American Hunter Mahan hit the winner’s circle for the first time since 2012 as he fired a final round 65 to post 14-under-par 270 to win The Barclays at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. Mahan held off Australians Jason Day and Stuart Appleby plus American Cameron Tringale by two shots to win for the sixth time in his career on TOUR and to take the lead in the FedExCup Playoffs.
Mahan entered the final round trailing Jim Furyk and Jason Day by one shot but only a bogey on the final hole made this finish to this golf tournament interesting. Mahan killed all the drama by circling birds on five of seven holes between Nos. 11 and 17, including at 21-foot dagger on No. 17 that put him three clear. After spraying his tee ball well righton the final hole, Mahan played smart and pitched it out after his caddy expertly took him through all of his options. He almost made it a VERY interesting ending as his wedge approach found the short-side in the spinach. His three-shot lead was looking to be reduced to one if he couldn’t get up and down. His pitch left him eight feet but just like he did for most of the day, he rammed it home for just a bogey.
Mahan racked up seven birdies to that lone bogey for a Sunday-tying-best 65 with Stuart Appleby and Patrick Reed. His 68 on Saturday wasn’t too shabby either and he finished the weekend with only three bogeys. For the week, he racked up 21 birdies (T2), led the field in GIR, T15 in strokes gained-putting (SGP) and 10th in putts per GIR (PPG). He hit 80% of greens even though he was middle of the pack, T37, in fairways.
This season had been nothing but bizarre for the long-term and short-term gamers as Mahan racked up four top 10s in five events in winter before his WD at API in early spring with an injury. His subsequent hip injury threw off his entire ecosystem as his game plummeted into mediocrity over the spring and early summer. He played 12 events in that span that turned up five MCs and only one finish inside the top 25 (T24, QLN).
And then August arrived.
A familiar track at Firestone saw Mahan grind out a Friday 65, his best round since February, and a closing 68 which forced him into the top 25 (T15). Gamers weren’t expecting too much at Valhalla as Mahan posted T26, MC and T32 in the season’s first three majors. His 70-71 saw him make the weekend and then 65-67 to finish T7 confirmed what some had suspected would be coming after his T15 the week before. With two WGC championships, Ryder Cup and President Cup team participation, it shows us once again that form is temporary and class is permanent. In 2012 gamers believed that he was going to turn the corner as he played in the final group at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship but couldn’t kick down the door. In 2013, the next logical step would be picking up a few wins in a Ryder Cup year and contending or even winning a major. He took a very circular route in getting back to the winner’s circle but he’s now here and he’s now given Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson plenty to think about as he considers his captain’s picks shortly.
Mahan can remove all doubt next week at the DBC if he pulls a “Vijay Singh” from 2008. Singh won The Barclays and the DBC en route to his FedExCup Championship. He’s the only player to win the first two events of the Playoff schedule since they began in 2007. He now jumps from No. 62 to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings and is in the driving seat to finish inside the top five heading into Atlanta for The TOUR Championship. Remember, the only players who can win the $10 million in Atlanta WITHOUT ANY HELP are those who reside in the top five heading into that week. If any of those five players win in the final week, the results of the other players will NOT matter.
With this victory, Mahan collects $1,440,000 and 2500 FedExCup points and keeps his streak alive as the only TOUR player to have participated in EVERY Playoff event, 29 of them, since its inception in 2007.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 25 of 42 events in 2013-14. This was the red, white and blue’s first win in SIX weeks as Hunter Mahan hoists the trophy. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman, Brian Harman and now Hunter Mahan have won for the USA.
Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives. Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won four of the last six majors dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas are flying the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 42 events in 2014.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 20 of 42 leaders have gone on to win as Jim Furyk and Jason Day added their names to those who haven’t held on.
Rory McIlroy joined Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer as the multiple winners on TOUR this season after his boiling three week stretch. Walker and McIlroy have three victories each #rydercupfoes.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38), Geoff Ogilvy (37) Camilo Villegas (32) and Hunter Mahan, 32, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along. Look up who else is 32 and we’ll find our winner at the DBC as we’ve now crowned two in a row at that age!
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy THRICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden (42) and Argentine Angel Cabrera, 44, who won at Greenbrier, are the only two 40-somethings to claim victory this season. Jim Furyk has now be unable to convert his last eight 54-hole leads on TOUR.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Stuart Appleby: The Aussie had MC in three straight before posting T38 at Wyndham last week. The perceptive gamer noticed that he did post a pair of 66s in his last six rounds but not even the best of could see his first top five finish since he shot 59 in the final round at the 2010 Greenbrier. This was just his fifth top 10 since that historic victory so don’t feel that he slipped by this week! He only made five bogeys on the week and only made one in the final three rounds. He led the field in SGP, finished T22 in GIR and was T20 in fairways. His biggest putt of the day was his final one that kept him in share of second place. This was his first top 10 since T8 at Honda back in early March. He moved up 79 spots from No. 98 to No. 19 in the FEC standings.
Jason Day: Another big event, another example of why gamers can be frustrated with Jason Day. The good news is this week’s frustration has NOTHING to do with an injury, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. Day was in the mix heading into Sunday at Valhalla and had to rearrange his grip to accustom his thumb/wrist problem. He fired 72 in the final round to finish T15. This week, he was healthy, to my knowledge, and was in the final group and finished a distant T2. His three-under was the second worst score in the top eight. The worst was his playing partner, Jim Furyk’s one-under. Day is an immense talent and gamers have set a very high bar for him. Remember, T2s aren’t great but they are not going to put any of us in the poor house either.
Cameron Tringale: Entering the week the only reason folks were talking about the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket was for calling a retroactive penalty on himself six days AFTER the PGA had ended. Tringale cleared his conscience and his mind and it worked as he racked up his best finish ever on TOUR. Quietly, this is his second top four or better in his last four events. He MC at The Open and was DQ from the PGA after finishing T4 at The Greenbrier. Similar to Mahan, Tringale has also had success at the Shell Houston Open. Mahan’s last win was on that track and Tringale posted solo fourth there earlier in 2014. He was T16 in 2013 and T8 in 2012. Interesting to note that Appleby also has won the SHO…Tringale racked up 21 birdies as well on the back of an all-around great week. He was T8 in fairways, T12 GIR, T12 PPG and ninth in SGP. He only carded seven bogeys on the week as well but his final one was on the final hole and knocked him into a share of second. This is Tringale’s fourth consecutive year in the FEC but his best season on TOUR in the cash-earned department. He’s never made any noise at the DBC but he seemed awfully cool on Sunday!
Ernie Els: Coming off his T7 at Valhalla, Els remarked via his blog at his website that he was looking forward to getting after it at Sedgefield, a course he loves and where he’s had past success. His T64 was a stark reminder to gamers that belief is one thing and getting out there and executing is another. I don’t remember reading anything about him anywhere heading into this week and he goes out and birdies the last two to fire a bogey-free 66 to finish T5! It probably had something to do with him finishing third in BOTH SGP and PPG. Imagine if he would have hit any greens or fairways! This sounded very similar to the Valhalla performance with the putter. Let me know BEFORE hand when he’s going to have a hot week with the putter! Els had not broken par in six rounds at Ridgefield prior to this week. Fantasy golf is hard. Real golf is harder.
William McGirt: Gamers who love to play the hot hand in back-to-back weeks probably focused on Villegas after last week but it was McGirt who ended up paying off. After closing with 64 last week at Sedgefield, McGirt closed with 68-66 this week to bang back-to-back top 10s for the first time since July in 2012. It was another week of solid ball-striking and putting as he was eighth in fairways and third in GIR. He’s now hit T25 or better in his last four on TOUR.
Matt Kuchar: The 2010 champion lipped out on No. 17 for birdie but chipped in on No. 18 to peg another top five for his loyal followers. Make it 11 top 10s in 21 starts this season. Doesn’t look like the back injury that caused him to miss the PGA had any lasting effects as he posted a bogey-free 67 to finish T5! That’s good news for gamers who still have a start or two left on him in Yahoo!
Jim Furyk: Well, he’s now 0-for-8 in his last eight times holding the 54-hole lead. Again, he was under par on Sunday but not enough to keep up with the rabbits that blew by him on Sunday. If fantasy golf was played in a vacuum he would be having an incredible year. He’s 17-for-17 and has almost cashed $5 million WITHOUT HAVING A WIN. See, that’s not so bad! His worst start in his last six events is T15. He’ll be in the preview column again next week. This is a recording.
Patrick Reed: An all-or-nothing week for Reed saw his 66 on Friday and 65 on Sunday wipe out his 71 on Thursday and 73 on Saturday for T9. He only made five bogeys on the week and racked up 50 pars. His ball-striking outshined his putting numbers and he bounced back nicely, a la Els, after big expectations last week defending at Sedgefield. Reed made seven birdies on Sunday and that will bode well for next week where he’ll need all he can make to win. He’s quietly hit the top 10 for the second time in his last four tries as well.
Rickie Fowler: Just when Fowler looked to be getting disinterested after 68-73 to open he goes and rattles off 67-67 to save all the Yahoo! Group A bacon this week. If you’re scoring at home like I am, that’s now five in a row in the top 10. His T9 this week was his WORST finish in this stretch. He did lose to his roommate, Tringale, though, so that should be enough motivation for him to get right back on the bike next week! Gamers take note that it was his putter that did the damage this week and that bodes well for TPC Boston on big, slow Bentgrass greens. #rolltherockmakebirdies
Kevin Na: It looked like he was going to bust out after he lost a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama at Memorial and then posted T12 at Pinehurst but he cooled a bit as summer proper wore on. His splits jump off the page and he rewarded those who believed in those numbers this week as he finished T9. Similar to Fowler, it was the putter that put him in the top 10 as he was fifth in SGP and T15 in PPG. He didn’t make a bogey in his final 30 holes and only made three in his final 54 holes of the week.
Morgan Hoffmann: The local kid from Franklin Lakes picked the right time to shine in front of the home fans. His T9 moves him from No. 124 up 52 spots to No. 72 and a spot in the field at Boston. He’ll move from one bubble to the next bubble as at the conclusion of play next week only those within the top 70 move on to Cherry Hills outside of Denver the following week. Hoffmann’s mom drove him to the course every day and he stayed in his childhood bedroom during the week. This was only his fourth top 10 in his brief TOUR career and his first since QLN in 2013. Momentum is a wonderful thing but I’ll remember that he played plenty of high school golf on this course as well. It’s a neat story THIS week but I’m not attaching my wagon to this horse next week just yet.