Hunter Mahan tries to locate his ball on the par-4 15th.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- One minute, Hunter Mahan was moving up the leaderboard. The next, he was looking up at a tree.
Mahan's tee shot on the par-4 15th hole sailed left and into the trees Saturday. The only problem was, it never came down.
Mahan identified the ball through the help of binoculars and was forced to take a drop before eventually making double bogey on the hole.
"The wind started really blowing," he said. "I was hoping it would blow my ball out."
Mahan birdied the next hole, but gave it right back with a bogey on the par-3 17th, where he three-putted from just inside 30 feet after barely reaching the island green.
On 18, the weirdness continued. His drive settled up against the side of the cart path. Mahan was allowed relief and went to make par, capping a 71 to get within four of the lead.
Said Mahan: "It was the wildest last four holes."
But four he was able to get in before the horn sounded.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The final pairing of Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia tees off at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday. Here's a closer look at each of them, plus who and what else to watch for this afternoon at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson (1:30 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion seemed to turn the corner at Hilton Head, where he finished second after losing in a playoff. This week, he's third in fairways hit and enters Saturday five back.
Jason Dufner (1:30 p..m ET): He had six birdies and just one bogey in the second round and is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. He also finished sixth here two years ago.
Zach Johnson (1:50 p.m. ET): The last four finishes for Johnson here: T32, T22, T12, T2. See the trend? A couple late bogeys on Friday hurt, but Johnson is still in the mix four back.
Adam Scott (1:50 p.m. ET): Playing for the first time since his Masters victory, Scott is in position to go after his second PLAYERS title (he won here in 2004). He's just four shots back.
Hunter Mahan (2 p.m. ET): After struggling in his last few starts, Mahan has turned it around here, hitting 75 percent of his greens in regulation.
Matt Kuchar (2 p.m. ET): No player has ever won this tournament two years in a row. After a 66 Friday, Kuchar has a chance and enters the third round just four shots back.
Ryan Palmer (2:20 p.m. ET): The Texan is playing with a heavy heart after a longtime friend was killed in a car accident Thursday night. He's wearing the initials "CA" on his hat in honor of him.
Henrik Stenson (2:20 p.m. ET): The 2009 champion is in contention again after making two eagles in the second round (on the par-5 second and ninth holes). When he won here four years ago, he shot a final-round 66.
Lee Westwood (2:30 p.m. ET): The Englishman has finished fourth, fifth and sixth here. All that's missing is a win. He's the only player without a bogey through the first two rounds.
Tiger Woods (2:40 p.m. ET): It's been a dozen years since Woods has won here, but he said all facets of his game are clicking right now and it's showed so far with his best 36-hole start in his history here.
Sergio Garcia (2:40 p.m. ET): Like Woods, Garcia has won here before (in 2008), but he's struggled at times playing alongside the world No. 1 with five his last six rounds in the 70s when the two have been paired.
Hunter Mahan discusses the 70 he shot in the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship with Amanda Balionis. He is tied for ninth with defending champion Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Robert Castro opened with a course record-tying 63 to take a three-shot lead on Thursday. Whether he still has that lead by the time he tees off Friday afternoon, who knows. Conditions appear to be good for scoring again and already a few players -- Tiger Woods among them -- have started to make a move. Here's a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Roberto Castro (12:46 p.m. ET): A big reason Castro was able to go so low in the opening round was because he hit close -- six of his approach shots were inside 5 feet. That will be a tall order come the afternoon when the wind is expected to increase along with the temperature, making for a firm, fast golf course.
Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler (1:18 p.m. ET): After failing to break 70 in 16 of his last 17 rounds, which included a pair of missed cuts and two other finishes near the bottom of the leaderboard, Mahan was "stress free" with a 67 Thursday. Given his accuracy, he should fare well here (two years ago, he finished sixth). Fowler, on the other hand, struggled to a 73 and will have some ground to make up to make the cut.
Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell (1:28 p.m. ET): Both were 2 under on Thursday, and McDowell comes into this week having recently won at another Pete Dye course (Harbour Town).
Zach Johnson (1:49 p.m. ET): Perhaps lost in all the headlines Thursday was Johnson, who was superb with seven birdies and just one bogey. Johnson has played progressively better here the last three years, finishing 32nd, 22nd, 12th and second.
Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott (1:49 p.m. ET): McIlroy finally broke par here with a sublime 66 in the opening round and he finally appears to be comfortable around this place. His last two wins have also come on Pete Dye courses. Stricker was nearly as good with a 67 and between the three the group made just two bogeys.
Tiger Woods has finished in the top 10 in more than 60 percent of his career starts. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods regained the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings and the Official World Golf Ranking with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
Woods tied Sam Snead's record for most wins at a single event with eight. So how did he get there? We take a look at that and more by going Inside the Numbers ...
-.400 Strokes gained-putting this season for Bo Van Pelt, which ranks 145th on the PGA TOUR. … Translation: Van Pelt is giving away almost two shots to the field average each week. Van Pelt ranked 11th in this category last season, a big reason why he carded an impressive 10 T10s. In 2013, Van Pelt has only two T25s in seven attempts and a major reason is his putting. He switched back to an old putter at Bay Hill with the hope of turning things around.
2.798 Strokes gained-putting mark for Tiger Woods at Bay Hill. … Just to refresh your memory, that means Woods picked up nearly three shots on the field average per round. That’s 11.192 strokes on the field average for the week. So in theory, if Woods would have putted the field average (0.000), he would have finished T27 instead of first. The 2.798 stat is the best SGP number at Bay Hill since Aaron Baddeley in 2005. Woods is also first in SGP on TOUR in 2013 at 1.476.
53.57 percent Woods hit just 30 of 56 fairways this week, ranking T71 in the field out of 77 players remaining. This is the lowest percentage by a champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (since 1980). Since 1980, the lowest driving accuracy percentage by an Arnold Palmer Invitational champion came back in 1993 by Ben Crenshaw, who hit just 54 percent of his fairways for the week en route to victory.
60 Weeks Woods has spent atop the FedExCup standings since 2007. … That’s by far the most of any player, as Ernie Els is second with 22, followed by Vijay Singh (15), Geoff Ogilvy (14) and Mark Wilson (12).
60.4 percent That’s the career top-10 percentage for Woods. … There’s been plenty of talk about Woods’ rate of winning in his career. He’s won 77 of 298 events or 25.8 percent of the time he’s teed it up on the PGA TOUR. But he’s also finished in the top 10 in 180 of 298 events or more than 60 percent of the time. Woods has also finished in the top three 124 times or a rate of 41.6 percent.
86.11 percent Greens in regulation percentage at the Shell Houston Open last season for champion Hunter Mahan. … Mahan hit 62 of 72 greens, tying for first in that category with Bud Cauley. Mahan also was fifth in strokes gained-putting (1.605) and fifth in scrambling (80 percent) at Redstone. Look for him to contend again if he makes some putts again this week.
1,605 FedExCup points for leader Woods, which leads second-place Brandt Snedeker (1,282). … For comparison, the 2012 leader (Johnson Wagner) had 1,017 points through the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Week 10: WGC-Cadillac/Tampa Bay Championship
After an 18 month hiatus, golf's favorite boy band is reuniting.
"Golf Boys", a group founded by PGA TOUR star Ben Crane, featuring Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan which parodies boy bands, have released their second song, “2.Oh”. The song was written by the golfers' friend and popular recording artist, Mat Kearney.
The first Golf Boys video, released in June of 2011, quickly became an Internet sensation and has amassed nearly 6 million views on YouTube. Aside from Tiger Woods-related videos, it's the most viewed video on the Internet featuring professional golfers.
An encore video was not originally planned, but fans begged for one relentlessly.
Crane, the unofficial band leader, reached out to Kearney, an avid golfer and friend from his college days in Eugene, OR, to help with the second song. Kearney set out to write a song that played off of the golfers’ individual style and personality, but also managed to name-drop numerous PGA TOUR stars including: Stewart Cink, Aaron Baddeley, Adam Scott, Ricky Barnes, Rory Sabbatini, Kevin Na, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Bo Van Pelt and Stuart Appleby.
“Ben and I have been friends for a long time,” says Kearney. “He mentioned they might do a new Golf Boys song, so I got off the phone and tried to come up with a hard hitting hip hop track. I thought using golfers’ names as puns would be pretty dang funny. I sat there for hours cracking myself up. How often do you get to write a rap for someone who's won the Masters?”
The video is on Ben Crane's YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/bencranegolf
The Golf Boys use the videos to raise money for charity and hope to introduce a younger generation to the game of golf. For their second video, the Golf Boys are partnering with international aid organization, charity:water. 100% of proceeds from Golf Boys “2.Oh” will be dedicated to the construction of clean water wells in Ethiopia through charity:water. Since 2006, charity:water has been able to provide clean water to over 3.2 million people in 20 countries. The Golf Boys set up a fundraising page on the charity:water website so that fans can learn more about the cause and, if interested, contribute: www.mycharitywater.org/GolfBoys. "We are in a truly unique era," says Crane, "I love that we can goof off on YouTube and help people across the world. I'm all in for that."
Watson agrees. "We obviously don't have any profit motive here. We're just having fun and sharing a bit of our personality with fans. I think it's awesome that we will be able to provide clean water and awareness for our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. If we can reach new fans and grow the game of golf in the process, that's a huge bonus.”
Historically, golf has had one of the older viewer demographics in sports, something that Crane feels provides an opportunity for Golf Boys.
"Tournament golf requires tremendous focus. We can't show raw personality in competition like other sports,” says Crane. “I think making these videos has helped make us more relatable to a demographic that might not otherwise be attracted to golf. As professional golfers, we’re sort of caretakers of the game. There is nothing wrong with being an older sport, but we want to do our best to grow it. The easiest way to do that is by engaging younger fans.”
Crane created a YouTube channel in September of 2010 after filming a popular workout parody video as a favor for a friend. The video went "viral" around the golf community and Crane was encouraged to start a regular series. Since that time, Crane has released numerous videos poking fun at his supposed insecurities such as his pace of play, pre-round routine and rapid hair loss. In January of 2013, Crane's YouTube channel passed Lebron James to become the second most-viewed YouTube channel of any active athlete. Crane doesn't profit from the viewership, as the channel is “owned” by he and his wife’s foundation and any revenue received is donated to charities that they support.
“On a personal level, social media has done a lot to change the perception of who I am,” says Crane. “I think I’ve been able to show fans a different side of myself and other pro golfers. I’m a golfer, first and foremost, but spending one day every few months to create a video that raises money for charity and might grow the game is too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Rory McIlroy is one of four players to finish double digits under par at PGA National during The Honda Classic.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
To say the least, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan showed the importance of the short game at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Clutch putting and chipping stood out at Dove Mountain. And no doubt, Kuchar used plenty of it to defeat Mahan. But the biggest reason for Kuchar's success in 2013 might surprise you. Let's take a look at some match play stats and the upcoming Honda Classic by going inside the numbers ...
0.898 The number represents how many strokes Hunter Mahan is picking up on the field average in putting per round in 2013. (His strokes gained-putting number). That’s good enough to rank 15th in that category. ... Mahan’s short game looks pretty sharp so far and it’s a big reason for his early success. Always a solid ball-striker, putting has been the biggest key for him. Last season, Mahan finished 111th in SGP, losing .077 strokes to the field average each round. Over the course of a tournament, that’s a big turnaround from -.077 to .898.
3 Number of players that reached the Final Four at Accenture that ranked inside the top 20 in scrambling at year-end of the 2012 season. … Ian Poulter (2), Kuchar (7) and Jason Day (19) all have tremendous short games and it’s no secret that being able to get up-and-down like Tin Cup works brilliantly in match play. Even Mahan, who ranked 157th in scrambling last season showed tremendous touch around the greens in both Sunday matches – including his amazing 67-foot chip-in on the 12th hole at Dove Mountain.
4.30 That’s the par-5 scoring average for Kuchar, which ranks third on TOUR this season. … Kuchar already has four eagles in 2013 – all on par 5s – compared to five for the entire 2012 season. He was T84 in par-5 scoring at 4.67 last season. Not surprisingly he's off to an impressive start, with three top 10s in five events. Most of his stats are similarly solid when comparing the past few seasons. But Kuchar is really benefiting from the par 5s. He’s T13 in eagles per hole compared to 133rd in that category in 2012.
5 Number of top-five finishes for Poulter in WGC events. He has two wins (2010 Accenture Match Play, 2012 HSBC Champions), a T2 at the 2006 Cadillac Championship and a fourth-place finish at the 2005 Accenture Match Play. … Poulter has six other top fives in his career on TOUR, most notably runner-up finishes at the 2008 British Open (Royal Birkdale) and in THE PLAYERS Championship in 2009.
15-3 Kuchar’s record at the Accenture Match Play. Since losing in Round 2 of the 2010 event, his first appearance, Kuchar has finished 3rd (2011), T5 (2012) and won (2013). … Maybe it’s time to crown him the king of match play?
106 Total number of players who have finished under par after four rounds in the six years that The Honda Classic has been played at the Champion Course at PGA National. Only four players – Rory McIlroy ('12 winner), Woods ('12), Tom Gillis ('12) and 2010 champ Camilo Villegas have finished at double digits under par … The Bear Trap is no joke. It’s routinely ranked as one of the toughest tracks on TOUR. In fact, it’s been in the top-10 most difficult in five of the six years — which includes major championship courses. It was the second-most difficult course on TOUR in 2011 and 2010. It ranked 11th most difficult last season.
$1,809,003.58 Career earnings for Luke Donald at The Honda Classic. Donald has three top 10s in six events, winning in 2006 and finishing second in 2008. … The golfer in second might come as a bit of surprise. It’s Y.E. Yang, who has cashed $1,668,952.50, getting a win in 2009 and a runner-up in 2011. Yang is in the field this week.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
Hunter Mahan uses one swing thought to increase his distance and lower his scores. (Getty Images)
By Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Hunter Mahan (runner-up at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship) continually pounded 300-plus-yard drives this past weekend at Marana, Ariz.
On the 13th hole during the championship match on Sunday, Mahan blasted one prodigious drive a length of 340 yards. What is the secret to his great success and his amazing length with the driver? Mahan keeps it simple.
He said he focuses on one swing thought and then wears out that one thought during the entire round. Having fewer swing thoughts can actually make you hit the golf ball farther. This notion is based on Hick’s Law, a psychological principle that postulates that you will respond slower as your decisions (swing thoughts) increase.
If you have one thought, your reaction time will be approximately 190 milliseconds. If you have two swing thoughts, you will respond slower at about 340 milliseconds. With four swing thoughts, your response time slows to 490 milliseconds. According to Hick’s Law, your response time slows by 150 milliseconds as you double your swing thoughts.
These numbers imply that the more swing thoughts you have (particularly in the downswing), the slower the brain will send the signal to your muscles. This is exemplified by the golf psychological term, “paralysis by analysis.” The signal to your muscles goes so slow that it can literally get frozen when you have too many thoughts.
However, if you have one swing thought and wear it out like Mahan, the signal will be sent very fast to your muscles. Faster signals to the muscles will help you to swing the club faster. Faster club head speed equates to greater driving distance.
Einstein’s philosophy about science was, “Keep it simple, but do not make it simpler.” We all know that golf can be a complex game, but we should not think about all these complexities while swinging.
Keep it simple like Mahan and you will hit it farther.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. He is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. Dr. Gregg is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has worked with many PGA tour players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.