In strokes, adjusted for the ability of the field and the difficulty of the course that day.
1. Brendon de Jonge, 2nd Round Wells Fargo Championship
de Jonge shot a 62 when the course played to 72.4 and the field was solidly PGA Tour average. Unfortunately it followed a 1st round 80. He made the cut, shot two sub 70 rounds on the weekend, and captured one of only two top tens of his season.
2. Adam Scott, 1st Round Arnold Palmer Invitational
I remember tweeting after this round that it was the best of the season so far and it held up for another two months. Scott shot a 62 when the field played to 71.8 and was a bit above-average. Scott would hold the lead for most of the rest of the tournament until he blew-up with a 76 in the final round to finish solo 3rd. Scott would get his only win of the season two months later at the Colonial – beginning a ten tournament streak where he finished top 20 in every event and top ten in seven of them. His season remains ridiculously underrated.
3. Sergio Garcia, 2nd Round WGC-Bridgestone
This is the round that propelled Sergio into the lead and set-up Rory’s Sunday comeback to secure his 2nd of three wins over ridiculously strong fields. Sergio’s 61 bested the field by nine strokes, but the Bridgestone field was the fourth strongest of the year which boosts him a lot.
4. Troy Matteson, 2nd Round Greenbrier Classic
I have no recollection of this round and no recollection of ever seeing Matteson’s name this year. He sandwiched this 61 (field average of 70.9) between three others which were below average and finished T45.
5. Rory McIlroy, 1st Round Memorial
Some wonderful soul uploaded this round (along with Adam Scott & Jason Day) to Youtube. Rory’s 63 when a strong field played to 72.2 put him in the lead by three strokes, but he followed it up with a 78 on Friday and faded to T15 over the weekend. Remember the narrative that Rory couldn’t follow-up good first rounds? He blew this lead and one at the Scottish Open in July, but then followed up a 1st Round 66 at the Open Championship with an even better (relatively speaking) 66 to solidify his lead. I’d say he’s killed that narrative.
I can’t help but mention Andres Romero’s 1st Round at the Las Vegas event – the 25th best of the season. He opened with a 61 when the field averaged 69.5 (amazingly this was also the day J.J. Henry shot a 60). Much more notable is his 2nd Round 81 (!). His 81 was eleven shots worse than the field (the worst round by far that anyone among the top 100 rounds shot in the same tournament). He unbelievably ended up missing the cut by two strokes, making this the only one of the best 200 rounds this year where the player missed the cut.
George McNeill’s final round 61 at the Greenbrier, played right after he found out of his sister’s death, was the 15th best of the season. He finished two back of Angel Cabrera ultimately, but cheers to that round.
I’m ignoring anyone who doesn’t at least pretend to compete regularly. #1 may or may not meet that criteria.
1. John Daly, 2nd Round at Innisbrook (Valspar Championship) – 90 when the field played to 72.7
2. Matt Every, 3rd Round at the Deutsche Bank – 86
3. Michael Bradley, 1st Round at John Deere Classic – 84
4. Toru Taniguchi, 3rd Round at US Open – 88 on the hardest day at Pinehurst
5. David Duval, 2nd Round at Travelers – 83
Bubba Watson’s allergy marred 1st round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was 10th worst by a touring professional. He withdrew, unsurprisingly. Both Paul Stankowski and David Duval shot 81 in the first round of the John Deere Classic, giving that round three of the worst thirteen results of the season. Duval withdrew, but Stankowski saw out the second round with a 78 – the worst first two rounds of the season among touring pros.
1. Martin Kaymer – US Open
2. Dustin Johnson – WGC-HSBC
3. Rory McIlroy – Open Championship
4. Rory McIlroy – WGC-Bridgestone
5. Rory McIlroy – PGA Championship
Rory had himself quite the run late summer.
Sergio had the 7th and 10th best tournaments of the season, back to back, but lost to Rory both times (Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone). All four major winners were in the top fifteen (Bubba’s Masters win was 14th). Webb Simpson’s -24 win in Las Vegas (6th best) came against a poor field and on one of the easiest courses, but he torched the field to win by six shots.
Best Expected Performances:
This is based off my expected performance ratings which project every pro in my database every week. It gives you an idea not only who was the best player, but when they were the best. I’ll just mention the best guys once.
1. Rory McIlroy entering the Barclays
Unsurprisingly the best player’s peak came after his three straight victories. He also holds the next five spots – three in the other FedEx Cup events and the others at the PGA and Memorial. Safe to say he was best in August/September.
7. Adam Scott entering the Tour Championship
Remember that insane ten event run I mentioned earlier? This was the culmination of his season, and he played to expectation to finish T9.
15. Tiger Woods entering the event at Torrey Pines
After being the best in the world over 2012-13, Tiger entered 2014 at the top of my ratings. This was his first event, a T80 that resulted in a MDF. He followed with a T41 in Dubai a week later. Things unraveled from there, but this was when he was supposedly at his peak.
23. Sergio Garcia entering the PGA Championship
After being so unlucky to play amazing and lose in his previous two events, Sergio entered the PGA in his best form of the year. He never really threatened however.
27. Justin Rose entering the Barclays
Another guy who didn’t get much attention this year, despite shipping two quality events (at Congressional and the Scottish Open).
Most Unlikely Performances:
These are the tournament performances that were furthest away from my expectations in the positive direction.
1. Mike Weir at the Byron Nelson
Weir was a fringe elite player for most of the 2000s, but inexplicably lost his game around 2011. He’s less awful than he was around 2011-12, but was still projected around the level of an average Web.com Tour player in May. He finished solo second, two back of winner Brendon Todd. It was Weir’s only finish above T44 all season.
2. Martin Kaymer at the US Open
This is unsurprisingly seeing how it was the #1 performance overall above. Kaymer is a very good player, so this is less likely than McIlroy or Adam Scott playing this well, but the degree to which he destroyed that field on that course is awesome.
3. Jim Renner at the Pebble Beach Pro-am
Jim Renner is thoroughly anonymous as a pro; he’s about Web.com Tour average, but played nearly well enough to win in February. He settled for a T2 with Dustin Johnson, one back of Jimmy Walker. This finish represented over 75% of his earnings for the season.
4. Tim Clark at the Canadian Open
Clark entered the final round three back of Jim Furyk. On what was the fifth easiest round on Tour all season, Clark shot a 65 to win by a stroke. Once a peripheral top 25 player around when he won the 2010 Players, Clark’s fallen on hard times. This season – with a win, 2nd, and 5th – represents a bit of a comeback.
5. Patrick Reed at the Humana
Despite winning in 2013, Reed entered 2014 rated as essentially an average PGA Tour player. His hot streak from the Humana onward cemented him as a Ryder Cupper. He started in Palm Springs with three straight 63s and held on to win by two.
Billy Horschel’s back-to-back wins ranked 29th and 33rd. Rory’s Open Championship win ranks 85th – right ahead of Phil’s T2 at the PGA Championship.