What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Shawn Stefani: In only his 10th start of the season, Stefani racked up his first runner-up finish and best-finish ever on TOUR. He was fifth in his second start of the year at SHO and that covered his major medical extension for 2014. His P2 this week in addition to that finish will put him comfortably on TOUR next year. Stefani played excellent golf this week as he was T12 in birdies (14), T3 in bogey avoidance (8), T11 in fairways, T22 in GIR and seventh in putts per GIR. That solid formula helped him build from a first round 74 with rounds of 68-68-70 to close. Gamers, Stefani showed he could be competitive at a birdie-fest and a U.S. Open-style layout. His 20-footer on No. 18 that just slid by the hole would have won him the tournament but it was not to be. He entered the week on a MC last week but he likes Congressional. He now has five of eight rounds here UNDER par. That’s strong.
Charley Hoffman: He’s already eclipsed his 2013 money total in four less events as his T3 this week puts him in the ballpark of $2 million for the year. His best year on TOUR was 2010 when he won just north of $2.5 million and he’s well above that pace. This week makes it 11 weekends out of his last 11 and his best finish on TOUR since 2013 Valero Texas Open (T3). This just reinforces how consistent his play has been on the season even with short hair! #NotSampson
Ben Martin: He began his run of seven cuts made with a T3 at RBC Heritage and he adds his second T3 of the year at QLN. As the numbers told us, Martin’s well-rounded game is one of his biggest assets (28th, all-around). He finished the week T4 in fairways, T11 GIR and 17th in strokes gained-putting (SGP). Martin caught my attention before the week started because of the balance and his game and I’ll ALWAYS take a look at a guy who fired 65 at Muirfield Village and TPC Southwind on a Sunday.
Andres Romero: Coming off MC in four of his last five starts, the Argentine made a ton of birdies and bogeys to finish T5. His 68 on Sunday was the low round of the day and included four birdies of his 15 on the week and only one of his 13 bogeys. He was T68 in fairways and T33 in GIR but his T11 in SGP made his money this week. He’s 175th on TOUR in ball-striking in 2014. This was his first top 10 since T2 at Reno-Tahoe last August. This was his first top 21 or better in 19 starts this season.
Brendan Steele: The new putter debut last week carried right over to this week as his T5 backed up his T5 from last week. He finished the week T22 in putts per GIR. Steele might be kicking himself as his double bogey on the final hole took him from four-under, the number that made the playoff, to two-under and T5. His game fits at CCC as he’s improved each of the last three years (T68, T16 and now T5). He also made 16 birdies this week, good for T2. After MC in four of his last seven he’s now racked up back-to-back T5s. #hot
Brendon Todd: Speaking of hot, Todd continues his torrid play since his win at the HPBNC with another top finish again this week (T5). It was nice to have my OAD pick jump back in the top 10 for the first time since Memorial (Charl Schwartzel, T8) but, for a while, I was thinking bigger and better. Todd opened up with three birdies in his first eight holes to share the lead at five-under. A double bogey on No. 10 plus bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14 wiped out those three birdies but he was still in it. What I love about Todd is success has buoyed him onward. He rallied to birdie two of the last three, including a 26-footer on the final hole to move into T5. He led the field in SGP.
Billy Hurley III: His best finish on TOUR was T4 here in 2012. His T8 this year makes him two-for-two at CCC in his only two starts. He would have made a tasty TOAD this week! He’s now 14 of 20 on the season in making the cut and this was No. 6 in a row. His T16 at HPBNC was his best finish in that streak until this week. His two best finishes this year were at Honda and QLN on two tough courses.
Brendon de Jonge: The former Virginia Tech Hokie made the journey up from his home in Charlotte and continued his solid run on some of his favorite regional courses. His T8 this year pairs nicely with his T11 in 2012 so gamers can safely put him on their horse-for-course lists at CCC. This was his first top 10 since his T6 at his hometown’s Wells Fargo Championship. That’s eight in a row but those are the only two finishes in the top 25. If every event was in North Carolina or Virginia I would be more confident moving forward.
Marc Leishman: The only player from the triumvirate who began the day four-under that survived inside the top 10 as his 74 saw him post T8. With four bogeys in his final 12 holes, Leishman, who once held the lead on five-under after five holes, couldn’t find any birdies coming home. In his last six events, the Aussie has been on fine form with five of those finishes T23 or better. Three of them are T11, T3 and T8. He’s on my list for Hoylake.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Jason Day: A victim of the Tiger Woods effect this week, the excellent Aussie played the middle 18 holes of his round three-under but the first nine were four-over and the final nine was two-over. He opened his final nine double-double as he found back-to-back hazards on Nos. 10 and 11. The good news is there are no physical issues with him to be concerned about. 73-73, MC.
Jordan Spieth: Also playing with Woods and Day, Spieth struggled out of the gate with an opening round 74. Unlike his two playing partners, he cranked it up on Friday with 70 to make the cut. Here’s what I love about Spieth. He just keeps grinding. His 69-71 weekend saw him finish T11. In those final three rounds he made all of FOUR bogeys. FOUR. He did that hitting barley 50% of the fairways (T53) and barley 50% of GIR (75TH). #Grinder He now has 15 top 25s in 17 weekends on TOUR. He’s automatic and sadly my last start will come on him at the John Deere Classic.
Brendon Todd: T5, see above.
Keegan Bradley: His last three MC on TOUR have been at the Masters, THE PLAYERS and this week at Congressional. That’s three different kinds of difficult courses so I’ve learned nothing. He was T4 at Pinehurst No. 2. That course is difficult. So is forecasting Keegan Bradley. Sigh. All four nines this week were played over par. 75-75, MC.
Justin Rose: WIN, see above.
Billy Horschel: His hot stretch of golf continues as he joined Spieth on T11 this week. His formula has been lights-out ball-striking and making just enough putts. This week, the bell sounded the same as he was T2 GIR and T18 in fairways. He racked up 54 pars and only made ONE bogey in his first 36 holes. He’s trending in the right direction so I’m staying on board. His horrific 2014 started to turn after T26 at THE PLAYERS and has been steady since. His last four events have seen him rack up T15, T6, T23 and T11 this week.
Brandt Snedeker: After making just two birdies on the weekend, gamers will gladly settle for a top 25 this week. The good news was he played three of four rounds at par or better and his putter was steady again. He’s rounding nicely into form.
Bill Haas: Beginning Sunday at two-under and just four shots off the lead, the 2013 champ’s putter went ice cold and he closed with 77 to finish T30. That’s what six bogeys and a double will do to a guy on a Sunday. Haas continues to strike the ball well T11 fairways and T4 GIR but was 74th of 77 players in SGP for the week. He was also T62 in putts per GIR. He keeps sniffing and he’s doing just enough to keep gamers interested but he’s not having the breakout season that many of us thought he would. It’s not bad but it’s not great. It’s good. With Haas we expect great.
Gary Woodland: Similarly to Haas, Woodland began the day T15 and finished T46 as he needed 78 whacks to get around on Sunday. Woodland is 16 for 17 on the season after opening with a MC at Frys.com. That’s 16 in a row. Woods and Day had their long streaks broken this week so it’s not as easy as it looks! Remember, Woodland was treading water until he busted out last summer with a win at Reno-Tahoe and a T2 at the Barclays.
K.J. Choi: No Country for Old Men. I’m not ageist but I’m close. There’s a reason I have a part in my columns about who is winning/performing and how old they are. Gamers need to remember that guys in their mid-40s don’t show up week in and week out on TOUR. Mickelson doesn’t. Furyk doesn’t. Stricker doesn’t show up. Toms doesn’t. You get the idea. I would suggest chasing quickly but not for an extended period of time. Choi supporters learned that lesson this week.
Ryan Palmer: He shot 77 on Sunday as well. What a foursome I could have had from this group on 77 or better on Sunday! Haas, Woodland, Palmer…
Brendan Steele: T5, see above.
Charley Hoffman: T3, see above.
Webb Simpson: This is how difficult CCC was playing on Sunday: Simpson shot one OVER and moved up 18 spots to T30.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Greenbrier Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.