Goosen's win at Transitions looks awfully familiar

March, 22, 2009

After a wait of more than three and a half years and 62 PGA starts, a fit and rededicated 40-year-old Retief Goosen has won again on the PGA Tour. In the triumph at Innisbrook, a course that plays much like a U.S. Open, Goosen employed many of the tools that earned him his two major titles.

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In fact, Goosen's most useful of tools this week was also present at both his U.S. Open titles. The South African went back to using his old Yes! Tracy putter after using several other flat sticks, the most recent being a lengthened belly version of the same Yes! putter. Goosen combined perfect putting inside 5 feet, superb ball striking and clutch chipping to earn the Transitions Championship, his seventh PGA Tour victory.

This week, the stats blog examines Goosen's impressive stats from the win, specifically how the Goose's game at Innisbrook imitated his U.S. Open victories.

Here are some of the more impressive numbers from Goosen's victory:

• He was 55-for-55 on putts from 5 feet and in. That includes his clutch 5-footer on the 72nd hole for par. For the week, Goosen was 62-for-64 from inside 10 feet, ranking fourth in the field.

• Goosen's five bogeys were the fewest by any player in the field. Steve Stricker made the most birdies (19) over 72 holes. Goosen ranked T-40 in birdies made, which is the lowest ranking of a tournament champ this season.

• Goosen was seventh in greens in regulation for the tournament, fourth in ball striking and second in scrambling.

This is a fantastic skill set to have working on a difficult course. As discussed in the preview blog of the Transitions Championship, scrambling and ball striking are the key skill stats related to victories at Innisbrook. The combination held again in 2009, as scrambling was most strongly correlated with success (with GIR ranking a close second).

The table below gives you an idea of how great Goosen's turnaround was this week, and how similar his performance was to his U.S. Open wins:

Goosen moving up in rank

Skill '09 Rank before this week '09 Transitions rank '04 U.S. Open rank '01 U.S. Open rank
GIR % 159th 7th T-9 T-4
Ball striking 165th 4th 2nd 2nd
Scrambling 128th 2nd 1st 3rd
Putting inside 10 feet 103rd 4th n/a n/a
Driving Accuracy % 151st 25th 12th T-15th

For better context of these rankings, let's quantify Goosen's improvements at the Transitions Championship. Compared with his 2009 PGA Tour skill rates entering the week, Goosen hit four more greens (68.1 percent versus 62.6 percent), made five more up and downs (78.3 percent versus 57.4 percent), made six more putts from inside 10 feet (96.9 percent versus 87.1 percent), and hit eight more fairways (71.2 percent versus 56.5 percent.)

Goosen made all these skill improvements on a course that yielded the highest winning score in relation to par on the PGA Tour this year. Innisbrook currently ranks the third-most difficult of 18 courses played on tour in 2009. (Torrey Pines South Course and PGA National ranked 1-2.)

Perhaps this is only the beginning for Goosen, who just turned 40. Twenty pounds lighter and with noticeably broadened shoulders, Goosen shared his outlook on fitness and winning with the media after his victory.

"I started working very hard in the gym," he said. "I was in the gym [Sunday] morning for one hour working out. I might as well. Instead of getting totally out of shape and struggling, I thought I might as well be fit and struggling.

"I always keep reminding myself, Vijay [Singh] started playing his best golf when he turned 40. So I'm looking forward to the next five years."

In victory, a few shots stood out in Goosen's final round. The first, obviously: the 5-foot putt to win by 1 stroke on the 72nd hole. Another was his outstanding approach from 217 yards on the par-5 11th hole. This perfectly played shot came to rest just 17 feet from the pin, set up his only eagle of the tournament and gave Goosen the lead.

The shot that may be forgotten, though it was just as clutch, was Goosen's chip on the 215-yard par-3 17th hole. With the pin tucked right and the wind blowing left to right, many of Sunday's leaders missed this green short and to the right, leaving a gnarly chip onto a slick, crispy green.

Goosen separated himself from the field here, as he was one of the few to save par from off the green by executing an all-world chip from a buried lie.

A closer look at Goosen's victory

Statistical category Rank (event) Stat (event) Tour leader (YTD)
Driving distance 25th 283.8 Watson -- 312.3
Driving accuracy % T-23 71.2% Brooks -- 79.8%
GIR % T-7 68.1% Villegas -- 73.3%
Putting avg. 57th 1.837 Baddeley -- 1.651
Eagles (holes per) T-1 72.0 Jones -- 58.5
Birdie average T-40 2.75 2 tied -- 4.85
Scoring avg. 1 67.77 Toms -- 69.38
Sand save % T-54 33.3% Browne -- 90.0%
Total driving T-10 48 Goggin -- 63
Ball striking 4th 17 Trahan -- 6
All-around 28th 632 Toms -- 275
Scrambling 2nd 78.3% Stricker -- 73.6%
Fed Ex Cup points 1st 500 Ogilvy -- 1204
Money leaders 1st $972K Ogilvy -- $2.731 M
• More PGA Tour statistics

• Goosen, a winner at Innisbrook in 2003, joins K.J. Choi (2002, 2006) as the only two multiple-time champions of this event.

• Former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, trying to become the seventh player in his 50s to win on the PGA Tour, did not make birdie until sinking a long putt on the 17th hole, and he shot a 75 to finish T-8. Lehman, who turned 50 two weeks ago, had a 1-shot lead going into the final round as he tried to become the first ex-Ryder Cup captain since Tom Watson in 1998 to win on the PGA Tour after his captaincy.

• Stricker rallied from a 4-shot deficit to tie for the lead, but he couldn't sustain it. After two solid par saves, he flew the green from a bunker on the par-3 17th and made bogey, then missed the green from the middle of the 18th fairway and made another bogey. He closed with a 69 and tied for fourth. It was the third time this year Stricker had the lead on the back nine on Sunday and failed to win.

• Nick Watney continued his breakout 2009 campaign this week with a T-12 finish. It is his sixth top-25 in seven starts; Watney has already set a career mark in annual earnings and has doubled his PGA Tour win total (two).

• Brett Quigley recorded his second consecutive T-2 on the PGA Tour. Last week at the Puerto Rico Open, Quigley and Jason Day were runners-up, 1 stroke back of winner Michael Bradley. In 342 career starts, Quigley has never won on the PGA Tour. He was also T-2 at the 2001 Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic and 2004 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.

• Charles Howell III turned in a second-place finish at the Transitions, his best effort since winning the 2007 Nissan Open in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, Howell finished fourth at the Sony Open in Hawaii. His previous best at Innisbrook was a solo sixth in 2007.

• First-round leader Jim Furyk ended up T-52, the lowest finish by a Thursday leader in tournament history.

• Relative to par, Innisbrook has hosted the toughest final round so far in 2009. The field averaged more than a stroke and a half over par on Sunday at 72.55. The overall cumulative scoring average on the Copperhead Course this year was 72.157. Last year, the scoring average for this event was the eighth-hardest at 72.970.

• If history repeats itself, we can expect the top 10 finishers this week at Innisbrook to also perform well at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in June. Of the players in 2008 who finished among the top 10 at the PODS Championship (as the event was known last year) and who qualified for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, all produced finishes of T-18 or better in the year's second major.

    -- Brandt Snedeker was T-9 at the U.S. Open and T-8 at PODS in 2008
    -- Stewart Cink was T-14 at the U.S. Open and T-2 at PODS in 2008
    -- Rod Pampling was T-14 at the U.S. Open and T-8 at PODS in 2008
    -- Ryuji Imada was T-18 at the U.S. Open and T-2 at PODS in 2008

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