2006 was marked by extrordinary play from a number of players. Some we’ve come to expect it from, and some we wouldn’t. This week in The Numbers Game, I thought I’d show some facts and figures from these players and just how impressive and sometimes ugly it got.
Rise and Fall
2006 was highlighted with the ups and downs of players throughout the year. In 2006, there were some “new” old names playing well and also some one-time major winners coming back into form. On the other side of the coin there were some significant drops for other players that had some success last year. Here’s a rundown of the rise and fall of those players on the money list:
Player 2005 2006 Diff --------------- ---- ---- ---- Steve Stricker 162 34 128 Brett Wetterich 132 10 122 Shaun Micheel 146 46 100 Ben Curtis 129 29 100 David Duval 260 172 88 Justin Leonard 12 109 -97 Kenny Perry 6 104 -98 Brad Faxon 45 143 -98 Kevin Na 67 205 -138 John Daly 42 193 -151
Steve Stricker was one of the more interesting stories this year. His resurgance allowed him to jump 128 spots on the money list, nearly making the Tour Championship. Brett Wetterich was able to play his way into a Ryder Cup spot with a top 10 finish in the money list… and he’s only two years removed from playing on the Nationwide Tour.
Two other players, both Major Winners also had good years. Ben Curtis, with two victories, played his way into the top 30. He also added a couple more victories next to his Open Championship title. Shawn Micheel also had a sold year finishing strong down the stretch with some excellent play, jumping 100 spots on the money list. Neither will obviously be able to duplicate that in 2007, but both Curtis and Micheel would like nothing more than to keep improving their play.
David Duval was another golfer we all had our eyes on. He’s a guy that would love nothing more than to keep improving his play to a point where he can be competitive. As you can see above, he did just that this year but has a ways to go until he’s anywhere near the form he once had.
In contrast, John Daly is on his way to a Duval-like collapse. With all his off-the-course problems, dropping a few spots would be expected, but falling more than 150 spots is troubling. John Daly will make use of his exemptions in 2007, but John needs to get his personal life in order… of course, when has it ever been normal?
A few other big names made big steps back. Kenny Perry was fighting the injury bug and could never find his swing. I’m rooting for him to come back strong next year and return to the form we saw in 2004 and 2005. Justin Leonard was another top player in 2005 that dropped quite a bit in 2006. The Texan was looking strong coming into the year but never kept the momentum after two top 10s in the first three tournaments.
Brad Faxon couldn’t even manage a top 10 this year after capping off a great finish to the 2005 season. The normally steady putter finished 73rd in putting average to go along with being dead last in total driving. Brad wasn’t hitting it well off the tee, into the green, and his putting let him down as well. I’ll be watching to see if 2007 continues the slide for Brad or if he turns it around.
All this just goes to show you that it is really hard to predict future success on past performance. I don’t think anyone would have picked Ben Curtis to be in the Tour Championship this year.
Earlier in the year I talked about how, statistically, you could say that Annika was more dominant than Tiger. Well, Tiger may have held up his end of the bargain, but Annika took a back seat to someone else. Lorena Ochoa, all 5’6″ of her, decided it was her year to dominate.
In 2006, Ochoa:
- Made almost 17% more than the next woman on the money list
- More than doubled her earnings from last year
- Won 25% of her starts (6 out of 24)
- Finished second five times to go along with her 6 victories
- Finished outside the top 10 only 5 times
- First in Birdies, Eagles and Greens in Regulation
- Third in Putting Average
- Sixth in Driving Distance
Ochoa didn’t come out of nowhere. She has been in the top 10 on the money list since 2003. Ochoa has shown that she truly belongs among golf’s elite. This year she took that next step. The talk early this year was about the young guns like Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer. Ochoa nearly out earned the last three put together.
Can Lorena keep it up, it is going to be hard once the younger players get some experience under their belts. I’ll tell you what though, she has a spirit and fire that I wish some other golfers had&hellp; and I think it is a good part of why she is so successful.
Year of the Tiger
2006 may have been the year of the Dog according to the Chinese Zodiac, but on the PGA Tour it was, once again, the year of the Tiger. Phil Mickelson was all the rage after he won his second major in a row with his victory at Augusta. Woods struggled in the U.S. Open after his father’s death. Soon after, when Tiger was ready, he put to rest any talk about Phil taking hold of world #1 or even being in the conversation.
Once Tiger got his bearings after the U.S. Open, he never looked back. He finished tied for second in the Western Open and then went on his six-tournament winning streak. During the streak, Tiger, in 24 rounds, has:
- Shot over 70 only three times and over 68 just five times
- Shot 65 or under six times
- Hit 37 greens in a row at one point
- Hit over 90% GIR in a tournament (WGC American Express Championship)
- Never finished higher than -10 in a tournament
- Was a combined 109 under par – an average of 18+ below par
- Won over $7 million dollars averaging $1.17 per tournament
Some think that his streak has ended with his losses overseas. At least his PGA Tour winning streak is still intact and that cannot be challenged. Regardless of whether or not you think his streak against Byron Nelson is alive or not, Tiger has hung another banner year on his wall. Statistically it wasn’t too bad either.
Tiger finished first in 20 different statisitical categories this year including most of the scoring averages. Throw in a bunch more top 10’s and it’s looking even better. His only “bad” stats are relating to driving accuracy and scrambling from the rough and greater than 30 yards. Looking at the numbers, only 2000 was a better year for Woods. Without a doubt, though, Tiger finished 2006 stronger than any other.