Tag: PGA Tour

Scottie and Rory: PGA Tour’s Best in 2022

Scottie and Rory: Going Head-to-Head

Scottie Scheffler took home the Jack Nicklaus award as PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2022, and it was certainly well deserved after such a fantastic season—but it was definately not a “slam dunk” as some are saying. When you take a close look at the season Rory McIlroy put together, you pretty much need a razor blade to separate them.

The Majors

Scheffler’s win at The Masters was a brilliant performance, but keep in mind that Rory finished runner-up at Augusta with a magnificent final round 64 (a shot off the lowest rounds ever recorded at The Masters—63 by Nick Price in ’86 and again by Greg Norman in ’96).

Scottie also had a superb run at the 2022 U.S. Open, finishing a shot behind Matthew Fitzpatrick for runner-up. But remember that Rory was also among the leaders at The Country Club on Sunday afternoon, finishing with a T5.

Scottie Scheffler: 2022 Masters Champion

And while Scottie missed the cut at the PGA Championship, and was outside the top 20 at The Open Championship, Rory recorded a Top 10 at the PGA (8th) and finished 3rd at The Open.

In 16 rounds at the major championships in 2022, Rory recorded 9 rounds under 70 with a scoring average of 69.2, while Scottie recorded 7 rounds under 70 with a scoring average of 69.7.

Although Rory was unable to record a major win in 2022, finishing in the top 10 at all four majors is a rarely accomplished feat. Tiger did it in 2000 when he recorded a T5 at The Masters and then won the other 3 major championships. Jack did it 3 times (1971, 1973, 1974), Brooks Koepka did it in his fantastic 2019 season (win at the PGA, 2nd at the U.S. Open, T2 at The Masters and a T4 at The Open Championship) and Rickie Fowler recorded Top-5 finishes at all four majors in 2014 (including runner-up at the U.S. Open and The Open Championship).

Scottie gets the edge with a major win and a runner-up, but Rory had one of the most outstanding major championship seasons on record—so it’s pretty darn close.

McIlroy: Leads Tour in Scoring

The Tour Season

In addition to his Masters win, Scheffler recorded 3 regular tour wins (including the WGC Match Play Championship). McIlroy also recorded 3 regular season wins, including the Tour Championship. Rory made the cut in 14 of the 16 events he played in 2022 (88%) and recorded 10 Top 10 finishes (63%), while Scottie made the cut in 21 of 25 events (84%) with 11 Top-10’s (44%).

Scheffler: 3 Tours wins and Major Championship

From a performance standpoint, Rory led the Tour in scoring average at 68.7 and he was 2nd in driving distance at 321.3. Scottie was fourth in scoring average at 69.3 and 19th in driving distance at 311.6—but Scheffler was #1 in greens in regulation (72.3%) while Rory was #12 at 69.9 %.

Scheffler also recorded 3 regular season runner-up finishes—a T2 at the Houston Open, 2nd at the Charles Schwab Challenge and a T2 at the Tour Championship).

Both Scottie and Rory had phenomenal regular seasons on Tour, and from the numbers it looks pretty much like a flat-footed tie.

The FedEx Cup

Scottie Scheffler was No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings going into the Tour Championship, so under the new format he began the tournament at -10, six shots ahead of Rory who was No. 7 and began at -4.

Scheffler and McIlroy played flawless golf through the first 3 rounds, and both were -13 going into Sunday’s final round—but Scottie still held a six-shot advantage due to the FedEx standings adjustment (Scheffler was -23 and Rory was at -17).

Although Rory wasn’t able to put four fantastic rounds together at any of the 2022 major championships, he put the hammer down at the Tour Championship and fired a closing 66 to finish at -17 (21 under total with the adjustment). When Scheffler faltered with a final round 73 (20 under total), McIlroy had erased the massive deficit to take the championship—and also the FedEx Cup for a record third time.

McIlroy: Wins Tour Championship and FedEx Cup

The Wrap Up

Scottie Scheffler had a great year in 2022, and he will be a force to reckon with on the PGA Tour for many years to come. His win at The Masters, strong showing at the U.S. Open, and consistent performance throughout the year make it hard to argue with his choice as Player of the Year.

With his impressive comeback victory at the Tour Championship and third FedEx Cup, however, McIlroy closed the gap with Scottie to a photo finish—and most certainly not a Scheffler “slam dunk” as some are saying.

Rory played only 16 events on the PGA Tour in 2022 (he also played 2 on the DP World Tour, finishing 3rd at the Dubai Desert Classic and runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship), while Scottie played 25 Tour events, and that also moves the needle a bit more toward Scheffler—but we think Rory edged him by a nose with his third FedEx Cup.

One thing is for sure, the 2022-2023 PGA Tour season (and major championships) are going to be pretty exciting with Scottie and Rory going head-to-head.

When you put Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantley, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau into the mix, and then top it off with young stars like Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Will Zalatoris and Victor Hoveland—2023 is shaping up to be one heck of a year on the PGA Tour.

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The Players Who Made Time Stand Still

Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry: Defied the Laws of Nature

Not surprisingly, when PGA Tour players hit forty years old the wins start to become fewer and far between, and top 10 finishes occur with far less frequency. And by forty-five, the Champions Tour starts to look pretty attractive if the competitive juices are still flowing.

Phil Wins PGA at 51

When Phil won the PGA Championship in 2021 at 51 years old, it sent shock waves through the golf world. A half century had passed since Julius Boros, the oldest to win a major before Phil, won the PGA in 1968 at 48 years old. And while Mickelson maintained his skills at a high level throughout his 40’s, he was still not the same player he was in his 30’s. Phil recorded 21 wins in his 30’s with a 37% top 10 percentage, but won only 6 times in his 40’s with a top 10 percentage of 22% (still very high).

Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer: 88 Wins on Champions Tour

Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer lead the list for wins on the Champions Tour (Irwin with 45 and Langer with 43), but even they did not come close to carrying the success they had when they were in their 30’s into their 40’s. In his 30’s, Langer recorded 18 wins on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour) and also won the Masters, but won only 9 times in his 40’s. And while Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open at 45, he recorded only 2 other Tour wins in his 40’s as compared with 13 wins while in his 30’s.

Players who actually got better in their 40’s are extremely rare, but Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry did exactly that—and seemingly defied the laws of nature.

Vijay Singh: 23 Wins After Turning 40

Vijay Singh

Vijay was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006, and with 3 major championships and 31 additional tour wins, he is among the top twenty players in golf history. Over the course of his career, Vijay made the cut in 87% of the tournaments he entered and finished in the top 10 over 35% of the time—but what really sets him apart is the age at which he recorded so many of those wins.

While in his 30’s, Singh recorded 11 wins, including 2 major championships while finishing among the top 10 in over 34% of the tournaments he entered. In his 40’s, Vijay won 23 times, including another major championship and ten major Top-10’s.

Most amazing is that Vijay’s top 10 percentage was over 37% from 40-49 years old, higher than it was in his 30’s—and no other player in the history of the game has performed at that level through his 40’s.

Vijay was always recognized as one of the greatest drivers of all-time, and he maintained his length and accuracy far beyond the boundaries of what mere mortals generally achieve. If his putting stroke had approached the level of his game tee-to-green, Singh would surely be smiling down from the Mt. Rushmore of golf alongside Jack and Tiger.

Kenny Perry: Aged Like a Fine Wine

Kenny Perry

Kenny Perry turned 27 years old in August of 1987, his first full season on the PGA Tour—so his golf career got started quite a bit later than most. In his first 3 years, Kenny finished in the top 10 only 7 times in 85 starts, and he didn’t record his first Tour win until he was 31 (The Memorial in 1991).

In his 30’s, Perry won 3 times on Tour and made the cut in just over 68% of the events he entered, finishing in the top 10 just over 13% of the time (solid, but not among the top echelon on Tour). While Kenny had a very good year in 1998 at age 36 with a runner-up at the PGA Championship and 8 Tour top-10’s, his next 3 years were pretty mediocre as he failed to record a win and finished in the top 10 a total of 7 times.

But as the 3rd millennium arrived and Kenny turned 40, the flood gates suddenly opened and Perry rose like the phoenix, tacking on 11 additional tour wins and 4 major top 10’s.

From age 40-49, Kenny made the cut in over 84% of the tour events he entered and finished in the top 10 nearly 25% of the time—a massive increase from the numbers he recorded in his 30’s.

No player in Tour history ever elevated his game to such a degree after turning 40, and we rank Kenny Perry among the Top 100 players of all-time. Perry also won 10 times on the Champions Tour (including 4 Senior Major championships).

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LIV Golf: Reality Check

Henrik Stenson and Charl Schwartzel: LIV Winners

As the final round of the FedEx Cup playoffs gets under way this afternoon at East Lake Golf Club to determine if Rory or Xander Schauffele can chase down Scottie Scheffler, much of the media’s attention has been focused on LIV. Conjecture abounds concerning Cam Smith’s imminent departure from the PGA Tour, the identity of a large contingent of “big names” rumored to be on the verge of making the move, where that will leave the future of the Tour, and Tiger’s plan to thwart the attack.

While these are hot topics, perhaps it’s a good time to take a step back and examine the facts as they currently stand. Rory McIlroy, the highest profile player in the world, isn’t going anywhere. Should Scotty Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth or Xander Schauffele suddenly announce an intention to defect—well, that could certainly change the landscape. Don’t expect it to happen.

Unless LIV moves from 3 rounds/54 holes (similar to the Champions Tour) to 4 rounds/72 holes (in line with all significant professional golf tours worldwide), and can bolster field depth, the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) will be justified in viewing their events as glorified exhibitions—offering no WGR points for LIV tournament finishes.

Jon Rahm: Committed to the PGA Tour

One of the primary criteria for gaining entry to major championships, the most important events in golf, is a player’s position in the World Golf Rankings—and lucrative sponsorship opportunities inevitably go to major championship winners. Performance at the majors is also the biggest factor in determining where a player will be viewed among the all-time greats of the game.

Golf professionals have a limited window of opportunity to build their record, with major championships and tour wins coming at far lower frequency as a player moves into their mid to late 30’s (the “prime” years for a PGA Tour pro is 25-35). Jack and Tiger won 28 of their 33 major championships before reaching 36 years of age.

The reality is that the vast majority of players who have moved over to LIV are either at the tail end of their prime or beyond it, with little to lose and a great deal to gain by taking the money.

DJ and Koepka: Cashing Out

The Biggest Names

Dustin Johnson, at 38 years old, has his prime years behind him. 2021 was the first season since coming out on Tour in 2008 that Dustin failed to record a win, and 2022 wasn’t looking any better with just 2 top 10’s in 12 events. While Johnson still had an opportunity to move into the top 20 players all-time, the window was beginning to close—so his decision to cash out was not all that surprising.

Brooks Koepka, now 32 years old, had a solid year in 2021 with 3 major Top-10’s and a win at the Phoenix Open, but his 2022 season was looking pretty dismal with just 2 top 10’s in 17 starts. And while Brooks is known for coming up big at the majors, he recorded just 4 wins at regular tour events in his career. To move into the top 50 players all-time, Brooks would need a number of muti-win seasons on Tour with another major championship or two in the next few years—so like Johnson, his decision to opt for big guaranteed money should not be a shocker.

LIV Winners

Charl Schwartzel, winner of the first LIV event in London, is 37 years old, and like Johnson, his prime years are behind him. Through age 33, Charl made the cut in over 80% of his starts on the PGA Tour while finishing in the top 10 almost 20% of the time. His win at the Masters, however, came back in 2011 and his last Tour win was in 2016.

Since 2018, Schwartzel made the cut in only 34 of the 67 Tour events he entered, with a total of just 8 Top 10’s—so his opportunity with LIV could not have come at a better time.

Brandon Grace: Wins in Portland

The Portland event was captured by Brandon Grace. At 34, Brandon has entered the final years of his prime—and while he’s recorded 2 PGA Tour wins and 9 wins on the DP World Tour in his career, the last 2 years have been difficult for him with 20 missed cuts in 46 events and only 4 top 10 finishes. No doubt LIV has provided welcome relief.

Winner of the New Jersey event at Trump National Bedminster, Henrik Stenson reportedly received $50 million to join LIV—and that’s a lot of money to walk away from at 46 years old. Henrik had an outstanding career with 5 wins on the PGA Tour, 9 wins on the DP World Tour plus a major win (2016 Open Championship) as well as 13 major Top-10’s.

The last 3 years, however, have been a struggle for Henrik as he made the cut in just 12 of the 36 PGA events he entered, without recording a Top 10 in any of them. While Stenson is among the top 75 players in the history of the game, and his epic battle with Phil on Sunday at Troon in 2016 will always be remembered, his ability to compete successfully on the PGA Tour was winding down—so LIV was a dream come true.

Patrick Reed: Playing the Asian Tour

The Wrap Up

Other players who have reached their twilight years and opted for LIV include Sergio Garcia (42), Paul Casey (46), Louis Oosthuizen (39) and Charles Howell III (43)—not to mention Phil at 52 years old.

Patrick Reed, who stated that his primary motivation for joining LIV was to have more time with his family, has begun entering tournaments on the Asian Tour in order to secure WGR ranking points and maintain his position among the top 50 in the world (he recorded a T31 in Singapore last week).

Unless LIV endeavors to make changes to their tournament structure and is recognized by the OWGR on a similar basis to the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (or at the very least on par with the Asian Tour), LIV will have a difficult time luring the brightest young stars away from the PGA Tour. And its life span will be extremely limited.

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Greats of the Game: Volume II—No. 6 through 10

Tom Watson: 5 Open Championships

Major championship performance and PGA Tour wins are the biggest factors in determining where players stand in the history of golf, but making cuts and Top-10 finishes are also important for identifying excellence and consistency.

In deriving our ratings, major championship wins carry the most weight, followed by major runner-up finishes and Tour wins. Top-5 and Top-10 finishes at the majors are also given strong consideration, along with wins on the DP World Tour and to a lesser degree, wins on other recognized Tours (Japan Tour, Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour, etc.).

Making cuts and Top-10 finishes are calculated on the basis of percentage in relation to total starts at PGA Tour sanctioned events through age 49 (when players become eligible for the Champions Tour). Top 10 percentage is given considerable weight, and cut percentage is also a factor in the rating a player receives.

Cuts and Top-10 percentage are overstated as a measure for Byron Nelson and Walter Hagan because fields were limited when they were playing–but this is offset by the fact that Nelson lost prime years in his career due to WWII (Nelson was 29 in 1941), and Hagan had fewer major championship opportunities because he was 42 years old when the first Masters was played in 1934.

While Bobby Jones is certainly among the top 5 players in history with 4 U.S. Open and 3 Open Championship titles, he chose to remain an amateur and therefore has no PGA record for reference–and has not been included in our player ratings. Harry Vardon is also among the greats of the game, with 6 Open Championship titles and a win at the US Open in 1900 (plus his famous runner-up to Francis Ouimet in 1913)—but like Jones, he has no professional record for reference and has not been included in our ratings.

The Top 5 in Volume I included Nicklaus (361), Woods (346), Snead (335), Hogan (281) and Palmer (265).

In Volume II we’ll take a look at the next five on the list of all-time greatest players to round out the Top 10.

Gary Player: The Black Knight
Golf Digest: (https://www.golfdigest.com/)

Number 6: Gary Player (236)

On top of his 9 major championship wins, Gary Player recorded 35 major Top-10’s (6 runner-up’s, 8 Top-5’s and 21 Top-10’s). The Black Knight also won 15 PGA Tournaments and had 95 additional world-wide wins. Player made the cut in close to 90% of his starts and finished in the top ten over 45% of the time. He competed with Jack and Arnie head-to-head throughout his prime between 1961 and 1971—playing a substantial role in building the PGA Tour, while elevating the global popularity of the game.

Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus serve as the honorary starters at The Masters each year, and they were joined by Lee Elder in 2022.

Byron Nelson: 11 Consecutive Wins

Number 7: Byron Nelson (227)

Byron Nelson won 5 major championships and 47 PGA tournaments. He also recorded 6 major runner-up’s and finished in the top 5 another 10 times. In 1945 Nelson set the record for wins in a season with 18, including 11 in a row. After the 1946 season, at 34 years old, Nelson retired from the regular tour playing only The Masters (where he finished in the top 10 every year from 1947-1951), as well as a limited number of additional Tour events (including The Colonial in Ft. Worth).

In 1968 The Byron Nelson Classic was launched in Dallas Texas, and it continues to be one of the most popular venues on the PGA Tour.

Walter Hagan: 11 Major Championships
(https://golf.com/)

Number 8: Walter Hagan (223)

Walter Hagan is the only player to make the cut in every tournament he played through the entirety of his career, and he finished among the top 10 in three out of every four events he entered. Hagan won 11 major championships (third behind Jack and Tiger) with 22 additional top 10 finishes, and he recorded 34 PGA tournament wins.

Hagan is considered the first American professional golfer. In the first half of the twentieth century, he and Bobby Jones were the towering figures of U.S. golf, forming the foundation for the game as we know it today.

Phil Mickelson: Wins PGA at 50

Number 9: Phil Mickelson (216)

Phil the thrill won 6 major championships, most recently at Kiawah in 2021 for his second PGA Championship at age 50 (the oldest player in history to win a major championship). Mickelson also recorded 11 runner-up finishes at the majors, second only to Jack, along with 11 Top-5’s and 11 Top-10’s.

In addition to his record at the majors, Phil won 39 PGA Tour events, making the cut in 82.3% of the tournaments he entered with a top 10 percentage of 31.5%.

Phil went up against with Tiger throughout his prime between 1996 and 2006, as well going to head-head with Ernie Els and Vijay Singh (each among the top 15 all-time).

Number 10: Tom Watson (211)

Tom Watson nearly did the impossible in 2009, when he came inches from recording his 6th Open Championship at Turnberry at the age of 58. Perhaps it should not have been such a surprise, however, when you consider Watson’s record of excellence and consistency throughout his career.

From his second full year on Tour in 1974 at age 23, through 1998 at age 48 (a quarter of a century), Watson recorded at least 4 top 10 finishes every year.

In total, Watson won 8 major championships with an additional 38 major top 10’s (including 8 runner-up and 10 top 5’s), along with 31 PGA Tour wins.

Tom made the cut in 83.9% of the tournaments he entered, and recorded top 10 finishes in just under 40% of his starts.

Gene Sarazen: No. 11

Keep an eye out for Greats of the Game Volume III, where we will take a look at Gene Sarazen (No. 11), Billy Casper (No. 12, Ernie Els (No. 13), Greg Norman (No. 14) and Vijay Sing (No. 15).

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All-time Top 100 Players

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2022 Player Rankings-Top 25

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Greats of the Game: Volume I—The Top 5

Arnold Palmer: Brings Golf to Prime-Time

Major championship performance and PGA Tour wins are the biggest factors in determining where players stand in the history of golf, but making cuts and Top-10 finishes are also important for identifying excellence and consistency.

In deriving our ratings, major championship wins carry the most weight, followed by major runner-up finishes and Tour wins. Top-5’s and Top-10’s at the majors also receive strong consideration, along with wins on the DP World Tour and to a lesser degree, wins on other recognized Tours (Japan Tour, Asian Tour, etc.).

Making cuts and Top-10 finishes are calculated on the basis of percentage in relation to total starts at PGA Tour sanctioned events through age 49 (when players become eligible for the Champions Tour). Top 10 percentage is given considerable weight, and cut percentage is also a factor in the rating a player receives.   

Cuts and Top-10 percentage are overstated as a measure for Snead and Hogan, because fields were limited–but this is offset by the fact that each lost prime years in their career due to WWII (they were both 29 in 1941).

While Bobby Jones is certainly among the top 5 players in history with 4 U.S. Open and 3 Open Championship titles, he chose to remain an amateur and therefore has no PGA record for reference–and is not included below.

Nicklaus: Still the Greatest

Number 1: Jack Nicklaus (361)

In addition to his 18 major championship wins, Jack recorded 55 Top-10 finishes at the majors (19 runner-up’s, 19 Top-5’s and 17 Top-10’s)–by far the most of any player in history. The Golden Bear also recorded 55 Tour wins along with his major championships for a total of 73, and he had the highest Top-10 percentage (60.2%) and cut percentage (93.6%) of any modern-day player.

Tiger: Closing in on Jack

Number 2: Tiger Woods (346)

Tiger is second to Jack with 15 major championship wins, a close second in Top-10 percentage (91%) and just behind Nicklaus in cut percentage as well at 54.9%. With his 67 Tour wins, Tiger is tied with Sam Snead for the most wins in history (82), and also added 8 wins on the DP world Tour. At 46 years old, Tiger still has a number of years with which to add additional wins and Top-10 finishes—so Jack’s position at No. 1 is by no means a certainty when all is said and done.  

Sam Snead: Most All-Time Wins
Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/)

Number 3: Sam Snead (335)

Sam Snead recorded 7 major championship victories along with 75 wins on Tour, setting the mark of 82 total wins (tied by Tiger.) Snead made the cut in 391 of the 394 tournaments he entered (99%), and recorded Top 10 finishes in 75% of those events. When you include 8 runner-up finishes, 15 Top-5’s and 18 Top-10’s at the major championships, Snead comes up at No. 3—just behind Tiger.

Ben Hogan: 9 major Championships
(https://www.amateurgolf.com/)

Number 4: Ben Hogan (281)

Ben Hogan won 9 major championships along with 55 PGA events. He made the cut in 97.8% of the tournaments he played, and finished in the top 10 close to 80% of the time. After his near fatal auto accident in 1949 at age 36, Hogan never played more than 6 tournaments in any year—yet won 6 more major champions and recorded an additional 15 top 10’s at the majors (including 4 runner-up’s).

Number 5: Arnold Palmer (265)

Arnie’s career spanned 55 years from 1949 through his last appearance at The Masters in 2004, and while Tiger has had a huge impact on the popularity of golf in the last 25 years, Palmer brought the game to prime-time—and set the stage for the global appeal that golf currently enjoys. And he was perfect for the role. Photogenic with a big personality, tremendous power and ability combined with a go-for-broke style of play that endeared him to millions—commonly known as “Arnie’s Army.”

Throughout the course of his career, Arnie won 7 major championships and recorded 55 wins on tour. When Jack burst onto the PGA Tour in 1962, Palmer was still in his prime at 32 years and had just won The Masters and The Open Championship—and while Arnie added only one more major win (1964 Masters), he recorded an additional 7 major runner-up’s and 7 Top-10’s through 1970.

Palmer also made the cut in 90% of the tournaments he entered, with a Top-10 percentage of 43.5%.

Byron Nelson: No. 6

Keep an eye out for Greats of the Game Volume II, where we will take a look at Gary Player (No. 6), Byron Nelson (No. 7), Walter Hagan (No. 8), Phil Mickelson (No. 9) and Tom Watson at No. 10.

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Tony Finau Goes Back-To-Back

Tony Finau: Back-To-Back wins at 3M and Rocket Mortgage

Tony Finau cruised to victory last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, giving him back-to-back wins after his dominant performance at the 3M Open the previous week. His latest win (and 4th on tour), included rounds of 64, 66, 65 and 67—5 shots clear of the field, and a new tournament record score of 26 under par.

It’s been 3 years since anyone has won consecutive events on the PGA Tour (Brendon Todd did it back in 2019), and Tony’s accomplishment couldn’t have come at two courses that were less alike. The venerable Detroit Golf Club (Rocket Mortgage) was founded back in 1899 and features a classic Donald Ross design, while TPC Twin Cities (3M) is an extremely demanding Palmer design built in 2000. That tells you Finau can win anywhere, on any track, when he’s driving the ball consistently and making a few putts—because there are not many on Tour with his kind of power.    

Detroit Golf: Donald Ross Design

Breaking the Jinx

Since Tony’s first full season back in 2014-15, he’s been among the best on tour, making the cut in almost 80% of the tournaments he enters, while averaging 7 Top 10’s a year (and he’s recorded 10 Top 10’s at the major championships). But wins had been illusive—until now. Some believed it was due to the Puerto Rico Open jinx (Tony’s first Tour win was in Puerto Rico), because for a long time only Michael Bradley (the ’09 winner) was able to win again on tour after winning there (and his only other win was in Puerto Rico in 2011). Victor Hoveland (the 2020 winner) first dispelled the jinx by adding a win in 2021 at Mayakoba, and then Tony broke the jinx as well with his win at the Northern Trust in 2021—but notching two wins in a row should put an end to the jinx forever.

The Early Years

Tony was born on September 14, 1989 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and golf first grabbed his attention when he was 7 years old and Tiger burst onto the scene, winning 2 of the first 8 tournaments he entered. Picking up a copy of Nicklaus’ “Golf My Way,” he and his father (who had no knowledge of golf) set about learning the fundamentals of the game. His talent became immediately apparent, and with the support of his mom and dad he played junior tournaments throughout the state, ultimately winning the 2006 Utah State Amateur Championship at just 16 years old.

Big Break: Tony 2014
Golf Channel ( https://www.golfchannel.com/)

Although he was offered scholarships to play college golf at Stanford and BYU, and he was sought after to play basketball at Utah State and Webber State, Tony decided to turn pro at 18 and began playing various mini-tour events to get right into the action. In 2009 Finau got his first break—literally—when he landed a place on Golf Channel’s hit show “Big Break.” Although he finished second, golf fans were able to get their first look at Tony’s immense power—and with his grit and determination, it was only a matter of time before he would bring his talent to the PGA Tour.

In 2011, however, Tony’s golf career was put on hold when his mother was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Raised in a close-knit family, the loss of his mother hit him hard and it was almost a year before he could resume competitive golf.

Tony Overcomes Tragedy
Childhood Biography (https://childhoodbiography.com/)

By 2013 he was back, competing on the Canadian Tour where he made the cut in 7 of 8 events including 2 Top 10’s. And in 2014 he qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour, making the cut in 19 of 23 events with 5 Top 10’s including a win—and earned his PGA Tour card for the 2014-2015 season.

PGA Tour

In his first year on Tour Tony racked up 5 Top-10 finishes, including a T10 at the PGA Championship and a T8 at The Memorial. In 2016 he recorded his first win at the Puerto Rico Open, and in 2017 Tony made the cut in 24 of 29 events with 8 Top-10’s and the first of his 5 consecutive trips to the Tour Championship (where he finished with a T7).

Perhaps one of the most defining moments of Tony’s career came at the 2018 Masters, when he dislocated his ankle following an ace at the par 3 tournament on Wednesday, popped it back in, and proceeded to record a T10 with a closing 66 on a purple foot that looked like something from a horror film. At the 2019 Masters Tony shared the 54 lead and played in the final group with Tiger, fulfilling a life-long dream while getting a front row seat of history in the making, as Woods recorded his 15th major championship victory (Tony played well amid the frenzied gallery, posting a final round 72 while finishing 2 stokes back for a T5).

2018 Masters: Tough as Nails

With his back-to-back wins Finau has moved to No. 13 in the World Golf Rankings, and his game could not have rounded into top form at a better time as the FedEx Cup playoffs get under way in two weeks. Tony has made it clear that he has no intention of jumping at the money offered by LIV, and with nearly $3 million in earnings from the last two weeks alone, its seems that his decision was sound from a financial standpoint as well.

Finau Ready for FedEx Cup Run

Tony now holds the No. 7 position in the FedEx Cup standings, just behind Rory McIlroy, and the way he’s playing it would be a surprise if he didn’t move up even further—with the $18 million first place check waiting at the end of the rainbow.

And it couldn’t happen for a more deserving young man.

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The Greatest of All-Time: Tiger and Jack

Watching Tiger walk the fairway at the final hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews, where he received a rousing tribute at a place where golf history has been made for centuries, brought back images of Nicklaus when he made his last appearance at The Open in 2005.

While the 2022 Open may not be the last for Tiger, it seems an appropriate moment to look at the greatest two players in the history of golf side by side—and the similarity is striking.

Tiger’s eventual induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame was inevitable from the moment he burst onto the golf scene, as he surpassed Jack with three U.S. Amateur titles (1994-1996), while Jack won only two, losing in the quarter-finals in 1959. Under the carefully scripted guidance of Earl Woods, the father whom he deeply loved and admired, Tiger’s arrival on Tour had been long anticipated (most everyone has seen the famous clip of Tiger, at two years old, putting against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show).

For Tiger though, it was always about Jack. Unlike every other sport, in golf there was never a debate about the best everhands down it was Nicklaus. And since Tiger’s goal from when he first picked up a club was to be the greatest ever to play the game, then Jack was the man to beat.

As a boy, Tiger had a list of Nicklaus’ amateur accomplishments hanging on his wall, with Jack’s age when each was achieved. Nicklaus was 17 years old when he first stepped onto the stage at the 1957 U.S. Open, and Tiger made his debut at 16 (the 1992 Nissan Open)—becoming the youngest ever to compete in a PGA Tour event. Expectations were sky high for Tiger as an enormous gallery gathered to follow him, and he also got a glimpse of the future, as the media hounded him relentlessly while exiting the eighteenth green when he completed his first round.

Tiger wins first U.S. Amateur

Amateur Careers

Pushing himself to stay ahead of Jack, however, would be no easy task. In ’93, when Tiger was 17, he entered three PGA Tour events, but missed the cut in each by a wide margin. At 18 he entered three more PGA tournaments, once again missing the cut in each. Jack, at 18, played two events—the U.S. Open (missing the cut), and the Rubber City Classic, where he made the cut and finished in a tie for 15th. Tiger needed to kick it up a notch.

In 1995 at age 19 he did just that—making his first ever cut at a PGA sanctioned event, and ironically it was The Masters, where his star shines the brightest. Jack, at 19, played seven Tour events, including the Masters and U.S. Open, missing the cut in both, but making the cut in all five regular Tour events, including a T12 at the Buick Invitational. But for Tiger and Jack, it’s always all about the majors, so Tiger had nudged ahead.

In ’96, at 20 years old and still an amateur, Tiger entered three tournaments–The Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship. He missed the cut at The Masters, but made the cut at the U.S. Open, and tied for 22nd at The Open Championship. In 1960, when Nicklaus was 20 and still an amateur, he also entered three tournaments–the Masters (tied for thirteenth), the U.S. Open (where he famously finished second to Arnie at Cherry Hills), and the Buick Open (making the cut). Again, Tiger would need to elevate his game to stay ahead of Jack, and once again he did exactly that—but with a different approach.

Nicklaus retained his amateur status through his 21st birthday in 1961, recording a T7 at The Masters and a T4 at the U.S. Open, while entering five regular tour events—and making the cut in each (including a T6 at the Milwaukee Open.)

Tiger, on the other hand, decided to turn pro at 20 following the ’96 Open Championship, and immediately dominated the Tour. He made the cut in all eight tournaments he entered, including 2 wins (The Vegas Invitational and The Oldsmobile Classic), a T3 at The Texas Open, T5 at The Quad Cities, and finished up with a trip to The Tour Championship.

For Tiger, his early challenges against seasoned tour pros served only to deepen his resolve, intensify his focus, and set the stage for an assault on the record book that Nicklaus had rewritten. And while Tiger and Jack have much in common, including tremendous power, uncanny putting, and the ability to hit towering long irons and destroy Par 5’s, what sets them apart from all others is a monumental will to win. Who can forget Tiger’s putt on eighteen at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open, where he fought through seventy-two holes with a fractured leg and torn ligaments in his knee to defeat Rocco Mediate. Or the putt Nicklaus holed on seventeen at The Masters in 1986, when he fired a back nine 30 on Sunday to win his final major at forty-six years old.

The Chase

Both Tiger and Jack won their first major championship at 22 years old (the ’62 U.S. Open for Jack and the ’97 Masters for Tiger). While in his twenties, Tiger won eight Major’s, including four in a row (the famous “Tiger Slam”) beginning with the 2000 U.S. Open through the 2001 Masters, putting him ahead of Jack’s pace (Nicklaus won seven majors in his twenties).

Curiously, both Jack and Tiger went into a lull at exactly the same time, as neither recorded a major win at 28 and 29 years of age. But Tiger came out of it faster, with four major wins between ‘05 and ’06, giving him a total of 12 major championships at 31 years old, while increasing his margin to 3 over Jack, who had 9 majors at 31.

Tiger added 2 more majors in ‘07 and ‘08, giving him 14 major championship wins at 33 years old as he headed into the 2009 season. Jack had picked up 3 majors between ’72 and ’73, giving him a total of 12 at age 33— so Tiger held a comfortable lead as he prepared to make his final assault on Jack’s record.

Tiger Struggles

The Struggle

Following his incredible win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger underwent surgery to repair the ruptured tendons in his knee, and missed the rest of the season. But with intensive rehab, he was back for the ’09 season and looking like the Tiger of old. He recorded six wins including top 10’s at the Masters and U.S. Open, and a runner up at the PGA Championship. As the season came to a close it seemed certain that he would break Nicklaus’ record for major championship victories.

The runner-up finish at the ’09 PGA, however, would prove to be a turning point, the beginning of what became a long and difficult struggle for Tiger. He went into Sunday as the leader by two shots over Y.E. Yang and Padraig Harrington, having never yielded the lead at a major going to the final round. On this day, however, the clutch putts that had always been Tiger’s trademark failed to fall, and Yang charged past him to take the championship. The veil of invincibility had been lifted.

Within months his world was rocked again by reports of marital infidelity, his pristine image pummeled by the media as past transgressions came flooding out. Shortly thereafter his wife filed for divorce, and sponsors began to abandon him. While Tiger had been able to overcome physical injury, and even the loss of his dad in 2006, the steely mental toughness that defined him had taken a major blow, and he failed to record a single win in 2010 and 2011.

Mounts his Comeback

The Come Back

As the 2012 season got under way Tiger picked himself up, and at 37 years old he was determined to continue his pursuit of Jack. With seventy-one tour wins, he was only two behind Nicklaus, and even though he hadn’t won a major since 2008, he was still on pace to challenge Jack’s record for major championship wins (Jack also had fourteen majors at 37). Tiger recorded three wins in 2012 to pass Nicklaus in regular Tour titles, and added five more in 2013 to put some distance between them. Unfortunately, though, he was unable to take any of the majors (his best finishes were a T3 at the Open Championship in 2012, and a T4 at the Masters in 2013), so for the first time, at 39 years old, Tiger was behind Jack’s pace in his quest for the major championship record (Jack had recorded 15 major wins at age 39).

Tiger Fights Through Injury

The Pain

And then Tiger’s back blew up. It started toward the end of the 2013 season when he was hit with severe back spasms at The Barclays, just as the FedEx Cup playoffs were getting under way. Somehow, he was able to finish second, and make it through the final weeks of the season to the Tour Championship, but the writing was on the wall. Even after a few months of rest and rehab, the pain was only getting worse. Tiger tried to push through it as the 2014 season got underway, but was forced to withdraw from the Honda in early March and underwent his first back surgery shortly thereafter, announcing that he would miss the Masters (and he would miss the U.S. Open as well).

Determined to compete at the remaining majors, Tiger came back for the Open Championship and the PGA, but it was clear that the surgery had been unsuccessful, and even his indomitable will just wasn’t enough. Finishing well back at The Open, and then missing the cut at the PGA Championship, Tiger shut it down for the remainder of the season, opting for rest and rehab once again—but the pain would not subside.

In 2015 he tried to fight his way through once again, but was only able to tee it up 11 times, with his best finish a T17 at the Masters, while missing the cut at the other three majors. And so, at age 40, Tiger found himself 3 behind Nicklaus’ pace for the record in major championship wins (Jack recorded his seventeenth at 40).

Tiger made a decision to have a second back surgery in September, followed by another procedure barely a month later, and the 2016 season was completely lost. When he tried to return in 2017, his back broke down again, leaving him only one alternative for resuming his pursuit—a fourth surgery, this time spinal fusion, and the loss of yet another full season.

Tiger Wins Fifteenth Major Championship

The Resurrection

Most people would have given up at that point, but Tiger is not most people. After the surgery he dedicated himself to an even more rigorous rehab, and returned for the 2018 season ready to go. In 18 events he finished in the top ten 7 times, including a T6 at the Open Championship and a runner-up at the PGA, and then capped off the season with a win at the Tour Championship. But he had failed to move closer in his goal of reaching Jack’s record for major championship wins.

And then Tiger won The Masters in 2019, his 15th major title (and 5th Green Jacket), so at 44 he had suddenly moved back to within two of Nicklaus’ pace (Jack had recorded 17 major wins at 44, with his 18th and final major championship coming at age 46).

As the 2020 season got going Tiger came out strong with a T9 at The Farmers, held each year at Torrey Pines where he had won the 2008 U.S. Open. It looked like Tiger would make his presence felt in a big way at the 2020 major championships when suddenly the pandemic hit, putting the Tour season (and Tiger’s pursuit) on hold. By the time the world began opening up again, only two major championships could be held—The PGA, where Tiger recorded a T37, and the U.S. Open (that had been moved to September), where Tiger missed the cut.

The Challenge
Sports Illustrated (https://www.si.com/)

The Challenge

As everyone knows, Tiger was involved in a horrendous automobile accident in February 2021, suffering massive leg injuries from which he is making a slow but steady recovery. At 46, it may appear that Tiger’s chase to match or surpass Jack’s major championship record is over.

Counting Tiger out, however, is never a good idea. You can be sure he has no intention of walking into the sunset just yet, and he’ll be back giving it everything he has. As the saying goes, “if there is a will, there is a way,” and Tiger has proven again and again that there is no one with a greater will to win.

Tiger and Jack

The Recap

With 82 PGA Tour victories, Tiger has surpassed Jack at seventy-three, and matched the record held by Sam Snead. And his 15 major championship wins are second only to Jack’s 18. Regardless of whether Tiger comes back to win another major or breaks Sam Snead’s record for Tour wins, the sports world now has a fierce debate as to the greatest golfer of all time.

Tiger holds 3 U.S. Amateur Championships to Jack’s 2, while Jack holds 18 Major Championships to Tiger’s 15, but Tiger won 82 tour events to Jack’s 73. Some may point to Jack’s overall record at the majors (Nicklaus finished in the top five 56 times, while Tiger recorded 33 Top-5 finishes), and others may say that Tiger faced much deeper fields throughout his career than did Jack.

Much of Tiger’s prime was lost to injury as well, and there is little doubt that he would have matched or surpassed Jack’s major championship win total had he remained healthy. Illness and injury have impacted the careers of great athletes throughout history, however. Lou Gehrig recorded 2,721 hits and had 493 home runs when he was diagnosed with ALS on his 36th birthday. And Bo Jackson, who likely would have been recognized as the greatest athlete in the history of sport, suffered a career ending injury at age 29 (he was selected for both the MLB All-Star team and NFL Pro Bowl—the only athlete ever to accomplish that feat).

Tiger has created a legacy of greatness that is simply remarkable, and while he may fall just short of his ultimate goal all those years ago, he has allowed us to witness golf history in the making— and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t find a way to keep Jack in his sights.

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Measuring Greatness: Jack, Tiger, and the Young Stars on Tour

Jack and Tiger: A League of Their Own

While Major Championships and Tour wins define a player’s legacy, making cuts and recording Top-10’s are the most revealing measurement of success in professional golf. Not surprisingly, Jack and Tiger set the high-water mark for these criteria as well, and they are the standard of comparison when looking at the current group of highly talented young stars.

In the graphic below, Jack’s numbers include the entirety of his career, through his retirement at age 65—and it is particularly impressive that his percentage of Top-10 finishes remains so much higher than any player other than Tiger, even when his twilight years on Tour are included.

Athletes peak at different ages, and unfortunately, injury also plays a significant role. For Jack, his percentage of Top-10’s actually increased throughout his 30’s (his Top-10 percentage was 71.8% on his 30th birthday, and 74.5% when he turned 40). Tiger, on the other hand, built the bulk of his record in his 20’s, with serious physical issues beginning to impact his play almost immediately on turning 30. He lost significant portions of the 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2015 seasons, so although Tiger’s Top-10 percentage stood at 66.0% on his 30th birthday, it fell to 60.4% when he turned 40. And then he lost the entire 2015-2016 season following another back surgery.

Current players are at different stages in their career, so the best way to view performance is by looking at percentages, rather than just the totals. As shown in the graphic below, there is a vast gulf in Top-10 percentage between Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy (No.’s 1 and 2), and Dustin Johnson (No. 3).

Rory McIlroy and John Rahm: Separating themselves from the Field

Jon Rahm, at 27 years old, is only just entering the peak performance years of his career, and Rory, at 33, is at the height of his ability. Collin Morikawa, 25 years old, with the same Top-10 percentage as Dustin Johnson and a significantly higher cut percentage, has virtually his entire career before him. It will be fascinating to track the progress of the current group of talented young PGA Tour stars over the next decade and more, when viewed against the eye-popping numbers that Jack and Tiger put up.

Collen Morikawa: Two Majors at 25

Movers

Although Scottie Scheffler has the look of a much more “seasoned” pro, he only just turned 26 on June 21. On top of his Masters victory in April, and strong performance at the U.S. Open (T2), Scottie has made the cut in 18 of the 20 events he’s played this year while recording 9 Top-10’s (including 4 wins). When The Open Championship gets underway at St. Andrews in July, it’s a pretty safe bet that Scheffler will be on the leader board come Sunday.

Scheffler, Thomas and Spieth: Moving the Needle

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, boyhood rivals with 5 major championships between them, are both at the top of the list when it comes to making cuts and Top-10 percentage. Still in their 20’s, each is a lock for the World Golf Hall of Fame when the curtain comes down on their careers.

Will Zalatoris (No. 8), at 25 years old, has already recorded 6 Top-10’s in major championships. While he has yet to record his first Tour victory, his ball striking is second to none. Should Will begin to putt with more consistency, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Players with Hall of Fame talent who have yet to reach 25 years of age include Victor Hoveland (No. 20), Sungjae Im (No. 23), and Joaquin Niemann (No. 28).

With so much talent currently on the PGA Tour, challenging the records of Jack and Tiger would seem an impossible task—but it makes for tremendous excitement week in and week out.

LIV

While LIV has picked off 7 of the Career Top 30, closer inspection reveals that the Tour hasn’t given up a whole heck of a lot. As a group, the PGA ex-pats played a total of 99 events in the 2021-2022 season, making just 66 cuts (66%) along with a grand total of 10 Top-10 Finishes (10%). Surprisingly, the star of the show is Abraham Ancer with 3 Top-10’s.

Mickelson, Johnson and Koepka: 4 Top-10’s combined in 2022

Perhaps it’s mostly related to age, with just one defector under 30 years old (Bryson DeChambeau). Two are soon to be 40 (Louis Oosthuizen–39 and Dustin Johnson–38), Sergio is 42, and Phil just turned 52.

Phil and Dustin have already punched their ticket to the World Golf Hall of Fame, but with only 1 major and 6 Tour wins, Sergio has become an extreme long shot (although his 22 worldwide wins give him an outside chance). Pat Reed with 1 major and 9 Tour wins, has removed himself from any consideration. Koepka, with 4 major championships, has closed out his PGA Tour career with a total of  only 8 wins—so his chances of getting to the Hall are now very much in doubt.

The Saudi’s have paid a boatload of money with this venture, but the quality of their purchases have thus far been questionable to say the least.          

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