florida this week would not be surprising.
During the Tour’s “Florida Swing” over his pro career (Honda, WGC-Cadillac, Arnold Palmer and Tampa Bay), he’s won 13 times with 20 top 10s, and has shot a combined 258-under par in 28 events.
His 13 Tour wins in the state of Florida are his second-most in any state (14 in California). To put that number into perspective, only five Tour card-holding players in 2013 have more than 13 career wins in any state.
The previous two times, Woods followed it up with a top-10 finish at Doral (second in 2002 and T-10th in 2011). Woods will try to do the same this week -- this time about 80 miles north at PGA National.
February, 19, 2013
By Justin Ray, ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are both 1-seeds in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but history says that's no guarantee of success. Woods is the only player to win as a 1-seed.
The impossibility of picking a flawless NCAA Tournament bracket is well-documented. Mathematically speaking, the odds of pulling it off are more than nine quintillion to one.
But if you think predicting next month’s most famous bracket is difficult, give February’s a try. The WGC-Accenture Match Play begins Wednesday, and the numbers behind golf’s ‘bracketology’ read like this:
TOP SEEDS WILL GO DOWN EARLY
At least one 1-seed has lost in the 1st round each of the last seven years. Four times in the 14-year history of the event, multiple 1-seeds were defeated in the opening round.
16-seeds win their opening matches 28.6 percent of the time overall. Compare that to the Big Dance – where 16s are 0-104 in the round of 64 since 1985.
In the tourney, 15- and 16-seeds are 4-204 in the round of 64 during the modern era. In the WGC, the bottom two seeds have an opening-round win percentage of .339 (38-for-112).
9TH AND 10TH SEEDS ARE FAVORITES IN THE 1st ROUND
Historically speaking, 9- and 10-seeds win their opening-round match more than 55 percent of the time, making them slight favorites against their higher-seeded counterparts. Over the last three years of the match play, 9- and 10-seeds are 14-10 in the first round.
LOWER-SEEDED PLAYERS CAN MAKE A RUN
Since 1985, teams seeded 9th or lower in the Big Dance are 3-16 in the regional final round (Elite Eight) and beyond. In just the last five years in the WGC, three players seeded 9th or lower have won their round of eight match to advance to the semifinals. And since 2005, seven players seeded 9th or lower have advanced to the ‘final four.’
A 3-SEED WILL LOSE IN THE 1st ROUND
In 12 of 14 years, a No. 3 seed has lost his opening match. Six of those years, multiple 3-seeds lost in the first round.
AS MANY 1-SEEDS HAVE WON AS DOUBLE-DIGIT SEEDS
In the 14 years this event has been played, the only player to win the event as a 1-seed is Tiger Woods, doing so three times. Double-digit seeds have claimed just as many victories: Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 (13th), Steve Stricker in 2001 (14th) and Kevin Sutherland in 2002 (16th).
January, 15, 2013
By Justin Ray and Zach Jones, ESPN Stats & Info | ESPN.com
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
McIlroy and Woods have been paired together nine times in official events.
7 – Woods and McIlroy have been grouped together nine different times in official events around the world. Seven of those times, Woods has posted the better score. In fact, in those nine rounds, Tiger is a combined 38-under, while Rory is 24-under.
Neither may post the best score in their group the first two rounds, though. European Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer will play with Woods and McIlroy Thursday and Friday. Kaymer has won this event three times in the previous five years (2011, 2010 and 2008).
6 – Woods is entering his 17th full season as a professional. In his previous 16 season openers, he has six victories and 14 top-ten finishes. Twelve times, he has finished in the top-5, including last year at this event (tied for 3rd).
5 – Each of the last four years, McIlroy has teed it up in this event. He’s finished in the top five each time. In both 2011 and 2012, Rory finished second. The last time the world number one was in the United Arab Emirates, it was last November. McIlroy shot back-to-back 66’s on the weekend to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
47 – McIlroy has played 54 tournament rounds in the United Arab Emirates as a professional. In 47 of those rounds (87 percent), he has broken par. In his 14 starts there, he has ten top-five finishes and a pair of victories. McIlroy’s career scoring average in 20 rounds at this tournament is 68.45.
September, 20, 2012
By Zach Jones and Justin Ray | ESPN.com
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will be paired together for the TOUR Championship.
Each of the top five players in the standings entering this week (Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker) controls his own destiny. Any of those players will automatically win the FedExCup with a victory this week.
All eyes will be on the final pairing of the day, Woods and McIlroy.
The duo have played four of their last 12 rounds together with Woods shooting the better score in three of those four rounds. However, McIlroy has finished better in both events, including his win at the BMW Championship.
McIlroy and Woods are ranked 1-2 in the Official Golf World Rankings and own the top two spots in the FedExCup standings. McIlroy (4) and Woods (3) are also the only two golfers to win more than two PGA TOUR events this year.
McIlroy heads to East Lake having won his last two events on the PGA TOUR. The last time a player won three consecutive starts was 2007, when Tiger Woods won five in a row from the 2007 BMW Championship to the 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He has three wins in his last four events starting with the PGA Championship, scoring a 67 or better in nine of his 16 rounds and breaking par in 13 of those 16 rounds as well.
Tiger trending upward
Woods enters the TOUR Championship riding a streak of eight consecutive under-par rounds. It’s his longest streak of the season and his longest in a single season since 2007, when he played 11 straight rounds under par from the Deutsche Bank Championship through the TOUR Championship.
One of the prevailing themes for Woods since his victory at the AT&T National has been fast starts followed by disappointing play on the weekends.
His scoring average in the two rounds before the cut ranks second, but his scoring averages in the third and fourth rounds don’t even crack the top 20.
Woods has won the FedExCup in two of the five years since its inception, but in both of those seasons he led the FedExCup standings entering the TOUR Championship.
Key Stat: Strokes Gained Putting
“Strokes gained – putting” (SGP), a statistic exclusive to PGA TOUR events, is a measurement of how many strokes a player gains on the rest of the field while on the green. The higher the number, the better.
How important is that statistic in winning for the top two golfers in the world – Woods and McIlroy?
Four times in McIlroy’s PGA TOUR career, he’s played a full four rounds in an event with an average SGP number of +1.2 or higher. He won three of those four events and finished fifth in the other.
Woods has had four tournaments this year where he averaged a net gain of more than a full stroke per round on the field when putting. He has two wins and hasn’t finished worse than third in any of those four events.
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy holds up the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 94th PGA Championship.
He’s the youngest winner (23 years, 3 months) of the PGA Championship since the event went to stroke play in 1958, and his eight-stroke margin of victory surpassed the event's prior record held by Jack Nicklaus (who won by seven strokes in 1980).
McIlroy joined a small club of players since 1934 (the year the Masters began) to win multiple majors before their 24th birthday (Tiger Woods, Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, and now McIlroy).
What does it mean to win your second major so early? No one else in that group won fewer than five career majors.
And he reached major win No. 2 faster than Woods, by four months.
It may have felt like a dry spell for McIlroy after his U.S. Open victory, but he went five major starts without a win before capturing his second title.
By contrast, it was 10 winless majors for Woods, after his breakthrough at the 1997 Masters, before he won again at the 1999 PGA Championship.
Woods went on to win four of his next five major starts (and four in a row).
As for Woods currently, he’s now failed to win a major after holding at least a share of the 36-hole lead for the third straight time (was 8-for-8 before this streak).
In fact, Tiger has failed to break par in 14 of his last 15 weekend rounds at majors (0-8 this season).
It’s Woods’ 14th straight major start with a victory, extending the longest drought of his professional career.
Plus it’s the 18th straight major that has ended without a Woods victory.
With a win, Tiger would have jumped to No. 1 in the world. But instead, Rory McIlroy is No. 1 for the second time in his young career.
Zach Jones and Brandon Mendoza contributed to this post.
July, 18, 2012
By Chris Fallica, ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
David Cannon/Getty ImagesTiger Woods will look to end his major drought this week at Royal Lytham & St Annes
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.
July, 16, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information | ESPN.com
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Darren Clarke was ranked 111th in the world when he won the 2011 Open Championship, the third straight winner ranked outside the top-10.
Since the beginning of 2009, fewer players ranked inside the Official World Golf Ranking top 10 have won majors (two) than players from outside the top 100 (three) including last year’s Open Championship winner, Darren Clarke (111th). The only two major winners from inside the top 10 over that span were Rory McIlroy (eighth at the 2011 U.S. Open) and Phil Mickelson (third at the 2010 Masters).
During the previous four-year span from 2005-2008, 10 of the 16 major champions were ranked inside the top 10 at the time of their victory and from 2001-08, 20 of the 32 major winners were ranked inside the top 10.
Long-shot winners have been particularly common at the Open Championship lately, as the last three winners have had an average world rank of 66 (Stewart Cink – 33rd in 2009, Louis Oosthuizen – 54th in 2010, and Darren Clarke – 111th in 2011). Padraig Harrington was the last top-10 golfer to win the Open Championship when he won as the 10th-ranked golfer in the world in 2007.
(For more on the recent run of parity in majors click here)
TIGER HOPING TO FOLLOW THE GOLDEN BEAR
Tiger Woods will tee off at 4:42 AM ET on Thursday in hopes of winning his 15th career major on TOUR. Jack Nicklaus won the 15th of his record 18 career majors at the Open Championship in 1978 at age 38. At age 36, Tiger is still on Nicklaus’ pace, but has gone without a major win since the 2008 U.S. Open.
This weekend will mark the third time in his career that Tiger has appeared in an Open Championship played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. In 2001, Woods finished in a tie for 25th, nine shots behind champion David Duval and in 1996 as an amateur, Tiger tied for 21st overall and posted the low score among non-professionals.
TIGER’S LAST WIN WAS OPENING ACT OF HISTORIC RUN
There are similarities between Tiger’s TOUR play in 2012 and his play leading up to his last Open Championship win in 2006 and that may bode well for him moving forward.
In both seasons, Woods will have entered the Open with four top-five finishes and multiple wins on TOUR (two in 2006, three in 2012).
Tiger not only won the Open Championship in 2006, but it also kick-started a run that saw him win his next six PGA TOUR events. The seven-consecutive wins on TOUR were the 2nd-longest streak in PGA history and the longest in over 60 years. Only Byron Nelson’s streak of 11-straight wins in 1945 was longer.