By Alex Myers
By now, you’ve probably heard several stats depicting Rickie Fowler’s ugly Waste Management Phoenix Open win. Most notably, his 74 was the highest final-round score by a winner in the event’s history. He was nine shots higher than his previous worse score of the week at TPC Scottsdale (yes, tougher conditions played a role) and posted the sixth-worst score of the day. And despite securing his fifth US PGA Tour title while closing out his first 36-hole lead in nine tries, Fowler has still never broken par as a 54-hole leader.
But one stat shows this victory was even uglier than you thought.
According to Golf Channel’s stat guru Justin Ray, Fowler had the worst ball-striking performance of any winner in the strokes-gained era, which goes back to 2004. And it’s not particularly close. After gaining 11.263 shots on the field from tee-to-green over the first three rounds (an average of 3.754 per day), Fowler lost nearly six shots in that area in the final round alone.
Fortunately for Fowler, a hot putter bailed him out in the final round, including when he drained a 17-footer to save the most bizarre triple-bogey you’ll ever see on the 11th hole. Overall in the final round, Fowler gained 3.319 strokes on the greens to help offset his tee-to-green woes.
But Fowler stepped up in that category with two fantastic shots down the stretch. On the 15th, he found the green of the par 5 in two from 230 metres, and he drove the green on the par-4 17th with a laser from 292 metres. Both shots set up two-putt birdies, which provided his margin of victory over Branden Grace – and kept that strokes gained stat from being even worse.