Stats & Info: Sergio Garcia

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.

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.

Putting key behind Garcia's victory

August, 20, 2012

AP Photo/Gerry BroomeSergio Garcia carded four scores of 67 or better in a PGA TOUR event for the 1st time.
Sergio Garcia claimed his 1st PGA TOUR title since the 2008 PLAYERS Monday at the rain-delayed Wyndham Championship. Garcia had made 70 PGA TOUR starts between victories (he won three times on the European Tour during his U.S. drought).

This was the 1st time Garcia ever carded four scores of 67 or better in a PGA TOUR event. His final total of 18-under par ties his career-best mark in an official PGA TOUR event.

Garcia, who has ranked 119th or worse each of the previous four years on TOUR in ‘Strokes Gained-Putting,’ has been rolling the ball better in 2012 (up to 38th in that statistic). This week though, he was even more improved.

Garcia tied for the second-fewest putts in the field, and didn’t have a single three-putt for the entire week. He made about 92 percent of his putts inside 10 feet, improving on his season average of 87 percent.

Garcia, who led the tournament after 54 holes, staved off a flurry of trends with his victory.

Sergio was just 2-for-7 in his PGA TOUR career converting 54-hole leads into victories, and had failed to win the previous five instances. Before his victory Monday, only 12 of 35 (34.2 percent) PGA TOUR winners in 2012 had held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Garcia only made four bogeys all week en route to victory. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two TOUR winners in 2012 carded fewer scores of bogey or worse: Hunter Mahan at the Shell Houston Open (two) and Scott Stallings at the True South Classic (three).

The Wyndham Championship also marked the last event of the PGA TOUR regular season, with the top 125 on the FedExCup points list qualifying for the playoffs, which begin next week at The Barclays.

Heath Slocum (No. 124), who finished tied for 31st, was the only player in the Wyndham field to move into the top 125 after starting the week on the outside looking in. Slocum replaces Jhonattan Vegas, who dropped out of the top 125 after missing the cut by two shots.

Garcia, Westwood 'almost' have formula

August, 8, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improved putter play revives Garcia's game

July, 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His playing partner for the first two rounds, Tiger Woods, captured the 1999 PGA Championship at Garcia's expense. Despite a 1-under 71 in the final round with a crucial bogey on 15, a 19-year-old Garcia fell one shot short of Woods for the tournament.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty ImagesPeter Hanson finds himself in an usual position heading into the final round of the Masters, leading a major after 54 holes for the first time.
Moving day at the Masters saw plenty of shuffling on the leaderboard, as the best rounds were shot by those outside the final three pairings.

Seven players entered the third round within one stroke of the lead. Of that group, only two golfers broke par on Saturday. Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson shot 3-under par and will be paired together in the second to last group on Sunday.

The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing 19 out of the last 21 years, but both exceptions came in the last five events. Last year’s champion Charl Schwartzel was tied for second but played in the penultimate group, and Zach Johnson was tied for fourth in 2007.

Only one Masters champion has come from outside the top-10 on the leaderboard after 54 holes. Art Wall Jr. was six strokes back and tied for 13th heading into the final round before winning the title in 1959.

This year’s PGA TOUR has seen several large comebacks on Sunday. Four different golfers have come from at least six shots down in the final round to win a title.

The last 13 majors have been won by 13 different players. Also in that span, the last seven and 10 of the last 11 champions have been first-time major winners. Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters was the only exception.

Sunday’s final pairing
The final pairing on Sunday will be Peter Hanson and Mickelson.

Before finishing with the third-round lead, Hanson had never been within five shots of the lead entering the final round of a major. In the first three rounds, he leads the field with 18 birdies.

Hanson recorded the ninth score of 65 of better in the Masters third round over the last 40 years. Only two of the previous eight instances led to a title. Tiger Woods won at Augusta in 1997 and 2005 after shooting seven-under in the third round.

After shooting nine straight pars to start the round, Mickelson was six-under on the back nine. His 66 on Saturday was his first career round of six-under or better on the weekend in a major.

With a win, Mickelson can match Woods and Arnold Palmer with his fourth green jacket. Only Jack Nicklaus, with six, would have more.

Mickelson and Woods have been identical statistically this week, with one major exception. Woods has needed 10 more putts to complete his rounds.

Chip shots
Louis Oosthuizen: looking to become the sixth player to win the Masters and Open Championship at St. Andrew’s

Matt Kuchar: within five shots of the lead entering the final round of a major for the first time

Sergio Garcia: after shooting a 75 on Saturday, hasn’t broken par in the third round of the Masters since 2002

Rory McIlroy: his 77 on Saturday was the third time in 13 career rounds at the Masters that he shot five-over or worse

Tiger Woods: failed to birdie a par-5 the last two rounds after only failing to birdie twice in his first 61 rounds at the Masters as a professional
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.