Looking ahead to PGA Tour in 2013

January, 2, 2013

With four memorable majors, an endless array of comebacks and a controversial putter ruling, 2012 was a year to remember in the world of golf.

The numbers tell us that another great season is on the horizon. While the revolving door at the world's No. 1 position appears to have stopped spinning for now, there are plenty of dynamic storylines to springboard us into the new year. Here are the biggest numbers to know in the coming 12 months.

Trivia question

Who are the four major champions to win at Merion, site of the 2013 U.S. Open? (Answer below)

10: Years since a Masters champion repeated as winner
The most riveting finish of 2012 came in the season's first major, when Bubba Watson used some legendary shot-making to defeat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff at Augusta National. Watson will have history against him, though, when he attempts to become the first back-to-back winner since Tiger Woods in 2001-02.

First of all, the last 17 major championships have been won by 16 different players. The only repeat winner in that span is Rory McIlroy, who snapped the streak of parity with his blowout win at the PGA Championship in August.

And if Watson repeats at Augusta, he'll join elite company in the sport right now among golfers with two major titles to their name. Only two players currently younger than 40 have won multiple major championships: McIlroy and Woods.

4: Majors won by American players in past three years
You clearly wouldn't know it by recent Ryder Cup performances, but there was a time when American golf was a dominant force.

From 1980 through 1990, Americans won 30 of the 44 major championships held. Recent seasons have not kept the same form: U.S. players have won just three of the past 11 majors. In that same span, Northern Ireland (population: about 1.8 million, or smaller than the city of Houston) has four majors to its credit.

Only one of the world's top seven players (Woods) is from the United States, but there are several Americans just outside that level of the OWGR. Eleven players ranked between eighth (Watson) and 23rd (Dustin Johnson) call the U.S. home.

7: Top-3 finishes by McIlroy in PGA Tour events in 2012
The world's top player enters 2013 as the prohibitive favorite at not just Augusta, but essentially every event he tees it up.

McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship by a staggering eight shots. Only two players have accumulated multiple major victories by five strokes or more before age 25: McIlroy (two) and Woods (three).

In addition to leading the tour with four wins, McIlroy led all players in scoring average, birdie average and birdie-or-better conversion percentage. He also ranked inside the top five on the PGA Tour in driving distance, hole proximity and all-around ranking. If 2013 is anything like 2012, it should be a massive year for McIlroy.

7: Players who trailed by six or more shots entering final round who won in 2012
The PGA Tour will be hard pressed to replicate the final-round magic acts of last season. Seven different times, players who trailed by six strokes or more entering the final day came back to win. That included Ernie Els at the Open Championship, whose six-stroke deficit was the largest entering the final round of any major champion since Padraig Harrington at the 2007 Open Championship.

The comebacks weren't limited to Sunday, either. U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson entered Saturday tied for 29th before coming back to win. That's the second-worst 36-hole position by a major champion ever. Only David Duval, who was tied for 35th at the 2001 Open Championship, made a steeper climb to victory.

6: The most majors won by any player after turning 37
Once again, the biggest question in golf revolves around the game's most polarizing superstar. Tiger Woods turned 37 on Dec. 30. He's sat at 14 major championships, four behind Jack Nicklaus, since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Time is no longer on Tiger's side. Only one player has ever won more than four major championships after their 37th birthday: Ben Hogan, who won six. That included the 1950 U.S. Open, won when Hogan was 37. He won the other five majors before turning 41.

Strangely enough, the 1950 U.S. Open that Hogan won came at -- you guessed it -- Merion, site of this year's national championship.

15: Woods' number of strokes over par in rounds 3 & 4 at majors in 2012
And no 2012 statistic was more discouraging for Tiger than his weekend performance in major championships. Woods was 15-over in rounds 3 and 4 of majors in 2012. He was 8-under in rounds 1 and 2.

Trivia answer

Question: Who are the four major champions to win at Merion, site of the 2013 U.S. Open?

Answer: David Graham (1981), Lee Trevino (1971), Ben Hogan (1950) and Olin Dutra (1934)

Since the 2010 Open Championship, Tiger has played 14 weekend rounds in major championships. He's broken par just once -- shooting 67 on Sunday at the 2011 Masters. Last year was the first time in Woods' career when he never broke par in a weekend round in a major.

Justin Ray is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He has contributed to ESPN's golf coverage since joining the network out of college in 2008. He is based in Austin, Texas, with the Longhorn Network. Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.



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