After Half a Season

With 22 PGA Tour events in the books before the corona virus-induced cancellations and Masters postponement we are now halfway through the 2019-2020 season. Unknowns abound starting with whether more tournaments will be cancelled or will some, as they are saying with the Masters, be played later?

Obviously with what seems like the whole world going into quarantine fans understand the need for this but that doesn’t take away the disappointment of missing out on what was shaping up as an exciting runup to the first major and then golf’s favorite event the Masters itself.

Fans conditioned to the Thursday through Sunday golf telecasts must make do with re-televised past tournaments or be reduced to watching “Wheel of Fortune” and hoping against hope for a “Caddy Shack” rerun.

For someone writing about the game and not wishing to parrot others or engage in the handwringing over the schedule disruption, the list of related but germane topics is a veritable desert. On the assumption most of our readers are affected similarly here are a few clearly unimportant statistics to possibly provide some quiet satisfaction to the golf deprived.

Don’t read too much into any of these numbers but they could come in handy playing the 19th hole.

WYNTK First Half 2019-2010 PGA Tour Season

Two Two-time Winners So Far
Justin Thomas, who is on the Titleist endorsement staff, won the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and the Tournament of Champions while Brendon Todd carrying a Ping G410 LST driver, Titleist irons and a SIK putter took the top spot at the Bermuda Championship & Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Speaking of Endorsements
Many assume the driver company able to boast the most wins would the same as it has been for several years in the past, i.e., TaylorMade. For the 2018-2019 season players using one of their drivers won 18 events with Callaway users totaling 9 wins and Titleist at 7. In our 2019-2020 half season the somewhat surprising leader is Ping with 9 wins compared with only 5 for all last season. If you’re interested, Callaway which is the bestselling driver brand has but 2 this season, Titleist with by far the largest endorsement staff has 8 and the perennial top driver company TaylorMade has 3 wins in the 22 events.

Winning Golf Balls No Surprise
Five golf ball brands have won in the first half of the PGA Tour season. Taylormade has two victories while Bridgestone, Callaway and Srixon have one each. The remaining 17 events were won by players playing either Titleist Pro V1 (seven) or Titleist Pro V1x (10). In case you’re interested, for last season’s 46 tournaments including the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event, the numbers were Titleist-26, TaylorMade-7, Srixon-5, Callaway-5 and Bridgestone-4.

Scotty Cameron Tops in Putters
Again without putting undue emphasis on these numbers, Titleist’s Scotty Cameron division has racked up eight wins, Ping six, Odyssey (part of Callaway) three as has SIK courtesy of Brendon Todd’s two victories. TaylorMade completes the list with two wins.

Finally, the Money
The Tour’s best didn’t go away from TPC Sawgrass with a total loss for the week. According to PGA Tour regulations if only one round of an event is completed prize money is cut in half and split amongst the players. In the case of The Players Championship, the $15 million purse was sliced so each of the 144 competitors received just over $52,000.

Monday After the Players

The PLAYERS championship reiterated some facts about this game and as with many other things in life it is useful to identify these facts so that when they pop up again we don’t act totally surprised. Here they are in no particular order along with what passes for analysis but could just as well be labelled as opinion:

Number #1: Banning of the anchored stroke in 2016 was not as many opined the kiss of death for broomstick and belly putter devotees nor did it provoke millions to leave the game. Webb Simpson used a long putter to win the 2012 United States Open and was one of the prominent players who had to find a new way to putt. Now the method he employs is to brace the putter shaft along his left forearm with his right hand in a so-called claw grip and at The PLAYERS he found a way to get the ball in the hole with over nine strokes gained on the field for the week. At one point two years ago, Simpson had fallen to 177th in putting but has fought back with grit and determination.

Number #2: Even a penal golf course such as the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course becomes manageable—not easy by any stretch of the imagination but manageable–if the wind doesn’t blow and the greens are at least marginally receptive. Simpson won by four after rounds of 66, 63, 68 and a cautious 73. If you need proof, the most talked about 63 over the years probably has been Johnny Miller’s at Oakmont in final round of the 1973 U.S. Open. It is often overlook though that rain the night before plus uncontrolled sprinklers after lightning hit the control box turned Oakmont’s infamously rock-hard greens into the consistency of damp washcloths. Last week the Stadium course was manageable simply because the greens “sort of” held and the wind most of the time was less than 10 mph.

Number #3: The long ball is not a surefire answer to scoring so those who keep beating the drum that the ball goes too far are again missing the point…the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole not how far you can hit it with your driver. Webb Simpson’s distance for the week, an average of 280.6 yards, put him in dead last place in the field. He won because his driving accuracy and putting not to mention a mental discipline were so much better than everyone else…but then you knew that already.

Number #4: Next year The PLAYERS will be played in March when conditions in North Florida will be drastically different. Expect the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course to play longer because it will be softer and the ball won’t run out plus the temperatures will be lower, so the ball won’t fly as far. The largest change though will be in the wind which at that time of year typically is more from the north and stronger, so the players will face a test much closer to what designer Pete Dye envisioned. FYI number 16 plays to the southeast and 17 and 18 to the northwest.

Number #5: Tiger Woods may or may not win another major championship but at times he is playing some scintillating golf which at Sawgrass included a 65 on Saturday to make the cut on the number, 11 shots behind Simpson. Some took his performance as a sign “he’s back.” That would be nice, but The PLAYERS showed Woods has yet to prove he has exorcised all the mental and physical demons that will allow him to be in the hunt for his fifteenth major title. Though he managed ten under par over the weekend he couldn’t play better than middle-of-the-pack golf for the last six holes both days. He has a long way to go for his 15th major.

Image courtesy of the PGA TOUR