The Loop

These PGA Tour winners aren't so random. Here's how to predict who'll be next

May 19, 2014

Brendon Todd's win at the HP Byron Nelson Championship made him the eighth first-time winner through 27 events of the 2013-'14 PGA Tour season. The influx of first-timers has made predicting a tour winner as difficult as it's ever been, but that won't stop us from trying. We took a closer look at this year's breakthrough champions to try to uncover any subtle trends, then based on those, we identified the players most likely to be next.


1. He can come from way down the world ranking

Eight first-time winners isn't an off-the-charts number (there were 12 last year), but this year's crop has been particularly under the radar. The average Official World Golf Ranking of the eight winners is 139.4! Take out Steven Bowditch, the real outlier at No. 339 when he won the Valero Texas Open, and the average still comes out to 110.

Prime candidate: Martin Flores (No. 145), who finished third at the Wells Fargo Championship.

2. He doesn't have to be a bomber

We've seen a trend of big hitters winning on the PGA Tour this season, but among the first-time winners, that hasn't been the case. Seung-Yul Noh was T-3 in driving distance during his recent win in New Orleans, but even factoring that in, the eight first-timers averaged to rank 29th in driving distance the weeks they won.

Prime candidate: Shawn Stefani (No. 28 in driving distance on tour), who finished fifth behind first-time winner Matt Jones in Houston.

3. But he does have to hit a lot of greens

Distance hasn't been a major factor in recent breakthroughs, but seven of the eight winners (everyone but Todd) finished in the top 15 in greens in regulation the weeks they won and six finished in the top 10. (Todd, by the way, finished T-51 in GIR and only 75th in driving distance. Wait, how did he win?! Well, leading the field in strokes gained/putting and scrambling helped.) Not counting Todd, the seven first-timers averaged finishing seventh in GIR during their wins.

Prime candidate: Andrew Svoboda (No. 7 in GIR on tour), who finished runner-up to Noh at the Zurich Classic.

4. He should be around 30 years old

Noh's N.O. victory came at 22, but none of the other first-timers were particularly young -- or old. Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Matt Jones tied for oldest at 34 and the average age of the eight came out to 30.

Prime candidate: Daniel Summerhays (age 30), who had a T-2 behind Bowditch at the Valero.

5. It helps if he attended the University of Georgia

In addition to being the eighth first-time winner on tour this year, Todd became the fifth Georgia product to win on tour this season, joining Bubba Watson, Harris English, Russell Henley, and Chris Kirk.

Prime candidate: Brian Harman (UGA, class of 2009), who finished T-3 at the Northern Trust Open and seems to be the only former Bulldog without a PGA Tour title this season.