Category archive: Graham Delaet

Keep an eye on Graham DeLaet

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
10:49
AM ET

A year ago entering the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the golf world knew Billy Horschel was on the brink of breaking through.

Despite going his first 60 PGA Tour starts without a victory, Horschel was coming off consecutive top-10 finishes in Houston, San Antonio and South Carolina. In those three events, he had carded just one round worse than par, good for a combined score of 29 under.

Entering Sunday at TPC Louisiana, Horschel was 2 shots behind D.A. Points. He proceeded to fire a final-round 64 -- a round that included a stretch of six straight birdies -- and finished with a 1-shot win.

Horschel would then parlay that performance into a memorable U.S. Open week at Merion that June. Horschel was tied for the 36-hole lead with Phil Mickelson before finishing tied for fourth, just 4 shots back of champion Justin Rose.

Trivia question

The last player to win on the PGA Tour without making a bogey over 72 holes did it at the Greater New Orleans Open. Which player did it and in what year? Answer below

Horschel's maiden title in New Orleans last year was nothing new for this event. Six of the past nine champions here made this their first PGA Tour title -- including Nick Watney in 2007 and Jason Dufner in 2012.

So, which players are in the best position to get their first title? We at Numbers Game examined the field and found the three most interesting candidates to claim their inaugural PGA Tour victory.

Graham DeLaet: With a Presidents Cup appearance, three runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour and his first three major championship appearances all coming since last summer, there is perhaps no player knocking on his first win's door louder these days than DeLaet.

He has racked up 12 top-10 finishes on tour since the beginning of 2013. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only two players with more top-10s in that span are Matt Kuchar (16) and Jordan Spieth (14). In just eight non-major stroke-play events this season, DeLaet has finished in the top 10 five times already.

DeLaet's ballstriking is what has lifted him among one of the game's most consistent performers. For the second consecutive year, DeLaet is ranked third on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation percentage. In fact, the Canadian is the only player on tour to have hit at least 70 percent of his GIR in each of the past two seasons.

For DeLaet to make the move from top-10 machine to PGA Tour winner, however, his putting numbers will have to improve. This season, DeLaet has made just 64 of 106 putts between 4 and 8 feet. That mark of 60 percent is 183rd on tour this season -- a drop of 164 spots from where he finished 2013. DeLaet is also ranked 124th on all putts inside 10 feet -- he ranked 14th in the statistic last season.

DeLaet ranks 85th this season in strokes gained putting, but his best performances have come when he has found his stroke with the flatstick. In his two runner-up finishes this year, at the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Open, he ranked 11th and sixth in the field in strokes gained putting, respectively.

Andrew Loupe: A native of Baton Rouge, PGA Tour rookie Loupe drew the ire of golf fans when they got their first good, long (note: really long) look at him when he contended in San Antonio. Loupe's exaggerated pre-shot routine took, by one Golf Digest measurement that week, 1 minute and 15 seconds. On average, it took 39 seconds. In comparison, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy's pre-shot routines hover around 20-25 seconds.

Slow play aside, Loupe has hit his stride since the beginning of February. After missing his first five cuts of the season, Loupe has made four of his past five. He has started very strong in that span, carding five straight opening rounds better than par, good for a combined score of 20 under.

The rookie has been putting like a seasoned veteran, as well. Loupe ranks 19th this season in strokes gained putting, 15th in one-putt percentage, and fourth on putts between 10 and 15 feet.

Bud Cauley: He had a stellar amateur career, being named a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award (given to the nation's best college player) three consecutive years. He also racked up eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour before his 23rd birthday. But the 2013-14 season has not been kind to Cauley: nine starts, six missed cuts, no top-25 finishes. Ouch. And Cauley, who climbed as high as 53rd in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2012, has fallen outside the top 300.

Trivia answer

Question: The last player to win on the PGA Tour without making a bogey over 72 holes did it at the Greater New Orleans Open. Which player did it and in what year?

Answer: Lee Trevino in 1974.

We at Numbers Game are an optimistic lot, however, so let's look at the bright side for Mr. Cauley. First of all, he's only 24 years old. Reigning PGA champion Dufner got his first PGA Tour win in New Orleans two years ago -- at age 35.

In two of his past three starts, spanning the Web.com and PGA tours, Cauley has finished in the top 30. And TPC Louisiana might be able to foster some confidence for Cauley this week; each of the past two years, the course has ranked in the top third among PGA Tour courses in terms of easiest greens to hit in regulation. That could be good news for Cauley, who is 134th in GIR percentage this season.

Breakout candidates for 2014

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
6:51
AM ET

A quick scan of the leaderboards at the biggest golf tournaments in the world on any given week will tell you that the sport's future is in a secure place.

Five of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking are under the age of 30. There's a two-time major champion walking the Earth right now who isn't yet 25, and the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year can't legally buy a beer yet in the United States.

So which players are best-positioned to move from promising to among the world's best? We at Numbers Game present five players who we believe are poised to take the next big steps in their respective careers -- the breakout players of 2014:

Trivia question

Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Answer below)

Jason Day

Day's star power in the world of golf is undeniable. At 26 years old and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Day has been a member of the past two Presidents Cup teams on the International side. So it's almost shocking that he has just a single win on the PGA Tour -- and that was in May 2010.

To say Day has a habit of rising to the occasion is an understatement. Day has 10 career top-three finishes in his PGA Tour career. Four of them have come in majors, and four more have come in either WGC or FedExCup events. In 13 career major starts, Day has six top-10 finishes and finished runner-up three times. And on another difficult course setup -- two weeks ago at Torrey Pines -- Day finished tied for second. The South Course at Torrey Pines played an average of plus-1.8 shots over par for the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, by far the toughest course on tour so far this season.

Day is one of two players to finish in the top three at the Masters twice in the past three years. Fellow countryman and last year's champion, Adam Scott, is the other. At the U.S. Open, Day is the only player to accomplish that feat, finishing second in 2011 and tied for second in 2013.

[+] Enlarge
Graham DeLaet
David Cannon/Getty ImagesGraham DeLaet already has a Presidents Cup appearance under his belt, but he could have an even bigger year in 2014.

Graham DeLaet

At the end of the 2013 season, DeLaet's extremely strong play at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship netted him more than $1 million in earnings and a spot on the Presidents Cup team. His improved putting, however, should lead him to even bigger things this year.

DeLaet's ball-striking ability has never been the question -- last year, he ranked third on tour in greens in regulation percentage (70.5) and led the tour in total driving. He also ranked inside the top 20 in both driving distance and average approach shot proximity. But DeLaet was 76th in strokes gained putting, 120th on putts made between 10 and 15 feet, and outside the top 100 on tour in several other key putting statistics.

DeLaet has finished tied for second in each of the past two weeks, and his putting is no small reason why -- he was 11th in the field in strokes gained putting at Torrey Pines, then sixth at TPC Scottsdale. DeLaet now ranks sixth on tour this season in the statistic, and is third in average distance of putts made. If DeLaet breaks into the winner's circle before the Masters, it should be no surprise.

Hideki Matsuyama

Just 21 years old and already 22nd in the world ranking, Matsuyama already has a pair of top-10 major finishes to his credit. The two-time Asian Amateur champion is lauded for his swing -- and the early returns in this wraparound season bear that out: top-20 finishes each of the past two weeks, including a tie for fourth at TPC Scottsdale. In 12 stateside official rounds this season, Matsuyama has shot par or better all 12 times with eight of those rounds in the 60s.

Matsuyama currently ranks inside the top 15 on tour in strokes gained putting, driving distance and average approach shot proximity. He's the only player currently in the top 15 in all three of those statistics.

Jordan Spieth

There have been countless superlatives used to describe Spieth's meteoric rise in the past 12 months, and it's hard to say any of them haven't been well-deserved.

Spieth won the John Deere Classic last year at age 19 -- the first teenager to win on tour in more than 80 years. When Fred Couples made him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, Spieth became the youngest team member ever on the U.S. side. And two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, he nearly became the youngest two-time winner on tour since 1932. Spieth tied for the most top-10 finishes on tour last year with nine, and was the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from no tour status to qualifying for the Tour Championship. We at Numbers Game would call that a decent year, to say the least.

Spieth doesn't have a top-20 finish in four major starts, but the 20-year-old definitely has the talent and demeanor to win on golf's biggest stages, as his amateur career would seem to dictate. In Spieth's lone full season at the University of Texas, he was a Ben Hogan Award finalist and led the Longhorns to the NCAA championship. He's also one of just two players to win the U.S. Junior Amateur multiple times. The other? Tiger.

Trivia answer

Question: Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links?

Answer: 62: David Duval (1997) and Tom Kite (1983).

Harris English

With a near-flatline heart rate seemingly at all times, the unflappable 24-year-old is already a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. No player has made more birdies this season than English, who currently is fifth on tour in adjusted scoring average. In 32 official rounds this season, English has carded scores of par or better 31 times, including all 16 rounds since Jan. 1.

English has made the cut in all three of his previous major championship starts, and this year will make his first career appearance at Augusta National. Expect English to be a contender during at least one of the majors this year.

Breakout candidates for 2014

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
1:55
PM ET

A quick scan of the leaderboards at the biggest golf tournaments in the world on any given week will tell you that the sport's future is in a secure place.

Five of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking are under the age of 30. There's a two-time major champion walking the Earth right now who isn't yet 25, and the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year can't legally buy a beer yet in the United States.

So which players are best-positioned to move from promising to among the world's best? We at Numbers Game present five players who we believe are poised to take the next big steps in their respective careers -- the breakout players of 2014:

Trivia question

Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Answer below)

Jason Day

Day's star power in the world of golf is undeniable. At 26 years old and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Day has been a member of the past two Presidents Cup teams on the International side. So it's almost shocking that he has just a single win on the PGA Tour -- and that was in May 2010.

To say Day has a habit of rising to the occasion is an understatement. Day has 10 career top-three finishes in his PGA Tour career. Four of them have come in majors, and four more have come in either WGC or FedExCup events. In 13 career major starts, Day has six top-10 finishes and finished runner-up three times. And on another difficult course setup -- two weeks ago at Torrey Pines -- Day finished tied for second. The South Course at Torrey Pines played an average of plus-1.8 shots over par for the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, by far the toughest course on Tour so far this season.

Day is one of two players to finish in the top three at the Masters twice in the past three years. Fellow countryman and last year's champion, Adam Scott, is the other. At the U.S. Open, Day is the only player to accomplish that feat, finishing second in 2011 and tied for second in 2013.

[+] Enlarge
Graham DeLaet
David Cannon/Getty ImagesGraham DeLaet already has a Presidents Cup appearance under his belt, but he could have an even bigger year in 2014.

Graham DeLaet

At the end of the 2013 season, DeLaet's extremely strong play at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship netted him more than $1 million in earnings and a spot on the Presidents Cup team. His improved putting, however, should lead him to even bigger things this year.

DeLaet's ball-striking ability has never been the question -- last year, he ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation percentage (70.5) and led the Tour in total driving. He also ranked inside the top 20 in both driving distance and average approach shot proximity. But DeLaet was 76th in strokes gained putting, 120th on putts made between 10 and 15 feet, and outside the top 100 on tour in several other key putting statistics.

DeLaet has finished tied for second in each of the past two weeks, and his putting is no small reason why -- he was 11th in the field in strokes gained putting at Torrey Pines, then sixth at TPC Scottsdale. DeLaet now ranks sixth on Tour this season in the statistic, and is third in average distance of putts made. If DeLaet breaks into the winner's circle before the Masters, it should be no surprise.

Hideki Matsuyama

Just 21 years old and already 22nd in the world ranking, Matsuyama already has a pair of top-10 major finishes to his credit. The two-time Asian Amateur champion is lauded for his swing -- and the early returns in this wraparound season bear that out: top-20 finishes each of the past two weeks, including a tie for fourth at TPC Scottsdale. In 12 stateside official rounds this season, Matsuyama has shot par or better all 12 times with eight of those rounds in the 60s.

Matsuyama currently ranks inside the top 15 on Tour in strokes gained putting, driving distance and average approach shot proximity. He's the only player currently in the top 15 in all three of those statistics.

Jordan Spieth

There have been countless superlatives used to describe Spieth's meteoric rise in the past 12 months, and it's hard to say any of them haven't been well-deserved.

Spieth won the John Deere Classic last year at age 19 -- the first teenager to win on Tour in more than 80 years. When Fred Couples made him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, Spieth became the youngest team member ever on the U.S. side. And two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, he nearly became the youngest two-time winner on Tour since 1932. Spieth tied for the most top-10 finishes on Tour last year with nine, and was the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from no Tour status to qualifying for the Tour Championship. We at Numbers Game would call that a decent year, to say the least.

Spieth doesn't have a top-20 finish in four major starts, but the 20-year-old definitely has the talent and demeanor to win on golf's biggest stages, as his amateur career would seem to dictate. In Spieth's lone full season at the University of Texas, he was a Ben Hogan Award finalist and led the Longhorns to the NCAA championship. He's also one of just two players to win the U.S. Junior Amateur multiple times. The other? Tiger.

Trivia answer

Question: Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links?

Answer: 62: David Duval (1997) and Tom Kite (1983).

Harris English

With a near-flatline heart rate seemingly at all times, the unflappable 24-year-old Englishman is already a two-time winner on the Tour. No player has made more birdies this season than English, who currently is fifth on Tour in adjusted scoring average. In 32 official rounds this season, English has carded scores of par or better 31 times, including all 16 rounds since Jan. 1.

English has made the cut in all three of his previous major championship starts, and this year will make his first career appearance at Augusta National. Expect English to be a contender during at least one of the majors this year.