Saluting the legendary Mickey Wright

February 19, 2020
Justin Ray

Mickey Wright, one of the greatest champions in golf history, died this week at age 85.

Ben Hogan described the golf swing of Wright as the finest he had ever seen. Kathy Whitworth called her “the greatest player I have ever seen, man or woman.” Testimonials from fellow icons speak louder than any record could, but the numbers support Wright’s immovable status as one of the greatest players to ever live. A few examples:

– The golf world is well-versed in the ‘Tiger Slam,’ Woods’ historic run of four consecutive major wins from 2000 to 2001, and Bobby Jones’ incredible grand slam season of 1930. But Mickey Wright had a four-straight-major win streak of her own. Wright won four consecutive major championships from the 1961 U.S Women’s Open through the 1962 Western Open. She is the only player in LPGA history to win four consecutive major championships.

Wright’s 13 majors won is second-most in LPGA history, but the rate at which she did it is what is most impressive. All 13 of her wins came in a stretch from 1958 to 1966, a span in which 33 major championships were held. That means Wright had a stretch where she won 39% of the majors contested.

Wright holds the record for most wins in a single LPGA season, with 13 in 1963. There are three instances in LPGA history of a player winning 11 or more times in a single year: Mickey holds two of them. Wright had a ridiculous four straight LPGA seasons with double-digit victories (1961-64).

– There are only five instances in LPGA history where a player won four consecutive events on the schedule. Wright holds two of those.

Wright is the youngest player in LPGA history to reach 30, 40 and 50 career wins. Her total of 82 in is second-most all-time, despite retiring from full-time competition at age 34.

Wright won LPGA events in 14 consecutive seasons, from 1956 through 1969. That is tied for the third-longest such streak in LPGA history. Her streak ended because 1969 was the year she retired.

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For more on the legend, this brilliant article from Michael Bamberger paints her picture vividly.

COURSE CHARACTERISTICS – CLUB DE GOLF CHAPULTEPEC

Greenside bunkers could be very penalizing this week: last year, Club de Golf Chapultepec was the second-toughest course on the PGA Tour in average proximity from the sand. At 12 feet, it was about two-and-a-half feet further away than the PGA Tour average.

This was also one of the most difficult courses on the PGA Tour last season to make putts, regardless of distance. From inside ten feet, it was third-toughest in 2019 – from outside 25 feet, also third-toughest. More than five percent of all greens hit in regulation last year were three-putted, the third-highest rate of any course on Tour in 2019.

NOTES ON PLAYERS IN THE FIELD

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Dustin Johnson has won this tournament twice in the three times it’s been held in Mexico City, following a similar formula for success in both victories. In both wins, DJ led the field in approach shot proximity from the fairway. He was also ranked either first or second each year in strokes gained approach. Johnson ranked 20th in the field at Riviera in that statistic.

DJ has also done a tremendous job at limiting mistakes on this course, averaging just 1.80 bogeys-or-worse per round. There are 60 players with eight or more rounds at Club de Golf Chapultepec over the last three years. Only two have averaged two or fewer bogeys per round: Johnson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia will each make their 61st career World Golf Championship start this week, tied for the most in the series’ history. Neither player has ever won one – though they have combined to finish in the top-ten 31 times. To contend, Garcia will need to putt better than he did at Riviera, where he ranked 65th of 68 players to make the cut in strokes gained putting.

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– In contrast, Collin Morikawa makes his first career WGC start this week in just his 19th PGA Tour event as a professional. Take a moment to appreciate what Morikawa has quietly done this season: no missed cuts, 4th on Tour in strokes gained approach and 9th in strokes gained tee-to-green. A hot putting week (Collin is 142nd this season in strokes gained putting) could put him back in the winner’s circle.

– This week marks the 97th of Rory McIlroy’s career spent on top of the Official World Golf Ranking. That ties Sir Nick Faldo for most weeks in the top-spot by a European player, and third-most overall since the system launched in 1986. Over the last five seasons, Rory has the best scoring average in WGC stroke play events, at 68.7.

– After a missed cut last week at Riviera, Justin Thomas has reasons to be bullish this week in Mexico. JT has finished fifth, second and ninth in his three starts here. He also has 68 birdies-or-better in those twelve rounds, most of any player.

Webb Simpson returns for the first time since his playoff win over Tony Finau in Arizona on Super Bowl Sunday. Webb has amassed seven top-ten finishes and a scoring average of 67.7 in ten worldwide starts since the WGC-FedEx Invitational last summer. This is Webb’s first PGA Tour start as a top-ten player in the OWGR since the 2012 Tour Championship.

TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK

Tiger is a combined 264-under-par in World Golf Championship stroke play events in his career, best of anyone all-time. He is 93 shots ahead of anyone else (Rory McIlroy, -171).