British Open 2019: Is the current best iron player in the world at Royal Portrush? The stats say no

July 17, 2019
Travelers Championship - Final Round

G Fiume

There has been (rightful) puzzlement about why Matthew Wolff isn't in the field at this week's British Open. Our article on Monday explains—or, at least, tries to explain—why this is the case. But another PGA Tour rookie who has been even more impressive than Wolff since turning pro following the conclusion of the college golf season also isn't at Royal Portrush this week.

Northern Ireland may be known famous for being the backdrop to the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, however, golf's current iron throne holder is Collin Morikawa. And if you don't believe us, just take a look at the incredible stats he's put up so far.

As's Sean Martin points out, Morikawa's +1.279 strokes gained: approach would rank No. 1 if he had enough rounds to qualify. The 22-year-old University of California product has led the field in that stat in each of the past two weeks (3M Open and John Deere Classic).

In fact, at the John Deere, Morikawa hit all 18 greens during Sunday's final round. And he was a Hogan-esque 50-of-54 in that stat over the final three days in the Quad Cities.

These stats have translated to impressive finishes as well. Since finishing T-14 in his pro debut at the Canadian Open in June, Morikawa's worst result in five starts was a T-36 at the Travelers Championship and he's finished T-4 at the John Deere and T-2 (to Wolff) at the 3M Open in his past two tournaments.

Sure, it's a relatively small sample size, but that +1.279 figure is still eye-popping. Of those with enough rounds to qualify, Henrik Stenson is No. 1 at +1.245. Another renowned iron player, Hideki Matsuyama, ranks second at +1.005, and only three other players—Justin Thomas (.952), Sergio Garcia (.911), and Emiliano Grillo (.904)—average more than .9 strokes gained in this category per round. There's a big drop to Rory McIlroy (.843) at No. 6.

Morikawa's 68.711 scoring average would also be a PGA Tour best. Patrick Cantlay (69.095) currently holds a slim edge over Rory McIlroy (69.129) in that stat.

But again, unfortunately—and surprisingly—neither Morikawa nor Wolff nor fellow rookie Viktor Hovland will tee it up this week at Royal Portrush. Based on what this talented trio has already showed in a limited time, though, it would be much more stunning if these guys are not in next year's field.