Andrew Svoboda had a long, strange road to winning the Chiquita Classic (click here for more), but one player you can get used to seeing more of on the big stage is Ben Martin.
The runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Amateur, he was of course tabbed for immediate success. But that has never really been Martin’s M.O.
In high school, he says he was the fourth- or fifth-best player on the team as a freshman. By the time he graduated, he was its best. The same would happen at Clemson -- he redshirted as a freshman and by senior year was an All-American.
When he turned pro in 2010, the same pattern would ultimately play out: Martin finished second at q-school but the following year missed 13 cuts in 25 starts and he lost his card.
He struggled just as badly the following season on the Web.com Tour, missed out at q-school and spent this season on the Web.com Tour.
Finally, though, the 26-year-old seems to be hitting his stride. He has won twice in his last eight starts, and on Sunday tied for third in the second of the four Web.com Tour Finals events.
For the season, Martin is first in scoring average, fifth in birdie average, second in greens in regulation, 26th in driving distance and 29th in driving accuracy.
He is also now sixth in the Finals after climbing 26 spots following his finish in Davidson, N.C., and appears headed back to the PGA TOUR, where my guess is he’ll stay for the foreseeable future.
THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Flash back a year ago this week: Rory McIlroy would go on to shoot a final-round 67 to win by two over Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood at the BMW Championship, his second straight victory of the FedExCup Playoffs. It was the first time someone had won in back-to-back weeks in three years and he would take the points lead into the finale at East Lake. Now? He’s 41st in the standings and just hoping to make it to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. McIlroy was mum when I asked him two weeks ago what his specific goals were for the rest of what’s been mostly a lost season, but did offer the following: “They include wins,” he said. “A few process and results goals; something to give myself some incentive.” He certainly has enough golf to still play to at least get something out of the year. In addition to Chicago and (hopefully) Atlanta, the former world No. 1 will play in Korea, China (twice), Dubai, Australia and in L.A. at the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual.
2. Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar are the top four players in the FedExCup standings entering this week’s BMW Championship. Next on the list? Graham DeLaet. Can’t say I saw that coming.
3. Speaking of DeLaet, with his runner-up at The Barclays and third-place at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he is the only player to have netted top-10 finishes in both of the first two Playoff events. And here’s why I didn’t see it coming: In his last nine rounds leading up to the Playoffs, DeLaet had not been able to break par once. But in seven of his eight in the first two Playoffs events, seven of eight rounds have been under par.
4. Meanwhile, the first five players on the outside looking in for the top 30 to get to East Lake are Charles Howell III, Kevin Stadler, Kevin Chappell, Nick Watney and Scott Piercy. Of that group, only Stadler and Chappell have never made it to the season-finale. Both have been tremendous of late, however, with Stadler finishing fourth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and Chappell 15th and 22nd in each of the first two Playoffs events. Not bad for a couple of guys who missed six of eight cuts to start the year (Chappell) and three of four going into the Playoffs (Stadler).
5. Stat of the Week I: Ten players that started the FedExCup Playoffs outside the top 70 in points survived the first two events and are in the field for this week’s BMW Championship. Stadler is one of them.
6. Stat of the Week II: In the three previous years under the current FedExCup points system, a total of nine players have played their way into the top 30 at the BMW Championship, including two last year. So there’s hope.
7. Stat of the Week III: For the second straight year, all four major winners are in the FedExCup Playoffs --Adam Scott (No. 3), Justin Rose (No. 7), Phil Mickelson (No. 6) and Jason Dufner (No. 13). In other words, a lot of Player of the Year talk could be settled these next couple of weeks.
8. The Green Jacket of Horton Smith, who won the Masters in 1934 and ’36, fetched $682,229 in an auction over the weekend. It was the highest price ever paid for a piece of golf memorabilia, according to GreenJacketAutions.com. The jacket, part of the “Original 10,” had been hanging in the back of a distant relative’s closet for years when they discovered that the golf world had been searching for it.
9. The best highlight from Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars season-opener against the Kansas City Chiefs might have been when David Lingmerth beat team mascot Jaxon de Ville in a closest-to-the-pin contest during halftime. Lingmerth hit a wedge from atop the Sky Patio in the south endzone to an island green at the 50 yard line, and because he hit it closer than the mascot, the Jaguars Foundaton made a $10,000 donation to a charity of Lingmerth’s choice. The Jags, meanwhile, went on to lose 28-2.