by Jeff Skinner
If you think you know all you need to about picking the next Champion Golfer of the Year you better think again. Justin Ray has an eye-opening piece with some surprising and insightful statistics:
With over 200 bunkers on Royal Lytham and St. Annes, good sand play could be the difference between sipping from the Claret Jug and heading home early. The leaders on the PGA Tour in sand saves are Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar.
Can the streak of nine consecutive first time major winners continue? This streak is an anomaly as before it started the longest streak was only six first timers.
If you subscribe to the theory that if you knock on the door enough it will finally open then lee Westwood is your man. He leads everyone with seven career top three finishes in majors and all have been since 2008. He has eight top tens since the 2009 Open Championship. How close can a man get without breaking through?
Forget number one in the world. Since the official World Golf Rankings began in 1986 only three number ones have won majors. Of course Tiger leads that with eleven wins as the reigning number but only Ian Woosnam and Fred Couples have claimed majors as world number one.
Phil Mickelson’s record at The Open Championship is pretty poor, but he did tie for second last year. His key to victory could be hitting the fairway, and avoiding the bunkers. In 39 of 40 PGA Tour wins and all of his major victories he has hit more than fifty per cent of his fairways. Fairways and greens, Laddie.
If you are looking for that streak of first time winners to continue maybe Rickie Fowler should get some consideration. If you discard his windblown 79 at St. Andrews in 2010 he has a 69.29 scoring average at The Open. He was close last year but had two late round bogeys. And this may be the big difference: unlike many U.S. players that just tolerate links golf, Fowler absolutely loves it.
Tiger Woods’ quest to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors is taking on a bit more urgency. Only four players have won four or more majors after turning 36. Hogan had six, Snead had five and Nicklaus and Player had four. If Woods wants to top Jack he’ll need to step it up. His last major was the 2008 U. S. Open and he isn’t getting any younger. His key here is hitting the fairway and keeping it away from the rough he called “almost unplayable.” Maybe a game plan similar to the one he employed at Hoylake, a driver-less game plan, could put Tiger back on Jack’s trail.