The year's final major is finally here: the PGA Championship. And with Rory McIlroy striving, and Tiger Woods on the sidelines (maybe), there's multiple storylines in what is sure to be a thrilling week at Valhalla. Here's this week's stats column:
ShotLink Has Arrived!
This is huge news for stat nerds. The PGA Tour and the PGA of America announced Monday that, as part of a larger partnership agreement, ShotLink is coming to the PGA Championship beginning this week. No word yet on if ShotTracker or shot trails will be available, but stay tuned. It's a big win for golf fans. This is the first time ShotLink will be used at a major.
Jason Dufner is the defending champion, defeating Jim Furyk by two. In 2012, McIlroy beat David Lynn by eight shots, and in 2011, Keegan Bradley beat Dufner in a playoff.
But in what will be a theme in this article, we have some people who have some issues. First of all, Dufner has two bulging disks in his neck but is hoping a shot will help him avoid surgery. Possibly more important is that, according to CBSSports.com, he played his final eight holes at Firestone on Sunday with no putter, after he gave it to a kid. The stats bear that frustration out, as he ranks 178th (out of 189) in strokes gained-putting. Needless to say, don't pick Dufner this week.
Rory McIlroy is Really, Really Good
Umm, yeah, you may want to pick Rory this week. Just consider this stat line from Bridgestone: T12 in driving accuracy at just shy of 61 percent, first in driving distance at nearly 335 yards (he hit every drive Saturday more than 300 yards), T1 in greens in regulation at about 79 percent and seventh in strokes gained-putting. If he puts that together again this week, he's going to be tough to beat.
So Who Do You Pick?
This is a tough one. Clearly Woods and his balky back - even if he plays - is not the one. Phil Mickelson shot a Sunday 62 at Firestone with 10 birdies - but his game may be too erratic for some fantasy owners. Besides, he called his wedge game "pathetic" on Saturday - though he did hole out a wedge on Sunday in what even he admitted was a round out of nowhere.
Sergio Garcia is obviously a strong pick after finishing second at both the Open Championship and Firestone. His strong stats at Firestone included being 13th in driving distance, fifth in greens in regulation and 10th in strokes gained-putting.
There's also Adam Scott, whose game has looked fairly steady all year. But after that it really becomes a guessing game. Martin Kaymer was the sure-fire player of the year, as CBS Sports' Peter Kostis noted Sunday, until Rory's run came along. As for Kaymer, his game is nowhere to be seen. Bubba Watson mentally told himself he couldn't win the U.S. or Open Championships, and he didn't. Justin Rose? Matt Kuchar? Zach Johnson? Those steady guys who we'd pick for the Humana Challenge or the PGA Championship may well be your best bet this week.
And at a course with new (and less severe) greens, and without penal rough, maybe you don't need to be an accurate driver or strong putter to win. And that opens it up to someone like Bubba - if he can convince himself he can win the tournament first.