PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 18: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan speaks to the media during a press conference after his winning round during the final round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 18, 2024 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Wyndham Clark, Nick Taylor, Hideki Matsuyama and Jake Knapp produced sensational wins to highlight a memorable February on the PGA TOUR as we break down the stats that mattered the most.

By Helen Ross

Knapp breaks through in Mexico

Contrary to what you might expect, it’s not always easy to play with a big lead like the four-stroke advantage Jake Knapp took into the final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Adding to the challenge? He was playing in just his ninth PGA TOUR event and his driver deserted him.

But the 29-year-old Californian battled throughout the day and hung on for a one-stroke victory over another TOUR rookie, Sami Valimaki of Finland. Knapp, who had built his lead by shooting 64-63 in the second and third rounds, only hit two fairways and nine greens in the final round.

His driving accuracy was just 15.38 percent, the lowest by a winner on TOUR since 1983. He was second only to Scottie Scheffler at the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard in another dubious distinction – most strokes lost off the tee in the final round by a champion in the ShotLink era at -2.10.

But the stats weren’t all bad. For the week, he led the field in birdies with 25, all but two coming in the first three rounds. He also was first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green at +11.40 and Strokes Gained: Approach the Green at +8.729. And Knapp was tied for fifth in Greens in Regulation and second in Driving Distance. 

So, while some of the stats weren’t exactly stellar, he won. Knapp is the third TOUR rookie to lift a trophy already this year which matches the total for all of last season.

Matsuyama secures magical ninth victory at Genesis

Hideki Matsuyama faced a daunting challenge on Sunday at storied Riviera Country Club. He went into the final round of the Genesis Invitational trailing by six shots – only Canadian Mike Weir had ever come back from a bigger deficit to win the tournament, seven strokes in 2003.

But the 32-year-old from Japan has a game made for big moments – witness that 2021 Masters victory – and he was equal to the task, firing a final-round 62 to win by three. The victory was his ninth on the PGA TOUR, eclipsing Korea’s K.J. Choi for the most by an Asian player.

Matsuyama’s round of 9-under was the lowest closing tally at Riv by a Genesis Invitational winner, one stroke better than Doug Tewell back in 1983. It also marked the ninth time he’d gone bogey free over the final 18 holes since the start of the 2020-21 season. Only Chris Kirk with 11 and Cam Davis with 10 have more.

A big reason for the final-round turnaround? Matsuyama was +2.84 better in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green in the final round than he was in the first three rounds combined when he clocked in at -.40. His Strokes Gained: Total mark of +8.471 in the final round was the best by a TOUR winner since Rory McIlroy at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open.

Taylor made for success in Phoenix

Once again, Nick Taylor has shown a flair for the dramatic. First it was that 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to win the RBC Canadian Open last summer. More recently, Taylor used a furious finish and two extra holes to make the WM Phoenix Open his fourth PGA TOUR win.

Trailing by three with four holes remaining, Taylor’s putter got hot when it counted as he rolled in birdie putts on three of his last four holes, including a 9-footer at the 18th to force the playoff with Charlie Hoffman. For the week, Taylor gained 2.38 shots on the field over that finishing stretch – more than any WM Phoenix Open winner since 1983.

Combined with the two playoff holes, Taylor birdied five of the last six holes he played. But truth be told, Taylor relied on that putter all week, finishing with a career-best total of +8.93 in Strokes Gained: Putting and rolling in 459 feet, 9 inches of putts, more than he’d made in any other TOUR event.

The 35-year-old Canadian prospered on the par 4s, playing them in 13 under, the best tally of a winner at TPC Scottsdale in the ShotLink era. Seven of those birdies came during a first-round and career-low 60. And even when he missed the putting surface, Taylor was nearly automatic with a 92.31 scrambling percentage, better than any other WM Phoenix Open champ.

Clark misses magical 59 en route to win at Pebble Beach

With the weather gods stubbornly refusing to cooperate on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula, the players knew that the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am would likely be their last. And Wyndham Clark made the most of it, firing a career-low 60 that staked him to a one-stroke victory when the Signature Event was called after 54 holes.

Clark, who now has won three times in just 10 months, including the 2023 U.S. Open, had started the third round six strokes off the pace. And even with a bogey at No. 12 that put the brakes on a sizzling run that began with an eagle followed by five straight birdies, the Oregon grad still had a chance at the magical 59 when he teed it up on the par 5 18th, only to see his 27-foot eagle putt stop 7 inches away.

It was a rare miss on the greens for Clark, who made 189 feet, 9 inches of putts on Saturday – the best cumulative total for a round at Pebble Beach and a career-best for the 30-year-old. He tallied +5.28 in Strokes Gained: Putting, which was the highest for a winner since 2004.

While he couldn’t convert that eagle for the 59, Clark did have two on the front on Saturday and three for the tournament, tied with Justin Rose and just one behind the 2021 champion Daniel Berger for the most by a winner. And he did it in just 54 holes – in fact, Clark played the par 5s in 10 under in his second and third rounds at Pebble Beach.

- Advertisement -