The last two weeks on the PGA Tour have had a turn-back-the-clock feel. First, Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines in a Monday finish, and then on Sunday, Phil Mickelson won in Phoenix. What year is this again? 2001?
Phil ran away with his wire-to-wire victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and dominated from a statistical standpoint. Here now is this week’s By the Numbers.
- Known for being an aggressive player Phil generally gives himself a number of good birdie opportunities (ranking sixth last year in average number of birdies per round). So it should come as no surprise that he led the field in proximity to the hole on his approach shots. Phil pulled off the rare double, though. He also led the field in greens in regulation (at a ridiculous rate of 87%, 63 for 72), which is a stat that tends to reward those who play conservatively and aim towards the middle of the green. Put it all together and Phil gave himself a number of fantastic birdie opportunities, and very rarely did he have to extricate himself from trouble.
- Phil backed up his fantastic iron play and had a great week on the greens, ranking fifth for the week in strokes gained putting. Last year, Phil had his best putting year since the advent of the strokes gained stat, ranking tenth overall on Tour. So far, he has kept it up this season, ranking ninth. As a result, Phil was nine-under on the par-3s for the tournament.
- One of the persistent narratives of Phil’s storied career has been his “inconsistency. But is he really that inconsistent? Since the start of the 21st century, Phil has only missed more than three cuts in a year two times — in 2012 and 2007. It’s important to note that he’s never played fewer than 19 events (and nearly always more than 20). To put that in perspective, Rory McIlroy missed three cuts on the PGA Tour last year in only 16 events.
- Phil has finished inside the top-ten in at least 30% of his events since 1999. He has also surpassed the 40% mark in five different occasions. To compare: Brandt Snedeker had his career year to date in 2012, but he still only finished in the top ten in 30% of his starts.
- Starting in 2000, Phil has won at least one time on Tour every year, with the exception of 2003.
- Here’s a Brandt Snedeker shout-out: If you finish second two weeks in a row, you deserve one. One key to Brandt’s early-season success (three top-fives in four starts) has been his improved iron play. We all know Brandt is a great putter (and he led the field in strokes gained putting at the Waste Management Phoenix Open), but he has been an inconsistent ballstriker. Last year Brandt ranked 126th in greens in regulation. However, so far this year, he is ranked 11th. If he is to have a more consistent season this year, and maintain his fast start throughout the season, that is a good stat to keep an eye on.
While it was fun to watch Phil dominate last week, be careful about reading too much into one performance by any player – whether it’s good or bad. This is especially true when a player does something they are highly unlikely to replicate, such as leading a field in both GIR and approach-shot proximity.