Consistency key to Furyk’s solid season: Australian Scott shows he’s ready to challenge Woods
With Adam Scott’s three-stroke win at the Tour Championship on Sunday, the 2006 PGA Tour season finally came to a close.
Silly season, with its skins games and charity events, will continue to the end of the year, and Tiger Woods will tee it up in China this week at the HSBC Champions Tournament, but the tour’s official events are now at a close.
Given that, it is time to look beyond the money list and into the stat sheet to expose some of the year’s most intriguing stories:
Weir’s Sunday stumbles He might have finished the year at 33rd on the money list, but Canadian Mike Weir’s US$1.8-million in earnings belies the difficulties the left-hander had throughout the year. Though he ranked 15th in scoring average before the Friday cutline, Weir’s Sunday stroke average placed him 169th among Tour players.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he parted ways with Mike Wilson, his longtime swing coach, last week. A return to the form that saw him win the 2003 Masters is looking less likely for Weir.
Ben Who? Ben Curtis used to be the poster boy for unknown major champions, but the Ohio native and 2003 British Open winner emerged as one of the strongest young American players on tour with two wins this year.
But there is no guarantee Curtis’s rise to the upper echelons of the PGA Tour is permanent. He only had two top-10 finishes all year — his two wins — and had only one statistical category (driving accuracy) where he ranked among the top 100 players. His victory at the Booz Allen Classic in June, where he shot 20-under for the week, was a full 39 shots better than his performance at the U.S. Open the week before.
Unfortunately for Curtis, both of the tournaments he won this year will disappear in the new schedule for 2007, making him the defending champion of nothing.
No Vardon here Despite taking more than a month off following his father’s death, Tiger Woods had a year that rivalled his remarkable 2000 season, when he had nine wins. This year, Woods won eight times, including the British Open and the PGA Championship while making US$9.9-million.
But Woods didn’t take home the Vardon trophy for the lowest scoring average because he didn’t play enough rounds to qualify. It is the equivalent to hitting .400 in baseball, but not winning the battling title because he didn’t have enough at bats.
So the Vardon goes to Jim Furyk placed in the top 10 in more than half the events he played this year, including two wins (one at the Canadian Open) and earned US$7.2-million to finish second on the money list to Woods. His scoring average of 69.45 was second to Woods’ 68.73.
Thunder from down under There were almost two dozen golfers from Australia on the PGA Tour this year and they made their presence known, recording eight victories.
The breakthrough of the year was Scott, who won the season-ending Tour Championship and US$4.9-million. The Sunday victory was was Scott’s fourth on the Tour and, with his prodigious length (301 yards off the tee in 2006) and terrific scoring average (third on tour), he might be ready to step up and challenge Woods next year.
Big Bombers Twenty players averaged more than 300 yards off the tee in 2006, led by Bubba Watson (319.6 yards) and J.B. (Don’t call me John) Holmes (318.8). The five longest hitters only accounted for two wins — another by and Brett Wetterich.
On the other hand, John Daly (307.1 yards), made a woeful US$192,134 (which doesn’t count wins and losses from corporate events and casino outings) and will have to play 2007 through sponsor exemptions.
Comeback of the year Coming into 2006, Steve Stricker was a three-time winner who had struggled through dismal years and lost his Tour card. Playing on sponsor’s exemptions, Stricker finished third at the Houston Open in April and managed seven top-10 finishes in 17 events, winning US$1.8-million in the process.
By finishing in the top 40 on the money list, Stricker will play in the Masters next year. Not bad for a guy who started the year without a place to play.