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Step aside Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia is the PGA Tour's new king of runner-ups

Jim Furyk's flurry of near-misses was one of the biggest storylines of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. But another player has closed the gap when it comes to close calls.

Related: Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

With a T-2 at the CIMB Classic, Sergio Garcia now has four runner-ups in his past eight PGA Tour events. Three of those came in consecutive fashion when after a close call at the Travelers Championship in June, Garcia ran into the Rory McIlroy buzz saw at the British Open and the Bridgestone Invitational.

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Furyk had four runner-ups in 2013-14, but they came over a span of 13 tournaments. Garcia also had two third-place finishes, three fourths and 10 top 10s (in just 16 events) during the 2013-14 season, which helps to explain why he finished second on the tour in scoring average and earned a career-best $4.9 million.

Garcia's career numbers in this area are also starting to resemble Furyk's. Since winning the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, Garcia has just two PGA Tour titles (the 2008 Players and 2012 Wyndham Championship), but nine runner-ups. He also has three third-place finishes in that span.

Furyk has seven second-place finishes since his last win at the 2010 Tour Championship. Garcia, who is 10 years younger than Furyk, has a way to go to match his 29 career runner-ups, but his winning percentage in top-two finishes is nearly identical. Furyk's 16 victories means he only wins 36 percent of the time he finishes in the top two. Garcia, meanwhile is just slightly better at 38 percent.

Related: 11 PGA Tour sleepers to watch out for in 2014-15

Garcia's recent 50-percent rate of finishing runner-up is rare, but it's not unprecedented. Ernie Els also pulled off the feat in 2000 during an eight-tournament stretch that second-place finishes at the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and Memorial. You may recall Tiger Woods, who topped Els in three of those events, had a slightly better season. Els also added a fifth runner-up of the year in the season-opener at Kapalua. Again, Tiger.

On the bright side, following his run of runner-ups, Els won his next start at The International. Perhaps, it's Garcia's turn to do the same at this week's WGC-HSBC Champions.

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News & Tours

You probably didn't notice: Robert Streb had an incredible week of putting

If you watched Robert Streb win the McGladrey Classic, you probably wondered to yourself, 'Why hasn't this guy won on the PGA Tour before?' The simple answer is he's never putted like that.

Related: See what clubs Streb used to win

Streb made 62 of 66 putts from inside 10 feet at Sea Island for the week and was perfect from five feet and in. He tied for the fewest putts (113) in the field and finished T-2 in strokes gained/putting at 1.691.

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Those numbers were well up from what we've seen from Streb, 27, in his first two seasons on tour, when he ranked 101st and 75th in strokes gained/putting. He made his biggest strides with shorter putts this week after being ranked T-145 last season from inside of 10 feet.

On Sunday, Streb converted six birdie putts of five feet or less (yes, his ball-striking was also pretty good) during a final-round 63. He made 10 birdies overall in 20 holes, including a four-footer for the win on the second playoff hole to top Brendon de Jonge and complete a five-shot comeback from the start of the round.

Streb was the FedEx Cup bubble boy (No. 126) in his rookie season in 2013, but he used his conditional status in 2013-14 to make 21 starts and earn $1.3 million to earn full playing privileges in 2014-15. His first win in his 49th career start gives him a two-year exemption on tour.

Related: 11 PGA Tour sleepers to watch in 2014-15

In his PGA Tour media-guide profile, Streb lists going to a Texas-Oklahoma football game and playing at Augusta National as his two bucket list items. With his win Sunday, he'll be able to cross off the latter in April.

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Stats

Meet Tony Finau, the PGA Tour's newest long-driving, par-5 destroying star

From "The Big Break" to the big leagues, Tony Finau was bound to be a popular rookie on the PGA Tour this season. The fact that he's also a big hitter (it's not just "chicks" who "dig the long ball," after all) certainly doesn't hurt, either.

In the first two starts of his first PGA Tour campaign, Finau, 25, has already been turning heads with his prodigious length off the tee. He's hit drives of 374 and 373 yards and he has registered five of the 20 longest drives of the young season.

Related: Finau and 10 other PGA Tour sleepers to watch

Overall, his driving average of 321.9 puts him second right now behind Daniel Berger (Bubba Watson led the tour with a 314.3 average last season). Unlike Berger, though, a fellow rookie who has missed the first two cuts of the season, Finau's all-around game has been equally as impressive as his performance off the tee.

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After a T-12 in the season opener in Napa, Finau finished T-7 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open over the weekend. Not bad for someone who had only three previous tour starts, the last of which was in 2011.

Finau is 24 under through two tournaments and not surprisingly, a lot of those red numbers have come on par 5s. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound bomber is a staggering 20 under on the 28 par 5s he's played thus far.

A former high school basketball star in Utah, Finau and his younger brother, Gipper, turned pro instead of playing in college. After bouncing around on mini-tours (Gipper is currently trying to earn his Web.com Tour card), Finau finally ended up on the Web.com Tour in 2014 and finished 12th on the tour's final priority ranking to earn his PGA Tour card for 2014-15.

After earning nearly as much ($310,833) in two PGA Tour starts as he did in 27 starts on the Web.com Tour last year, Finau is off to a great start in making sure he stays where he wants.

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News & Tours

Brian Stuard went 395 straight holes without a 3-putt and 7 other eye-popping stats from the PGA Tour season

Thanks to Bill Cooney at the PGA Tour for putting together a roundup of some of the 2013-14 season's most interesting stats. Here are a handful that caught our eye:

-- Brian Stuard went 395 holes without a three-putt. That's more than five full tournaments without a three-jack. Perhaps, just as incredible is the fact that the PGA Tour average is 80 holes or more than one full tournament. These guys are ridiculous.

Related: The winners and losers from the FedEx Cup

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Odds are, Brian Stuard didn't three-putt this green.


-- Speaking of incredible putting streaks, Gary Woodland made it through a second straight season without missing a putt from inside of three feet. He made all 770 of his short putts and has converted 1,641 out of 1,641 the past two years. Maybe to speed up play, the tour should allow him to pick it up when he's inside the leather.

-- Not everybody on tour putted great, though. There were four recorded six-putts at tournaments this year. We won't mention those players' names because we don't want to embarrass them. Eh, they're big boys. Graham DeLaet, David Gossett, Mark Wilson, and Jeff Maggert.

-- Speaking of embarrassing, John Daly wins first place in the "obvious leader in a stat category." There was one score of 12 recorded during the season. It was by Daly at the Valspar Championship. You may remember that as the time John Daly shot 90 on the PGA Tour.

-- Runner-up in the "obvious leader in a stat category" is David Toms. The accurate driver hit 36 consecutive fairways at one point during the season. As predictable as it was for Toms to have the tour's longest such streak, it's still pretty impressive.

-- The best streak of hitting greens in regulation goes to another short hitter, Tim Clark, who gave himself a birdie putt on 28 straight holes. You may be surprised to know that Chad Campbell led the tour in GIR for the season at 72.4 percent.

Related: 8 wacky stats about how the majors were covered on TV

-- What about the bombers? Bubba Watson led the way in driving distance in 314.8 yards per poke and had the longest drive of the season with a 424-yard blast at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Rory McIlroy's 334.8-yard average at that event, though, was the best average by anyone in a single tournament.

-- Back to the more distance challenged, Jim Furyk proved yet again that you don't need to be long to be a success on tour. Furyk's scrambling average of 69.33 percent led all players and was the fourth-best mark in tour history. Furyk also wound up earning the most money ever in a PGA Tour season by a non-winner ($5,987,395). Not a distinction he was hoping for, but not the worst thing to happen to a tour pro, either.

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Stats

You probably didn't notice: A "little putting tip" pays off BIG for Billy Horschel

Three events is a relatively small sample size when it comes to examining a golfer's stats so we're not ready yet to declare Billy Horschel the game's next great putter. But the newly crowned FedEx Cup champ isn't chalking up his recent performance on the greens to some fluky hot streak, either.

Related: The winners and losers from the FedEx Cup Playoffs

After winning the Tour Championship, Horschel pointed to a small adjustment he made within the past few weeks with the help of his instructor, Todd Anderson.

"He gave me a little putting tip at Deutsche Bank," Horschel said. "We just sort of made the grip a little bit longer, got both hands on the grip, and  my speed became better because I was always hitting my lines [before], my speed was [just] bad. I made two big putts I remember the first round at Deutsche Bank on 17 and 18 from about 15, 20 feet . . . I was like, 'OK, we may have found something here,' and then it was off to the races from there."

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Horschel was also off to the bank. He finished T-2 in Boston and then won in Denver and Atlanta to collect a staggering $13.477 million in September.

All parts of the 27-year-old Horschel's game were working in the FedEx Cup Playoffs from his driving distance (up to 302.1 from 289.5 in the regular season) to his ball-striking (his greens- in-regulation percentage of 75.79 led all playoff participants). But that little putting tip is what caused him to make his biggest stride.

Through the regular season, Horschel was ranked No. 110 in strokes gained/putting, losing 0.17 shots to the field on average per round. But in the playoffs, he gained 1.181, placing him second behind Jason Day among players who qualified for the Tour Championship.

Horschel's biggest moment Sunday came when he holed a 31-footer for par on the 16th hole that all but wrapped up the biggest win of his career and the biggest bonus he'll ever claim. He concluded the season finale with 175 straight holes without a three-putt and on a PGA Tour season-best streak of 12 straight rounds in the 60s.

Related: A frame-by-frame look at Billy Horschel's swing

Will Horschel keep his torrid putting going next season? Probably not to this extent, but we also don't expect him to go back to being a poor putter, either. Horschel ranked No. 113 in strokes gained/putting in 2011 and 2012, but climbed to 28th last year. After his recent hot stretch, he's back to No. 53.

The last three weeks may be a small sample size, but they've made Horschel a huge name in golf. And for a player who seems to thrive on confidence, that might wind up being worth just as much as that $10 million prize.

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News & Tours

How Morgan Hoffmann became a 4,000-to-1 long shot to make the Tour Championship

Morgan Hoffmann is the most unlikely player teeing it up at this week's Tour Championship. "Duh," you say. After all, he started the FedEx Cup Playoffs ranked 124th out of 125. But those numbers don't begin to tell how improbable Hoffmann's route to Atlanta was.

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Hoffmann, 25, matched Heath Slocum in 2009 as the lowest-ranked player to qualify for the Tour Championship, but Hoffmann is the lowest-ranked player to accomplish the feat without winning a playoff event. He also became the first golfer to play himself inside the cut line at each of the first three FedEx Cup Playoff events.

Related: 7 things you need to know after Week 3 of the FedEx Cup Playoffs

We start at the Barclays, where Hoffmann had the luxury of playing in the first playoff event at Ridgewood Country Club, a course he'd played "a million times" having grown up 10 minutes away. Now what are the odds of that? We don't know, but we can approximate how likely his T-9 finish was to advance. With just three top 10s in 54 previous PGA Tour starts, that's a 5-percent rate or 19-to-1 odds.

To be fair, Hoffmann didn't need a top 10 to move on that week, but he did when you factor in what happened at the Deutsche Bank Championship. With the luxury of entering the week No. 72, his T-35 in Boston kept his PGA Tour season going. And even that result was more unlikely than you realize considering Hoffmann only had 15 such finishes in his career (about 28 percent) previously.

And finally, Hoffmann had to finish a career-best third at the BMW Championship to move into the top 30 on the points list and qualify for the Tour Championship. Since he'd never finished third before in a PGA Tour event, it's impossible to quantify the odds of this happening, so we'll look at his top-five rate. With just one -- a T-5 at the 2013 Byron Nelson -- that means Hoffmann had less than a 2 percent chance of doing so well at Cherry Hills.

Related: The top 10 earners in FedEx Cup history

Combine the chances of Hoffmann doing what he did at each of those three events and the number comes out to 0.02856 percent, which equates roughly to 3,500-to-1 odds that he would be playing in Atlanta this week. We've rounded up to 4,000 to 1, which seems conservative based on the career-best finish at the BMW, where he needed a course-record 62 Saturday followed by a Sunday 63 to squeak through, and the fact Hoffmann's best 2013-14 finish before the playoffs was a T-15 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In other words, his recent hot stretch has come out of nowhere.

And that's not even factoring in how fortunate Hoffmann was to even get into the playoffs. After missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship, he needed a few things to break his way just to remain in the top 125 in the standings and earn his spot in the field at the Barclays.

Now No. 21, Hoffmann still faces long odds of winning the FedEx Cup. But after the remarkable run he's been on, would you want to bet against him?

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Stats

You probably didn't notice: Hunter Mahan's remarkable ball-striking streak

Hunter Mahan's win at the Barclays was his first on the PGA Tour in more than two years, but it certainly wasn't just a one-week burst of good play. Following a near five-month stretch in which he finished no better than a T-24 at Congressional, Mahan has been on a ball-striking tear in his last three tournaments.

The Grind: Mahan's big win and Win McMurry's big Ice Bucket Challenge fail

At Ridgewood Country Club, Mahan hit 58 of 72 greens (80.56 percent) to easily lead the field. He hit 15 greens in three of the rounds, including during Sunday's 65 that delivered him a two-shot win. But his play from tee to green was just as impressive in his previous two starts, even if his results didn't show it.

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Mahan tied for the lead in greens hit at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished T-15, as well as at the PGA Championship, where he finished T-7. That's three weeks in a row of leading a PGA Tour field in greens hit.

To put that in perspective, no other player on tour in 2014 has led the field in GIR in more than two events total. And Mahan's 78.7 percent clip in his last three starts outpaces the red-hot Rory McIlroy (73.6) in that span by more than 5 percentage points.

Related: Hunter Mahan and the power of positive thinking

The recent stretch has Mahan back to 28th in GIR for the season, which shows how far he had fallen during his slump, and his overall stats from tee to green are closer to what we're used to seeing in recent years. Mahan is eighth in total driving (he was eighth last year and second in 2012) and 12th in ball-striking (he was 11th last year and third in 2012).

Mahan is hoping to be one of Tom Watson's captain's picks for next month's Ryder Cup. Watson has said he's going to look a lot at "gut factor," or the ability of a player to play under pressure. We're not sure where Watson ranks Mahan in that category, but it will be hard to not take a long look at a guy consistently hitting greens at this rate.

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News & Tours

Rickie Fowler's year in golf's majors was even better than you think and why it reminds us of Phil Mickelson

By Alex Myers

By now, you're probably sick of hearing about how Rickie Fowler joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors in a single season. Sorry. But Fowler's impressive run at golf's four biggest events -- despite now holding the distinction of being the only player to pull off the feat and not win one -- actually compares more with Phil Mickelson's 2001 season.

Related: The winners and losers from the PGA Championship

With an aggregate score of 1,108 in the four events, Fowler matched Mickelson's total from 2001. Remarkably, the two are tied for the third-best combined score in major championship history and yet neither player took home one of golf's most coveted titles during those seasons.

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Fowler finished T-5 at the Masters, runner-up at both the U.S. and British Opens, and T-3 at the PGA Championship. Amazingly, they are his only top-five finishes of the season. At Valhalla, Fowler had his closest call, leading on the back nine before being caught and passed by Rory McIlroy.

Similarly, Mickelson's best chance of winning in 2001 came at the season's last major when he lost to David Toms at Atlanta Athletic Club by a shot. He also finished third at the Masters, T-7 at the U.S. Open and T-30 at the British Open.

The 1,108 total by both Fowler and Mickelson was just one shot higher than David Duval's aggregate score in 2001, when he claimed his only major title at the British Open. The best total in the four majors was achieved by (surprise!) Tiger Woods in 2000. That year Woods won both Opens and the PGA and needed just 1,095 shots to complete all four majors -- 35 shots better than his nearest challenger, Ernie Els.

Related: The winners and losers from the PGA Championship

Fowler led all players in that category this year (32 under!), topping even McIlroy by five shots. Of course, that's of little consolation to him since he now trails the fellow 25-year-old McIlroy by four majors after his back-to-back wins.

But Fowler should look to his final-round playing partner at Valhalla for inspiration. When Mickelson finished his 2001 season, he was 31 and still searching for a first major breakthrough. Not fully capitalizing on such great play is disappointing, but as Phil, now a five-time major champ at 44, showed on Sunday, there's plenty of time for more chances.

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Stats

You probably didn't notice: Putting has become a strength for Sergio Garcia

By Alex Myers

The putts didn't drop for Sergio Garcia on Sunday at Firestone. With a chance to win his first World Golf Championship, Garcia made only one birdie in the final round and was surpassed by Rory McIlroy.

Same old story for Sergio, right? Eh, not really.

Garcia has a reputation of being a great ball-striker but a poor putter. His performance on the greens is always cited as the main reason why the 34-year-old Spaniard has won 19 times on the PGA and European Tours combined but is still in search of a first major championship. It's a fair assessment, but only to a certain point.

Related: Sergio Garcia knocked a diamond out of a fan's engagement ring

You see, Garcia has actually been a pretty -- dare we say very -- good putter for the past three seasons. He currently ranks No. 15 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained/putting, was a career-best eighth last year and checked in at 26th in 2012 -- all the way up from a dismal 144th in 2011 and 159th in 2010.

The difference has been Garcia's claw or pencil putting grip that he's gotten more comfortable with since starting to use it in 2011. Garcia made the switch after being told by putting guru Dave Stockton that he was using too much right hand in his stroke. Garcia first experimented with a left-hand-low grip before settling on the claw to lesson the impact of his right hand on putts.

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The area where he's improved the most is in the 10-15 foot range. Garcia ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in that category this season, converting an incredible 43.55 percent of the time. We saw him make a few from that length during Friday's incredible stretch of 11(!) straight one-putts that led him to a back-nine 27.

OK, so we shouldn't ever expect to see Sergio -- or anyone -- put on a putting exhibition like that (4.558 strokes gained/putting on Friday). But we also shouldn't expect to see Garcia struggle on the greens as he did in the final round (-1.829 on Sunday).

Some might argue it was the pressure of being in contention at a big event that got to Garcia, now ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking. Perhaps, but it certainly didn't seem to bother him during his Sunday 66 at the British Open two weeks before.

No, we're going to chalk it up to him simply having a bad day on the greens. And believe it or not, that's a rare occurrence these days.

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News & Tours

You probably didn't notice . . . Golf's latest long-driving sensation is a 23-year-old Canadian

By Alex Myers

Meet Taylor Pendrith. The 23-year-old Canadian is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and he can hit a golf ball farther than you can. A LOT farther.

Pendrith made his PGA Tour debut at last week's Canadian Open and finished T-43 to grab low amateur honors. The recent Kent State graduate garnered attention for an opening 65, but he turned more heads for how he attacked Royal Montreal GC.

Related: Jim Furyk is really, REALLY good at finishing runner-up

On Thursday, Pendrith posted the four longest drives of anyone in the field. He wound up with seven of the longest 30 drives for the week, and finished second overall in driving distance to Patrick Rodgers. When counting all drives and not just the two holes per day that are officially measured at PGA Tour events, Pendrith was first with an average of 306.9 yards.

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If those numbers seem relatively low, that's because hitting driver at the tight track wasn't always the best plan of action. But Pendrith managed to poke a 365-yard drive on the eighth hole in the first round and hit 16 drives of at least 330 yards over four days.

Before being a two-time Mid-American Conference Golfer of the Year while at Kent State, Pendrith won the Canadian Junior Long Drive Championship with a 349-yard clout and had his ball speed measured at 190 mph (The average for a PGA Tour pro in 2013 was 167). The Ontario native's biggest win to date was a five-shot rout at the 2013 Porter Cup.

Pendrith plans on turning pro in the fall after the circuit of big amateur tournaments conclude. When he does, his prodigious power should make him a crowd favorite -- even when he's not playing in his home country.

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