Birdie barrage could slow some at Muirfield Village
For the last month, the PGA Tour has seen a perfect storm of factors leading to low scores.
Course conditions conducive to making birdies? Check.
The strongest-ever fields at Colonial, Harbour Town and Travelers? Check.
Hot summertime air with little breeze to speak of? Check again.
Over the last three weeks, the scoring average on the PGA Tour has been a ridiculous 69.27. That means that basically, if you aren’t breaking 70, you’ve been over par.
Players are hitting the green in regulation in that span more than 70 percent of the time, leading to 4.21 birdies or eagles per round. The PGA Tour averages for both of those statistics last season were 66% and 3.77 par-breakers per round, respectively.
Muirfield Village may provide a move closer to the PGA Tour scoring mean this week. The last five winners on this golf course have been 15.4 strokes under par, nearly six full shots higher than the average the last three weeks (-21.3). Field green in regulation percentage has been just under 63 percent, while the field scoring average is a tick over 72.
In 2019, this ranked as the tenth-toughest non-major course on the PGA Tour, a respectable test. It won’t be U.S. Open-like conditions, but maybe birdies will be a little tougher to come by the next two weeks in Ohio.
Players who traditionally find success at Muirfield Village have been elite ball-strikers. Since 2008, the average strokes gained approach ranking of winners at this course is a very strong 7.3. The PGA Tour average for tournament winners in that same stretch is 13.5.
Off the tee, the trend is similar: at Muirfield, the average winner’s rank is 13.1. That’s a significant uptick from the Tour average in that span, 19.0.
Muirfield can feature some penalizing missed fairways, too. Five different holes have had an average miss fairway penalty of 0.45 strokes or worse over the last five years. The most penalizing in that span has been the closing hole – a missed fairway at 18 has been worth 0.53 strokes on average since 2015.
NOTES ON PLAYERS IN THE FIELD
– Patrick Cantlay is in an odd spot this week: sure, this is the inaugural edition of the Workday event, but the last time the PGA Tour convened in Dublin, Ohio, he was the winner of the 2019 Memorial Tournament. Regardless, nobody has a better pedigree on this golf course in recent years than Cantlay. Among players with ten or more rounds at Muirfield Village over the last decade, Cantlay leads everyone in scoring, birdie average and strokes gained tee-to-green. Since the beginning of last season, only Justin Thomas has averaged more birdies/eagles per round on the PGA Tour than Patrick has.
– Speaking of JT, if you’d like one statistic to encapsulate why he’s so good, consider this: over the last two seasons, Thomas has averaged 0.95 strokes gained approach per round. That’s the best of any player on the Tour during that span.
– Check out Xander Schauffele’s greens in regulation rankings the last three seasons on the PGA Tour:
2017-18 – 119th
2018-19 – 43rd
2019-20 – 4th
– Strokes gained ‘long game’ is the combination of a player’s performance with off the tee and approaching the green. The player with the best average in that statistic since the beginning of last season: Viktor Hovland, just ahead of Rory McIlroy and Thomas.
– The last time we saw Kevin Streelman, he was on Dustin Johnson’s heels at the Travelers Championship. He ultimately finished runner-up, just one shot behind DJ. Streelman has the best cumulative score to par at Muirfield Village over the last five years, at 42-under. The rest of that top-three: Marc Leishman, -41, and David Lingmerth, -38.
– Last week in Detroit, Adam Hadwin gained 0.70 strokes on approach per round, his best performance in that statistic over the course of an entire event since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in the fall. Not coincidentally, his tie for fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was his best finish since Shriners – in both instances, a tie for fourth.
– When the golf world paused the Thursday night of The Players Championship, Brooks Koepka was still searching for his best self after rehabbing a knee injury. His putting was the biggest example of that: entering the break, Brooks was ranked 208th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting per round. It’s only been eight rounds since the restart, but the numbers suggest he’s found something. His rank in that stat since play resumed is fourth.
– Jon Rahm might be due for a big week. For the first time in his young professional career, he has finished outside the top-30 in three consecutive starts. He’s played just one pro event on this course: he missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament three years ago.
TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK
Last week, Bryson DeChambeau won his sixth career PGA Tour title in his 99th start as a professional. In his first 99 PGA Tour starts as a pro, Tiger Woods won 27 times. He then won his 100th start, the 2001 Memorial, by seven strokes.