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

  • Atalanta complete permanent De Ketelaere signing from Milan Atalanta complete permanent De Ketelaere signing from Milan

    Charles De Ketelaere has completed his move from Milan to Atalanta after the Europa League champions signed the Belgian on a permanent deal.

    Atalanta confirmed the transfer on Saturday after activating a buy option included in the 23-year-old's loan deal, with De Ketelaere joining in a reported move worth up to €24million.

    De Ketelaere failed to impress in his debut season in Italy after joining the Rossoneri from Club Brugge, but found form after a season-long loan deal to Bergamo in the 2023-24 campaign.

    The forward helped Gian Piero Gasperini's side to a top-four finish in Serie A, as well as lifting the Europa League trophy for Atalanta's first-ever success on the European stage.

    Only Ademola Lookman and Gianluca Scamacca (both 26) provided more direct goal contributions across all competitions than De Ketelaere's 25 last term.

    Gasperini unlocked a side to the former Milan man that the Rossoneri failed to find, too, with De Ketelaere creating more open-play chances (78) than any other team-mate across all competitions.

    That form has brought a permanent reward for De Ketelaere, who is preparing for Euro 2024 with Belgium in Germany, where the Red Devils will face Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine in Group E.

  • US Open: Leader Aberg trying to stay 'disciplined and patient' US Open: Leader Aberg trying to stay 'disciplined and patient'

    Ludvig Aberg emphasised the importance of staying "disciplined and patient" after he took the sole lead of the US Open on Friday.

    Aberg heads into the weekend with a one-shot advantage after carding a one-under 69, backing up an impressive 66 in his first round to leave him five under par at the top of the standings.

    It leaves Aberg in a great position to become the second US Open debutant to win the tournament and the first since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

    To achieve that, though, Aberg says he must remain calm, telling Sky Sports: "It's hard, but it's not supposed to be easy.

    "It's what we expect coming into a US Open, even though it's my first one.

    "I've had a lot of good discussions with my caddie Joe about course management and about trying to stay disciplined and patient.

    "It's not easy, but I feel like we've done a great job of that so far."

    Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy held the joint lead heading into day two after both carding five-under 65s on Thursday.

    However, McIlroy shot a disappointing 72 for his second round, while Cantlay's 71 leaves him as one of three players one shot behind Aberg, alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Thomas Detry.

    The soaring temperatures have proved testing conditions for players and are expected to continue over the rest of the tournament.

    Cantlay is predicting a difficult final two rounds, though he also said he was happy with the position he is in.

    "I think this golf course is going to play very challenging over the weekend, especially with the forecast that we have," Cantlay told reporters.

    "So I think being smart and being patient, it's inevitable there's going to be some mistakes made, but that's just part of playing a US Open."

  • US Open: Woods 'may or may not' have played last US Open after missing cut US Open: Woods 'may or may not' have played last US Open after missing cut

    Tiger Woods hinted that he may have played his final US Open after failing to make the cut on Friday.

    Woods shot three over in his second round having carded a four-over 74 on Thursday to leave him at seven over par, two shots off the cut line.

    It means Woods has now either failed to make the cut or withdrawn from six of his last nine major tournaments, and at 48-years-old and having faced a host of injury problems, it appears the 15-time major champion's glittering career is nearing its conclusion.

    After Friday's disappointing exit from the major he has won three times previously, Woods insinuated that it may well have been the last time he plays in the US Open.

    Woods told reporters: "In order to win a golf tournament, you have to make the cut. I can't win the tournament from where I'm at, so it certainly is frustrating. 

    "I thought I played well enough to be up there in contention. It just didn't work out.

    "As far as my last Open Championship or US Open Championship, I don't know what that is. It may or may not be.

    "I've only got one more tournament this season. Even if I win the British Open, I don't think I'll be in the [FedEx Cup] playoffs. [There is] just one more event and then I'll come back whenever I come back."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.