Best stats from 2020
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Challenging year featured stellar play, historic clashes and unforgettable moments
Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf
Players discuss Bryson DeChambeau's physical transformation in 2020
The adjectives used to describe 2020 are cliché.
The word unprecedented speaks to our collective human experience. Lives and careers were uncertain. We suffered painful losses. But as we navigated the new reality golf was well-positioned to lead. The socially distant nature of the sport, spread across acres outdoors, gave the PGA TOUR a chance to safely resume play faster than other sports.
Golf thrived in the crisis. The TOUR’s robust schedule included the TOUR Championship, a World Golf Championship and trio of majors. With a makeshift easel of tournaments, the world’s best players painted impressively.
These are the best PGA TOUR statistics of 2020.
Hovland, Im set early mark
Viktor Hovland and Sungjae Im won in consecutive weeks at the Puerto Rico Open and The Honda Classic, marking the first time in eight years that players age 22 or younger won in back-to-back weeks on TOUR.
At the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, England’s Tyrrell Hatton survived brutally tough conditions at Bay Hill: The field hit the green in regulation just 50.5% of the time that week, the lowest rate for any non-major TOUR event since the 2005 Canadian Open. Hatton hung in there for his first TOUR win.
As players headed north for THE PLAYERS Championship, defending champion Rory McIlroy entered the week on a streak of seven straight top-five finishes. He had been in the top-ten after 14 consecutive rounds on TOUR and looked poised to make a run at becoming the first player ever to win in back-to-back years at TPC Sawgrass.
Then, after just one round, on the evening of Thursday, March 12, the TOUR cancelled the tournament and paused the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Play would not officially resume for nearly three months.
Return to Golf featured precious little rust
Before 2020, the Charles Schwab Challenge had never featured the top two players in the Official World Golf Ranking. This year each of the top five were there, the result of players’ pent-up desire to play. Daniel Berger beat Collin Morikawa in a playoff to end the week in dramatic fashion. Berger was in the midst of a remarkable scoring streak – it was his 28th consecutive TOUR round of par or better. His run would end at 32 in a row, which was impressive but well behind Tiger Woods’ record of 52 straight from 2000-2001.
Berger wasn’t the only player who showed no hiatus-induced rust; in fact, the quality of play was unusually high. At the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the next week, a record six players finished 19-under or better. For context, just two players from 1969 through 2019 finished 72 holes that many strokes under par at Harbour Town.
Morikawa bounced back at the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village, hitting eight approach shots inside 10 feet in a dramatic final-round duel with Justin Thomas. Later it was Thomas’ turn as he won the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational to become the third-youngest player since 1960 to reach 13 TOUR wins, behind only Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Post-hiatus statistical leaders included Johnson, Thomas
Of the 177 players with 20 or more ShotLink-measured rounds since the restart, only Dustin Johnson has averaged 2 or more Strokes Gained: Total per round (+2.02). Xander Schauffele (+1.86) is second, Bryson DeChambeau (+1.74) third...
Justin Thomas leads in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green at 1.67 per round. He’s second in Strokes Gained: Approach (+0.94) among players to play 30 or more measured rounds in that stretch, trailing only Russell Henley (+1.12). Strokes Gained ‘long game’ combines a player’s numbers off the tee and on approach shots. Unsurprisingly, Johnson leads in that statistic (+1.50), with Henley (+1.32) and Bubba Watson (+1.29) ranking second and third.
Mackenzie Hughes leads all players in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining more than a full stroke (+1.03) per round.
Morikawa surprised in San Francisco
Over the closing 36 holes at the PGA Championship, Collin Morikawa needed just 129 strokes – the fewest by any player over the last two rounds of any major championship in history. His eagle at the 16th hole was unforgettable, and Morikawa won his first major in just the 27th start of his professional career. Since 1970, only two players have won majors with fewer pro starts under their belts: Tiger Woods (17th start) and Jerry Pate (18th).
Maybe even more impressive was Morikawa’s statistical triple-play: He led in driving accuracy, approach-shot proximity and Strokes Gained: Putting. There have been 737 TOUR events held since 2003 where those statistics were all tracked, and Morikawa is the only player to win while leading in all three of those statistics.
Johnson kicked his season into overdrive
At the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs, THE NORTHERN TRUST, Johnson became just the third player in TOUR history to finish a tournament 30-under or better. He was the first to do it outside of the Hawaiian islands. His 11-stroke margin of victory was the largest on TOUR since Phil Mickelson won by 13 in Atlanta in 2006. And his ridiculous total score over the final three rounds – 187 – was the lowest across three rounds in TOUR history.
The drama hit a fever pitch as world No. 1 Johnson faced No. 2 Jon Rahm in a playoff at the BMW Championship the next week, the first time Nos. 1 and 2 had clashed in extra holes since the 1995 World Series of Golf, when Greg Norman beat Nick Price. Rahm won with a 66-foot birdie putt – his longest make of the season – marking the first time a sitting world No. 1 had lost a TOUR playoff since Billy Mayfair beat Tiger Woods at the 1998 Nissan Open.
Bryson impressed with his bombs
He grabbed more headlines than anyone in 2020, and justifiably so: Bryson DeChambeau radically altered his physique, generated unprecedented power with his golf swing, and vaulted into the world top five. DeChambeau finished the 2019-20 TOUR season averaging a TOUR record 322.1 yards off the tee. At the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he averaged 350.6 yards on his eight official measured drives – a TOUR record for a tournament winner.
But he was hardly one-dimensional. In winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, DeChambeau led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, was third in scrambling, and ranked sixth in average distance of putts made per round. Meanwhile, six players averaged longer off the tee for the week.
When the FedExCup race resumes in January, DeChambeau will sit in second place, trailing only Johnson.
Records tumbled at Augusta National
Johnson re-arranged the Masters record books in November, recording the lowest 72-hole total in tournament history (268, 20-under-par). His 60 greens hit in regulation for the week were the most by any player since Tiger Woods in 2001, and his four bogeys were the fewest ever by a Masters champion. Johnson gained 13.82 strokes on the field on his tee shots and approach shots combined, a staggering five full strokes more than any other player. And his five-stroke margin of victory was the largest at The Masters Tournament since Woods’ historic 12-shot win in 1997.
For the second straight year, Augusta National yielded the lowest scoring average (71.75) in Masters history. Cameron Smith became the first to shoot in the 60s for all four rounds. Sungjae Im posted the lowest score in tournament history by a player making his debut (15 under). Both set the mark for lowest score by a non-winner at Augusta.
Johnson’s five-shot win and DeChambeau’s six-shot win marked the first time there were multiple majors won by five strokes or more since 2000, when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 and The Open Championship by eight.
Wild rounds and record-breakers
Xinjun Zhang took just 18 putts in the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, tying a TOUR record. The downside? He hit only two greens in regulation and shot 75. Zhang holed out four times from off the green, the most by any player in a single round in 2020.
Scottie Scheffler carded the 12th sub-60 round in TOUR history in the second round of THE NORTHERN TRUST. His 10.6 Strokes Gained: Total was the most by any player in a single round in 2020. Later that day, eventual winner Johnson carded a 27 on the front nine at TPC Boston, one stroke off the lowest nine-hole total in TOUR history.
Jim Herman shot 61-63 over the final two rounds to win the Wyndham Championship. His closing 36-hole total of 124 tied the lowest by a winner. Stuart Appleby also carded 124 (65-59) at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.
Matthew Wolff finished in the top four in his first two majors, the PGA Championship and U.S. Open – the first to finish fourth or better in each of his first two major starts since Ned Cosgrove at the 1880 and 1881 Open Championships.