The Local Knowlege


Winning the Masters doesn't guarantee a big year (or career), as 7 recent first-time victors can attest

Winning the Masters makes any golfer's year a great one, but it doesn't necessarily lead to more immediate success. Since 2000, there have been nine first-time Masters champs and only two of them even won another PGA Tour event the rest of that season.

This is probably true for a couple of reasons. For one thing, once you slip on that green jacket, you instantly become a star. Have you seen the whirlwind tour of New York City Jordan Spieth has been on since Monday morning? Sure, it's fun, but it's tiring -- and distracting.

Related: The 15 most revealing moments from the Masters

"The media attention, the atmosphere; even a year later, you're excited about your win," said Bubba Watson, who wasn't comfortable hosting the Champions Dinner in 2013. "Sometimes you get away from your routine or you just use your energy in a different way."

Secondly, once someone is a Masters champion, the expectations of them soar.

"The thing is, you obviously know what your good golf entails and you know you've been able to showcase that on the biggest stage in the game. That adds a little bit of pressure from the standpoint of why am I not doing that all the time," 2008 champ Trevor Immelman told the Augusta Chronicle in 2013.

Trevor Immelman was on top of the world once too.

But not only have these recent winners not played great golf on a weekly basis, some, like Immelman have struggled for years since. Here's a closer look at the last seven first-time Masters champs (We omitted Vijay Singh in 2000 because he had already won eight PGA Tour titles and a major by then and Phil Mickelson in 2004 because he had already won 23 PGA Tour titles at that point) and what they've done since claiming the green jacket.

Adam Scott, 2013
Remaining major finishes that year: T-45, T-3, T-5
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 1
Career PGA Tour wins since: 2
PGA Tour wins/year since: 1.0

Bubba Watson, 2012
Remaining major finishes that year: MC, T-23, T-11
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 0
PGA Tour wins since: 3
PGA Tour wins/year since: 1.0

Charl Schwartzel, 2011
Remaining major finishes that year: T-9, T-16, T-12
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 0
PGA Tour wins since: 0
PGA Tour Wins/year since: 0.0

Angel Cabrera, 2009
Remaining major finishes that year: T-54, T-24, T-63
Wins that year after the Masters: 0
Wins since: 1
Wins/year since: 0.167

Trevor Immelman, 2008
Remaining major finishes that year: T-65, T-19, MC
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 0
PGA Tour wins since: 0
PGA Tour wins/year since: 0.0

The Grind: Jordan Spieth's kiss seen around the world

Zach Johnson, 2007
Remaining major finishes that year: T-45, T-20, MC
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 1
PGA Tour wins since: 9
PGA Tour wins/year since: 1.125

Mike Weir, 2003
Remaining major finishes that year: T-3, T-28, T-7
PGA Tour wins that year after the Masters: 0
PGA Tour wins since: 2
PGA Tour wins/year since: 0.167

That's a total of 17 wins in 42 seasons, with Zach Johnson providing more than half of those titles. And of the seven players, only one seriously contended at another major that same season (Adam Scott at the 2013 British Open) and only one, Bubba Watson, has won another major.

Of course, none of these guys were 21 when they won the Masters. And the last time someone that age won a green jacket, we seem to recall him going on to have a pretty good career.

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How Jimmy Walker's five wins in 17 months stack up to some notable PGA Tour careers

Jimmy Walker didn't win on the PGA Tour until his 187th career start at the Open in October 2013. That almost doesn't seem possible now.

In the 17 months and 37 starts since that breakthrough victory, Walker has quickly run his win total to five, the last of which came in dominant fashion over the weekend at the Valero Texas Open. That's two more PGA Tour titles than anyone (Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed are tied for second with three wins) since the start of the 2013-2014 season.

Related: Golf Digest's My Shot with Jimmy Walker

These days on the PGA Tour, five wins in that short of a span by anyone is impressive. But coming from such a late bloomer -- Walker's first win came at age 34 -- makes the accomplishment even more remarkable. In fact, Walker's past year and a half stacks up pretty well with some pretty good careers. Yes, careers.

Did you realize that Walker's five wins have pulled him even on the all-time PGA Tour victories list with former World No. 1s Tom Lehman and Luke Donald? How about with players like John Daly, Jesper Parnevik and Billy Mayfair?

Walker's five victories have him just behind current big names like Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan and Padraig Harrington, and just two behind Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Retief Goosen. If Walker keeps up his torrid pace of winning every three months, he would catch all those guys by the end of this season.

Related: Meet Erin Walker and other PGA Tour WAGs

You'd also probably be surprised by how many marquee names Walker has already passed on the wins list. Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler just to name a few. Again, Walker has more PGA Tour titles than all of these guys in just his last 37 starts!

Of course, Walker's next challenge is breaking through at a major championship. Considering he had his first three top-10 finishes in those four events last year (he only had six previous starts in majors), though, Walker taking that next step might not be too far off.

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You probably didn't notice: The one part of Rory McIlroy's game that's really holding him back right now

Coming off a win and a runner-up on the European Tour to start 2015, Rory McIlroy's performance on the PGA Tour's Florida Swing was a bit disappointing. McIlroy missed the cut at the Honda Classic and had T-9 and T-11 finishes at Doral and Bay Hill, where he was never a factor on either Sunday.

The good news for the World No. 1? It seems that only one part of his game is holding him back.

Related: McIlroy among golf's all-time biggest phenoms

In his 10 PGA Tour rounds this year, McIlroy's iron play has been the main culprit. While those 10 rounds -- just one of which was in the 60s -- aren't enough to qualify him officially, his statistics stand out in several categories.

Starting with greens in regulation, McIlroy's 67.22 percent would rank him only No. 80 on tour. Last season, he ranked sixth at 69.44 percent. The numbers get much worse, though, for proximity to the hole. McIlroy's average of 38' 10" would have him tied for 178th on tour. Last year, he ranked 31st.

Those are two key stats that have his strokes gained/tee to green down more than a full shot from last season when he led the tour at 1.993. And his scoring average is nearly two shots worse -- despite his putting and driving numbers remaining nearly identical -- from his tour-best 68.827 during his player of the year campaign that saw him win the season's final two majors.

Related: 8 wacky PGA Tour stats from last season

With 2015's first major approaching, McIlroy has decided not to play any more events before heading to Augusta National, where he'll have his first crack at completing the career Grand Slam. At least, he knows what to work on before he gets there.

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You probably didn't notice: Even with a rough Sunday, Derek Ernst had the second-best finish of his PGA Tour career

The 2015 Valspar Championship will be remembered as the tournament where Jordan Spieth picked up an inevitable second PGA Tour title. But it also included two unlikely breakthroughs.

If you watched Sunday's telecast, you're probably familiar with Sean O'Hair's story. Once a rising star, O'Hair had fallen on hard times and all the way down to No. 401 in the Official World Golf Ranking with just one top 10 (a T-10 to be exact) in his previous 65 PGA Tour events.

Related: 13 PGA Tour winners who were regular working stiffs

O'Hair, 32, lipped out a birdie putt on the second playoff hole that could have earned him total job security for the next two years. Still, his T-2 brought him up to No. 188 and it should get him into a lot more tournaments than having to rely on special exemptions like the one he received last week for being a past champion at Innisbrook.

Another guy who is running out of playing privileges had a chance for plenty of final-round TV time as well, but had a tough day. Derek Ernst trailed only Spieth and Ryan Moore after 54 holes, but he bogeyed No. 2 and doubled No. 7 to tumble off the leader board.

Ernst wound up falling 14 spots with a 75 to finish T-17, but like with O'Hair, there is a silver lining. "Feels good to get the competitive juices going again," Ernst said on Saturday evening.

For the man with one of the oddest PGA Tour resumes ever, this was actually just the second top-25 finish in 62 career events. The other, of course, was his shocking victory at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship, when he won as the 1,207th-ranked player in the world, giving him an exemption on the tour through this season.

But after seven missed cuts in 11 starts in 2014-15 -- with his best finish being a T-54 at the McGladrey Classic -- a 67-70-69 start on a stout Copperhead Course gives Ernst hope that better golf is ahead. So does the fact that the UNLV product doesn't turn 25 until May.

"Golf is so mental and this week I just flipped the switch and started believing in myself and had some positive affirmations I've been telling myself," Ernst said.

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You probably didn't notice: Adam Scott's stellar week with his new short putter

OK, so you may have noticed this one. If you were following the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, you probably heard about Adam Scott ditching his long putter. And if you saw where the Aussie ended up on the leader board (T-4), you probably figured he putted pretty well with his new short one.

But just how well did Scott fare on the greens? We took a closer look.

Scott wound up with a strokes gained/putting average of .765 to finish 12th in the field. Not bad for his first week using a standard-length Odyssey putter with the anchoring ban set to go into effect in January.

Related: Is the anchoring ban overrated?

In fact, since Scott switched to the long putter in early 2011, he's only had eight events in which he finished with a better strokes gained/putting average for the week than he did at Doral. Again, that's eight events in four years.

Over 72 holes at Doral, Scott only three-putted once, and he made 87 percent of his putts from inside 10 feet. That included a perfect 52 of 52 from five feet and in -- a range where anchoring, in theory, helps a golfer. But Scott was good from any range as evidenced by his daily average of holing more than 84 feet worth of putts, which put him 15th in the field.

Any way you look at it, Scott's return to a regular putter was a success -- not that we should be too surprised. The farthest back the PGA Tour goes with its strokes gained/putting stat is 2004. Leading the category that year? Adam Scott.

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A former belly putter has the longest current streak without a three-putt on the PGA Tour

This week in "Reasons why the anchoring ban shouldn't cause pro golfers to give up their day jobs just yet" focuses on Brendan Steele. The 31-year-old former belly putter only ranks 112th in strokes gained/putting so far in the 2014-15 season, but he's a solid 30th in the FedEx Cup standings and he hasn't missed a cut in seven starts.

Related: The anchoring ban doesn't seem to be hurting tour pros yet

It also helps that he hasn't three-putted yet this year. No, really.


Steele currently holds the longest streak without a three-putt on the PGA Tour at 243 holes. It's a streak that goes back to the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November. And despite his below average strokes gained/putting, Steele ranks a solid 27th from four to eight feet (76 percent) and is a perfect 223 out of 223 on putts from inside of three feet.

Related: Davis Love's Ryder Cup do-over and Rickie gets romantic

Not bad for someone who switched to a "regular" stroke less than eight months ago to get a jump on the anchoring ban, which goes into effect in 2016. Well, regular if you don't count using a funky claw grip against him.

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7 numbers that tell just how great Billy Casper was

Billy Casper died on Saturday, rightfully setting off a series of tributes to a great champion and person. Stringing all those stories together was the sentiment that Casper was underrated as a golfer. At some point, though, unanimously being considered underrated makes someone pretty highly rated, right? No matter what the perception, Casper was a golfing giant any way you look at his numbers. Here are seven stats that stand out:

51: Casper's career total of PGA Tour titles has been surpassed by only six golfers. And if you're waiting for another active player to catch him, don't hold your breath. Phil Mickelson is by far the closest with 42 wins, but Phil getting 10 more at this point in his career seems like a stretch. Next on the list of active full-time players on the PGA Tour is Ernie Els with 19.

Related: A look back at Casper's career in pictures

3: Three of Casper's 51 PGA Tour wins were majors championships. Only 13 golfers have won more majors since Casper won his first at the 1959 U.S. Open. Casper would also win the 1966 U.S. Open and the 1970 Masters. That total could have been higher, but he finished runner-up at the PGA Championship three times and only played in the British Open five times, including a fourth-place finish in 1968.

8: Casper played on eight straight U.S. Ryder Cup teams beginning in 1961. In 1979, he served as the team's captain. Phil Mickelson, who played in a ninth consecutive Ryder Cup in 2014, has accomplished that feat. Unlike during Mickelson's era, the U.S. was undefeated in the nine times Casper competed in this event.


23.5: Casper wasn't just along for the ride during that dominant stretch by the U.S. His 23.5 points are the most all time by an American.

Related: Jaime Diaz on why Billy Casper was an underappreciated genius

5: Casper won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour five times. Only Tiger Woods (nine times) has won the award more.

16: Casper won at least one PGA Tour event in 16 consecutive years. Only Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (both 17 years) have longer streaks.

9.2: Casper's career winning percentage on the PGA Tour. Only two golfers who started their careers after 1950 (Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus) have won at a higher rate.

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News & Tours

You probably didn't notice: Amateur Jon Rahm's T-5 at TPC Scottsdale puts him in rare company

Jon Rahm isn't on the PGA Tour yet, but he already has one of golf's great nicknames. And now he also has one of the best performances by an amateur in recent tour history.


Rahm, aka "Rahmbo" -- a name he sported on the back of an Arizona State football jersey he wore on TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole on Saturday -- finished T-5 at the Waste Management Open in just his second tour start. The 20-year-old Sun Devil became the first amateur since Chris Wood at the 2008 British Open to finish T-5 in a PGA Tour event and just the second amateur to accomplish a top five since Justin Rose's T-4 at the 1998 British Open.

Related: 11 PGA Tour sleepers to watch in 2015

Rahm, who was playing on a sponsor's exemption, won't take home the check for $239,400 and he doesn't get into next week's field because of his amateur status. Of course, he didn't let those details spoil his mood.

"It means a lot," Rahm said. "It means that I proved to myself that I can be out here. I can be here and compete with the best and, you know, try to be the best."

Arizona State golfers have a history of performing well in state on the PGA Tour. In 1991, a 20-year-old Phil Mickelson won the former Northern Telecom Open in Tucson during his junior year. No amateur golfer has won on the PGA Tour since.

Rahm, a junior from Barrika, Spain, has four career collegiate wins and captured the 2014 World Amateur, breaking Jack Nicklaus' tournament scoring record in the process. He said "unless something really special happens," he won't turn pro until after college.

Perhaps, a T-5 in a PGA Tour event as an amateur isn't "really special," but it's pretty close.

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Gear & Equipment

Chances are you don't hit your clubs quite as far as you say you do

We all know recreational golfers who, out of ego or ignorance, embellish their skills on occasion. (OK, maybe more like on regular occasion.) Save for a purposeful eye roll, it's difficult to challenge them given a lack of objective data.

Enter GAME Golf, which debuted its stat-tracking/GPS technology in 2013, creating sensors that golfers attach to their clubs that help calculate the true distances they hit the ball with each one. The company markets its device as a way for golfers to "be right" with their club selection by knowing how far they really hit their woods, irons and wedges, improving their course management.

In 2014, GAME Golf users played more than 170,000 rounds. At the end of the year the company aggregated these statistics to offers a look at how "skillful" regular golfers actually are. Not surprisingly it varies greatly, depending on skill level.

For instance, take GAME Golf users who shot average scores between 75-80. Breaking down topline stats from these golfers, the company found their average driving distance of 235 yards, found the fairway off the tee 51 percent of the time and hit 52 percent of their greens in regulation.

For golfers who averaged scores between 90-95, their stats aren't quite as solid. These players had an average driving distance of just 196 yards. Their fairways hit number was lower, but not drastically so, down to 43 percent. But where their significant difference was in ball-striking as their GIR mark was just 23 percent.

By basis of comparison, Graeme McDowell, a GAME Golf endorser uploaded, used the technology to track his game. Based on rounds he uploaded, McDowell averaged 270 yards off the tee, hit 77 percent of fairways and 72 percent of greens in regulation.

Meanwhile, using ShotLink data for the entire PGA Tour in 2013-14, the average drive on tour last season was 281.6 yards, the average fairways hit for players was 61.3 percent and the average GIR was 64.08 percent.

GAME Golf GAME Golf PGA Tour pros

75-80 shooters 90-95 shooters ShotLink stats
Average driving distance 235 yards
196 yards
281.6 yards
Fairways hit 51%
43% 61.3%
Greens In Regulation 52% 23% 64.08%

So, the next time the 15-handicapper in your foursome boasts about the 260 yards he averages off the tee, feel free to give him more than an eye roll.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.


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Is Bill Haas the best player never to contend at a major?

With his second Humana Challenge victory, Bill Haas picked up his sixth career PGA Tour title. That number is nothing to sneeze at -- especially in this era where professional golf is more global and deep than ever -- but it prompts two questions: Why hasn't Bill Haas done more in majors? And is he the best player never to have contended in a major?

Haas has come to this win total and $21.5 million in earnings (NOT including a $10 million FedEx Cup bonus) before turning 33. That means he could just be entering the prime of his career, but still, his results in golf's four biggest events are puzzling.

Related: The 11 best golfers without a major championship

Haas has played in 21 major championships and has never finished in the top 10. The closest he's ever come to contending was holding the 18-hole lead at the 2014 Masters. He shot 78 on Friday, though, and wound up T-20. Only twice in those 21 starts has Haas bettered that performance with a T-12 at the 2011 PGA Championship and a T-19 at the 2012 British Open.


Haas actually has plenty of company when it comes to his ratio of tour titles to major titles. He's the 80th golfer to have six or more wins without a major and he's not even close to Harry Cooper's record of 31 victories without a major. But Haas' history is unusual because unlike Cooper and the overwhelming majority of those 79 other players, Haas has never come close to even contending at a major, let alone winning one.

Of the 80 players on that list, only four never finished in the top five at a major championship: Joey Sindelar, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Willie Klein, and Wayne Levi. Only one of those other golfers also never once finished in the top 10: Levi.

In fact, Levi is the gold standard for unusual track records in major championships. He had twice as many wins (12) as Haas currently does and even won the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award in 1990. Yet his best finish in a major was a T-11 at the 1984 Masters and he only had four top 25s in 33 major starts.

More typical is someone like Bill's dad, Jay. The nine-time PGA Tour winner never won a major, but he had T-3s at the 1995 Masters and 1999 PGA Championship, as well as a T-4 at the 1995 U.S. Open. "I think he deserved a major in his career as good as he played," Bill said of his dad in 2014. 

But so far, Bill, hasn't followed in his father's footsteps when it comes to those close calls -- which is probably why his name never seems to come up in the "Who is the best player without a major?" debate despite the fact Haas has played on the last two U.S. Presidents Cup teams and has as many PGA Tour titles as Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood combined. Unlike those guys, Haas has never been higher than No. 12 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Related: Lee Westwood saves a man from drowning in Barbados

Of course, some might argue that winning the Tour Championship and claiming the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus like Haas did in 2011 is a major in its own right. But until he at least shows up on a final-round leader board at one of golf's four biggest tournaments, we're going to continue to wonder why.

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