Growing up as a kid and as die hard sports fan in Northern California, I donâ€™t remember being overly infatuated with sports statistics. Sure I could tell you how many homeruns Will Clark had hit for the Giants in 1989 when the team went to the World Series, or number of Joe Montana touchdown passes, but I donâ€™t recall the landscape of sports hinging on what I would call meaningless and â€œgeekyâ€ statistics. Those who play fantasy baseball can attest that categories like WHIP, Holds and OPS have contributed to statistical overload! Still, stats can be very telling and can prove to be valuable when analyzing and prognosticating.
So when JB asked me to write this yearâ€™s U.S. Open preview, I decided to fasten on my pocket protector, tighten my bow tie and tackle this preview from a geekâ€™s perspective. After all, anyone can give you their opinion on who is going to win, but letâ€™s face it, stats donâ€™t lie.
The following preview looks at five key categories:
â€¢ Driving Distance (I hear a rumor that Beth Page Black is playing long, so long drives will be critical)
â€¢ Putts Per Round (When the USGA is setting up the course, you can bet on quick â€“ sometimes impossible â€“ greens)
â€¢ Greens in Regulation (You canâ€™t run the ball into the greens at BPB, so precise ball striking is imperative to set-up whatever birdie opps may exist)
â€¢ Consecutive Number of Cuts Made (This tells us who is hot and a good bet to make the cut)
â€¢ Top 10 Finishes (This stat tells us who has been there and can withstand pressure of competing)
PPR- Putts per Round
DD- Driving Distance
GIR â€“ Green in Regulation
T10 Fâ€™s – Top 10 finishes
CNOCM – Consecutive Number of cuts made
Note â€“ Player receives star if they break the top-25 in each respective category. Stats are thru St. Jude Classic.
1. Tiger Woods * * * (Top 10s, CNOCM, PPR)
As much as people want to hear golf prognosticators go out on a limb with their Major picks, TW is a no-brainer given the fact that he excels in almost every statistical category. We know he can putt and after hitting every fairway in the final round of the Memorial, one has to believe that he has solved his driving accuracy issues. Tiger has also made a PGA Tour best 36 consecutive cuts and is tied with 5 others in the Top 10 finishes category (keep in mind, he has only played in 7 events!).
2. Paul Casey * * * * (GIR, Top 10s, DD, CNOCM)
According to the statistical categories, Paul Casey has the best chance of winning the U.S. Open. He is THE ONLY four star player. I am not totally sold on him, but again, the stats donâ€™t lie. He is ranked No. 22 in GIR and No. 25 in driving distance. He has also made eight straight cuts (T10) and has recorded three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour (T19). Oh yeah. He also averages 295 yards off the tee. If he was a better putter (T63), he would be the statistical odds-on-favorite to win. A good week of putting could put Casey in the winnerâ€™s circle.
3. Geoff Ogilvy * * * (Top 10s, CNOCM, PPR)
If you are participating in a U.S. Open pool and are forbidden from choosing TW, Geoff Ogilvy would be the next best pick. After a lengthy conversation with a fellow media member last week, he convinced me that Ogilvyâ€™s high draw gives him a great chance this week. Ogilvyâ€™s ball flight will allow him to be aggressive and drop high, soft landing shots into the green. Stats tell us that if he can hit greens (ranked 50th), his putting can close the deal as he is ranked 7th in PPR. Both Ogilvy and Woods average a blistering 293 yards off the tee, so even though they arenâ€™t in the top 25 in this category, they certainly have the length needed at BPB.
4. Dustin Johnson * * * (GIR, Top 10s, DD)
The winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is third in driving distance (307 yards off the tee) and a surprising ninth overall in GIR. He also has three Top-10 finishes to his credit. If DJ can putt (T86), he, like Casey, could turn some heads this weekend. DJ is my darkhorse to win the U.S. Open.
5. Kenny Perry * * * (GIR, Top 10s, CNOCM)
Forget about the collapse at Augusta, this guy knows how to win. He is 14th in GIR, T1 with six Top 10â€™s and has made 18 straight cuts. My money is on KP to be one of the last golfers standing on Sunday.
â€¢ Zach Johnson also accumulated three stars ranking 23rd in GIR, T8 in Top 10â€™s with five and T14 in CNOCM. In the end, his lack of length off the tee (ranked No. 138) and sub par putting prevented him from breaking the Top 5.
â€¢ Sean Oâ€™Hair is a two star player (ranked No. 1 in GIR, T1 in Top 10â€™s) and has plenty of length thanks to his R9 driver. Sources in Carlsbad tell me however that his wrist isnâ€™t 100% and that his wife may go into labor this weekend, which would force a WD. I like SOH, but not this week.
â€¢ One of the best dressed players (See Sligo promotion on THP) and one of my favorites Brian Gay would be a nice story to win, but aside from ranking No. 8 in putts, he doesnâ€™t have the GIR or DD to win.
â€¢ I am pulling for Phil Mickelson because my heart goes out to his family, but he is only a two star player (Top 10s, DD).
â€¢ Jim Furyk sure is impressive on the green (ranked No. 3 in PPR) and is tied for first with six Top 10â€™s, but his DD and GIR hurt his chances of cracking the top 5.
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