As the PGA Tour takes a one-week hiatus from the FedEx Cup Playoffs, let's look at a couple recent happenings on Tour:
Henrik Stenson's Recent Surge
Stenson's torrid pace - he's gone 2-T2-3-T43-1 since the Open Championship - has catapulted him to first in the FedEx Cup points standings through the first two playoff events and cemented a comeback after a recent stretch that saw him losing his club championship in Sweden the week of the 2012 PGA Championship.
Boy, have times changed for him.
A look at his 2013 stats tells part of the story:
Driving Accuracy - 6th
Greens in Regulation - 1st
Scoring Average - 5th
Total Driving - 4th
But a deeper look at his win at the Deutsche Bank Championship reveals that it was arguably his putter that put him over the top. Of the 100 golfers at TPC Boston, Stenson finished 10th in strokes gained-putting for the week, averaging a gain of 1.101 strokes per round. His season average in the category: a loss of .043 strokes per round, which puts him 117th overall.
Presidents Cup Captains Picks
While the Presidents Cup is no Ryder Cup, the meteoric rise of Jordan Spieth created an interesting quandary for captain Fred Couples, which got a lot of talk on social media: how to measure Spieth's success in just one year, against golfers who had a chance to earn points in the full two-year cycle. In his press conference after the picks, he basically said it was four players - Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk - for two spots. In the end he chose Simpson and Spieth.
With Webb, Couples said he was in the top 10 in points for the entire two-year period until one putt from Zach Johnson on the 72nd hole of the final event to qualify for the team. As for Spieth's pick, Couples said, "I had great help from my team and probably all of the United States and every golfer out there that I'm going to go with Jordan Spieth."
So those are the two men who will tee it up at Muirfield Village in October. But what do the numbers say?
Jordan Spieth - Spieth's success is undeniable. He began the year with no status, and now is just the second player in history - Tiger Woods the other - to go from no status to the Tour Championship in the same season. He has one win, a playoff loss and six other top-10 finishes. He's third in eagles (helpful in match play), seventh in total driving, 15th in driving accuracy, 18th in ball striking and 13th in proximity to the hole. Conclusion: Slam-dunk pick.
Webb Simpson - Simpson hasn't won this year but does have a second (a playoff loss at Harbour Town) and three other top-10s to his name. He also had four consecutive top-25 finishes before a T53 last week in Boston. Statistically, he's fifth in rough proximity (good for alternate shot if your partner drives astray), 50th in strokes gained-putting and 14th in scoring average. Conclusion: this writer would not have picked Simpson, but Couples' reasoning is more on fairness than stats, so it's hard to argue against it under that criteria.
Jim Furyk - Furyk was runner-up to Jason Dufner at the PGA Championship and has a third-placed finish and four other top-10s this season. Statistically he's solid, too, ranking third in driving accuracy, 22nd in greens in regulation and first in proximity to the hole. Conclusion: In a non-Spieth year, he's probably an automatic captain's pick (Couples even said Steve Stricker and Furyk were the two he really wanted to make it), but with Spieth's hot stretch and his reasoning for having Simpson on the team, Furyk becomes first left off.
Dustin Johnson - D.J. has one win this year, the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, to go with a runner-up and three other top-10s. But he's also been extremely inconsistent, with four missed cuts and two withdrawals in the mix, as well. And besides being first in driving distance (he always seem to be leading or close to leading that category), nothing else really stands out from a numbers standpoint. Conclusion: With so many good choices ahead of him, Johnson's chances to make it seemed rather remote, and became further remote after hearing Couples' reasoning for the picks he made.