Stats & Info: GOLF

Success on par-5s key at Bay Hill

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
9:29
AM ET

Tiger Woods isn’t in the field this week at an event he’s won a record eight times, but the top five players in the world will be on hand at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge -- a place that puts a premium on a player’s ability to exploit the longest holes on the course.

Par 5 primacy
When the course was redesigned in 2010 and returned to a par 72 -- with the purpose of creating more birdie chances -- it effectively divided the course into two parts.

On one hand, there are the par-4s and par-3s. In 2014, Bay Hill’s par-4s were tied for eighth on the PGA Tour for scoring difficulty (ahead of PGA Championship host Valhalla), and the par-3s ranked 13th.

As for the par-5s, the redesign accomplished its goal. Each year since 2010, all four of the course’s par-5s have played under par, and as a group, they ranked tied for 31st (out of 48) in terms of difficulty on the PGA Tour last season.

Take a chance
Since 2010, the blueprint has been pretty simple for the four men who have won this event (Tiger Woods twice in that span): Punish the par-5s and hold on for the other 14 holes.

The last five winners at the Arnold Palmer Invitational have combined to shoot 56-under on the par-5s compared with 2-under on all other holes.

Last year’s champion, Matt Every, was 8-under-par on the par-5s for the week, and that ranks as the worst par-5 performance by a champion in the last five years.

When Tiger Woods won in 2012 and 2013, he was a cumulative 26-under-par on the par-5s, with three eagles, 21 birdies and a bogey in 32 holes played. Woods played the rest of the course in even par those two years.

Except for Every, every year since 2010, the champion has been no worse than tied for second in par-5 scoring at the event. So for starters, a potential champion will need to go low on the par-5s. The last player to conquer a par-72 Bay Hill layout while being worse than 8-under-par on the par-5s was Kenny Perry in 2006.

Aggression pays
The key to scoring on these par-5s? Be aggressive. Four of the past five champions at Bay Hill (with the exception of Every) have gone for the green in two on at least 11 of the 16 par-5s they played for the week.

Martin Laird (2011 champion) went for the green on all 16 chances en route to victory.

Rory McIlroy has never teed it up at this event, but he figures to feel right at home this week, at least on paper. McIlroy made birdie or better on 51 percent of his par-5s a season ago -- that ranked third on the PGA Tour -- and he went for the green on 74 percent of his par-5 opportunities, the highest rate on tour for the season.

McIlroy's standing heading into Masters

March, 10, 2015
Mar 10
10:37
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AP Photo/Luis M. AlvarezRory McIlroy is eyeing his third consecutive major title.

When the Masters begins in less than a month, Rory McIlroy will try to become just the third player ever to win three consecutive majors, and just the sixth player in the Masters era (since 1934) to complete the career grand slam.

So what’s the state of McIlroy’s game as he prepares to head to Augusta with a shot at history?

Shaky in the States
McIlroy began 2015 in Dubai, where he looked like the same player who won two majors and was named PGA TOUR Player of the Year in 2014.

In eight stroke-play rounds (all under par) in Dubai, he was a cumulative 40 under par and posted a scoring average of 67.0.

But in six rounds (two weeks) of PGA TOUR play in the United States, it’s been a different story -- just one round under par and a cumulative score of six over par.

His missed cut at The Honda Classic marked the first time in his PGA TOUR career that he’s missed the cut in his first start of a season, and it’s the first time since 2011 that he’s cumulatively over par after his first two stroke-play PGA TOUR events.

Par 5s
The biggest difference between McIlroy’s play in Dubai and the United States has been his performance on the par 5s. In Dubai, McIlroy played 32 total par 5s (four per round), and recorded 19 birdies and 0 bogeys on those holes (4.41 scoring average, 59 percent conversion rate).

On the PGA TOUR, he’s played 20 total par 5s, making seven birdies and an eagle (4.70 scoring average, 40 percent conversion rate).

After tying for fifth on the PGA TOUR last season in par 5 scoring average, McIlroy’s current scoring average on those holes (in an admittedly small sample) would rank tied for 150th on the TOUR if he had enough rounds to qualify for a ranking.

Iron Play
The other factor in McIlroy’s scuffles early in the PGA TOUR season has been his iron play. In 2014, he capitalized on long, accurate driving by posting the TOUR’s sixth-best proximity to the hole on approach shots struck from the fairway. He was tied for 113th in approach shot accuracy on shots hit from the rough.

So far this year, he’s hitting fewer fairways than he did a season ago (55 percent compared to 60 percent), but even when he’s playing from the short grass this season, he ranks just 190th in approach shot proximity.

McIlroy has committed to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in two weeks, a par-72 layout that will give him plenty of chances to polish up his form on the par 5s.

With a missed cut and a T-9th so far this season, it’s worth mentioning that McIlroy has never won a major without posting at least one top-five finish on the PGA TOUR earlier in the season.
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Tiger Woods, who celebrates a birthday Tuesday, will enter the 2015 Masters at 39 years old, needing four major wins to match Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18.

In the Masters era (since 1934), no player has won more than three majors after his 39th birthday (Ben Hogan, Nicklaus and Sam Snead won three each). However, 40 majors have been won by a player 39 or older, including five since 2009.

Woods' 2014 season was the worst of his career. In eight official worldwide events he withdrew or missed the cut in half of them. His best finish was 25th. Woods' other three finishes were tied for 41st (Dubai Desert Classic), 69th (Open Championship) and tied for 80th (Farmers Insurance Open).

Despite past success at some of the 2015 major venues, Woods' recent track record isn't the best. He finished tied for 23rd the last time he played St. Andrews (the site of the 2015 Open Championship) and tied for 28th the last time he played at Whistling Straits (site of the 2015 PGA Championship).

Woods' past three majors have resulted in a tie for 40th, a 69th-place finish and a missed cut. He has played his past five majors in a combined 31-over par with two rounds under par.

In his 20 major starts since his last title (2008 U.S. Open), Woods has been a cumulative 12 over par after playing his first 46 career majors as a pro at 126 under par.

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New metric: Strokes Gained, Tee-To-Green

September, 4, 2014
9/04/14
9:03
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AP Photo/Mark DuncanRory McIlroy is 1 of 4 players to rank among the TOUR's top 10 in SGT2G in each of the last 3 seasons.
In 2011, the PGA TOUR introduced a new metric, Strokes Gained: Putting (SGP) to better evaluate players’ putting performance.

Now, in an attempt to measure who’s the best on all the parts of the game that take place before the putting surface, the TOUR has added Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green (SGT2G).

Both metrics are founded on the principle of strokes gained (or lost) against the field - a player who shoots 68 in a round when the field average was 71 has gained 3.0 total strokes on the field. A player who shoots 72 in that same round has lost 1.0 stroke.

Using historical putting data, SGP assigns a value to a player’s putting performance in a given round (i.e. +1.7 strokes), meaning the rest of the player’s strokes gained (or lost) for the round are attributed to his play from tee to green, or SGT2G.

If Rory McIlroy gains 4.0 shots on the field in a given round, and his SGP is +1.5, then simple arithmetic says that his SGT2G is +2.5 for that round.

Winning happens off the green
The old saying “Drive for show, putt for dough” suggests that the putter is the most important club in the bag, but SGT2G indicates otherwise.

Of the top five players on the PGA TOUR in SGT2G this season (entering the BMW Championship), three have won at least once, and they have combined for five victories and 38 top-10 finishes.

Compare that to just one win (Matt Every) and 21 top-10 finishes combined for the top five players in SGP.

In each of the last five years, the PGA TOUR Player of the Year ranked fourth or better in SGT2G. But only two of those players (Tiger Woods in 2009 and Luke Donald in 2011) also ranked inside the top 20 in putting.

In 2012, when he won four times on TOUR, Rory McIlroy ranked a dismal 82nd in strokes gained putting.

Distance required?
Four players have ranked among the TOUR’s top 10 in SGT2G in each of the last three seasons: McIlroy (World No. 1), Adam Scott (World No. 2), Justin Rose (World No. 5) and Jim Furyk (World No. 7).

Length off the tee certainly helps in this category (two of those four players are averaging more than 300 yards per drive on the PGA TOUR this season), but it’s not everything. Rose (293.9) is 58th on TOUR in driving distance, and Furyk (278.7) is 161st. In fact, Furyk continues to rank among TOUR’s elite in SGT2G, despite finishing the year outside the top 150 in driving distance every year since 2004.

Of the top 10 players in SGT2G this season, four rank in the top 20 in driving distance, two are in the top 20 in fairways hit, and the remaining four rank outside the top 30 in both categories.

McIlroy dominant once again

August, 10, 2014
8/10/14
9:27
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Rory McIlroy did it again. And he now stands alone for his dominant performance.

McIlroy won the PGA Championship for his fourth major victory. Here are some of the statistical highlights.

• He is a combined 62-under par over the course of those four victories. That is the lowest cumulative score to par through a player's first four major wins among the 28 who have won at least four.

McIlroy became the fourth-youngest player to win his fourth career major. At age 25, 3 months old, he trails only Young Tom Morris (21 in 1872), Tiger Woods (24 in 2000) and Jack Nicklaus (25, 2 months in 1965).

• McIlroy is the fourth player to win a major while ranked No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, joining Woods (11 times), Fred Couples and Ian Woosnam (one each).

• He’s the first player since Woods (2007-2008) to win three straight starts on the PGA Tour.

• McIlroy becomes the first player since Padraig Harrington (2008) to win back-to-back majors (Harrington also won Open Championship & PGA Championship).

• McIlroy joined Woods and Sam Snead as the only golfers to go from three to four wins in the next major in which they played.

• He’s one of six players to win consecutive majors at age 25 or younger, joining Morris, Woods, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and J.H. Taylor.

• McIlroy won with length off the tee. He covered 63 percent of the yards of the par 4s and 5s with his tee shots, the highest percentage in the field. He averaged a field-best 3.8 on the par 4s.

McIlroy also putted well. His 37 one-putts tied for fourth-most in the field.
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Top stats to know: PGA Championship

August, 4, 2014
8/04/14
9:04
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>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).

Rory McIlroy in the company of legends

July, 20, 2014
7/20/14
3:17
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Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy's drives were the most powerful in the field.
Rory McIlroy reached an elite plateau with his victory at the Open Championship on Sunday.

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.

McIlroy ties Royal Liverpool 36-hole record

July, 18, 2014
7/18/14
4:53
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Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy pulled away from the pack with another 66 in the second round of the Open Championship
Rory McIlroy enters the weekend at 12 under par with a four-shot lead over Dustin Johnson, while Tiger Woods went a different direction Friday and struggled just to make the cut.

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.

Top stats to know: The Open Championship

July, 15, 2014
7/15/14
9:52
AM ET

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).

Wie finally wins a major

June, 22, 2014
6/22/14
7:31
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This title was a long time coming for Michelle Wie.

Wie won her first major championship by winning the U.S. Women’s Open on Sunday. It was the fourth LPGA win of her career, but her first in the continental United States (she had won once in Hawaii).

Wie is the seventh player in the past eight years to make the U.S. Women’s Open her first career major, and she’s the first American to win this event since Paula Creamer in 2010.

Wie won her first career major at the same age (24) and the same event that Annika Sorenstam won her first major. Sorenstam would go on to win 10 major championships in her Hall-of-Fame career. Karrie Webb was also 24 when she won a major for the first time, the first of seven she won in her career.

This marks the first time Americans have won back-to-back majors since 2010 when Cristie Kerr won the LPGA Championship, followed by Paula Creamer at the U.S. Women’s Open. Lexi Thompson started the run with a win at the Kraft Nabisco.

On Sunday, Wie was able to finish what she started. This was the third time Wie headed to the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open with a share of the lead. She finished tied for 23rd in 2005 and third in 2006.

Wie had only two rounds in which she scored in the 60s in 10 previous starts at the U.S. Women’s Open. She had two in four rounds this weekend. She finished at 2-under par after shooting a combined 99 over par in her previous 30 rounds.

Top stats to know: U.S. Open

June, 10, 2014
6/10/14
10:40
AM ET

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.

Bubba Watson does it again

April, 13, 2014
4/13/14
7:54
PM ET

David Cannon/Getty ImagesBubba Watson was in command of his swing all weekend.
Two out of three wasn’t bad for Bubba Watson, who won the Masters on Sunday, edging out Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt.

Watson is the ninth player in Masters history to win twice in a three-year span. He became the third player since 2000 to win two Masters in a three-year stretch, joining Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Watson is the third player in the last five years to win multiple majors, along with Mickelson and Rory McIlroy

Watson and Mickelson are the only left-handed golfers to win multiple major championships.

This was Watson’s sixth start in a Masters, tying him with Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer for the second-fewest needed for multiple Masters wins. Only Horton Smith (three starts) needed fewer.

Watson shot a final-round 69. Both times Watson broke par in the final round at the Masters, he won the tournament. Twenty-two of the past 23 champions have broken par in the final round, all except Trevor Immelman in 2008.

How Watson won
Watson fared the same on par-5s at this Masters as he did when he won two years ago -- eight shots under par, which also happened to be his winning score this year.

Watson also limited his bogeys. His nine this year matched his 2012 total.

After needing 33 putts in Saturday's third round (he shot 74), Watson needed only 25 putts on Sunday (69) and didn't have a three-putt.

His 25 putts were tied for third-fewest in the field on Sunday.

The runners-up
Spieth came up three shots short in his bid to become the youngest Masters winner, though he is the youngest in Masters history to finish runner-up or tied for second. Spieth played the last 11 holes on Sunday at 3-over.

Blixt became the first golfer to play under par in each of his first four career rounds at the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller did so in his 1979 victory. Blixt joined Jesper Parnevik, Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth as Swedish golfers to finish as runners-up in majors.

Top stats to know: Masters preview

April, 8, 2014
4/08/14
12:45
PM ET

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.

Injury prolongs Woods' record chase

April, 1, 2014
4/01/14
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AP Photo/Lynne SladkyTiger Woods had surgery for a pinched nerve in his back and will not play in this year's Masters.
Why is it significant that Tiger Woods is not playing in the Masters for the first time as a pro?

Since last winning a major, in 2008, Woods has six top-five finishes in majors. Three have come at Augusta. So despite his drought, Woods has found his way into contention at a better rate there compared with the other three majors. And, depending on how many majors he will miss, history suggests his quest for the record for career wins in majors might be in serious jeopardy.

How does Woods' run of 18 majors played without a win compare to major droughts of other golf greats?

Jack Nicklaus went 20 majors between his win at age 40 in the 1980 PGA Championship and his remarkable 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. Ben Hogan never had a stretch longer than four between major wins, and Arnold Palmer never had one longer than five.
Since Woods' last major victory, in the 2008 U.S. Open, 19 golfers have won the 22 majors played. The three who have won multiple majors since the 2008 U.S. Open are Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson.

Of the 22 majors held since Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he has competed in 18. Woods' absence next week will extend his drought to 23 majors.

Woods has played three events this season, and his play was not up to his usual standards.

He averaged 287.3 yards on his drives this season after averaging at least 293 yards in each of his other seasons as a professional (he turned pro in 1996).

Running out of time?
The Masters was to be Woods' first major at age 38. With Woods four major titles shy of tying Nicklaus, it's worth noting that only two players have ever won four or more majors after their 38th birthdays.

If Woods is done for the major calendar this year, history says he won't catch Nicklaus, as nobody has won more than three majors after turning 39: Hogan, Nicklaus and Snead, all with three.

Top stats to know: Tiger Woods' preview

January, 22, 2014
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Illustration by Trevor EbaughTiger Woods is on a parallel path to that of Jack Nicklaus.
The 2014 PGA Tour gets underway this week at Torrey Pines and there are a number of notable stories related to Tiger Woods this season. Here’s a quick run-through:

• Woods enters the 2014 calendar year with 79 career PGA TOUR victories, four shy of breaking Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 that has stood since 1965.

Since playing his first full season on the PGA TOUR in 1997, Woods has won at least four times in 12 of his 17 seasons.

• Woods enters 2014 at age 38 with 14 career major championships, five shy of breaking the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus also entered his age-38 season with 14 career major titles. Breaking the record will be tough. Ben Hogan is the only player ever to win five majors after his 38th birthday.

For the first time since 1999, Woods could end the year trailing Nicklaus’ major-winning pace. Nicklaus won his 15th major in his 67th career major (1978 Open Championship). Woods will reach that same number of starts at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

• The schedules of majors for this year and next year appear to be favorable for Woods.

There will be eight majors contested on seven courses before Woods’ 40th birthday. He has won on four of those courses (Augusta National, Royal Liverpool, Valhalla, St. Andrews) for a total of eight major titles.

He has four wins at Augusta (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), and one win each at Royal Liverpool (2006) and Valhalla (2000), each of which he will play at this year.

Though Woods hasn’t won a major in a while, he’s been close. Since his victory at the 2008 U.S. Open, he has nine top-6 finishes in 18 starts, the most of anyone in the sport.

• Woods will be starting in a place where he's had much success before, as Justin Ray noted in his column, and as the image below indicates.


Illustration by Trevor Ebaugh

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