Opening win doesn't foreshadow 2010 success

December, 30, 2009

As PGA Tour administrators and the golf industry as a whole count down the seconds until their biggest draw is back on the course, it might be helpful for everyone to take a step back, look at the numbers and breathe a bit.

Their sport is still in a good place.

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Daniel Chopra
Stan Badz/PGA TourAfter winning the season-opening tournament in 2008, Daniel Chopra didn't have another top-10 finish the rest of the year.

Take some numbers into consideration regarding the growth of the earning power of players on the PGA Tour. It's no secret that the past decade was a prosperous one for the Tour, even if those facts have become obscured in the short term by visions of smashed windshields and newsmen referring to

In 1999, 36 players earned $1 million while playing on the PGA Tour. Last year, 91 did. Back in '99, No. 125 on the Tour's money list was the immortal Charles Raulerson, who made a cool $326,893. Last year Jimmy Walker finished 125th and made more than double that ($662,683).

Entering 2009, 43 first-year players had made $1 million in their rookie seasons on the PGA Tour. Entering this decade, that had happened only twice -- both times in 1999.

Twelve players in the history of the PGA Tour have earned $25 million in career winnings. Every one of those 12 players won a PGA Tour event this decade.

The cumulative total of purses on the
PGA Tour in 1999 was $134,950,000, at the time an all-time high, and the first time that number had passed $100 million. In 2009, that number was more than doubled: $277.3 million.

So while the absence of Mr. Woods on the course is a loss to everyone who loves this sport, he has helped put it in an enviable place financially in the past decade.

What will the first tournament of this decade -- aka the SBS Championship -- tell us about what's to come on the course in 2010? Recently, success at the first event of the year hasn't translated to great success for the rest of the PGA Tour calendar (see: Chopra, Daniel in 2008).

Trivia question

Who was the most recent player to win each of the first two official PGA Tour events of a calendar year? The answer is below.

Since 2002, half of the eight winners have gone on to win another tour event that year. The winners have finished in the top 10 in just over 20 percent of their events for the rest of the year after kicking off their season in the best possible way.

Success in majors for the winners has been far more fleeting. Geoff Ogilvy won the Accenture Match Play in March and seemed like a prime candidate to win his second major in 2009. It was not to be. His finishes at the four majors: T-15, T-47, missed cut and T-43. In fact, no winner of the first event on the calendar has gone on to finish in the top 10 of any major since Ernie Els finished tied for fifth at the 2003 PGA.

No one has won the first event of the year and gone on to win a major that same year since Tiger Woods in 2000, when he beat Els in a playoff at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Woods then went on to have a year you might not recall -- three majors, nine wins and 17 top-10s in 20 starts.

Last year at Kapalua, the only thing Ogilvy seemed to fail at was making things interesting. The Aussie blew away runners-up Anthony Kim and Davis Love III by six shots. Ogilvy was the only player in the field to have four sub-70 rounds. He hit 25 of 30 fairways over the weekend and missed just one green on the back nine on both Saturday and Sunday. His putting won the event, though -- Ogilvy ranked first in the field in putts per GIR (1.871).

Six of the past eight winners at the Plantation Course in Kapalua have finished either first or second in the field in putting average. The winners' putting average has also gone down in each of the past four years. A look at the winners since 2002 and what they did on the greens:

Winners at Mercedes-Benz Championship since 2002

Player Putting avg. Field rank
Geoff Ogilvy, 2009 1.645 1st
Daniel Chopra, 2008 1.694 1st
Vijay Singh, 2007 1.764 2nd
Stuart Appleby, 2006 1.808 6th
Stuart Appleby, 2005 1.694 4th
Stuart Appleby, 2004 1.618 1st
Ernie Els, 2003 1.585 1st
Sergio Garcia, 2002 1.596 2nd

Numbers getting lower at Kapalua has been a trend across the board in recent years. The total scoring average for the event has gone down each year since 2006. That year the number was 74.893; only the U.S. Championship had a higher total scoring average among PGA Tour events. Since then: 72.895, 70.935 and 70.515. The number of players under par follows suit: Six broke even in '06. Last year, only two players in the field did NOT shoot better than par.

Kapalua is a field consisting only of winners from the previous year, but what about winners of multiple events in the previous year? Six players in the field this year fit that category: Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry, Y.E. Yang, Brian Gay and defending champ Ogilvy. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson also won multiple times last year, but neither is in the field this week.

In the past three years, 11 players who won more than once on tour in the previous year played the event. None went on to win, and only one finished in the top five (Kim, in 2009). Ten of those 11 players finished out of the top 10, which is lower on the totem pole than normal considering the size of the field.

Trivia Answer

In 2003, Ernie Els won the Mercedes Championships and a week later captured the Sony Open.

The most recent winner of the event to have won multiple times the previous year? The Big Easy, who won twice in 2002, then won at Kapalua in '03.

And you thought I was going to say Tiger.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008, and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied convergence media. Send comments and suggestions to



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