Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won for the second time in his last three outings after he overcame a three-shot deficit to defeat South African Louis Oosthuizen at the TPC Boston in the second stanza of the FedExCup Playoffs. McIlroy, as so many other winners this year on TOUR, began the day trailing by three shots before showing his nerve in the final few holes to hang on and win his first-ever career FedExCup Playoff event. Oosthuizen struggled with his driver as a pectoral muscle was giving him problems and the South African couldn’t take advantage of McIlroy’s mistakes down the stretch. McIlroy cemented, for now that is, his claim for 2012 TOUR Player of the Year as he fired his second-consecutive 67 to finish 20-under-par 264 and showed great mettle as he got up-and-down in the closing holes to maintain his lead. This is McIlroy’s fifth-career victory on TOUR in 52 career starts and his second since his win at Kiawah Island, S.C. at the PGA Championship in early August. McIlroy did not play the Wyndham Championship and was T24 last week at The Barclays. Oosthuizen was second alone at 265 while Tiger Woods was one further back at 266. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson rounded out the top five at 14-under 270.
The “question” that McIlroy was facing from Twitter and golf writers was: “Can we win a close one?” After his comfortable TOUR victories at Wells Fargo (2010) and at the Honda Classic and his two, eight-shot victories in both of his majors, McIlroy showed today that he could also play the role of the hunter. He has his putter to thank for that. Johnny Miller said that when his putter is on that he’s almost unbeatable. Last week, he finished 75th in strokes gained-putting and finished T24. This week, McIlroy finished second in strokes gained-putting, first in putts per round and first in putts per GIR. That’s almost unfair. His putting overshadowed his T69 in driving accuracy and T35 GIR. The title of my preview column was “The Birdies Are Coming” and McIlroy didn’t disappoint as he led the field with 25 of them for the week. Again, almost every week I write this recap column, the guy holding the trophy is usually leading the putting numbers and this week was no different. McIlroy must have thought he was part of a bad joke as he opened the tournament 65-65-67 yet still found himself three shots out of the lead on the first tee Sunday afternoon. I guess those young kids don’t have too much too worry about as McIlroy squealed the tires on the opening nine for five birdies and one bogey to go out in 32. The youngster, just 23, found enough confidence is his short game coming in to get up-and-down in clutch situations and only posted even-par 35. This proves once again that McIlroy not only has the physical tools but he’s now proven, against a massive field, that he can come from behind and deliver the goods on Sunday. Be afraid, be very afraid moving forward if this is to be the case. I’ve stated before that I am not going to pass the baton to McIlroy based on a tournament here or there; I’ve wanted to see more. I’ve now seen plenty in two of his last three tournaments at winning time to shrink the gap at the top between him and Tiger Woods.
Moving forward, I believe that we all hope that Woods and McIlroy rivalry picks up steam these last few weeks and carries over into the Ryder Cup. How could that be bad for golf? Woods did his part this week by again creeping into the top three after one of his best weekends on TOUR since early July. Let’s hope they shoot it out next week, but this time, side-by-side, at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Louis Oosthuizen became the 25th player to hold 54-hole lead in 38 stroke-play events this season and not go on to close out the tournament. If there has been one stat that has jumped off the page in 2012, I believe that has to be in the top three. There are so many good players putting the pressure on every Sunday and only 13 players have been able to hang on and win.
Rory McIlroy (3) now joins Tiger Woods (3) as the players with the most victories on TOUR this year. McIlroy hold the advantage, obviously, as one of his three wins was a major championship. Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Zach Johnson (2) are the only other multiple winners on TOUR this year and all are obviously heading to the BMW Championship this week as well. American players have dominated on TOUR this year but Rory McIlroy has been doing his best for the foreign contingent with three wins. Americans now have registered 29 victories in 39 events. The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Rory McIlroy (Honda, PGA and DBC), Justin Rose (WGC-CC), Luke Donald (Transitions), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage), Marc Leishman (the Travelers), South African Ernie Els (The Open) and Spain’s Sergio Garcia (Wyndham).
McIlroy now has five wins in his 20’s and trails only Dustin Johnson (six) for that lead. Johnson is 27 and McIlroy is 23.
There have only been five first-time winners on TOUR in 2012: Kyle Stanley, John Huh, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Ted Potter, Jr.
With this victory, McIlroy collects $1,440,000, 2500 FedExCup points and now is in first place in the FedExCup Playoffs after two events. Next week, the top 70 players move on to the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana for the third of four FedExCup Playoff events.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 39 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” continue to increase the lead thanks to victories in the past weeks by Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Nick Watney and now McIlroy again. The “Young” guns have locked it up at the top as they now lead 20-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy TWICE (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26), Sergio Garcia (32) and Nick Watney (32) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! Phil Mickelson was the best “old” guy finish this week at T4.
Louis Oosthuizen: After sleeping on a three-shot lead, Oosthuizen was struggling with his tee ball as he got started on Sunday due to a pectoral muscle issue that he developed on hole No. 16 on Saturday. His driver, usually very steady, was wayward early and it cost him a double bogey on No. 5 which he never overcame. This one will sting for Oosthuizen as he finished the week with 22 birdies and only three bogeys. The double hurts even more after seeing those numbers. Speaking of excellent putting, Oosthuizen was third in strokes gained-putting, second in putts per GIR and T7 in putts per round. And, not as surprisingly, he was first in GIR. Oosthuizen missed his chance on hole No. 17 as he sat in middle of the fairway with McIlroy already in trouble. His iron found the rough green side and couldn’t get up and down to save his par. The one shot he needed on Sunday, from the middle of the fairway, didn’t happen. We learned again this week that you may sleep on Oosthuizen at your own risk. He’s now finished fourth, T21, T5 and now second in his last four events on TOUR. He now sits fifth in the FedExCup Playoffs standings. The only question I will have about him next week is whether or not his pectoral injury is better or worse. If he’s fine, he’ll be in my top five again next week.
Tiger Woods: Ho hum, another top three for the greatest player of this generation. The most interesting part of his game this week was that he played all four rounds in the 60’s for the first time in 2012, including 68-66 on the weekend to match his finish at WGC-BI. After reading Rotoworld’s Ryan O’Sullivan’s take on The Big Miss, I now understand, from a fantasy perspective, that Woods is very difficult to guage week-in-and-week-out. This week, we saw Woods make exactly four bogeys for the WEEK, not in the final round. This week we saw Woods finish T2 in GIR. This week we saw Woods finish T11 in strokes gained-putting. His 64 on Thursdsay got him off to an excellent start but I thought the way he finished was even better as he fired a bogey-free 66 on Sunday to finish solo third. That 66 was tied as the best round of the day. What does it all mean? He’s still really good but he isn’t great every week like we’ve seen in the past. He still wasn’t as crisp with his game from 150 yards and he didn’t hole as many putts as he would like. All of that for solo third against a field of this quality ain’t bad. Now the question is what to do with him next week? Save him for East Lake or contend that he’ll be right back in the top three again? His best run this season came when he finished T3 at The Open Championship and then backed that up with T8 at WGC-BI. I worry that his lack of history (just like all of them) next week might still be a roadblock as he’s proven that he’s played best on courses he’s dominated before. Crooked Stick doesn’t fit that bill.
Phil Mickelson: Welcome back, Mickelson! We haven’t seen Mickelson in this column since late May when he finished T7 at HPBNC. His best finish before this week’s T4 was T36 at the PGA Championship. Since we’ve last seen him, he’s bought the San Diego Padres, helped out in raising more money for Birdies for the Brave and changed his putting grip to a modified-claw-slash-pencil grip that he debuted last weekend at The Barclays. This week, he was fourth in strokes gained-putting and putts per GIR and T12 in putts per round. Does anyone see a pattern here? Mickelson only made six bogeys on the week and continued to find GIR as he finished T15. His 66 was also tied for the low round of the day. After not finding the top 10 since May, I’m not just yet convinced that Mickelson is on track to make a closing run at the FedExCup Playoffs. Gamers who were saving him for East Lake and the TOUR Championship must feel better about their decision but one week does not make a change complete but there is no doubt that Mickelson will have more confidence as he tees it up in the final two Playoff events. I’m not sure if I have the confidence to include him, though.
Dustin Johnson: Two playoff events and two top-five finishes as Johnson backs up his T3 last week at The Barclays with a T4 this week at TPC Boston. After blistering the course on Saturday for eight birdies and two bogeys, Johnson showed some toughness by getting up-and-down from some tight spots on Sunday to show off all his tools. His putter was behaving as well this week as he was T17 in strokes gained-putting and third in putts per GIR. Long courses, short courses, tight courses or wide-open courses, Johnson’s game seems to have zero boundaries at the moment and he should be considered a favorite next week at Crooked Stick as his game has turned on in the Playoffs. Don’t be surprised if he is one of the four Captain’s Picks from Davis Love III tomorrow morning as his length can’t possibly hurt the USA’s chances at Medinah.
Brandt Snedeker: Speaking of Captain’s Picks for the Ryder Cup, Snedeker, like Johnson, has done absolutely nothing wrong in the last two weeks to hurt his chances of making the team this year. He backed up his solo second at The Barclays with his third-consecutive top-six finish at TPC Boston (sixth) this week. After struggling to put anything together after his T3 at The Open Championship, Snedeker has embraced the pressure down the stretch and should capture a wild-card spot on Tuesday. You have to like guys who are performing when they know their future is on the line. There’s nowhere to hide in a Ryder Cup!
Adam Scott: Another big-time player, another 66 on Sunday as the Aussie found his first top 10 since his disappointing finish at The Open Championship (T7). Scott does what he does best as he was T4 in driving accuracy and T4 in GIR. We all know that the putter, long or short, has been Scott’s issue over the years and this week was not any different. When it’s hot, he’s hard to beat. When it’s registering 52nd strokes gained-putting, T68 putts per round and 51st putts per GIR, he’s under more pressure to hit it straight and close to the pins. His 26 putts on Sunday were his best of the week, hence his low round of the week, 66. The theme we have seen recently is the guy who makes the most putts is usually holding the trophy at the end of the week so Scott knows that he needs to build on Sunday’s round if he’s going to remain in the top 30 for East Lake in three weeks. He’s currently 25th on the FedExCup Playoffs standings.
Jeff Overton: I thought he would have a big week this week and he stood up to the challenge to make it back to Indiana to play at Crooked Stick next week. Overton’s T7 is his best finish since his T4 at the end of April at the SHO. His top 10 finish moved him from 83rd to 40th in the standings and another top 10 next week could see him back-door The TOUR Championship. His 19 birdies this week were buoyed by a solid, all-around performance which saw him finish T4 in driving accuracy, T15 in GIR and 19th in strokes gained-putting. After standing up to the pressure this week, he’ll have to do it again next week and he’s been known to play hot golf in bunches. He’s knows he’s not making the Ryder Cup team and should be focused on finishing out the season in Atlanta. Look for him next week as well in my preview column for FedExCup Playoffs event three!
Bryce Molder: Speaking of playing well under pressure, former Yellow Jacket Bryce Molder embraced his role of spoiler this week as well. He began the week at No. 93 and increased his position a whopping 48 places with his solo-ninth place finish this week. Molder’s last top 10 was the opening event of the season, the HTOC at Kapalua. His last top 25 was T24 at FESJC in early June. Well spotted if you thought he was going to fire this week as this was his first start in seven where he finished T42 or better. All playoffs have great upsets!
Kevin Stadler: For the second time in two weeks, Stadler hits the top 10 (T10, T10) in the FedExCup Playoffs. He, like Adam Scott, both carry a long-putter and both shot 66 on Sunday. He, like Adam Scott, struck the golf ball extremely well this week as he finished T2 in driving accuracy and T8 GIR. Similarly, Stadler joined Scott in the bottom of most putting categories. He was T69 (of 78 players) putts per GIR, T62 putts per round and 43rd strokes gained-putting. After T16 the Memorial and T11 at the FESJC, Stadler rattled off four MC’s in a row. In his last four events on TOUR, he’s finished 11th, T46, T10 and T10. He’s streaky and his streak is on!
Ryan Moore: He got off to a fantastic start as he was 10-under after Friday’s round. Through three rounds, Moore made seven bogeys and was 11-under heading into Sunday. On Sunday, he made five bogeys and a double which saw his excellent start stall out. He finished the tournament with 22 birdies, good enough for T2, but his iron play let him down on Sunday he only hit 56% of GIR. Moore’s T10 moved him from 53rd to 35th and another excellent finish this week could see him creep into the top 30 and make him eligible for Atlanta.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Chalk, chalk and more chalk this weekend at TPC Boston
S.Y. Noh: His first round 62 turned into a struggle before a final round 68 saw him have another top 25 finish, his 12th of the year.
Lee Westwood: His T13 finish maintained his place in the top 30 (23rd) and he went about it in the opposite direction this week. He struggled to find fairways and was right in the middle of GIR. He’s been working on his short game and it showed this week as he was T13 or better in all three putting categories.
Keegan Bradley: He thought he MC after his round on Friday and was packed up and ready to leave with another disappointing finish at a FedExCup Playoffs event. His plus-two ended up making the weekend and he took full advantage of his good fortune. Also, his caddy, Pepsi, rejoined him on Saturday after a death in the family and the old mates put together a 63-69 weekend to finish T13.
Steve Stricker: Mr. Steady with four rounds under par for T13 as he auditioned for one of the four Ryder Cup Captain’s Picks this weekend as well. By all expert accounts, Stricker will be in red, white and blue come Tuesday morning.
Jim Furyk: Another proven veteran on the outside looking in for a Ryder Cup spot looked sharp in posting 65 on Saturday and firing 70 on Sunday to finish T13 as well. It seemed the masses are split on whether or not Furyk should be included in DL III’s team but I think his experience on the big stage will be the deciding factor in his inclusion to the squad.
Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner: T18. Raise your hand if you’re surprised. Didn’t think so.
Nick Watney: The Barclay’s champion continues his solid play late in the season with a T20 finish this week.
Bubba Watson: One of the few big-name bombers who bombed out this week as he MC. The driver wasn’t the issue as he hit plenty of fairways. His iron play was off as he was just barely over 50% in GIR and his putting, his nemesis, didn’t help. The last time he was MC was the U.S. Open. He finished T2 the following week at the Travelers. Remember, in 14 events where he’s made the cut, he’s hit the top 25 every time.
Justin Rose: The Twitterverse suggested that he was trying out multiple putters this week in Boston. Gulp. The normally, machine-like GIR master also struggled to hit barely over 50% of GIR in his two rounds as he MC. Rose was T3 at Kiawah Island the last time he played a Pete Dye course so remember that for next week!
Sleeping Well Tonight:
Jeff Overton went from 83 to 40
Bryce Molder went from 93 to 45
D.A. Points went from 72 to 54
Troy Matteson went from 78 to 59
Matt Every went from 75 to 63
Chris Kirk went from 81 to 66
Charl Schwartzel went from 71 to 68 (yikes!)
Charley Hoffman went from 86 to 69
Dicky Pride went from 96 to 70
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the BMW Chmapionship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.