If you follow any official golf accounts on social media, you’ve definitely become familiar with the phrase “Golf is hard”. Usually, the #content creators in charge will tag an embarrassing moment, or a hard lip out with that as a way to post a clip, and remind everyone that all of the stuff that happens to you on the golf course can also happen to those playing for millions of dollars every week. It’s an easy way to post something that should lead to some cheap engagement.
Back in December of 2015, things were looking pretty bleak for Tiger Woods. Three months prior, he went in for surgery on his back for the second time and a month after that, he had to have another procedure done on the same area to relieve discomfort. At this point, it was hard to be optimistic that he would ever be healthy enough to compete at a high level again. So, when he showed up to host the Hero World Challenge, everyone knew he wasn’t going to play, but his words were far more impactful than any driver swing could have been that week.
“I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy”
These were the words coming out of the mouth of the most dominant, self-assured athlete of my lifetime. The man who, at least on the golf course, never showed any vulnerability, just told the world that he thought that, basically, he was done as a professional golfer. Even if many of us had thought something similar, it was still a shock to the system to hear those words out of the mouth of Tiger Woods, and that was a full sixteen months before he went under the knife again in April of 2017 to relieve more pain in his back and leg.
To say Patrick Reed is a complicated figure would be the understatement of all understatements in golf. As someone who is a firm believer of the “golf needs characters” theory, Reed’s overt brashness on the course is something that I quite enjoy, but the stories that are out there, both reported and unreported, present a challenge that is impossible to wrap up in hundreds, or even thousands, of words. Alan Shipnuck did a great job on Sunday explaining this for Golf.com and I encourage all of you to read it, even if we may never get a full picture from Reed’s side.
This week, sixty four of the best players in the world will tee it up at Austin Country Club in Texas for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. As I do every year, I’ve created a table looking at the match play records for each player in the field, with each player name being clickable and taking you to the full details of each match. It is sorted by winning percentage, with the following tournaments being covered:
- WGC-Match Play (1999-2017): This shows their record at all previous courses to host the event, dating back to 1999.
- Presidents Cup: Singles records only from the Presidents Cup.
- Ryder Cup: Singles records only from the Ryder Cup.
- Other: The Cisco/Volvo World Match Play on the European Tour, as well as the Paul Lawrie Match Play, ISPS Handa Match Play, Seve Trophy, Royal Trophy and Eurasia Cup. Again, singles records only. Note that this doesn’t include the 1994, 1995 or 1996 Cisco Match Play, which were all won by Ernie Els. There just isn’t enough reliable data available online to include the information, but if anyone has access to it, let me know and I’ll add them in.
Note that Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka all qualified for the event, but will not be playing for a variety of reasons. Their full records can be accessed by clicking on their names as well.
There are a few caveats to mention when going down this list. In addition to looking at the winning percentage, it’s obviously important to look at the total number of matches played, and the quality of competition as well. There’s no better example of this than Haotong Li, who has never lost in match play and is at the top of the table below, but he has only played in one match play event, defeating Paul Dunne earlier this year at the Eurasia Cup. Context matters, so click through to the individual player pages for more information.
The other thing is that this only includes professional match play. I would love to get deep into the weeds on how players did in the college and amateur ranks, but I haven’t done that yet, so just keep that in mind as well.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to go on the assumption that, much like myself, you’ve consumed a fair bit of Tiger Woods related #content over the last few days. There have been countless articles written and podcasts recorded about his latest comeback, touching on everything from his decision to hit iron on 18 when he had a chance to win, to what it means for both himself and the game of golf going forward. Its been great, and a perfect reminder of the kind of pull that he has over not only the golf world, but sports as a whole. We often hear about how Tiger isn’t just the guy who moves the needle, but that he’s the actual needle itself, and there’s no better example of that than what we’ve seen here over the last few days. He has created a level of buzz that no one else can.
So, we’re only seven months away from the Ryder Cup. Now, I know what you’re thinking: talking about potential rosters when we’re still seven months out is ridiculous, and akin to seeing the FedEx Cup Update on the CareerBuilder broadcast, and you’re right! But, even if that’s true, people still love to talk about these things, and believe it or not, the rosters as they sit right now are probably closer to the final product than you might think.
2017 was one of the best years golf has had in a really, really long time. The major championships produced incredible winners and drama, the youth movement is in full swing and even Tiger Woods looks like he may be a capable player again going forward. I already wrote a ton about how great 2017 was and I hope you’ll check it out, but I have to let you in on a little secret…
2018 has the potential to be so much better. You should be really excited for the next twelve months. How excited am I? In no particular order, here are fifty reasons, questions and thoughts around why golf is going to be amazing in 2018.
Note: This only covers the men’s professional game.