Brian Gay was unstoppable at Harbour Town in 2009 and won by 10 shots. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Not only was Brian Gay's 10-stroke romp at the 2009 RBC Heritage a seminal moment in the history of a proud tournament that began in 1969, but what he accomplished that week has served as a statistical turning point in the recent past.
His performance at Harbour Town that week was of Secretariat proportions. Fans of golf will never get tired of poring over Gay's splits that led to a tournament-record, 20-under 67-66-67-64=264. En route to one eagle and 20 birdies against just two bogeys, he led or co-led his field in proximity to the hole, strokes gained-putting, scrambling, par-4 scoring average and par-5 scoring average. He ranked second in both fairways hit and par-3 scoring average. Gay also finished two greens in regulation from co-leading in that stat as well; instead, he settled for T3. Adding to the perspective to how locked in he was, Luke Donald and Briny Baird recorded the second-highest aggregate (274) of any runners-up of the previous 11 editions.
None of the three champions since have come close to threatening Gay's historic week. Carl Pettersson's 14-under 270 last year is the lowest winning total of the lot. However, Pettersson, Jim Furyk (2010) and Brandt Snedeker (2011) have continued a trend in proficiency in proximity to the hole and par-4 scoring average, each finishing inside the top 10 in both. Pettersson ranked first in each. Furyk led his field in proximity and placed T2 in par-4 scoring; Snedeker ranked ninth in proximity and first in par-4 scoring.
By contrast, in the three years leading up to Gay's benchmark, none of the winners cracked the top 10 in proximity, and only two were inside the top 10 in par-4 scoring average (although neither led his field). Instead, Aaron Baddeley (2006) and Boo Weekley twice (2007, 2008) placed a respective first, T2 and T3 in par-5 scoring average, a category in which Furyk, Snedeker and Pettersson didn't sniff the top 20.
The candidates for the PGA TOUR's Player of the Month presented by Avis for January are in. Here is a closer at each of their performances, and you can vote for your favorite player here. You can also share your thoughts below.
Tiger Woods: Won his only start of the season, finishing at 14 under to coast to a four-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, which he's now won seven times.
Dustin Johnson: Opened the season with a victory at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which was shortened to three rounds because of weather. He withdrew due illness in his next start at the Sony Open in Hawaii and finished in a tie for 51st at Torrey Pines.
Brian Gay: Shot final-round 63 in come-from-behind win at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Tied for 31st in his only other start of the month at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Russell Henley: Won in his first start as a professional on the PGA TOUR, carding three 63s on his way to capturing the Sony Open in Hawaii. Finished in a tie for 51st the following week at PGA West.
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
I get a lot of questions about Brian Gay’s golf swing on how he doesn’t really appear to be hinging his wrists during the backswing. Much like Steve Stricker, Gay is a player that doesn’t aggressively hinge his wrist to create an apparent angle between the lead forward and the club shaft. This lack of wrist hinge is one of the reasons why Gay doesn’t create a lot of clubhead speed but yet last week in California his driver was going further than in the past.
Recently, Gay started working on his game with Grant Waite and Joe Mayo in an effort to get his game back on track. One of the things they have done is maximize the efficiency of Gay’s limited clubhead speed with his driver. To do this, Gay had to change his attack angle with his driver to more “up” through impact versus “down." As a result, his driving distance increased significantly last week from last year’s average.
In order to maximize distance off the tee, your attack angle needs to be slightly up through impact and not down. Most amateurs hit fairly down on it with the driver, which increases the amount of spin, which robs them of precious yards. Although the PGA TOUR average is a mere 1-degree down with the driver, changing that to 1-degree up can mean more distance without increasing club head speed.
To encourage a positive (up) attack angle with the driver here are two things to consider:
1) Ball position adjacent to the lead shoulder: The lead shoulder is the low point of the swing arc so tee it relatively high and well forward in the stance so you promote hitting the ball closer to the low point.
2) Shoulders closed: One of the most common errors with the driver is to open the shoulders. If your shoulders are open then you are promoting a swing direction to the left which is not conducive to an upward attack angle. Therefore, most players need to feel closed with a swing direction to the right.
Although this topic can be a little confusing it highlights the importance of the attack angle through impact which can be often times overlooked. Therefore, I encourage you to learn what your attack angle is with your driver and then determine where you need to go to maximize your clubhead speed.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
Photo by Dunn/Getty Images
Brian Gay watches as his winning putt on the second playoff hole drops at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
What was Gay thinking as he secured his fourth PGA TOUR victory? What would you be thinking if you making a big putt of your own? Leave your caption in our comments section below and please, keep it clean.
After a pair of weekend 66s, Phil Mickelson is building confidence. (Dunn/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The par-5 closing hole always seems to provide drama and it certainly did on Sunday. With a chance to win the tournament, both Charles Howell III and Brian Gay missed eagle opportunities and then could not make their birdie putts. Scott Stallings yanked a 6-iron into the water to make bogey and miss the playoff. The 18th is a wonderful “risk-reward” hole that can expose a player’s nerve.
Warm up: Scott Stallings has an unusual warm-up routine on the driving range. He never hits the same club twice in a row. Most players will start with the wedge, work their way up to the driver and then finish the warm-up with a few more wedges. Stallings works through his bag as if he’s playing an actual round of golf, hitting at specific targets with specific trajectories. Ben Hogan use to work his way through the bag, hitting clubs in the same order he would during the upcoming round.
Hockey: David Lingmerth showed his Swedish heritage with a little hockey. Before the playoff began, Lingmerth turned an iron upside down and used it like a hockey stick, flipping left-handed wrist shots at his caddie with remarkable accuracy.
Short game: Harvey Penick, the great teacher from Austin, warned students to never believe an opponent with a good short game was lucky to win. There is never anything lucky about a good short game. Penick might have been talking about Brian Gay. Gay was 176th on TOUR in driving distance last season but he was also 6th in strokes gained-putting, second in scrambling and fifth in sand saves. He used that short game to make nine birdies in the first 13 holes to take the lead.
Streaky: Scott Stallings played 60 holes without making a bogey and his first hiccup came on a 23-inch putt. Stallings hit a 188-yard 8-iron into the seventh green and missed his 16-foot birdie putt. He then missed the par putt from inside of two feet for his first bogey of the week. Lee Trevino is the last PGA TOUR player to go bogey-free for an entire tournament and win. The Merry Mex was mistake-free in 1974.
Grip: David Lingmerth has a strong grip and usually flights the ball low with a right-to-left ball flight. All that worked against him in the playoff. A seemingly perfect drive, actually resulted in a sidehill-uphill lie which promotes a hook. The combination of a strong grip and uphill lie led to a big hook and his ball splashed into the water left of 18, essentially ending his chances to win.
All-American: Americans simply dominated at Humana. Of the top 22 players, 21 of them were Americans. David Lingmerth was the only non-American to finish inside the Top 20. Granted, there was a limited presence to begin with as only 39 foreign-born players entered the tournament. That said, Americans still dominated this week.
Contrast: The PGA TOUR is filled with different swings and there were two great examples on Sunday. Brian Gay has very little wrist cock and does not generate much clubhead speed, resulting in limited distance. Scott Stallings sets the club and holds that angle through impact creating lots of lag and consequently clubhead speed. Gay’s average ball speed in 2012 was 156.79. Stallings was 179.63.
Most improved: Phil Mickelson must be full of confidence headed to his hometown of San Diego for The Farmers Insurance Open. He started slowly with a 72 on Thursday then rallied for rounds of 67-66-66. Mickelson made one bogey on the weekend.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Brian Gay made up a six-shot deficit in the final round and then beat Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth to win the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. It is Gay's fourth career PGA TOUR victory.
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LA QUINTA, Calif. -- We now have a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after Scott Stallings' bogey at the par-4 16th hole.
Stallings, who started the final round with a five-stroke lead, is deadlocked with David Lingmerth and Brian Gay, who have finished their rounds, and Charles Howell III who is about to tee off on the par-5 18th hole.
Gay, who was on the fringe of the 18th green in two, eventually missed an 8-footer that would have given him sole possession of the lead. He shot 63. Lingmerth birdied the 18th to shoot 62 and get to 25 under.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Scott Stallings regained sole possession of the lead when he two-putted from the fringe for birdie at the par-5 11th hole.
The birdie was Stallings' second straight and moved him to 26 under. Brian Gay, who is playing three groups ahead of Stallings, has made nine birdies in his first 15 holes and trails by one.
Rookie David Lingmerth, who tied for 31st last week in his PGA TOUR debut, is also 9 under for the day with two holes remaining. He's 24 under while his playing partner Nicolas Thompson and Charles Howell III are tied, another stroke in arrears.
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Don't look now but Brian Gay has joined Scott Stallings at the top of the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Gay rolled in a 3-footer for birdie at the par-5 11th hole to move to 24 under. The birdie was his fifth in the last six holes and eighth of the day.
Stallings, on the other hand, has just made the turn at 2 under.
Kevin Chappell's bid for a 59 ended after he was unable to hole his shot from the fairway at the ninth hole. He ended up three-putting from 39 feet for bogey and tossed the ball into the lake.
Even so, the round of 62 eclipsed Chappell's previous career-best on TOUR by three strokes.
Rookie David Lingmerth and Nicholas Thompson, who are playing together, are both 7 under through 12 holes and 22 under for the tournament. They are tied with Charles Howell III, who is 5 under through 11 holes.