There has been a strong correlation between the PGA TOUR’s new putting statistic, Strokes Gained – Putting, and overall success on the golf course. The top five players in the Strokes Gained – Putting category through the Open Championship have combined for six PGA TOUR wins this year, and four of the five rank among the top 12 in the current FedExCup standings:
Player Strokes Gained – Putting rank PGA TOUR wins FedExCup standings
Steve Stricker 1 (.923 per round) 2 2
Brandt Snedeker 2 (.910 per round) 1 12
Greg Chalmers 3 (.876 per round) 0 96
Luke Donald 4 (.748 per round) 1 6
Nick Watney 5 (.740 per round) 2 1
Chris Kirk is one of four rookies now inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings (No. 46 to No. 27), thanks to his victory at the Viking Classic. The others are Charl Schwartzel, Keegan Bradley and Jhonattan Vegas. Kirk would especially enjoy a trip to the FedExCup finale in Atlanta, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, as he played collegiately up the road at the University of Georgia.
A significant number of players headed directly from the Open Championship to the RBC Canadian Open – 4,758 miles from Sandwich, U.K., to Vancouver, B.C. Among those are three players who finished T5 at last week’s Open Championship – Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler and Chad Campbell.
While Chris Kirk became the 10th winner in his 20s to win on the PGA TOUR last week at the Viking Classic, the RBC Canadian Open has favored the establishment in recent years, as only three champions since 2000 have been under the age of 30 (Tiger Woods/2000, John Rollins/2002, Chez Reavie/2008).
Chez Reavie, who won his maiden PGA TOUR title at the 2008 RBC Canadian Open, has re-captured his form after undergoing surgery in June 2010 for a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. He missed the remainder of 2010 and has played on a combination of medical extension and past champion status in 2011. His recent finishes include T5 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and T5 at the John Deere Classic, where he posted a career-best 62 in the second round. He currently sits 91st in the FedExCup standings.
Matt Kuchar’s streak of 29 consecutive made cuts (second to Steve Stricker’s 36) came to a halt at last week’s Open Championship. Eighth in the FedExCup standings through the Open Championship, Kuchar looks to start a new cut streak at the RBC Canadian Open this week.
Matt Hill, the 2009 NCAA Men’s Individual champion at North Carolina State, will be competing as a sponsor exemption at the RBC Canadian Open. Hill, who hails from the same hometown as Mike Weir (Brights Grove, Ontario), played earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and has six career PGA TOUR starts as a professional. In winning the NCAA crown in 2009, Hill defeated current PGA TOUR members Kyle Stanley (by 2 shots) and Rickie Fowler (by 3 shots) at The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Twenty-one-year-old Bud Cauley, who turned professional prior to the U.S. Open after a standout career at the University of Alabama, finished T4 last week at the Viking Classic to earn a top-10 exemption into this week’s RBC Canadian Open. Cauley has earned $213,845 and seeks to become just the sixth player to earn his PGA TOUR card out of college since 1980 without going to the Qualifying School. The others are Gary Hallberg, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore. Kris Blanks currently sits at No. 125 on the money list at $448,617.
Canada native Mike Weir will be making his 21st career start at the RBC Canadian Open with hopes of his ninth career PGA TOUR title. He has struggled recently due to injury (partial ligament tear in right elbow) and swing changes, having made just two cuts in 14 starts this year. Weir is one of five Canadian PGA TOUR members in the field along with Stephen Ames, Chris Baryla, David Hearn and Matt McQuillan.
At the age of 61, Tom Watson (T22) finished 6-over 286 for his best 72-hole score in five British Open starts at Royal St. George’s (286—2011, 290—2003, 290—1981, 294—1985, MC—1993).
The Champions Tour eclipsed the 10,000 fan mark on its Facebook page last week, where fans are eligible for great prizes. To become a fan of the Champions Tour on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/championstour.
Tom Lehman continues to lead the season-long Charles Schwab Cup standings. Apart from the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, won by John Cook, Lehman has led the standings for 13 of 14 events this season.
Three of the next four Champions Tour events are major championships. Double Charles Schwab Cup points will be awarded to those players finishing in the top 10 at the Senior British Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship.
Three Americans, Tom Kite, Jerry Pate and Tom Watson, were a part of the 1981 Ryder Cup when the U.S. Team won 18.5 – 9.5 at Walton Heath Golf Club, site of the 2011 Senior British Open Championship. The European squad that year included Eamonn Darcy, Mark James, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Des Smyth and Sam Torrance, who are all scheduled to play this week.
Since the Senior British Open became an official event in 2003, Tom Watson is the only player to have made the cut in all eight championships, with three wins.
Expect a tight finish this week. Since the Senior British Open became an official event in 2003, there have been five playoffs, and the three other events were decided by one stroke. Overall, there have been nine playoffs in the 24-year history of the tournament.
Since it became an official event in 2003, no player has won the Champions Tour event prior to the Senior British Open and then gone on to capture this tournament. Jeff Sluman is looking to break that trend, having won the previous event on the Champions Tour, the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. Sluman posted a T11 finish at last year’s Senior British Open for his best showing at the event in three starts.
53 – The age of six of the 15 winners on the Champions Tour so far this season. In 2000, players aged 53 won nine times. In 2007, players aged 53 won 8 times.
Bob Gilder is scheduled to compete in his 51st consecutive major championship on the Champions Tour at this week’s Senior British Open. Gilder has played in every major since joining the Tour in 2001, the longest current streak on the Champions Tour.
Chiquita Classic winner Russell Knox had no Nationwide Tour status at the beginning of the year. In April, he turned a successful Monday qualifying attempt for the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae into a T2 finish and Special Temporary Membership. With his Sunday win, the Scot is fully exempt for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012. More importantly, Knox, 26, moved from 27th to 5th on the money list and is well positioned to capture his PGA TOUR card for 2012.
Oklahoma State star and reigning U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein and NCAA individual champion John Peterson of LSU headline a contingent of 12 college stars who will compete in this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational at Ohio State University Scarlet Course.
Navy’s Billy Hurley III has “righted” his ship for 2011. The former lieutenant missed cuts in five of his first six Nationwide Tour starts. He has a T5 and a runner-up in his last two to leap from 173rd to 22nd on the money list.
Two years ago, Chris Kirk was struggling with his game. The former UGA All-American and 2007 Ben Hogan Award winner finished 178th on the Nationwide Tour money list. In 2010, his game returned in spades as he won twice and finished second in earnings. On Sunday, the TOUR rookie won for the first time on the PGA TOUR at the Viking Classic. Kirk is currently 27th on the FedExCup points list, having gained 19 spots with his win.
With Chris Kirk’s victory, five players who competed regularly on the Nationwide Tour last year have now won on TOUR this year -- Kirk, Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley. All but Woodland are TOUR rookies.
In keeping with its All-American theme, Saturday will be “College Spirit Day” at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The player who best represents his alma mater’s or favorite college’s colors will have a donation made in his name to that school’s general scholarship fund. There will also be a competition for the fans, with the winner receiving an iPad.
Since its inception in 2007, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational has raised more than $3.7 million for charity, with $1.5 million going to the Hospital.