Closing out a tournament on the PGA Tour when you’re ahead after 54 holes is challenging stuff, no matter how easy Tiger Woods makes it look. Since 2000, a little less than 40 percent of tour events have been won by a golfer who was either tied at the top with 18 holes to play or held the third-round lead outright, which makes Tiger’s 96-percent win rate (44 of 46 after closing out the Zozo Championship two weeks ago) all the more obscene.
And yet early in the 2019-’20 PGA Tour season, the trend had been more in the direction of Tiger and less toward the historic average. When Rory McIlroy beat Xander Schauffele in a playoff on Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions, McIlroy made it eight straight tour events—the entirety of the fall schedule to that point—in which the 54-hole leader held on to his advantage and won the tournament.
Just how much of an anomaly is such a run? Consider that the last time the first eight events of a season were won by the leader/co-leader entering the final round was 40 years ago, in 1979. That year, the first nine events of the schedule followed that pattern.
Tour rookie Harry Higgs had the chance to extend the streak and match the mark from 1979 when he took a two-stroke lead into the final round on Sunday at the inaugural Bermuda Championship. It was a big ask for a player who had never been higher than T-2 after the first, second or third rounds on the Korn Ferry Tour, much less the PGA Tour. It was also just his sixth start since earning a PGA Tour card off the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019.
To his credit, Higgs did shoot a final-round 68 at Port Royal Golf Club, forcing somebody to go really low to pass him. Unfortunately for Higgs, that’s what Brendon Todd did, shooting a 62 to win by four strokes and become the latest feel-good winner on tour. Second place was Higgs' best career finish on tour, but by missing out on the win, he helped the tour begin to regress to the mean when it comes to closing out victories.