A fall to remember
November 27, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods reflects on 82 PGA TOUR victories
Tiger, Rory and Todd.
It probably couldn’t have been drawn up much better.
For the first time, the fall portion of the PGA TOUR season housed 11 tournaments in 10 weeks – meaning almost a quarter of the 2019-20 season is already in the books.
It placed huge importance on the start of the season, more so than ever before, and when you throw in the intrigue surrounding the Presidents Cup captain's picks, it has been a sensational start.
Here is a recap on some of the biggest moments of the fall series – in no particular order – as you prepare to head into the holiday period… but don’t forget we still have plenty of action heading your way after a week to digest your Thanksgiving feast.
Tiger Woods will host the Hero World Challenge before taking his U.S. team to Australia for the Presidents Cup that will be played out in primetime for a U.S. audience on one of the world’s best courses in Royal Melbourne.
Tiger Woods ties Sam Snead's all-time winning record
Speaking of Woods, he treated us to a huge moment during the Asian swing – specifically the inaugural ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan.
Woods was returning to competition after knee surgery and was given little hope to be a serious contender. He had barely played after famously winning the Masters in April and certainly had not played well leading up to the week. But not only did he contend… he won.
In front of huge galleries despite a typhoon wiping out a whole day, the victory took Woods to 82 PGA TOUR wins, joining Sam Snead as the all-time record holder.
Clearly the knee injury was holding the champion back, but healthy again, Woods could do anything in 2020.
“Well, it’s a big number,” Woods said after the win.
“It’s about consistency and doing it for a long period of time. … I’m very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had so far.”
Rory McIlroy wins after defeating Xander Schauffele in playoff at WGC-HSBC Champions
RORY ROLLS ON
After picking up a second FedExCup last season, Rory McIlroy certainly didn’t rest on his laurels.
No one has won three FedExCups before and no one has won back-to-back. McIlroy is now already set up to chase both accolades down after he won the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions in China.
It was a fourth win in his last 15 starts at the time and perhaps is a warning sign of what could be a huge 2020 for the reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year.
One thing came through loud and clear when listening to the maturing McIlroy… he is focused on making the most of his prime.
“I think maybe more so than when I first came out on TOUR, I try 100% over every shot, because I realize I don’t have as much time left as I used to when I was 20,” McIlroy said. “Even if I'm having a bad day, I'm trying over every single shot. My concentration is better and my mental capacity on the golf course is much better than it ever has been, and I think that's a big key to why I'm able to play consistently week-in, week-out.”
Brendon Todd wins at Mayakoba
TODD TURNS IT ALL AROUND
If anyone without the last name Todd tells you they expected Brendon Todd to be the FedExCup leader at the end of the fall, you would be within your rights to call the asylum.
It just wasn’t feasible. In fact, in the pre-season full fantasy rankings, Todd came in at 147th of 243 players – and to be honest – that even seems like it was being generous.
Sure, Todd had won on the TOUR before in 2014 and had shown some mettle to earn his TOUR card via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, but this was a man who had seemingly forgotten how to play golf for a time.
A few years plagued by the yips had Todd contemplating a career in pizza franchises, but with the help of coach Bradley Hughes, he clawed his way back.
When he won the Bermuda Championship – an alternate field event – it was a great story. But maybe it was almost a fluke according to some.
Those people were silent when he backed it up by winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic the following start and then holding the 54-hole lead a week later at The RSM Classic before finishing fourth.
Todd is already 140 points clear on top of the FedExCup standings and is locked into the Playoffs before the turn of the calendar year. Just a few half-decent results from here on out is likely all he needs to make it to the TOUR Championship and a crack at the FedExCup and $15 million.
Justin Thomas wins for second time at THE CJ CUP
DON’T SLEEP ON JT
Justin Thomas missed a chunk of last season with a wrist injury and still was able to force his way to the top spot of the new TOUR Championship scoring system before play started at East Lake.
His win at the BMW Championship during the FedExCup Playoffs reminded us all Thomas is a serious threat every week he plays. And he reinforced this by taking out THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Korea to kick off the Asian swing.
While plenty of focus will center on Woods and McIlroy in the new year, Thomas is quietly plotting his own assault on becoming a dual FedExCup winner.
What people tend to forget is since the start of the 2016-17 season, no one has won more than Thomas. No one.
Cameron Champ inspired by his grandpa Mack
Sometimes it is clearly bigger than golf.
Cameron Champ almost didn’t play the Safeway Open, given the fact his grandfather Mack – the man who got him into the game – had been moved to hospice in the lead up.
But sensing Mack’s time to see him play was coming to a close, Champ took his place in the field with a serious emotional burden. He carried it with aplomb.
While Champ had already won on TOUR in his rookie season, his last 17 starts prior to Safeway had produced just six made cuts and a best finish of T21.
But with Mack willing from in front of the television, Champ closed out an incredible victory in Napa.
“No matter what,” Champ said, “even if I never win another tournament again or I win however many, this will definitely be the greatest moment of my golfing career.”Joaquin Niemann, Sebastian Munoz, Lanto Griffin and Tyler Duncan were all first-time winners on the PGA TOUR this fall. (Getty Images).
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
While all of the above winners had the luxury of being there before, the fall also produced some first-time winners who are still basking in the knowledge they’ll start 2020 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui.
It started with Joaquin Niemann at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier and followed with Sebastian Munoz at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
After Maui, the quartet can set their sights on the season of championships and bigger fish to fry.
The other winner from the fall was Kevin Na in his hometown at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It was his third win in 30 starts, the fourth of his career, and second in Las Vegas. He also set a new record for feet of putts made in a 72-hole tournament.Woods will be the second-ever playing captain in Presidents Cup history. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
TIGER PICKS TIGER
The fall also gave us the Presidents Cup captain's picks for Woods and Ernie Els, respectively, for the biennial team event to be held in Australia on Dec. 12-15.
After his heroics in Japan, Woods picked himself along with Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed to round out his team.
When Brooks Koepka pulled out with injury, he drafted in Rickie Fowler to join Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau on the team.
Els plumped for Jason Day, Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im and Adam Hadwin to join Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, Haotong Li and C.T. Pan.
Can the Internationals upset the dominant U.S. that hasn’t lost a Presidents Cup since 1998? Well that would certainly add even more drama to what has been an epic start to the 2019-20 season.
So after all 11 tournaments what have we essentially learned?
In a nutshell:
• Tiger Woods will almost certainly break the PGA TOUR wins record in 2020.
• Rory McIlroy is primed to have even better of a year after winning the FedExCup and providing a statistical season to remember.
• Comeback stories are always awesome.
• So are emotional wins.
• The Presidents Cup – with Woods at the helm – will be must-see viewing.
• The youth movement is likely to continue to be a huge narrative
• Brooks Koepka’s health will be a hot topic in 2020.
FedExCup / Wyndham Rewards: 1 Brendon Todd 957; 2 Sebastian Munoz 817; 3 Lanto Griffin 740; 4 Rory McIlroy 713; 5 Justin Thomas 662; 6 Kevin Na 603; 7 Sungjae Im 599; 8 Joaquin Niemann 587; 9 Cameron Champ 581; 10 Hideki Matsuyama 566.
Scoring Average: 1 Tiger Woods 65.74; 2 Rory McIlroy 67.53; 3 Webb Simpson 67.75.
Greens In Regulation: 1 Jim Furyk 81.94; 1 Kyle Reifers 81.94; 3 Patrick Cantlay 81.25
Driving Accuracy: 1 Jim Furyk 80.95; 2 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 80.36; 2 Yongjun Bae 80.36.
Driving Distance: 1 Cameron Champ 327.1; 2 Ryan Palmer 326.1; 3 Brooks Koepka 324.3
SG: Putting: 1 Andrew Putnam +2.359; 2 Kevin Na +1.999; 3 Billy Horschel +1.922
SG: Off-the-Tee: 1 Corey Conners +1.335; 2 Cameron Champ +1.331; 3 Chris Kirk +1.326
SG: Approach the Green: 1 Davis Love III +2.789; 2 Braden Bailey +1.933; 3 Tony Finau +1.580
SG: Around the Green: 1 Daniel Chopra +1.449; 2 Keegan Bradley +0.822; 2 Davis Thompson +0.0822
SG: Tee-to-Green: 1 Tony Finau +3.402; 2 Davis Thompson +2.369; 3 Davis Love III 2.307.
SG: Total: 1 Webb Simpson +2.609; 2 Justin Thomas +2.385; 3 Tony Finau +2.273