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Hyundai TOC Recap – 2015

Patrick Reed’s your winner – his 4th win before age 25 – thanks to splashing an 80 yard wedge on 16 and making back to back birdies on 18 to close out his round and beat Jimmy Walker in the playoff. Great recap from Adam Sarson here.

Patrick Reed’s 4th Win:

This win makes Reed the fourth golfer to win four times on Tour before their 25th birthday – Tiger, Rory, and Sergio are the fairly obvious others. Looking forward, Jordan Spieth has 3.5 years to capture three more official wins and I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Hideki Matsuyama reached that total either. Regardless, it’s a pretty impressive accomplishment.

Reed’s career to this point has been pretty amazing to watch. He spent 2012 Monday qualifying (6 times!) and playing on sponsor’s exemptions before winning his Tour card in the last Q-School. He then faced down fellow rookie Jordan Spieth to win his first title at the Wyndham in 2013 and came out last year and won twice in the first three months – including over a stacked field at Doral. The funny thing is he hasn’t played that well outside of those wins; he has four career titles and only six other top tens. In fact, the PGA Tour has him ranked 69th and 52nd in scoring average the past two seasons. He just hasn’t brought it consistently every week.

That disconnect between his results in the large majority of events versus his wins make him one of the most interesting guys this upcoming season. Below is a graph of his results since the start of 2013 subdivided into one of seven bins based on his performance relative to the field. Anything on the left side of the graph is usually a missed cut or a very low finish, anything to the right is top ten territory or a potential win. I’ve compared Reed to golfers similar to his performance suggested by his scoring average and to golfers who have elite performance.

Patrick Reed Performance

You can see Reed’s best performances compare favorably to the elite guys (Keegan, Webb, Dufner, etc.), but quickly drop below even guys with comparable overall performances. He just has more of the awful weeks than he should based on his performance. That’s the challenge for him this year; everyone knows he can win on a great week, but part of being an elite golfer is grinding out those top 10s and top 25s. Reed’s definitely worthy of more research and discussion.

Outlook for Jason Day:

Day’s flashed his ridiculous upside with seven top tens in seventeen major starts and consistent high level play since he was 21. He’s sort of the opposite of Patrick Reed in that he’s reeled off a bunch of great finishes in Tour events, but only captured two wins. He’s also has a weird combination of skills in that he hits it really well off the tee, putts at a consistently high level, and has a good short game, but hasn’t shown much ability to hit his irons well. Last year was his best year with his irons though, despite back, thumb, and hip injuries.

Through the first tournament, things are looking good for him. In a week where the putter and short game weren’t that impressive, Day still finished on top of the long game rankings (Tee shots + approach shots). He showed huge distance off the tee (2nd to Bubba) and hit the 2nd most greens. Day’s already a top ten guy in the world based on his performance; any improvement with the irons would propel him near Rory territory.

 

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Quick Thoughts on Kapalua/Hyundai T of C

Kapalua is one of the most unique courses the Tour visits each year. The extreme landscape, including over 500 feet of elevation change, and resort set-up produce some pretty ridiculous stats. Players at Kapalua almost always produce the highest GIR and driving accuracy for the season, while the extremely slow and undulating greens are the 2nd hardest to putt on on Tour behind Pebble Beach. Kapalua is also the only course on Tour with more par 5s (4) than par 3s (3). These characteristics do combine to favor certain types of golfers.

1. Golfers with poor short games

Most golfers hit around 14-15 greens per round here versus only about 11 at the typical Tour course. Golfers who struggle to get it close from around the green find that part of their game less exposed at Kapalua. This week, Russell Henley and Angel Cabrera are among the guys most likely to benefit from avoiding scrambling shots. On the flip-side, Jason Day has a great short game that he’ll need less often this week.

2. Golfers who are great from the fairway

The pros regularly hit over 80% of Kapalua’s comically wide fairways, meaning they’re hitting from the fairway about 12 times a round, versus 8-9 at a typical Tour stop. Certain golfers struggle from the rough, while excelling from the fairway (relative to Tour average). Those guys won’t have to contend with the rough on most holes. Ryan Moore and Camilo Villegas stand out as guys who are much more successful from the fairway than from the rough. On the flip-side Hunter Mahan derives a large advantage over the field from how well he plays out of the rough. That will be negated a bit this week.

3. Great wedge players

Kapalua is always thought of as a bomber’s paradise, but the dirty secret is that it actually plays very short despite its 7400+ yard layout. Fully eight of the ten par 4s can set-up as wedge holes, leaving only five medium or long iron shots on par 3s or 4s. Hideki Matsuyama dominated with wedges or short irons last season and he’ll be able to feast in his first visit to Kapalua. Tim Clark is another great wedge player.