November 29, 2022
By Justin Ray, Twenty First Group, PGATOUR.COM
Max Homa holes out from 33-feet for birdie on No. 18 at Fortinet Champ
When the regular season resumes next month in Hawaii, nearly 20 percent of the schedule will already be in the books.
Though it’s not impossible to overcome a slow (or restful) fall, the pre-Maui portion of the schedule offers a tremendous opportunity for players to get an early leg up in the FedExCup standings. Over the last three seasons, 44% of players to qualify for the TOUR Championship in Atlanta were inside the top 30 of the FedExCup standings at the end of the fall portion of that season’s schedule.
This season, we have already seen a player make eight consecutive birdies (Nick Hardy), a pair of successful title defenses (Max Homa and Rory McIlroy) and six different players hit all 18 greens in regulation in a round. With a hefty chunk of the schedule already played, let’s hand out some hardware for the best performances of the fall on the PGA TOUR.
Best player of the fall: Seamus Power
With nine events this fall won by nine different players, this was a close race with several worthy contenders under consideration.
How about Keegan Bradley? The current season money leader picked up his fifth career PGA TOUR victory at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. In three starts he did not record a single round over par, giving him the third-best scoring average among players with at least ten rounds played. After years of battling on the greens, he currently finds himself in the top 20 on TOUR this season in Strokes Gained: Putting per round. His current streak of 216 straight holes without a three-putt is the longest active run on TOUR.
Rory McIlroy won the only tournament he teed it up in – it’s tough to beat that. Or what about Mackenzie Hughes? The Canadian took the Sanderson Farms Championship in a playoff and is currently third in the FedExCup standings. He’s been buoyed by the shortest clubs in his bag, ranking in the top 20 this season in both Strokes Gained: Around the Green and Strokes Gained: Putting.
The honor goes to Power, though, who will carry the FedExCup standings lead into 2023. His closing run to the fall – win, T-3, T-5 – saw him beaten by a grand sum of six players across three events. In those tournaments, he shot under par in all 12 rounds, accumulating a combined score to par of -52. The 35-year-old Irishman is up to 28th in the Official World Golf Ranking this week, his best-ever position. Power has never previously qualified for the TOUR Championship, but the numbers say that will change in 2023: each of the last nine players to finish the calendar year leading the FedExCup standings had enough points to make it to East Lake later that season.
Power’s story isn’t the only one worthy of sharing, though. So, we’ve elected to make a distinction between the best overall performer of the fall and the breakout star.
Breakout player of the fall: Tom Kim
The breaking-out, as it was, inarguably started in the closing weeks of the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season, when Kim won the Wyndham Championship by five strokes. But its crescendo wasn’t hit until the new season arrived in September: first, with a stirring performance at Quail Hollow for the International Presidents Cup team, then a few weeks later in Las Vegas, when Kim held off Patrick Cantlay for win number two.
The age-related superlatives tied to Kim’s quick success are lofty. At just 20 years, 3 months and 18 days old, Kim became the youngest two-time winner on the PGA TOUR in 90 years. Since World War II, only Kim and Tiger Woods have won more than once on the PGA TOUR before their 21st birthday.
Kim backed up his win in Nevada with a T-25 at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP and a tie for eleventh at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina. Of the 167 players with 10 or more rounds so far this season, Kim’s scoring average of 68.55 is the best on TOUR. He’ll enter January ranked in the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approach (5th), Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (6th) and scrambling percentage (9th).
Best round: Adam Svensson, final round 64 to win The RSM Classic
Entering the last official PGA TOUR round of 2022, Adam Svensson was amongst a logjam of 16 players at or within three shots of the lead at Sea Island. The 28-year-old Canadian was unflappable in the final round, missing only one green in regulation and racking up 4.24 Strokes Gained: Putting on his way to a closing 64 and his first PGA TOUR victory.
Svensson’s 64 capped off one of the most remarkable closing 54-hole performances in recent PGA TOUR history. His closing three-round total of 190 (64-62-64) has only been bettered twice all time, and only once since 1960. After starting his week with a round of 73, Svensson sat in a tie for 108th place entering the second round. Over the last 40 years, only seven players have had a worse first-round position in any PGA TOUR event and still gone on to win.
In terms of Strokes Gained: Total, Taylor Montgomery’s closing 62 at THE CJ CUP in South Carolina takes top honors, as he beat the field average that day by a whopping 8.73 shots. With that Sunday surge only pushing Montgomery into a tie for 13th place, though, we’ll give the nod to Svensson’s career-changing Sunday in Georgia. Speaking of Montgomery…
Rookie of the fall: Taylor Montgomery
A year after finishing as the first man outside of the top-25 cutoff for PGA TOUR cards in both the Korn Ferry Tour regular season and finals, Taylor Montgomery is making the most of a career-vaulting opportunity.
|Taylor Montgomery - PGA TOUR Ranks This Season|
|Birdies or better||135||T-1|
|Rounds in 60s||18||T-3|
|Rounds under par||23||T-3|
In seven starts this fall, Montgomery has six top-20 finishes – most of any player on TOUR. He’s 11th in the early FedExCup standings, best of any rookie. He’s also tied for most birdies-or-better made this season, with 135. Keep an eye on Montgomery as we inch closer to spring.
Craziest finish: Homa chip-in, Willett 3-putt ends Fortinet Championship
Danny Willett held a one-shot advantage standing in the 72nd fairway at the Fortinet Championship in September. When he hit a stellar approach shot to 3 feet, 7 inches away – and Max Homa left his approach short of the green – the tournament looked all but over. What happened next was one of the least statistically probable finishes the TOUR has seen in ages.
Incredibly, Homa would chip in for his birdie – his only hole out from off the green for the entire week. No problem for Willett, right? Over the previous two PGA TOUR seasons, Willett had made 97.1 percent of his putts inside five feet. And even if he missed his short birdie attempt, surely a tap-in par would follow, and send Danny and Max to a playoff.
Of the 73 players to make the cut that week in Napa, 72 of them did not have a single three-putt inside five feet for the tournament. Willett’s three-putt on the last hole was the only one. How unlikely is it for a PGA TOUR player to three-putt from inside five feet? Over the last three seasons – a span of more than 101,000 attempts from that range – a three-putt happened just once in every 761 attempts.