Enigmatic Kaymer one to watch at Wentworth

October 7, 2020
Justin Ray

Both now and over the last decade-plus, Martin Kaymer is one of the most curious cases in professional golf. Over his last seven worldwide starts, he’s either missed the cut (five times) or finished in the top-three (runner-up at Valderrama, T-3rd at the UK Championship). He leads the European Tour this season in strokes gained total (+1.99) and strokes gained approach (+1.69), but is barely inside the world top-100 (94th).

His career has followed roller coaster arcs, as well. Kaymer and Rory McIlroy are the only two European players to win multiple major championships since 2010. Kaymer has double-digit victories on the European Tour, but has not won anywhere worldwide since his 2014 U.S. Open triumph. Now 35, he’s won a major by eight strokes and has finished in the top-ten in a major one time since.

Perhaps his performance at this year’s PGA Championship most embodies the inconsistency: after an opening round 66, Kaymer was tied for third entering the second round. He followed that up with 82, missing the cut. Martin’s opening round 66 tied the lowest first round score in a major by a player who missed the cut over the last decade.

Kaymer has one career top-ten finish at Wentworth, a tie for seventh in 2016. He’ll be in the field this week, hoping to find the recent form that saw him finish second at last month’s Andalucia Masters.

COURSE CHARACTERISTICS

Wentworth Golf Club – BMW PGA Championship

Don’t let the last two winning scores at Wentworth (-20, -17) fool you: this course is a stiff championship test, with the average expected score this week at slightly over par. The average missed fairway penalty is more than one-third of a stroke (+0.36), and even with that, 15th Club analysis values distance off the tee even more than accuracy. Great driving of the ball will go a long way to deciding a champion. Proximity to the hole is also more valuable than the average European Tour venue at Wentworth, making it a true ball-striking evaluation.

TPC Summerlin – Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

TPC Summerlin annually ranks among the easiest venues on the PGA Tour in terms of greens in regulation. In 2019-20, it yielded the highest percentage among courses to host all 72 holes of a tournament. The previous season, only five courses ranked as easier in terms of G.I.R. This can lead to it becoming a putting contest: the last five winners have averaged 10.4 made putts longer than ten feet for the tournament, with Kevin Na holing a ridiculous 16 a year ago. Regardless, you’ll have to go low to win – the last ten winners here have averaged nearly 25 birdies for the week.

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KEY PLAYERS IN THE FIELD(S)

BMW PGA Championship

– With his win last week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, Sergio Garcia kept an unheralded-yet-remarkable streak alive by winning at least once worldwide for the tenth consecutive year. Only two other players have an active streak of ten or more years going: Yuta Ikeda, a 21-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, and Justin Rose, who has won every year since 2010. Both Ikeda and Rose remain winless in 2020, and will need a victory before the new year to keep their respective runs alive. Rose will try to do it this week at Wentworth.

– He’s missed three of his last four cuts worldwide, but Wentworth has been good to Shane Lowry over the years. No player has more rounds in the 60s in this tournament than Lowry does (14) since 2010. He’s a combined 33-under here the previous five years, third-best overall and best of any player who is in the field this week. He ranks fourth in scoring average at Wentworth over the last decade among players with 12 or more rounds played in that span. Lowry finished tied for 11th here last year on the strength of a closing 66.

Tommy Fleetwood nearly picked off his first victory of 2020 last week at the Scottish Open, falling in a playoff to Aaron Rai. Tommy was exemplary with his ball-striking for the week, leading the field in strokes gained tee-to-green. Unfortunately for Fleetwood, he ranked 50th of 66 players to make the cut in strokes gained putting. Fleetwood has been middling in his career at Wentworth, averaging 0.32 strokes gained total per round in eight prior starts.

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Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Bryson DeChambeau makes his first start as a major champion this week. Bryson has found success in Vegas in the past, winning this tournament two years ago by one stroke. Over the past three years, DeChambeau ranks second among all players at TPC Summerlin in strokes gained total per round and third in birdies/eagles made. Even without his U.S. Open victory last month, he may have been the betting favorite.

Bryson only ranks second in score to par the last three years in this tournament because of Patrick Cantlay’s ridiculous record here since 2017: Win, runner-up, runner-up. Cantlay has never shot over par in 12 rounds at TPC Summerlin, posting a ridiculous 66.7 scoring average. Cantlay has averaged more than 2.6 strokes tee-to-green on the field in his three starts here, half-a-stroke more per round than any other player in that span.

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– In his victory here a year ago, Kevin Na assembled one of the most remarkable statistical profiles of the modern PGA Tour era. Na did nothing extraordinary that week from a ball-striking perspective: he ranked 35th in strokes gained approach, 44th in greens hit and 54th in strokes gained off the tee. In fact, Na lost shots from tee-to-green for the tournament, the only time in the last 15 years a player had negative strokes gained tee-to-green in a full field event and won.

Na won with a record-breaking putting performance: not only did he lead the field in strokes gained putting, Kevin made nearly 140 feet of putts per round, a single-week record since tracking began nearly two decades ago.

TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK

From mid-1999 through mid-2001, Tiger had a run of 23 wins in 46 worldwide starts. During that span, he had almost as many major championship wins (5) as worldwide finishes outside the top-ten (6).