Yes, Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 player on the PGA TOUR -- according to one statistic. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- It's finally here, THE PLAYERS Championship. Before the first tee is planted in to the turf, let's take a look at some notable stats from Derek Ernst's victory last week at the Wells Fargo Championship and look ahead to this week's event at TPC Sawgrass. Some stats may surprise you -- Rory McIlroy's rank in one category and Tiger Woods' scoring history here to name a few.
.825 Strokes gained-putting average for Sergio Garcia, which ranks 10th on the PGA TOUR. … Garcia’s putting continues to improve from past seasons. Once his nemesis, the putter has arguably become a friend. Garcia ranked 26th last season, up from T144th in ’11 and T159 in ’10. In 2013, Garcia is picking up 3.300 strokes on the field average per week.
No. 1 Rory McIlroy’s all-around ranking. … That’s right. Despite all the fuss over equipment changes and seemingly mediocre play in 2013, McIlroy ranks No. 1 on TOUR in all-around, which is calculated by adding the rankings of a player in the following categories: Scoring Leaders, Putting Leaders, Eagle Leaders, Birdie Leaders, Sand Saves, Greens in Regulation, Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy. Click here to see the all-around rankings.
1 Number of players that have birdied the 17th hole in all four rounds at THE PLAYERS. … The only person to accomplish the feat is Paul Azinger in 1987. Azinger finished sixth in the tournament.
9 Number of balls Bob Tway has hit into the water at No. 17 during THE PLAYERS since 2003, which is the most on TOUR. … There were 39 water balls on the island 17th last season out of 423 attempts, or 9 percent. The highest percentage of water balls came in 2007, when players hit an amazing 93 balls in the water (21 percent). Click here for more water stats on No. 17.
28 Number of aces in tournament history, which includes 24 at TPC Sawgrass. … The last hole-in-one came in 2008 by Robert Garrigus on the 13th hole. The last ace at the 17th was by Miguel A. Jimenez in 2002.
63 Tournament 18-hole scoring record at THE PLAYERS Championship. … The mark is shared by Fred Couples (1992) and Greg Norman (‘94). Couples carded the 9-under round in the third round, which included an eagle on No. 9, bogey on No. 15 and birdies at 16 and 18. He went on to finish T13. Norman, meanwhile, shot a 63 in the first round with a nine-birdie performance on his way to victory.
164 Spots that Derek Ernst moved up in the FedExCup standings by winning the Wells Fargo Championship. ... When Ernst defeated David Lynn on the first playoff hole at rainy Quail Hollow Club on Sunday, he grabbed his first TOUR win -- which gave him a spot at THE PLAYERS this week. It also moved him up to No. 32 in the FedExCup standings, which is led by Woods.
71.35 Career stroke average for Tom Lehman at THE PLAYERS, which is the lowest among players with at least 25 rounds played. … Lehman, who has played 62 rounds, never won THE PLAYERS. His best finish is second twice, in 1998 and 2005. He also has six top 10s in 17 tries. Defending champion Matt Kuchar ranks second (71.36, 25), followed by Woods (71.44, 55). Woods has one victory and four top 10s in 15 attempts at TPC Sawgrass.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Week 10: WGC-Cadillac/Tampa Bay Championship
Week 12: Arnold Palmer/Shell Houston Open
Week 13: Shell Houston/Valero Texas Open
Week 14: Valero/The Masters
Week 15: The Masters/RBC Heritage
Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman won the 2009 Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf and are teammates again. (Martin/Getty Images)
Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer took some time to answer fan questions today from the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf. You can see their answers below.
Langer: No, I never went that far. I've learned over the years to not get ahead of yourself because that's the worst thing you can do as an athlete. I've done that the very first time I led a golf tournament, I was leading the Irish Open and I was thinking, oh, how much money are you going to make, what are you going to do with it, what are you going to say at the prize giving, and three holes later I wasn't leading anymore. So that was a very expensive but a good lesson, and ever since then I'm trying to avoid those thoughts. I know there's a lot of golf to be played and try to stay in the present and not in the future, not get ahead of myself. So I didn't have any of those thoughts, I was just playing every hole and just playing as good as I could.
Question: If you could be paired with any golfer, living or dead, who would it be and why? (From Facebook: Valerie Brideau)
Langer: Well, I would choose Ben Hogan because I never had the pleasure to play Ben Hogan. I actually never met him. I played with many of the greats. I had the pleasure of seeing Gene Sarazen and Arnie and Jack and Tiger and Byron Nelson, but never had the pleasure of playing or meeting Ben Hogan.
Lehman: I would have to say, we'll keep it to Fort Worth, that would be Byron Nelson. That would be a fun match.
Question: Bernhard, what do you think of most when you're putting -- aim, distance, speed; and do you use any sort of putting aid? (From Facebook: Terry Ernstad)
Langer: I use the line on the ball for aim because when I don't have the line, my eyes are not very good. Because we're not looking straight down the line, we're looking sideways and I have a tendency to aim left, so that line on the ball helps me a little bit. And I have a line on the putter so when I line these two up, it gives me good visual, plus it gives me the knowledge when I stand over the putt, I'm aligned good now so all I now have to focus on is proper speed. So when I putt, I'm really thinking of making a stroke that has the right speed for the line I picked. Before I had those lines on the putter and the ball, I was often concerned, oh, are you lining correctly or not, and then I was thinking about lining up and forgot to hit it or something like that.
Question: When you find your timing and/or rhythm in question... what do you do to get it back? (From Facebook: Marty Mash)
Lehman: I tend to not get that way very often, although I used to. I think I used to get that way because I would hit so many drivers on the practice tee. I think everybody learns their own little way. Some guys, they love to hit drivers and long irons on the practice range. I find when I do that, I start swinging harder and harder and harder and my rhythm gets off. When I practice, I hit 90 percent of my shots with wedges or maybe a 9 iron at the most, mostly sand wedges or pitching wedges, to find the rhythm of my swing. I feel if I can hit a wedge solid, I'm going to hit my driver solid. If my rhythm is good with my wedge, it's going to be good with my driver. I very seldom struggle on the course with my rhythm. But if I do there's just a few things. First thing is relaxing your arms, your shoulders, your hands, so I try to take a very, very soft grip on the club and really relax my arms so I don't take it away, snatch it away right off the bat. The first two feet away from the ball is usually where you mess it up. If you get it moving smoothly away from the ball, chances are you're going to have a more successful shot.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
Legendary teaching pro Jim Flick died Monday at his home in Carlsbad, Calif., after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
Flick, who was a native of Bedford, Ind., was inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame in 2011. Among the more than 150 PGA TOUR pros he has worked with are Jack Nicklaus and Tom Lehman, who won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday.
Lehman said his instructor and good friend was on his mind as he shot a final round 65 on Sunday to win the Champions Tour finale, as well as an unprecedented second straight Charles Schwab Cup.
"The last hole, I know that he was probably watching today," Lehman said. "I felt quite certain that that was probably the last driver he was ever going to see me hit and I wanted to make it a good one. And the last 7-iron he will ever see me hit, and I wanted to make that a good one. And the last putt, I wanted to make that putt."
Lehman spoke to Flick prior to the final round, and Flick told him to "Be Tom Lehman." His student didn't make the putt but Lehman still won his seventh Champions Tour event.
Flick, who started playing golf at the age of 10, attended Wake Forest on a basketball scholarship. As a sophomore, he roomed with Arnold Palmer. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953-54 and then embarked on a highly successful career first as a club professional, and later as a teaching pro.
Flick taught golf in 23 countries. He became a PGA of America member in 1958 and received its Teacher of the Year award in 1988. He and Jack Nicklaus co-founded the Nicklaus-Flick Golf Schools (1991-2003). He also served as the lead instructor for the ESPN Golf Schools from 2003-05 and has served as the ambassador for TaylorMade Golf since 2006.
In 1999 Golf World magazine selected Flick as one of the top 10 teachers of the 20th Century. He contributed to or wrote five books: Square to Square Golf (1974), Square to Square in Pictures (1974), How to Become a Complete Golfer (1980), Jim Flick on Golf (1997), and Swing Analysis by Jim Flick – Jack Nicklaus, Simply the Best (2007).
In a recent interview with Golfweek magazine, Flick said he was concerned with too many golfers trying to achieve a perfect swing.
"We've let the game be taken over by science," he said. "Golf is an art form. The golf swing is an athletic movement. Becoming mechanical and robotic is the worst thing you can do."
Although Flick taught hundreds of professionals, according to a statement released by his family on Monday, he often said that the most rewarding of all his students were juniors.
“He cared a great deal about junior golf, I think that will probably be his legacy going forward,” Lehman said. “We can honor his memory by doing something with junior golf.'”
From 1986-2005, Flick was the director of instruction at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, host of last week’s season finale on the Champions Tour. Lehman frequently worked with him in Scottsdale and kept in daily touch with Flick.
“He's just a good man,” Lehman said. “If there's anything we could learn from him, if we all treated people the way he treated people, we'd be a lot better off.”
Details about a memorial service will be announced at a later date.
"Though he lived to teach," the family said, "Flick himself never stopped learning, and one of things the game taught him, he said last week, was that golf is not about searching for the perfect swing or working at golf – it’s about playing golf.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Even during the four-round marathon that is the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, it’s hard to resist the projections and permutations that play out as the Schwab Cup race nears its end.
Through 14 holes in the opening round at Desert Mountain’s Cochise Course, Bernhard Langer was opening the door for Tom Lehman.
Langer leads the year-long race by 211 points over Lehman, meaning Lehman needs a strong finish and Langer a poor one. And midway through the back nine in Round 1, Langer was stuck at 1 over while Lehman was three shots ahead at 2 under.
But Langer, the 2010 Schwab Cup champion, didn’t build this year’s Schwab Cup cushion without salvaging some rounds. He did it again on Thursday, birdieing three of the last four holes to finish in red figures at 1 under, one shot behind Lehman in their marquee pairing.
“I was very happy with my finish,” Langer said. “I played some good golf coming in.”
Langer is tied for 14th in the event, while Lehman is T11. That’s not enough of a gap for Lehman, the defending Schwab Cup champion, to overtake Langer.
Roger Chapman, the other man who figures into the Schwab Cup scenarios, is also T14 after a 1-under 69. He has to win the tournament to have a shot at the $1 million payout.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – By all accounts, Tom Lehman has had a fine season on the Champions Tour. One win, three seconds, 11 top 10s in 18 starts, and a puncher’s chance at winning a second consecutive Schwab Cup title this week at the season finale, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
But on Tuesday at Desert Mountain, he echoed the lament of many amateur players – the year could have been even better had he been more dialed in with his wedges.
“I haven’t been super sharp inside of 100 yards. I really haven’t,” said Lehman, who trails Bernhard Langer by 211 in the season-long points race. “My wedge game has been off all year. It seems like you kind of get in these streaks where you seem to have all of these in-between yardages. Every big shot you have that you really need to hit it close is just right in between.
“I don't remember a year where I've ever had so many shots that were like 108 yards, or 102 yards or 123 yards into the wind. Where the sand wedge is not quite enough, the pitching wedge is too much. I don't carry a gap wedge. I'm falling into that crack.”
Consequently, Lehman said he’s considering putting a gap wedge into his bag for the first time.
“I'm really good at hitting a 112-yard pitching wedge into the breeze, but I'm not good at hitting 102 pitching wedge into a breeze,” he said. “The sand wedge full into a breeze always spins back 40 feet, so it's like you have this gap where I've just been tortured all year long.”
Of course, to put a gap wedge in requires taking something out. For pros, that means taking a look at fairway woods or hybrids.
“If I took out the rescue (hybrid) and put in the gap, the next week I would be needing that rescue club 27 times,” said Lehman, who plays TaylorMades. “Now I have this gap between my 3-iron and my 3-wood, which is about 50 yards wide versus the gap between a sand wedge and a pitching wedge, which is 20. So there you have the secret.
“To me you have to figure out your bag, bend a couple of clubs a little bit stronger, maybe get a new rescue, which is a little bit weaker. Who knows what? But you got to drop something. Some guys take that out, maybe take the 3-iron out and strengthen the 4-iron. There is all kind of ways to do it. But that means relearning yardages.
“I can tell you, the average golfer, what happens is you get these in between yardages, and you try to hit it so easy you decelerate. You decelerate on a wedge like you decelerate on a putt, and you end up hitting bad shots.”
Have you put an extra wedge in the bag this year? If so, what came out to accommodate it? Tell us in the comments below.
HOT STICK: Robert Garrigus switched to an Odyssey White Ice 2-Ball V-Line putter two months ago at the Deutsche Bank Championship. In four tournaments since then he has finished T4, T10, T22 and, at the CIMB Classic, T2. This putter is 32.5 inches, a mainstream length for a guy who has putted with a 28.5-inch junior-sizied putter and a 46-inch long flatstick.
NEW NIKES: Nike Golf is expanding its Method line of putters with the Method Core Weighted putters, which use fixed weights on the heel and sole to provide optimal weighting for different lengths of putter. The weights lower the center of gravity of the putter and move the center away from the face.
“Most people don’t realize that they are about three-tenths of an inch above the ground at impact,” Nike clubmaker David Franklin said. “You need to keep the center of gravity of the putter as low as you can so that it never gets higher than the CG of the ball. This stops the putter from driving the ball down and creating backspin on the ball.”
WINNER’S BAG: Nick Watney at the CIMB
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (Mitsubishi Diamana White Board, 10.5 degrees)
Fairway woods: Titleist 910F (15, 19 degrees)
Irons: Titleist AP2 (3-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM4 (50, 60 degrees)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron GSS
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
What is Tom Lehman doing during on the 72nd hole of the Champions Tour Regions Tradition? Leave your response below … and please, keep it clean!
PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: FedEx St. Jude Classic, Regions Tradition
Never before had a player won such honors on all three Tours operated by the PGA TOUR. Lehman, who won the award on the then-Hogan Tour (now Nationwide Tour) in 1991 and the PGA TOUR in 1996, knew he was fortunate to be in such a position by age as much as accomplishment. No other former Hogan/Nationwide Tour Player of the Year is toiling regularly on the 50-and-over circuit.
But Wednesday, upon officially being named Champions Tour Player of the Year, thus completing the triple play, Lehman could fully appreciate the accomplishment and come clean a little bit about just how much he wanted it.
“I think it's every bit as significant simply because it's a goal that I set,” Lehman said. “I think anytime you set a goal that's a lofty goal, and this one was lofty because no one had done it before. I was aware of that.
“Because of that reason, it's significant. It's the culmination of a journey. It's a journey that's been a lot of fun. There's no guarantees. There were no promises that I could achieve that. It took a lot of good playing and also some good fortune for me to win.”
Lehman was strong all year on the Champions Tour, having won three times including a major title. He took over the Schwab Cup points lead after the season’s second event and never looked back, though the points race did tighten up at the season finale as Mark Calcavecchia bid to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and take the $1 million season prize. Calc came up short, and Lehman had the Schwab Cup.
“There's a lot of things happened this past year that went in my favor. John Cook lost in two playoffs. Calc almost came back and won the Schwab Cup,” Lehman said. “Those guys had great years, played great golf, but things kind of tipped my way.
“When you work so hard and you want it so badly, you chase that dream, then the dream does come true, it's significant. I was very, very aware over the last couple years I had a chance to do something that no one's done before, at least to this point.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A little more than two months ago, Jay Don Blake was a Champions Tour journeyman.
Now he’s a multiple-event winner.
Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday, the first to win the Tour’s season finale in his first appearance since Mark McNulty in 2004. He took a two-shot lead into the final round and never relinquished it, winning by two over Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts.
Add that to his win five starts ago at the Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he won a four-man playoff, and Blake ends 2011 as one of four multiple winners on Tour, joining Schwab Cup winner Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples.
“How can you pass up having a chance to play on the Champions Tour?” said Blake, who rose to fourth in Schwab Cup points and will take $200,000 from that prize pool in addition to his $440,000 share of the winner’s purse from TPC Harding Park. “I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could play out here and perform like I was able to play.”
Blake, 53, won once on the PGA TOUR, in 1991 at Torrey Pines. He cut his PGA TOUR career short of age 50 due to back pain, and for three years worked on stretching and tweaking enough to give the Champions Tour a shot.
He pieced together schedules with his partial status, qualifying for some events and relying on sponsor’s exemptions at times. What he never lost was his drive and, just as importantly, a silky putting stroke.
“He’s always been a great putter his whole life,” Allen said. “When we played in college, he was a great putter, and that’s been his game.
“You go out to dinner with someone, you want to go out to dinner with a good putter, because they’re always happy.”
Blake isn’t the type for overt displays of emotion, happy or not, but the satisfaction was clear on his face late Sunday afternoon, especially with some 20 family members and friends around to share in his win. The next stop will be the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a winners-only event.
An event for Jay Don Blake.
“I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen,” he said.
It’s now wide open.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Calcavecchia turned the Schwab Cup race into an exciting battle Sunday afternoon, one that required watching several players other than him.
But in the end it was a result he’s all too familiar with – second.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Calcavecchia needed to win or finish no worse than two-way tie for second to steal the Cup from Tom Lehman, the points leader since the second tournament of the season.
He started the final round in a tie for sixth, but on a windy day at TPC Harding Park he made a late run with a 2-under 69.
When Calcavecchia birdied the 15th hole and Jay Haas bogeyed the 13th, there was a three-way tie for second. Minutes later, Loren Roberts made it a four-way tie at 6 under with a birdie at 15. (Jay Don Blake was well in front, so winning the event wasn’t a possibility.)
Haas and Roberts continued to pour in pars, Haas making a solid save off a bad drive at 15, Roberts saving par on the par-3 17th after missing the green.
Calcavecchia’s key moment was on 18, when he hit a great drive and only had 134 yards left to the par-4. He was in between a wedge and 9-iron in switching winds, and his 9-iron ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
“I had the right distance but I never swung at it. Wind just got it,” Calcavecchia said. “If I had to do it again I’d hit a hard wedge and take my chances. I would have hit a better shot, put it that way.”
He two-putted to post 6 under, and Roberts did the same from the next group. Calcavecchia couldn’t afford another finisher at that number, but local favorite Michael Allen hit a chip close at 18 that nearly went in for birdie. In or out, Calcavecchia’s fate was sealed.
He finished second in points, 74 behind Lehman.
“It’s kind of the story of my whole career, I’ve had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls,” said Calcavecchia, who had 13 wins on the PGA TOUR and 27 seconds. On the Champions Tour, he has one win and four seconds.
“It could have been a lot better but on the other hand I had a great year. Just rattled off more top-10s than anybody.”
True – Calcavecchia had 15 top-10s to Lehman’s 12, in one more tournament. But second place Sunday was just too crowded of a place for his Schwab Cup hopes.