The Local Knowlege


Zach Johnson's British Open win seems a lot less surprising when you hear what his stats guy did before the tournament

As we all know by now, Zach Johnson won the British Open on Monday to pick up a 12th career PGA Tour title, including a second major championship. But what we didn't know is what Johnson's stats consultant thought about his game heading into the week.

And that's too bad if you bet on anyone else to win.


Peter Sanders has worked with Johnson since 2012 -- as well as a handful of other PGA Tour pros -- by analyzing his numbers on the course. But in that time, he's never done what he did before Johnson arrived at the Old Course. Let's just say Sanders was feeling pretty good about his client's chances.

The Grind: ZJ wins the claret jug and a rowdy flight home from Scotland

"I usually send a weekly 'report card' to each of my players, and their team with a snapshot of what they did well and not so well," said Sanders, who is the creator of Shot By Shot, a program that helps track and analyze any golfer's stats. "After the John Deere, I sent a note to Zach's team saying, 'NO report needed. Zach should go to St. Andrews with the supreme confidence that all parts of his game are at their best.'"

Good call.


... Read

Kevin Kisner is the best in the world . . . at losing in playoffs

Poor Kevin Kisner. In less than three months, he's lost three playoffs following his latest close call at The Greenbrier Classic. Even Greg Norman must feel bad for him.

If you're saying, "That seems like an awful lot of playoffs for one guy to be involved in," you're right! In fact, Kisner is just the fourth active PGA Tour pro to have played in three playoffs in a single season, according to Golf News Net.

Kisner joins Steve Elkington (1992), Sergio Garcia (2008), Bill Haas (2011) and Webb Simpson (2011) on this rare list. The difference is all four of those guys at least one won of their attempts in extra holes.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Instead, after being eliminated on the first sudden-death hole on Sunday in West Virginia, Kisner fell to 0-3. He previously lost to Jim Furyk at Harbour Town and to Rickie Fowler at the Players.

In contrast, Bubba Watson won the week before at the Travelers Championship to run his career playoff record to a sparkling 5-1. And Tiger Woods is an incredible 11-1 in his career on tour.

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer share the record for most wins in playoffs with 14, but both also had 10 losses. Ben Hogan holds the record for most playoff losses with 12, so Kisner has a long way to go. But he also has a long way to go to match the Hawk's eight playoff wins. Norman, who lost in a playoff at all four majors, lost seven of his first eight playoffs on the PGA Tour before finishing with a 4-8 career record.

So many playoff losses -- especially in such a short period -- can't be good for your health. In fact, Kisner already acknowledged he "drank" when asked what he did to cope with his first two heartbreakers. Of course, those two were probably tougher to handle.

At Harbour Town, Kisner birdied the first extra hole, but so did Furyk, who also birdied the second to end his long winless drought. At the Players, Kisner played the three-hole aggregate playoff in one under to tie with Fowler. Then Fowler birdied the 17th hole again to beat Kisner's par. Dagger.

"It's tough to win out here, man. I've had a heckuva year," Kisner said after his third P-2 finish on Sunday. "If I keep playing like this, I'll get plenty of wins."

That's right, Kevin. Keep posting the low 72-hole score at tournaments and eventually you'll have to win. We think.


... Read

7 numbers that proved Chambers Bay actually played pretty easy as far as U.S. Open standards go

We heard a lot of complaining about the setup. We heard more whining about the greens. But despite all the griping, low scores were there for the taking at Chambers Bay -- more so than at your typical U.S. Open. Here are some numbers that prove the course wasn't as difficult as we all anticipated.

25: Number of players under par in the first round, the most since the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

29: Back-nine score of Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday, who tied a U.S. Open record. The South African birdied six of his last seven holes and nearly stole the tournament from everyone.

Related: The winners and losers from Chambers Bay

132: Oosthuizen's total for his second and third rounds after opening the tournament with 77. The 132 is a new record low for anyone in the middle two rounds at a U.S. Open. And his 199 total for the final three rounds broke the previous record by three shots.

6: Number of players who made 18 birdies for the week, including winner Jordan Spieth and runner-ups Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. That's an average of 4.5 per round. Only Jason Day (4.62) averages that many birdies per round so far this season.

8: Number of players who finished under par, which other than 2011 at soggy Congressional, matched the most since the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where five under was also the winning score.

16: Number of players in the field who hit at least 75 percent of Chambers Bay's greens in regulation for the week. Henrik Stenson leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation this season with an average of only 73.26 percent.

71.29: Final-round scoring average, the lowest average of any round in any U.S. Open. Ever.


... Read

Fabian Gomez?! Why the PGA Tour's crazy streak of unlikely winners isn't as crazy as you think

Starting with the Masters, the PGA Tour saw this list of winners for a seven-week stretch: Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Chris Kirk. Talk about a who's who of the game's biggest stars.

But in the three weeks since Kirk's win at Colonial, it's been more of a who's. . . who?

On Sunday, Fabian Gomez, ranked 288th in the Official World Golf Ranking, won his first PGA Tour title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The week before it was 212th-ranked David Lingmerth topping Rose in a playoff at the Memorial for his maiden victory. And the previous Sunday, it was No. 127 Steven Bowditch's turn to win at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

What did all three of these surprising winners have in common? Neither even had another top 10 in 2015 before their surprising victories. And none of them will tee it up at Chambers Bay for this week's U.S. Open.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

But is such a stretch of unlikely champions unprecedented on tour? Hardly. In fact, it's not even the most improbable streak of winners this year.

In February, James Hahn (Northern Trust Open) and Padraig Harrington (Honda Classic) made it back-to-back weeks where a player ranked No. 297 won. The following week, 288th-ranked Alex Cejka won the Puerto Rico (Not as crazy as you think since it was an opposite-field event to Dustin Johnson winning at Doral, but still). That's an average of the winner being ranked 294th in the OWGR, compared to just 209 during the current stretch.

This season has once again proved that on the PGA Tour, these guys are all good. Even the ones you may not know anything about.


... Read

Why did David Lingmerth win the Memorial? He mastered Muirfield Village's par 3s

Par 5s are usually the holes we think about for tour pros separating themselves from the rest of the field during a given week. But at the Memorial, it was Muirfield Village's shortest holes where David Lingmerth made his biggest move on the leader board.

Related: How Lingmerth gets extra power on his shots

For the week, Lingmerth finished first in scoring (six under par) on Muirfield's par 3s, which are No. 4 (200 yards), No. 8 (182), No. 12 (166) and No. 16 (200). That comes out to a 2.63 average per par 3, nearly a half shot better than the field's average (3.11) for the week. That means Lingmerth picked up about two full strokes per round on his competition during the event on the par 3s alone.

Over the four rounds, Lingmerth didn't record one bogey on a par 3, while racking up six birdies. None was bigger than the 2 he made on the short, but dangerous 12th during the final round.

Lingmerth then made a clutch up-and-down for par on No. 16. Meanwhile, his closest pursuers -- Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari -- saw their chances to win take a hit on that hole with a bogey and a double bogey, respectively.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Playing par 3s well isn't unusual for Lingmerth, who ranks 16th on the PGA Tour this season in par 3 scoring at an even 3.00 average. What's interesting, though, is that his proximity to the hole stats from the distances of Muirfield's par 3s are just mediocre. The Swede ranks 68th from 150-175 yards, 80th from 175-200 yards, and 74th from 200-plus when it comes to hitting his approach shots close.

Of course, when you're putter is on, that makes up for a lot. Lingmerth ranked third at the Memorial in strokes gained/putting. If he can keep that up, he won't be stuck on one PGA Tour title for too long.


... Read
News & Tours

Husband and wife make back-to-back aces on the same hole (Yes, this really happened)

Just when you think you've heard every possible hole-in-one story, a new one comes along more incredible than any you've heard. A husband and wife?! Back-to-back aces?! Yep, it happened.

The story of the Blundys comes from the Lansing State Journal, and seems legit thanks to a pair of witnesses who saw what went down on the 16th hole at Ledge Meadows Golf Course in Grand Ledge, Mich. on Sunday. Tony Blundy went first and one-hopped a 7-iron into the hole from 135 yards out.

Related: 15 wacky golf Guinness World Records

It was Tony's first hole-in-one, which matched his wife, Janet's, total. But apparently, Janet had no interest in staying tied with her husband. "You're going to be really mad when I put mine in," she said as she walked to the women's tee box. She then knocked in her pitching wedge from 110 yards.

In other words, Janet Blundy is the Babe Ruth of calling golf shots.


The National Hole In One Association puts the odds of two amateurs in the same foursome making an ace on the same hole at 26 million-to-one. Simple math would make the odds of both players in a twosome doing it on a consecutive shot at least twice that. And as far as a husband-wife combo to pull off the feat? Let's just say it's pretty unlikely considering there doesn't seem to be another recorded instance of it happening.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

"It's surreal. I keep expecting to wake up and it's a dream," Janet said. "If I do, I'm gonna be mad."

... Read

Imagine how good Rory McIlroy could be if he was a great putter

In an era of such great depth, few thought any golfer could come along and dominate quite like Tiger Woods did during his peak. But Rory McIlroy has come pretty darn close in the last calendar year.

Related: Golf's all-time greatest seasons

After his rout at Quail Hollow, McIlroy has won five times on the PGA Tour and twice on the European Tour during the past 12 months. In that span, he's won two majors, two World Golf Championships and had a seven-shot blowout. He has finished outside the top 25 just once in the past two seasons on the PGA Tour and inside the top 10 in 75 percent of his events.

Now imagine how good he'd be if he was a great putter.

Even after a strong showing on the greens at Quail Hollow, McIlroy currently ranks 69th in strokes gained/putting on the PGA Tour. That has been offset by McIlroy easily leading the way in strokes gained/tee to green, thanks in large part to his prodigious driving.

When Woods dominated, he relied a lot more on his putter. The PGA Tour didn't keep track of strokes gained/putting until 2004, but he was second that year and was out of the top 10 just once through 2009. We'll assume the man considered by many to be one of the greatest putters ever would have ranked pretty high during 2000 as well.

Related: Rory's first 10 wins are more impressive than you think

The good news for McIlroy is he seems to be improving in this area. He was ranked 145th on tour his rookie season in strokes gained/putting at -.226 before improving to -.128 in 2011 and jumping to .088 and being ranked No. 82 in 2012. He regressed to 117th during his slump year of 2013, but bounced back to have his best putting season in 2014 at .273 and ranked 41st.

McIlroy has worked with putting coach Dave Stockton on putting to a spot and keeping the back of his left hand going toward the target during the stroke. Kinda like he does in this video of him making 55 consecutive eight-footers in practice at last year's Tour Championship.

Stockton started working with Rory just a few weeks after McIlroy's meltdown at the 2011 Masters, and the 10 PGA Tour titles and four majors McIlroy's won in the four years since have been impressive. But if he keeps getting better on the greens, who knows how good the next four years can be.

... Read

Why Rory McIlroy's first 10 PGA Tour wins are even more impressive than you think

On Sunday, Rory McIlroy joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the modern era with 10 PGA Tour wins before turning 26. But while McIlroy took longer to reach that mark, his 10 titles easily top the wins by Nicklaus and Woods when it comes to quality.

McIlroy doesn't just win PGA Tour events, he wins big PGA Tour events. Of course, the two men who have combined for 32 major titles did a lot of that as well, but not with the exclusivity that McIlroy has to this point in his career.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest phenoms

Of McIlroy's 10 wins, four are major championships, two are World Golf Championships, and two are FedEx Cup Playoff events. His two least prestigious wins weren't too shabby, either. His first career PGA Tour victory was a come-from-behind win over Phil Mickelson when he shot a Sunday 62 at Quail Hollow in 2010. And he got win No. 3 at the 2012 Honda Classic when he overcame a final-round 62 by Tiger Woods.

Woods, by comparison, had just one major win -- his historic rout at the 1997 Masters -- among his first 10 PGA Tour titles. His next two biggest wins in that stretch were a pair of victories at the Western Open (1997 and 1999) and wins at the 1999 Memorial and 1997 Byron Nelson. His first two career wins came in Las Vegas and Disney World -- although winning anywhere on the PGA Tour at age 20 is obviously impressive -- and you probably don't remember him holding off Jay Don Blake at the 1998 BellSouth Classic or beating Billy Ray Brown by two at the 1999 Buick Invitational.

As for Nicklaus, his first pro win was the 1962 U.S. Open, but he followed that up with victories at the Seattle World's Fair Open and Portland Open Invitational later that year. Did they really need "Open" and "Invitational" in that official tournament title?

Nicklaus counted three majors among his first 10 wins -- two more than Tiger, but one fewer than McIlroy. Nicklaus didn't have the luxury of competing in World Golf Championships and those events weren't around at the beginning of Woods' career (he made up for lost time by winning 18 of them, 15 more than anyone else). Of course, both those guys didn't have the FedEx Cup Playoffs starting out either.

But both did have the same opportunity to win in dominant fashion and neither quite matched McIlroy. Yes, Woods had the 12-shot win at the 1997 Masters, but that was the only time he won by more than three shots in his first 10 victories. Nicklaus also only won by more than three once in his first 10 wins, a five-shot victory against a small field in the 1963 Tournament of Champions. McIlroy already has three wins by wide margins, including two eight-shot romps in majors.

Related: Rory McIlroy launches a counter-attack on Spieth

McIlroy's "old" age relative to Nicklaus (24) and Woods (23) at the time of their 10th career PGA Tour titles also doesn't stand out as much when factoring in his other wins around the world. In addition, McIlroy has five European Tour wins, including a victory in that tour's flagship event, the 2014 BMW PGA, to go along with a dramatic win over Adam Scott at the 2013 Australian Open. Woods had an additional two European Tour wins at the time of his 10th PGA Tour title, while Nicklaus had zero.

Yes, any way you look at it, McIlroy, who turned 26 on Monday, is well behind the winning pace set by Nicklaus and Woods, who had 17 and 29(!) wins, respectively, by that age. In an era where racking up wins seems more difficult than ever, though, McIlroy's relatively-quick trip to double digits is even more impressive than it looks. And the quality of his first 10 wins is second to none -- no matter how long they took him to get.

... Read

Career records show Jason Day is the current king of match play -- but it's close

This week's WGC-Cadillac Match Play is one of the most fun, but unpredictable events of the PGA Tour season. Thanks to Adam Sarson, though, we at least have the complete match-play records of all 64 players in the field to help with our educated guesses. That includes their record in this event as well as in singles at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup and their records in other events like the Volvo World Match Play on the European Tour. So who are the best golfers in this format?

Three players, Anirban Lahiri, Marc Warren and Tommy Fleetwood, actually have perfect records (Watch out for Anirban Lahiri!). But since they've combined to win a total of five matches, we're not going to count them (OK, maybe don't watch out for Anirban Lahiri).

Related: How to fill out your match play bracket

Of players with at least 10 matches played, Jason Day, leads the way with a 79 winning percentage. The bulk of Day's 15-4 record comes from his 14-3 record in the WGC Match Play, which he won last year. Day is 1-1 in President Cup singles play.

Right behind Day is another former WGC Match Play champ, Matt Kuchar, at 69 percent. Kuchar, a former U.S. Amateur winner as well, is 17-4 in the event, but his overall record is brought down by a 1-4 mark in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup singles.

Graeme McDowell is third on the list at 68 percent. McDowell has a 3-1 Ryder Cup singles record, but has actually done most of his match play damage at the Volvo World Match Play, where he's gone 18-5. Surprisingly, he's just 9-8 in the annual WGC event.

Hunter Mahan (66 percent) is next on the list followed by some familiar European Tour Ryder Cup names: Ian Poulter (64 percent), Rory McIlroy (63 percent), Victor Dubuisson (58 percent), Martin Kaymer (55 percent), Paul Casey (55 percent), Henrik Stenson (52 percent) and Sergio Garcia (52 percent).

Thongchai Jaidee (57 percent), Rickie Fowler (54 percent) and Jim Furyk (51 percent) are the only other players with at least 10 matchest that have a winning percentage higher than 50. In other words, it's tough to have a great match-play record as a pro, which is why we've seen Tiger Woods win this event three times, but also lose to players like Nick O'Hern (twice!) and Peter O'Malley.

Speaking of Woods, his 45-15-2 record would give him the second-highest winning percentage (73) behind Day. With three U.S. Amateur titles and three U.S. Junior titles, it's tough to argue Woods isn't the best ever in match play, but his low world ranking has him out of this week's field. Phil Mickelson and his modest 23-21-3 record qualified for the event, but has withdrawn for personal reasons.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

So who isn't particularly good in match play? Two members of the victorious 2014 European Ryder Cup team, Stephen Gallacher and Jamie Donaldson, have the worst records of anyone with 10-plus matches. Gallacher is a near-impossible 1-10, while Donaldson is 2-7-2. Of course, one of those two wins for Donaldson came in his Sunday singles match against Keegan Bradley to clinch the Ryder Cup for Europe. Clutch!

Notable U.S. players with poor records include Dustin Johnson (4-7), Bill Haas (1-6) and Bradley (1-6). Not so clutch.

What does it all mean for this week's WGC-Cadillac Match Play? It's tough to say. There will be a new group-play format that will feed into the bracket and the tournament will be played at Harding Park for the first time after eight years in Arizona.

Online bookmaker Bovada lists McIlroy and Masters champ Jordan Spieth (3-3 in match play as a pro) as the co-favorites (9/1). Sarson's numbers say Day (14/1) is the better pick, but there's still a better chance of him losing to Anirban Lahiri than repeating as champ.

... Read

9 Lydia Ko stats that will make your jaw drop

Lydia Ko turned 18 on Friday during a tournament she would wind up winning -- for a second year in a row. That alone should be enough to amaze golf fans, but with Ko, that's just the start. Here are nine other achievements by the precocious Ko that will blow your mind.

Related: Golf's all-time biggest phenoms

7 -- Career LPGA Tour victories for Ko following her playoff win over Morgan Pressel at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. To put this in perspective, Michelle Wie, 25, only has four.

15 -- Age (15 years and four months) at which Ko became the youngest winner of an LPGA Tour event when she claimed the 2012 Canadian Women's Open. She broke Lexi Thompson's record by 15 months.

17 -- Age when Ko became No. 1 in the world ranking, the youngest male or female to hold the top spot by nearly four years. Tiger Woods (21) previously held the record, and Jiyai Shin (22) was the previous youngest female.

130 -- Weeks Ko already had been ranked the top amateur in the world before turning professional in November 2013 at 16.

29 -- Number of consecutive rounds under par Ko had shot early in the 2015 season, tying Annika Sorenstam's LPGA Tour record.

Related: Golf's greatest streaks

50 -- Career cuts made by Ko on the LPGA Tour. Why is this so impressive? Because that's also how many LPGA Tour starts she's made as either an amateur or a pro.

58 -- Ko's career percentage of finishing in the top 10 (29 of 50). She's improved that to 88 percent (7 of 8) to start the 2015 season.

69.594 -- Ko's scoring average thus far in 2015, the best on the LPGA Tour.

2,997,843 -- Career earnings by Ko in less than a year and a half. Again, this doesn't count her two wins and other high finishes as an amateur. It also doesn't count the $1 million bonus she pulled in for claiming the first season-long Race to the CME Globe in 2014.

... Read
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today