Golf. Is. Back. The PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour return this week for the first time since COVID-19 shut everything down in mid-March. We’ll bring you a full breakdown of the Charles Schwab Challenge in Wednesday’s newsletter. Today, however, is reserved for the sexiest of topics: statistics.
News and updates
- Ohio governor Mike DeWine granted permission to the Memorial Tournament to host fans at Muirfield Village next month. Up to 8,000 spectators will be allowed on the grounds at a given time—approximately 20% of the venue’s normal capacity—and all fans must wear facial covering. Full Story from Will Gray
- Justin Rose is stepping up to help players on the Ladies European Tour. The 2013 U.S. Open champion will sponsor seven one-day events this summer called the “Rose Ladies Series,” which will provide much-needed playing opportunities for members of the struggling LET. Full Story from Joel Beall
It’s a question golf fans love to argue about: who were the best at their best? Well, now we have an answer—at least for male players between 2004 and the present. The team at Data Golf put together a ranking of the top stretches in Strokes Gained performance in the past 15 years. For this list, a “stretch” is defined as the player’s best 150 rounds, or roughly 37 tournaments. While we recommend that you peruse the ranking yourself, here are the top 10, along with a few other notables.
1 – Tiger Woods (2006-08, +3.89 SG: Total)
2 – Vijay Singh (2003-04, +3.04)
3 – Ernie Els (2002-04, +2.86)
4 – Jim Furyk (2005-06, +2.70)
5 – Jason Day (2014-15, +2.60)
6 – Jordan Spieth (2014-15, +2.58)
7 – Rory McIlroy (2011-12, +2.54)
8 – Dustin Johnson (2017-18, +2.53)
9 – Luke Donald (2010-11, +2.44)
10 – Jon Rahm (2019-20, +2.43)
15 – Phil Mickelson (2003-04, +2.37)
20 – Rickie Fowler (2016-17, +2.25)
23 – Brandt Snedeker (2012-13, +2.12)
30 – Matt Kuchar (2009-10, +2.07)
37 – Brooks Koepka (2016-17, +2.00)
60 – Patrick Reed (2017-18, +1.78)
62 – Zach Johnson (2012-14, +1.76)
The careers of pro golfers are longer than those of most athletes, so it’s only natural to fall into the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately trap, or to prioritize cumulative career stats above all else. But this ranking from Data Golf forces us out of those mindsets. It shows who burned the brightest, not just who simmered the longest.
Assorted notes and observations:
- The list goes back only to 2004 because that is the year the PGA Tour started tracking Strokes Gained statistics. Obviously it would be cool to see how Tiger’s 2000-01 compares to his 2006-08, or how David Duval’s 1998-99 stacks up against either of those.
- It feels like this list exists to put Phil Mickelson in his place. 15th! Don’t get us wrong, Phil’s five majors and 44 PGA Tour wins speak for themselves, and he has been a stalwart of the sport for a quarter century. But he, Vijay, and Ernie hit their peaks around the same time, and the comparative numbers don’t look good for Phil.
- By all means, fawn over Jordan Spieth’s 2015 season, but don’t forget that Jason Day actually outperformed him (slightly) for much of that stretch! Of course, Spieth did outshine the Australian at the majors, and those results tend to color our memory.
- Jon Rahm may be in the middle of one of his career peaks. Who’s to say his position on this list won’t improve this summer? And he’s already 10th! What Rahm has done over the past year and a half is nothing short of extraordinary.
- Brandt Snedeker at No. 23—ahead of players like Paul Casey (25), Webb Simpson (31), and Tony Finau (31)—should not go overlooked. When Sneds is locked in, he’s top-shelf.
- Zach Johnson clocks in at 62. So apparently he never had a 150-round stretch that was ultra-impressive, but he has managed to assemble a Hall of Fame résumé by being consistent and having great weeks at the right time.
- Maybe it’s because he’s always in the news, but we expected Patrick Reed to be higher. His peak included a Masters victory and top-five finish at the U.S. Open, but he hasn’t put together a longer stretch of dominant golf. Just gotta dig deeper, P-Reed!
The Latest from The Fried Egg
Shotgun Start: SGS Spotlight on Jose Maria Olazabal
This week brings the exultant return of golf, and Brendan and Andy will back to the normal tournament show and routine on Wednesday, digging into Colonial and its anchoring-heavy field. But first, they start the week with one more Spotlight to satiate during this golf-less time. The subject is Jose Maria Olazabal. They discuss Ollie’s incredible ascension from a farmhouse on a golf course at the foothills of the Pyrenees to an amateur stud to an instant success in his first year on the Euro Tour. His early Euro Tour success is given the full treatment as is his immediate Ryder Cup dynamism with Seve, when Ollie was just 21 years old. The outrageous 12-shot victory at the 1990 NEC is also celebrated with some amusing quotes from Lanny Wadkins. The two Masters wins are thoroughly reviewed, with a lengthy exploration of the intervening injury that kept him out of golf back home for more than a year at what should have been the peak of his powers. This reclusive time dealing with a foot injury was full of odd rumors and fears that he’d be confined to a wheelchair and never play again. Ollie’s sui generis approach to life is also celebrated, from his constant rebuffing of endorsement money, Mark McCormack and IMG, American food, and his choice to live with his parents into adulthood and even after he’d won two green jackets. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Golf is back this week! While we’re all excited for the PGA Tour to return, we have three days to power through before we get there. Get your caffeine boost with the Shotgun Start Blend from Bixby Coffee!