Sizzling Schauffele putter fueling run of close calls

October 21, 2020
Justin Ray

It’s been nearly two full months since Xander Schauffele played a round on the PGA Tour and wasn’t in the top-ten following play.

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For twelve consecutive PGA Tour rounds, Schauffele has put himself in position for victory – first at the staggered-leaderboard Tour Championship (where he actually had the best 72-hole score of the week), then at the U.S. Open, followed by the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek. His worst position after any of those rounds was T-8 following day one at Winged Foot.

Schauffele is averaging 1.04 strokes gained putting per round since the PGA Championship, one of two players gaining a stroke or more on the greens in that span (Peter Malnati, at a ridiculous 1.50 per round, is the other). That doesn’t tell the entire story, though, about just how remarkable his putting has been over his last three starts – each of them top-five finishes.

The average PGA Tour putt make percentage between four and eight feet is 68.4% over the last two seasons. In his last three starts, Schauffele is holing 92.6% of his putts from that range. He’s making long putts, too: during this stretch, Xander is averaging 2.33 putts over ten feet made per round. The Tour average for that statistic is 1.62 per round.

Since the beginning of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season, only Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas have more top-five finishes than Schauffele. His eight runner-up finishes over the last four PGA Tour seasons are two more than any other player during that time. And over the last two seasons, he’s tied for the lead on Tour (with DeChambeau) in strokes gained total per round, at 1.82.

The winner’s circle levee is going to break eventually.

TIGER RETURNS

Sherwood CC has never previously hosted an official PGA Tour event, but it was the site of the Hero World Challenge through 2013. In 12 starts in the limited-field event at Sherwood, Tiger Woods finished first five times and runner-up another five. Woods was a combined 166-under-par at the course from 2000 through 2013, 97 strokes better than the nearest competitor (Padraig Harrington, -69).

Woods has only played seven times this year, with his lone top-ten finish coming at Torrey Pines in January. In limited action, though, his iron play has still been sharp: if Woods had played enough rounds to officially qualify in the statistics, he would have ranked fourth on the PGA Tour last season in strokes gained approach. Putting is another story, though – at Winged Foot, he missed nine putts inside ten feet in just two rounds.

Check out 15th Club’s analysis of Woods’ best statistical performances in his 82 PGA Tour victories here.

MORE PLAYERS ON THE MARQUEE

Webb Simpson finished tied for 13th two weeks ago in Las Vegas, his fifth consecutive top-20 worldwide. The run of consistently good play goes back longer, though – over the last 13 months, Simpson has 10 top-ten finishes and 13 top-20’s in 17 starts. Since the beginning of last season, Simpson boasts the best scoring average on the PGA Tour (68.3). He’s second on Tour in birdie average (4.58) and fifth in strokes gained putting (0.64) in that same span.

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– Former world number one amateur Takumi Kanaya makes his second professional start and first in the United States this week. He kicked off his pro career with a seventh place finish on the Japan Tour last week. Kanaya spent 55 weeks in the top spot of the WAGR, tied for second-most all-time with Patrick Cantlay (the ranking began in 2007). Jon Rahm was number one for 60 weeks.

Tony Finau is in the field at Sherwood, making his first start since a T-8 finish at Winged Foot. At the U.S. Open, Finau ranked in the top-five in the field in strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained approach and par five scoring. He’s third on the PGA Tour in strokes gained approach since the PGA Championship (0.91), trailing only Dustin Johnson (out again this week after testing positive for COVID-19) and Russell Henley (in the field).

– Last week, Phil Mickelson became the third player in PGA Tour Champions history to win each of his first two career starts on that circuit, joining Bruce Fleischer (1999) and Jim Furyk (earlier this year). His victory was Vintage Phil® – he led the field in driving distance, putting average and birdies, but ranked dead last in driving accuracy. Lefty is back with the under-50 crowd this week in California.

DJ leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green per round since the PGA Championship began (2.47 per round), but can you name the man who’s second on that list? That would be Bubba Watson (1.71 per round) – who finished seventh last week at Shadow Creek. Along the way, Bubba ranked tenth in the field off the tee, fourth on approach shots and fifth in greens in regulation. An in-form Watson could yield sneaky-good value at Augusta National next month.

TIGER WOODS STAT OF THE WEEK

In the 2000 PGA Tour season, Woods had more wins by 11 or more shots (2) than rounds of 74 or worse (1).