Category archive: Bud Cauley
A year ago entering the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the golf world knew Billy Horschel was on the brink of breaking through.
Despite going his first 60 PGA Tour starts without a victory, Horschel was coming off consecutive top-10 finishes in Houston, San Antonio and South Carolina. In those three events, he had carded just one round worse than par, good for a combined score of 29 under.
Entering Sunday at TPC Louisiana, Horschel was 2 shots behind D.A. Points. He proceeded to fire a final-round 64 -- a round that included a stretch of six straight birdies -- and finished with a 1-shot win.
Horschel would then parlay that performance into a memorable U.S. Open week at Merion that June. Horschel was tied for the 36-hole lead with Phil Mickelson before finishing tied for fourth, just 4 shots back of champion Justin Rose.
Trivia questionThe last player to win on the PGA Tour without making a bogey over 72 holes did it at the Greater New Orleans Open. Which player did it and in what year? Answer below
Horschel's maiden title in New Orleans last year was nothing new for this event. Six of the past nine champions here made this their first PGA Tour title -- including Nick Watney in 2007 and Jason Dufner in 2012.
So, which players are in the best position to get their first title? We at Numbers Game examined the field and found the three most interesting candidates to claim their inaugural PGA Tour victory.
Graham DeLaet: With a Presidents Cup appearance, three runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour and his first three major championship appearances all coming since last summer, there is perhaps no player knocking on his first win's door louder these days than DeLaet.
He has racked up 12 top-10 finishes on tour since the beginning of 2013. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only two players with more top-10s in that span are Matt Kuchar (16) and Jordan Spieth (14). In just eight non-major stroke-play events this season, DeLaet has finished in the top 10 five times already.
DeLaet's ballstriking is what has lifted him among one of the game's most consistent performers. For the second consecutive year, DeLaet is ranked third on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation percentage. In fact, the Canadian is the only player on tour to have hit at least 70 percent of his GIR in each of the past two seasons.
For DeLaet to make the move from top-10 machine to PGA Tour winner, however, his putting numbers will have to improve. This season, DeLaet has made just 64 of 106 putts between 4 and 8 feet. That mark of 60 percent is 183rd on tour this season -- a drop of 164 spots from where he finished 2013. DeLaet is also ranked 124th on all putts inside 10 feet -- he ranked 14th in the statistic last season.
DeLaet ranks 85th this season in strokes gained putting, but his best performances have come when he has found his stroke with the flatstick. In his two runner-up finishes this year, at the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Open, he ranked 11th and sixth in the field in strokes gained putting, respectively.
Andrew Loupe: A native of Baton Rouge, PGA Tour rookie Loupe drew the ire of golf fans when they got their first good, long (note: really long) look at him when he contended in San Antonio. Loupe's exaggerated pre-shot routine took, by one Golf Digest measurement that week, 1 minute and 15 seconds. On average, it took 39 seconds. In comparison, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy's pre-shot routines hover around 20-25 seconds.
Slow play aside, Loupe has hit his stride since the beginning of February. After missing his first five cuts of the season, Loupe has made four of his past five. He has started very strong in that span, carding five straight opening rounds better than par, good for a combined score of 20 under.
The rookie has been putting like a seasoned veteran, as well. Loupe ranks 19th this season in strokes gained putting, 15th in one-putt percentage, and fourth on putts between 10 and 15 feet.
Bud Cauley: He had a stellar amateur career, being named a semifinalist for the Ben Hogan Award (given to the nation's best college player) three consecutive years. He also racked up eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour before his 23rd birthday. But the 2013-14 season has not been kind to Cauley: nine starts, six missed cuts, no top-25 finishes. Ouch. And Cauley, who climbed as high as 53rd in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2012, has fallen outside the top 300.
Question: The last player to win on the PGA Tour without making a bogey over 72 holes did it at the Greater New Orleans Open. Which player did it and in what year?
Answer: Lee Trevino in 1974.
We at Numbers Game are an optimistic lot, however, so let's look at the bright side for Mr. Cauley. First of all, he's only 24 years old. Reigning PGA champion Dufner got his first PGA Tour win in New Orleans two years ago -- at age 35.
In two of his past three starts, spanning the Web.com and PGA tours, Cauley has finished in the top 30. And TPC Louisiana might be able to foster some confidence for Cauley this week; each of the past two years, the course has ranked in the top third among PGA Tour courses in terms of easiest greens to hit in regulation. That could be good news for Cauley, who is 134th in GIR percentage this season.
This week's tournament: Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
Horse for the Course
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jason Day
He could be this year's golfer to go from starting the playoffs outside the top 100 (113th) in the FedEx Cup standings to the Tour Championship (top 30). Coming into the playoffs, he had only 13 starts on tour this year, with three missed cuts and a W/D, but a strong Sunday finish (65) just so he could qualify for the Deutsche Bank leads him to a course where he finished third last year, and was one of only four players to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Vijay Singh
At the TPC Boston, the 49-year-old Hall of Famer is a combined 38-under par in his two wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
TPC Boston is another place where Woods has performed well over the years. In seven appearances, he's been out of the top 11 just once, and he won in 2006.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Brandt Snedeker
Looking to solidify a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a potential captain's pick, the man who leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting posted a pair of top-5 finishes in his past two starts at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And what Ryder Cup captain wouldn't want the best putter on tour on his team?
Michael Collins: Nick Watney
In 2011 he had two victories, but before winning last week at The Barclays, he had only three top-10s this year, with eighth place his highest finish. Not the year the Butch Harmon student was planning for himself, but there's something to be said for getting hot at the right time. Even though this will be his fifth week in a row teeing it up, when you're rollin' . . . don't stop rollin'! And if Bill Haas won the big money Fed Ex Cup prize last year, it only would be fitting if his stunt double Watney put himself in a prime position to take it this year.
Farrell Evans: Bud Cauley
At The Barclays, the 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Alabama got his fourth top-10 in his past five starts.
Bob Harig: Nick Watney
He just showed how important a win is in the FedEx Cup playoffs, jumping from 49th in the standings to the top spot with his victory at The Barclays.
Kevin Maguire: Steve Stricker
A T-54 at last week's Barclays probably isn't the way Stricker wanted to start his playoffs, but the likely Ryder Cup captain's pick does own a pair of career victories in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He seems to relish playing at this time of year, so expect that to continue this week at TPC Boston.
Michael Collins: J.B. Holmes
After making seven cuts in a row, it's almost a blessing in disguise that he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship. Holmes has played himself into a position to make the Tour Championship with a good week, and the last time he played this week's course, in 2010, he finished 10th. It's a bomber's course and he is still a bomber.
Farrell Evans: Jason Day
The 24-year-old Australian got a tie for third in Boston last year. In a disappointing 2012 season, Day comes into this week 88th in the standings. He would love to make it back to the Tour Championship, where he finished last year in a tie for sixth.
Bob Harig: Martin Flores
He missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and at The Barclays last week, dropping him 12 spots to the 100th and final qualifying position for the Deutsche Bank Championship. He clearly needs to get something going if he wants to prolong his playoffs.
Kevin Maguire: Dicky Pride
Talk about playing with house money. Pride clinched his tour card for 2013 behind the strength of three top-10 finishes this year. He hadn't had one previously since mid-2009. And at 96th in the FedEx Cup standings, a strong week gets him into the third leg of the PGA Tour playoffs, a spot he likely couldn't have imagined at the beginning of the season.
Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
Because he wasn't a member of the tour last year, he wasn't eligible for the playoffs. He did compete in 2010, with a 37th-place finish at the TPC Boston. He has two more years of experience and two majors under his belt, and I expect a very good week on a course that sets up well for his style of golf. With a tour scoring average of 69.02, if he just holds his average, it'll be an easy top 10. I expect much more than that this week.
Farrell Evans: Brandt Snedeker
The former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion finished second at The Barclays. He's playing this week in Boston hoping that a great tournament will get him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Last year, the former Vanderbilt star finished in a tie for third at the Deutsche Bank.
Bob Harig: Adam Scott
Save for his near-miss at the Open Championship, it's been a quiet year for the Aussie, who won his first PGA Tour event nine years ago at TPC Boston. A victory this week puts him near the top and in the running for the FedEx Cup.
Kevin Maguire: Jason Day
Never underestimate motivation. The Aussie, who's finished T-3 and T-2 in his previous two outings at TPC Boston, is currently on the outside looking in at next week's BMW Championship. Without a strong finish, his playoffs could end Saturday. Don't expect the new dad to get some extra time off on the holiday weekend.