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Hunter Is Now the Hunted

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Hunter Is Now the Hunted
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Hunter Mahan wins The Barclays at The Ridgefield Country Club to assume the lead after one leg of the …

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.

Game over.

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.

Hindsight

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.

Chalk Dust

What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?

Rory McIlroy: Wait, what? He didn’t win four in a row? I’m glad I was on board for the last two! He tweeted that he’s heading to Boston and that he’s 90% sure that he’ll be playing the following week in Denver as he wants to see the Colts-Broncos game on Sunday night. He had ANOTHER nine-hole score of 40 but just like all the previous ones, he still finished inside the top 25 with T22. He was atrocious and finished T22. Hahahahahahaha.

Adam Scott: His 75 on Saturday was shocking as he struggled to find any fairways and any greens. If he would have shot even par that day he would have been one shot out of the lead entering Sunday. #whatif. His Sunday round of 68 shows that he’s all business as he is trying to get back to No. 1 in the world. He’ll be excited to see TPC Boston where he won in 2003 and has racked up some very tidy finishes in the Playoffs.

Justin Rose: He began Sunday T16 but 72 on Sunday knocked him back to T30. Looking at his splits it’s amazing he finished that high as he hit it all over the shop and was 63rd in SGP. In his last six outings he’s won twice, T23, T4, T24 and T30. I don’t believe there is anything here a quick-fix on the range can’t take care of moving forward.

Jim Furyk: See above.

Rickie Fowler: See above.

Sergio Garcia: I’ll wonder aloud here if he’s “done” with 2014 as he backed up his T35 at the PGA with T57 here this week. I’ll also add that he’s skipping the DBC, where he was the 54-hole leader last year before Stenson ran him over, to hang with friends at the U.S. Open. He’s in the Ryder Cup squad. He’s No. 15th in the current standings. I guess we’ll see him at Cherry Hills. Stay tuned.

Matt Kuchar: See above.

Bill Haas: My OAD this week came down to Haas and Mahan. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Haas was T2 last week at Sedgefield and backed it up with T15 this week after closing with four birdies and an eagle (one bogey) for 67. He’s turning it on at the right time of year and put all four rounds under-par this week.

Henrik Stenson: His 64 on Friday was just as brilliant as his 78 was on Saturday. Nothing fazes him though as he rebooted to fire 68 on Sunday to salvage a few bucks at T38. He tied the tournament record at Boston last year by firing 22-under.

Charl Schwartzel: Nothing better than 69 and nothing worse than 71. I told all who would listen that once I include him in the preview column that he would revert to ordinary. Sigh.

Zach Johnson: He was wondering why he couldn’t find any fairways in his final two rounds. He got his answer today when he found a crack in his driver. Well, at least we know it’s not mental but he was fourth in fairways for the week! His 51 pars were T4 but his putter was chilly as he was 50th in SGP and 41st in PPG. His T22 was his best finish in his last five since T2 at JDC.

Graeme McDowell: He’s out next week as his wife has scheduled their baby to be delivered on Monday morning. He currently sits 40th in FEC points so he’ll be in the field (?) for Denver in two weeks, pending all goes well with the little ‘un. That would be his last chance to get in a competitive setting before the Ryder Cup as well. He played the weekend one over but I’ll give the guy a break with bigger things on his mind! T38.

Hunter Mahan: See above.

Jason Day: See above.

Special Mentions

For the first time ever in the new points format, a MDF was required after Saturday’s round as 79 players made the cut.  Weird.

Bubble Boys


Here’s how the 10-most volatile did on the final weekend on the regular season:

No. 96 Retief Goosen: Opened 69-69 and closed 74-74 to finish No. 103.

No. 97 Rory Sabbatini: His previous history here was predicated on hot play upon arrival. That was not the case this season. He was DFL to MC. He drops to No. 108 and joins Goosen on the sidelines until 2014-15.

No. 98 Stuart Appleby: This veteran stood up and was counted as he finished T2. Bravo, Appleby.

No. 99 John Huh: His 69 on Sunday moved him up to T38 and that means he finishes No. 86 and is headed to Boston. He’ll have to grind again this week and hit the top 20 to make the top 70 to advance to Denver.

No. 100 Brian Davis: His 66 on Friday pushed him into the weekend but his 77 on Saturday saw him MDF and drop to No. 110 and out of the FEC Playoffs.

No. 101 Martin Flores: He was another casualty in the second cut as he shot 76 on Saturday to crash out as well.

No. 102 Aaron Baddeley: He’s now backed up his solo fourth at the Travelers with FIVE MCs in a row.

No. 103 Steve Stricker: DNS = DNA (did not advance)

No. 104 Bo Van Pelt: Entering the week nine of his last 10 rounds were 69 or better. He only had one of four beat 69 this week but his opening round 65 was plenty of cushion to make it to the weekend where 70-70 saw him finish T13. He moves up 31 spots to No. 73 and another chance to continue on this very solid streak of golf.

No. 105 Ricky Barnes: He hit the weekend on the number but his 70-76 closing rounds knocked him to No. 113 and out.

 

 

Coming TUESDAY Afternoon

I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover for the TOUR stop and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.

 

 

Coming Wednesday

                                            

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 Deutsche Bank Championship (DBC) plus 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.

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