The stats that defined August on the PGA Tour

By Sports Desk August 31, 2022

It's no surprise that at the end of this latest PGA Tour season it was Rory McIlroy ultimately hosting the FedEx Cup, considering the statistically dominant campaign the Northern Irishman put together.

Though his three-win season might not appear at the top of his career highlights - the major championship triumphs in 2012 and 2014 may never be matched - it nevertheless culminated in one of the best statical campaigns of his heralded career.

After lifting the FedEx Cup for the third time, the first player in Tour history to do so, McIlroy capped off a season that saw him earn his fourth scoring average title, at 68.67, the only player on the PGA Tour to finish with a sub-69 average (the overall average for the 2021-22 season was 71.092).

Only Vijay Singh (2003) and Tiger Woods (eight different times) have matched McIlroy with a season-long average below 68.7.

McIlroy's six-shot comeback over Scottie Scheffler at the Tour Championship also cemented the 33-year-old’s fourth season of at least three wins, as he also jumpstarted his campaign with a victory at the CJ Cup before claiming the RBC Canadian Open midway through the year.

"I'm back to playing the golf that I'm used to playing, and the golf that I know that I can play," McIlroy said prior to the FedEx St. Jude Championship. "COVID was a weird time for everyone, and then coming out of it and going into the 2021 season, with my swing where it was, I was trying to change a couple of things and was going down a path I realised wasn't the path for me. [I'm] coming back out of that and now getting back to playing the golf I know I can play."

The late-season rise was in no doubt due to McIlroy's impressive resurgence across several aspects of his game. After ending The Masters ranked next-to-last among 209 TOUR players in average proximity from 50 to 125 yards (24 feet, one inch), McIlroy went on a tear that saw him close out the season with an average of 14 feet, one inch, best among all players with more than 30 attempts in that span.

But that wasn’t the only area where he’s upped his play. McIlroy ranked No. 131 in scrambling percentage last season, only to finish 30th this year, while also improving more than 50 spots in Strokes Gained: Around the Green (63rd in 2020-21 to 12th this season). Perhaps most importantly, the 22-time PGA Tour winner was 16th for Strokes Gained: Putting per round, after he finished 66th in 2021 and 122nd in 2019-20.

McIlroy ended the season ranked inside the top-50 in all four primary Strokes Gained categories (off-the-tee, approach the green, around the green and putting), only the second time he's done that, joining the 2018-19 season. That season he also won the TOUR Championship and RBC Canadian Open, along with The Players Championship.

"This year feels very similar to the way I played in 2019," he said. "It's a carbon copy in terms of the consistency and the numbers and the strokes gained numbers, but my finishes in the majors have been better and that's been – that's been a real positive looking ahead into next year and the future."

CANTLAY REPEATS

Before McIlroy hoisted the PGA Tour's ultimate prize, all eyes were on Patrick Cantlay for a potential repeat.

Last season's FedEx Cup champion was primed to go back-to-back after he became the first player to successfully defend a Playoffs event since their 2007 inception. At the BMW Championship, the 30-year-old birdied the 17th at Wilmington Country Club to hold off Scott Stallings in a one-shot victory, his second win at the event in as many years.

A year ago, Cantlay survived in a six-hole playoff at Maryland's Caves Valley Golf Club to win the BMW Championship, before sealing the FedEx Cup with a one-shot win over Jon Rahm.

"I think every time I've tried to defend, I don't think I've been able to do it, but it's something that you definitely circle on your calendar as something you want to do," Cantlay said. "These golf courses reminded me a lot of each other, and I was glad not to go six holes in a playoff."

Much like a season ago, it was largely the putter that lifted Cantlay to a post-season victory. Over the last two FedEx Cup Playoffs, Cantlay is +18.39 in total Strokes Gained: Putting, the most of any player.

The BMW Championship was a microcosm of that, as Cantlay was ranked 49th of 67 players in the third round, losing 1.493 strokes to the field. But after a late-night putting session, the Californian ranked 10th in Sunday’s final round, gaining 1.628 strokes on the field. He was a perfect 10-for-10 on Sunday putting inside 3 feet, after missing one in 13 attempts the day before. He was 16-for-17 from inside 10 feet on Sunday and just 15 for 20 on Saturday.

ZALATORIS BREAKS THROUGH

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Will Zalatoris’s first trip to the PGA Tour winner's circle, after heart-aching playoff losses this year at the Farmers Insurance Open and PGA Championship.

Viewers finally got their wish in the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, as the young 26-year-old poured in a clutch par at the last to force extra holes with Sepp Straka. He ultimately outlasted the Austrian on the third playoff hole.

"It's kind of hard to say 'about time' when it's your second year on Tour, but about time," Zalatoris joked. "Obviously this was a grind considering the start that I had. I love this golf course, I played well here last year. Considering all the close finishes that I've had this year, to finally pull it off, it means a lot."

The budding superstar led the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (+1.93) and Tee-to-Green (+2.35), becoming just the second player to lead both at the FedEx St. Jude Championship (Dustin Johnson, 2020).

All the more impressive was that he finished the first round at one over, the highest score to par after the opening round by a winner at the FedEx St Jude Championship. The previous worst opening round by a winner? Vijay Singh, who was one under after 18 holes in 2008.

Zalatoris was tied for 86th after the first round, marking the lowest position by a winner after the opening round of the playoffs (McIlroy previously held the honor, sitting at T67 after the opening round of the 2016 Dell Technologies Championship). 

Related items

  • Santos insists Ronaldo relationship unchanged as he hailed captain's 'great example' Santos insists Ronaldo relationship unchanged as he hailed captain's 'great example'

    Portugal coach Fernando Santos insists his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is unchanged despite dropping the captain for Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup.

    Ronaldo was benched after Santos expressed his disappointment with the striker's attitude following his substitution during last week's defeat to South Korea.

    Santos said on Monday the matter had been resolved internally, but Ronaldo was then dropped to the bench for the clash at Lusail Stadium, starting a major-tournament match among the substitutes for the first time since 2008 (31 games).

    A fan poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggested 70 per cent of Portugal fans wanted Ronaldo out of the team, and the Selecao went on to produce one of their best performances at a major tournament in years.

    Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the attack and had a hand in four goals, including a hat-trick, but Santos did not commit to keeping faith in the Benfica prospect for the quarter-final against Morocco.

    Santos told reporters: "That's still something that has to be defined [who starts in the next game]. I already answered in yesterday's press conference [regarding Ronaldo]; there is no problem between us.

    "I have a strong relationship with him, I always have. I have known him since he was young and at Sporting [CP], and then it started to develop in the national team.

    "This relationship only developed. We've been friends for many years, things don't affect us.

    "I already explained everything was resolved. I said that and I repeat that now. This is something that's finished and resolved.

    "How he came in with a lot of will, he set an example as a great captain."

    In scoring his hat-trick, Ramos became the first player to net three times on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

    Similarly, it only took him 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never managed: score in a World Cup knockout game.

    For most, Ramos starting the quarter-final clash would be a simple decision to make, but Santos intends to keep people guessing.

    "Obviously I have my ways to observes things, I always have," he continued. "The players we have in this position obviously have many different characteristics.

    "Andre [Silva] plays more advanced, Cristiano is more fixed, he plays in a determined area. Goncalo is dynamic.

    "That's what he ended up showing us, but it was nothing new because he came on in two other games.

    "I have three players I fully trust and for each match I will use what I think is the right strategy, as I have always done in my career."

    Tuesday's success was Portugal's biggest ever victory in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, with it the first time they have scored six beyond the group stage.

    It was a truly rampant performance, though Santos was particularly pleased that his team did not get carried away with the euphoria.

    "It's exactly what I said [to the players]; when we are euphoric, I think we can go beyond what we should do in a match.

    "We can end up having a bit too much fun, to use that expression, and football is not fun. Yes, you have to play, have fun in the field, but too much fun is not appropriate.

    "In this aspect, in terms of how serious they were, they were fantastic."

    Portugal will face Morocco in their quarter-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.
  • Struggling Los Angeles Rams claim QB Baker Mayfield off waivers Struggling Los Angeles Rams claim QB Baker Mayfield off waivers

    Desperate to save what has been a disastrous title defense, the Los Angeles Rams have claimed quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers.

    The defending Super Bowl champions made the move on Tuesday, one day after Mayfield was released by the Carolina Panthers.

    The former top pick joins a Los Angeles team that has lost six consecutive games and is tied with the Denver Broncos for the NFL's third-worst record at 3-9.

    While it was being speculated he would be claimed by a contending team dealing with an injury at quarterback – the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens – he instead joins a Rams team out of the playoff picture.

    The quarterback position has been a mess for Los Angeles with Matthew Stafford likely out for the rest of the season with a bruised spinal cord, while backups John Wolford and Bryce Perkins have struggled to generate much offense.

    Wolford has one touchdown pass and a 64.6 QB rating in two games played, while Perkins has one touchdown and a 53.7 rating in four contests.

    Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns, has not been much better, throwing six touchdowns and six interceptions while registering a 74.4 passer rating in seven games played. Among quarterbacks with at least 75 attempts, Mayfield's 57.8 completion percentage beats out only the New York Jets' Zach Wilson (55.6 per cent).

    Mayfield went just 1-6 for the Panthers, who acquired him from the Browns in July and would have been responsible to pay him $1.35million for the remainder of this season had the Rams not put in the claim.

    Los Angeles host the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night, and it is not out of the question Mayfield plays.

  • Portugal 6-1 Switzerland: Ramos hat-trick emphatically vindicates Ronaldo benching as Selecao stroll into last eight Portugal 6-1 Switzerland: Ramos hat-trick emphatically vindicates Ronaldo benching as Selecao stroll into last eight

    Cristiano Ronaldo's benching was fully vindicated as his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick to guide Portugal into the World Cup quarter-finals courtesy of a 6-1 demolition of Switzerland.

    Fernando Santos had been angered by Ronaldo's attitude after being substituted in their defeat to South Korea and the veteran coach took the opportunity to bench the out-of-form 37-year-old on Tuesday.

    It took Ramos 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never done for Portugal: score in a World Cup knockout game, and he would ultimately have a hand in four goals.

    Pepe, captain in Ronaldo's absence, got Portugal's second and Ramos also teed up Raphael Guerreiro, with Manuel Akanji's consolation for Switzerland prior to Ramos' hat-trick goal and Rafael Leao's late stunner a mere footnote.

    Ramos' opener was entirely out of keeping with a dull opening.

    Joao Felix passed into the left side of the area and, after taking a touch, Ramos sent a bullet of a left-footed strike into the top-left corner from a tight angle.

    A fingertip Diogo Costa save from Xherdan Shaqiri's free-kick just before the half-hour kept Portugal in front and they capitalised three minutes later as Pepe headed home Bruno Fernandes' corner.

    Any hope of a turnaround was swiftly put down by two goals early in the second half.

    Ramos first turned in Diogo Dalot's low cross before the striker unselfishly teed up Guerreiro.

    Akanji knocked in at the back post after a Portugal defender inadvertently flicked on a corner, but the deficit was four again soon after – Ramos' impudent dink over Yann Sommer completing a memorable treble.

    He was later brought off as Ronaldo – who had a late goal disallowed for offside – entered, but Portugal were not done yet, with Leao burying a gorgeous curler in stoppage time.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.