Fall the time to spring forward on the PGA Tour

September 11, 2019
Justin Ray

Just seventeen days after wrapping up the 2019 Tour Championship, the first event of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule begins this week at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Most of the top players in the sport won’t be in the field this week – Bryson DeChambeau (no. 10) is the only current member of the world’s top-20 teeing it up – but that doesn’t leave this week’s event without significance.

All 21 players currently classified as rookies on the PGA Tour this season will be in this week’s field. And while they and the other players towards the bottom of the pecking order benefit most from early-season success, what someone does in the fall can reshape an entire season.

Consider this: over the last six years, every player to win a fall event went on to make the FedExCup Playoffs later that season. More than half – 58 percent – qualified for the Tour Championship. And more than one-in-four – 26 percent – finished in the top-ten that season in the final FedExCup standings.

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Take Bryson, for example, who earned 1,203 FedExCup points in the regular season in ’18-19. More than forty percent of those points came from the only official event he played in the fall, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Without the points from Vegas, DeChambeau would have been ranked 58th entering the postseason. Instead, he was 18th.

CUT RULE CHANGE GOES INTO EFFECT

One item to note that may have slipped by fans: the cut will be made at the top-65 and ties moving forward on the PGA Tour instead of the top-70. The “secondary cut” rule is also gone – in the past it was implemented when 78 players or more made it through to the weekend.

KEY PLAYERS TEEING IT UP THIS WEEK

– How good were Viktor Hovland’s 36 PGA Tour rounds in the 2018-19 season? If he had played enough rounds to qualify for the statistical leaderboards, Hovland would have ranked 2nd on Tour in strokes gained off the tee, 3rd in strokes gained approach and 5th in strokes gained total. He would have led the Tour in approach shot proximity by two-and-a-half feet.

Hovland has finished in the top-20 in six straight starts across the PGA and Korn Ferry tours. Now 111th in the World Ranking, it isn’t inconceivable that he works his way into the top-50 before the end of the year. Viktor headlines the field this week in West Virginia in his first start as a full PGA Tour member.

– The previously mentioned Bryson DeChambeau had a disappointing second half of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, finishing in the top-ten just twice from February onward. A dip in his iron play was the primary culprit: he dropped 42 spots in strokes gained approach, 59 spots in approach shot proximity, and 88 in greens in regulation from ’17-18 to ’18-19. Despite that, Bryson still finished in the top-20 for the season in strokes gained total and scoring average. This will be his second career start at The Greenbrier – he finished tied for 17th in his debut there in 2017.

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Sungjae Im played 35 events last season, three more than anyone else on the PGA Tour. In doing so, he racked up 480 birdies, the most by any player in a single PGA Tour season since Vijay Singh made 484 back in 2004. The difference between Im and second place on the season birdie list – Adam Schenk, who made 83 fewer – is the largest between first and second since the Tour started keeping the statistic in 1980. Im is in the field in West Virginia.

– On the European Tour, the KLM Open serves as one final primer before the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth begins September 19. Patrick Reed is among the contingent teeing it up in both events – the winner of last month’s Northern Trust was named an honorary lifetime member of the European Tour earlier this year. Reed is one of just four Americans to ever receive that honor, along with Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Sergio Garcia finds himself 43rd in the World Ranking, his lowest position since October of 2011. He makes his KLM Open debut this week in The Netherlands. It was about this time last year that Garcia caught fire – in a stretch from September through mid-January, Sergio rattled off seven straight top-ten finishes worldwide. Garcia has just one top-ten finish and four missed cuts since the middle of May.

TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK

There are 39 players with 160 or more rounds in major championships since 1997. Of that group, Tiger Woods is the only one with a combined score under par. Woods is -104, which is 226 shots better than his nearest chaser, Henrik Stenson (+122).

 

*Source data: pgatour.com/stats