Painting golf's 2013 by the numbers

December, 13, 2013

The best images of the year in golf are invariably etched into our memories as fans. Among them -- Adam Scott's "C'mon Aussie!" at Augusta, Justin Rose pointing to the sky at Merion, and "Bones" Mackay bursting into tears after Phil Mickelson won the Open Championship.

Many of the best numbers in the sport this year have proved to be equally as compelling. In no particular order, we at Numbers Game present some of the most significant ones in the sport from this year:

Trivia question

Jason Dufner claimed his first major title at the PGA Championship this year, held at Oak Hill. Who won the first professional major ever held there? (Answer below)

8: If you had Henrik Stenson winning the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai at the beginning of the year, put your hand down, because you are a horrible, horrible liar.

Since the second week of July at the Scottish Open, Stenson has racked up a ridiculous eight top-four finishes in world ranking-weighted events around the world. He was outside the world's top 60 after his final start of 2012. As we enter 2014, Stenson has a realistic shot at the world's No. 1 position.

Stenson ended the 2012 season 87th on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation percentage. In 2013, he was first in that statistic. If Stenson improves his putting in the coming months (he was 98th in strokes gained-putting this year), he'll be a favorite in the majors in 2014.

4 under: Adam Scott has a multitude of numbers to support the incredible year he had: the No. 2 spot in the world ranking, nearly $5 million in PGA Tour earnings, and the fifth-best scoring average on tour among them.

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Adam Scott
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesAs is Masters tradition, 2012 champion Bubba Watson slips the green jacket on this year's winner, Adam Scott, after the Aussie became the first man from Down Under to win at Augusta National.

Scott etched himself a place in history, however, with his performance down the stretch at Augusta. He played the last six holes of regulation and two playoff holes during the final round in bogey-free, 4-under style. For the week, Scott dominated holes 13-18 at Augusta National, carding nine birdies and not a single bogey. He is the only Australian-born player to ever win the Masters.

82: As a 19-year-old, Jordan Spieth began 2013 with no PGA Tour card and a world ranking north of 800. That's not to say he didn't have a pedigree that promised success: Spieth and some dude named Tiger Woods are the only two players to ever win multiple U.S. Junior Amateur titles. And Spieth had already made waves in the professional ranks, toying with the lead on the weekend at the Byron Nelson while in high school.

Spieth ended his season as the first player to go from no status to the Tour Championship since Woods in 1996. Along the way, Spieth won the John Deere Classic (knocking off local favorite Zach Johnson in the process) to become the first teenager in 82 years to win a PGA Tour event.

Spieth finished the season with nine top-10 finishes, tied for first on tour. He also finished 2013 ranked in the top 10 in scoring average, all-around ranking, money earned, eagles and final-round scoring average.

66: A little over a month after he made bogey on three of his last six holes at Merion in the U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson entered the final round of the Open Championship 5 shots behind Lee Westwood and seemingly an afterthought. Lefty's brilliant final-round 66 gave him the most surprising of his five major titles. Before his victory, Mickelson had just two top-10 finishes in 20 appearances: third in 2004, and T-2 in 2011.

Mickelson's 66 was his lowest career final-round score in a major, and tied the best final round by any major champion since 2000. It was the best round on the course at Muirfield that day, and tied the low round of the tournament.

Over the past 20 years, only one player has won more majors than Mickelson -- Tiger Woods.

Speaking of Tiger ...

3: The 2013 season was the 10th different year in which Woods won five or more times. The previous career high for such seasons was eight, held by Sam Snead. And speaking of Snead, Woods now trails the legend by just three wins for first on the tour's all-time list.

Four of Tiger's wins came at familiar grounds of domination -- Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Firestone and Doral. With those last two being WGCs, Woods has now won a staggering 18 times in WGC events. Geoff Ogilvy is second on that list with three.

Woods claimed his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year honor, but he is ultimately judged on his performances in the biggest four weeks of every golf season, when he has the opportunity to reach major win No. 15.

36: Over the past seven major championships, Woods is a combined 10 under par in Rounds 1 and 2. In Rounds 3 and 4, however, he's 26 over -- 36 shots worse. Tiger has just two weekend rounds below par in the majors in that span -- both coming at this year's Masters.

Woods' putting has been the biggest statistical difference. Woods has needed an average of 28.5 putts in the first and second rounds of the past seven major championships. In Rounds 3 and 4, that number leaps to 30.9 putts per round. (Stat nerd's note: It's unfortunate the advanced putting metrics available during regular tour events aren't there for the majors -- it would paint a much more valuable picture of this trend.)

Trivia answer

Question: Jason Dufner claimed his first major title at the PGA Championship this year, held at Oak Hill. Who won the first professional major ever held there?

Answer: Cary Middlecoff in the 1956 U.S. Open.

Woods turns 38 years old on Dec. 30. Only two players have ever won four or more majors after turning 38 -- Ben Hogan (five) and Sam Snead (four).

I'm not going to personally ask Tiger, but I assume he plans to become the third.