# Today’s Sports Stat-July 20, 2017

The Open (British Open golf tournament) begins play today.

The last four winners of this event were first-time winners: Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Ernie Els was the last multiple-time winner; he won his second title in 2012 after winning the event in 2002.

There have been four golfers who have been a runner-up twice at The Open since 2000: Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Els and Thomas Bjorn. The last runner-up of the event to then win the title was last year when Stenson won. He was the runner-up in 2013.

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# Can previous Masters results predict this year’s winner?

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Fred Couples (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here’s the questions: Can how a golfer played in the previous Masters predict how he will do in this year’s event? Do first-time winners of the Masters take a similar path to the green jacket? Can we predict the winner based on who is leading after 36 holes?

To see if the stats can help us forecast this year’s winner, let’s take a look at the past 12 Masters winners (2000-2011) and see what their numbers looked like the previous year before their win, and their standing after 36 holes in the year they won. Can we make any connections? One to consider: Charl Schwartzel finished in 30th place in the 2010 Masters (his first Masters appearance) and then won it the following year. This year, Jason Dufner is tied for the lead after two rounds. Dufner finished in 30th place last year in his first Masters. Can Dufner repeat Schwartzel’s journey to his first Masters?

2011, Charl Schwartzel: The 2011 Masters was only his second Masters. As noted above, the previous year he finished in 30th place. He was six strokes back at four-under in 2011.

2010, Phil Mickelson: This was Mickelson’s third Masters. He finished in fifth in 2009 (Note: He finished in the top ten each year before winning his three Masters). He was at -6, two strokes back after the second round. This was his 18th Masters start.

2009, Angel Cabrera: Another first-time winner. Cabrera finished in 25th place the previous year. He won in his 10th Masters appearance. He was only one shot out of the lead after 36 holes.

2008, Trevor Immelman: Was playing in his sixth Masters, winning for the first time. He was 55th place the previous year. He is the last golfer to lead the tournament after 36 holes and win the Masters.

2007, Zach Johnson: He won this year in his third Masters start. He is one of only five Masters champs in the last 30 years to win the event and not be under par after 36 holes. He finished in 32nd place in 2006.

2006, Phil Mickelson: Won his second Masters in his 14th start. Finished 10th the previous year. He was four shots back at -2 after two rounds.

2005, Tiger Woods: The last time he won a Masters. Finished 22nd the previous year. Was six strokes back at four-under par after 36 holes. This was the third time Tiger shot 66 the second round in the years he won the tournament. This was his 11th Masters.

2004, Phil Mickelson: Phil’s first Masters win in his 12th start. He finished third the year before. Was three strokes back at -3 at the halfway point.

2003, Mike Weir: A first-time winner, Weir was playing in his fourth Masters. He finished in 24th place in 2002. Was the second round leader at six-under.

2002, Tiger Woods: The third of his four Masters titles. He won the tourney the previous year. He was four shots back after 36 holes.

2001, Tiger Woods: Finished fifth the previous year. This was his seventh Masters. Was at 136 (eight-under) after two rounds. Was the second time he was at 136 at the midway point; he was at 136 when he won in 1997.

2000, Vijay Singh: Won his first Masters in his seventh start. Finished in 24th place the previous year. Was only one shot back after 36 holes.

So did we learn anything? Here’s a few stats from the above summaries…

* The average Masters champion in the last 12 years finished in 20th place the previous year.

* The average Master champion in the past 12 years was playing in his 10th Masters.

* The average Masters champion in the past 12 years was five-under after two rounds.

Do any of this year’s leaders fit the above criteria? Fred Couples and Jason Dufner are the only two players at five-under this year after two rounds. Four players finished in 20th place last year: Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Barnes, Y.E. Yang and Martin Laird (Yang is at -1; Laird is +4; Ishikawa missed the cut; Barnes did not play). Of the players who are at even par or better, no one is playing in their 10th Masters. Closest to this criteria is Charles Howell, Ian Poulter and Zach Johnson who are all playing in their eighth Masters, and Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington who are playing in their 13th Masters.

# Phil Mickelson looking to join elite group with Top 10 finish at the Masters

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Phil Mickelson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Phil Mickelson finished out of the Top Ten in last year’s Masters for only the second time since 1999, he is looking for a Top Ten finish that will put him in elite company in the storied history of the tournament. Mickleson has 13 Top Ten finishes in the Masters since his first tee shot at Augusta in 1991. Six legendary golfers have 14 or more Top Ten finishes in the Masters. They are:

22: Jack Nicklaus

17: Ben Hogan

16: Gary Player, Sam Snead, Tom Watson

14: Byron Nelson

Only two golfers finished in the Top Ten in both 2011 and 2010, Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi. In fact, Tiger has an active streak of seven straight Top Ten finishes in the Masters. In addition, of the 10 golfers who finished in the Top Ten last year, five had never been in the Masters Top Ten before: champion Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Geoff Oglivy, Bo Van Pelt and Ryan Palmer.

In looking at those golfers who have finished in the Top Ten since 2000, 73 different golfers have one or more Top Ten finishes this century. Of those, 28 have finished in the Top Ten on two or more occasions. Here’s a look at the golfers who have finished in the Top Ten in the Masters most often in this century (2000-2011).

10: Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods

6: Vijay Singh

5: Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els

3: Luke Donald, K.J. Choi, Fred Couples, Chad Campbell, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Retief Goosen, Jose Maria Olazabal, Chris DiMarco

Of the 15 golfers listed above, only Mickelson, Woods, Singh, Cabrera, Couples, Olazabal have won a Masters.

# Tiger vs. Phil: An 18-stat comparison of their Masters rounds

Augusta National Golf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.

The 76th Masters tournament begins play tomorrow at Augusta National Country Club in Augusta, Ga.

With his win two weeks ago, Tiger Woods again has the eyes of the golf nation on him as he tries to win his fifth green jacket. Phil Mickelson will also garner a considerable amount of attention based on the fact that he has won the event three times in the last eight years. In fact, Woods and Mickleson between them have won seven of the last 15 Masters.

Since Tiger and Phil will likely get a great deal of camera time this weekend (assuming they both make the cut and stay in contention through the final round) here’s an 18-hole 18-stat comparison of how the two have performed at Augusta in the Masters.

1. Years at Augusta: Phil is playing in his 20th Masters (he played his first in 1991); Tiger is playing in his 18th Masters (his first was in 1995).

2. Masters Wins: Tiger has won four (1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005); Phil won in 2004, 2006 and 2010.

3. Top Five finishes: Tiger is one up on Phil as he has 10 Top Five finishes to Phil’s nine. Both have finished in the Top Five seven times in the last 10 years.

4. Top Ten finishes: Phil takes the lead in this category with his 13 Top Ten finishes. Tiger has  12.

5. 72-hole totals under par: Phil has finished 15 of his 19 Masters tourneys under par (78.9%). Tiger has finished 11 of his 17 Masters under par (64.7%).

6. Missed the cut: Both Tiger and Phil have missed the Masters cut only once; Tiger in 1996, Phil in 1997.

7. 18-hole rounds under par: Phil holds a slight edge here. He has shot under par in 42 of his 74 rounds (56.8%); Tiger has been under par in 37 of his 66 rounds (56.1%).

8. Low round: Both Tiger and Phil have shot 65 as their low round in the Masters. Tiger had a 65 in the third rounds in 1997 and 2005; Phil had a 65 in his first round in the 1996 event.

9. Best 36-hole total: A 36-hole total of 136 is the best score after two rounds for both Tiger and Phil. Tiger did it twice, in 1997 and 2001. Phil was at 136 tied with Tiger in 2001.

10. Final rounds under par: Tiger has shot under par in 11 of his 16 final rounds (68.8%). Phil has shot under par in half of his final rounds (nine of 18).

11. When Tiger wins, where’s Phil?: In Tiger’s four wins, Phil missed the cut in 1997, finished third in 2001, finished third again in 2002, and finished 10th in 2005.

12. When Phil wins, where’s Tiger?: In Phil’s three wins, Tiger finished 22nd in 2004, tied for third in 2006, and tied for fourth in 2010.

13. Interesting fact: Either or both Tiger and Phil has finished in the Top Ten of the Masters in each year since 1995 (17 years).

14. Masters money: Tiger holds an advantage over Phil when it comes to money earned at the Masters. Tiger has earned \$6,821,473 and Phil has earned \$6,418,842 prize money at the Masters.

15. First round averages: Phil has a lower average in the first round over Tiger. Phil has averaged 70.8 on Thursdays while Tiger is at 72.1.

16. Second round averages: Tiger has a slight lead in second round scores. His second-round average in the Masters is 70.4, Phil’s is 70.7

17. Third round averages: Here’s the big advantage for Tiger. He averages 69.8 in the third round, Phil is at 71.2.

18. Fourth round averages: Tiger wins the fourth round average battle. He averages 70.6 in the final round. Phil is about a stroke back at 71.4.

# PGA Championship ‘chip shots’

Tiger Woods... Image via Wikipedia

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a biweekly blog published every Wednesday and Sunday

Here’s a look inside the numbers from past PGA Championship golf tournaments. This year’s version begins tomorrow, August 11, at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

* Ten different golfers have two or more Top Five finishes in the PGA Championship in this century. Leading the way is Tiger Woods who has finished in the top five six times from 2000-10. The ten, with the number of Top Five finishes from 2000-10:

Tiger Woods, 6

Ernie Els, 3

Rory McElroy, Steve Elkington, Sergio Garcia, Shaun Micheel, Phil Mickelson, Thomas Bjorn, Justin Leonard, Chris Riley, 2 each

(WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A TRIVIA QUESTION. Can you name the two golf legends who missed out on winning golf’s “career” Grand Slam because they never won the PGA Championship event? Answer below.)

* The eventual winner of the last 11 PGA Championships has played his best round of the four days in the second round. The last 11 eventual winners averaged 67.5 in Round 2, 68.3 in Round 3, 69.4 in Round 1 and 69.5 in Round 4.

* The third round leader (or co-leader) since 2000 has averaged 72.8 in their final round. Woods was the third round leader or co-leader four of those years, averaging 69.8 in the final round. The other eight third round leaders/co-leaders (non-Tiger Woods) averaged 74.3 in the final round.

* Twenty-five of the 50 states have hosted the PGA Championship. New York and Ohio top the list with 11, followed by Pennsylvania with 9.

(TRIVIA ANSWER: Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson each won The Masters, British Open and U.S. Open golf tournaments but missed out on golf’s career Grand Slam because they failed to win the PGA Championship)