Ben Martin made two birdies and an eagle in his final four holes to close the door on his first TOUR victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Martin fired a final round three-under-par 68 to post 20-under 264 to win by two shots. Martin, who began the day with a two-shot lead, extended it to four shots on the front nine before being caught by the red-hot Kevin Streelman. Streelman birdied five of his last seven holes to claim solo second on 18-under. Russell Knox two-putted from 58 feet on the final hole to secure solo third and the final spot on the podium.
Why this doesn’t surprise gamers: After winning twice and leading the Web.com Tour in the all-around category in 2013 smart gamers had Martin on the radar last season. In his second go-around on TOUR, he made half of the 26 weekends that he teed it up and finished T3 twice and solo third once to rack up over $1.4 million. He was 33rd in the all-around category last year as well so his game is well rounded and that is shown by those top finishes. His solo third was 17-under at a resort course in Puerto Rico so he proved he could go low. His T3 were at Harbour Town, a classic, narrow tough test and Congressional, site of multiple majors and always a beast.
Why this surprises gamers: Two major reasons: One, he (mis) fired 78-79 to open last week at Frys.com which included nine bogeys and FOUR doubles in 36 holes. He was DFL. The second reason is he has played this event twice and only had one round UNDER par in a tournament where 20-something is the average winning score. Bad combo.
How Martin won this week: Simple, he led the field in birdies with 26. His two eagles did hurt either as those offset eight bogeys and a double. He also led the field in putts per GIR and strokes gained: total as he was seventh in tee-to-green and second in putting. For the seventh year in a row the winner of this tournament finished higher in driving accuracy (T18) than driving distance (64th). It also didn’t hurt that he had the stones to roll in 46-footer on No. 16 to take the outright lead back!
Moving forward: I was high on him in our preseason chat because his game translates on multiple types of tracks (read: all of them). He’s a great roster player because he’ll play a ton of events and season-long gamers are almost in gravy territory after two events this season. They say that winning on TOUR changes your life forever. I’m in the camp that believes that this will springboard him to a massive year moving forward now that his future is secure for two years. His game is way too steady to dismiss this as “fluke” or “lucky”. That’s three wins on two tours in three years. #legit
With this win: Two year exemption on TOUR; receives invitations to the 2015 HTOC, Masters, PLAYERS and PGA plus $1,116,000 cash dollars.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Like Bae last week, Martin held his 54-hole lead and turned it into cash money dollars. We’re two-for-two after only 22 of 45 held that distinction last year. It’s not that easy closing the deal on the big boy circuit!
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Ben Martin becomes the first to enter the club in 2014-15. By the way, I’m calling the rest of this season 2015 even though we have a few events remaining in 2015. I’ll beg the pedants to relax and go with the flow, please.
Since moving to TPC Summerlin exclusively in 2008, four winners have been first timers. Martin is the first maiden breaker since Kevin Na in 2011, though, as Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson won the last two events.
His last two top 10s on TOUR are victories.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 and now Martin, 27, joins him in happy cash town. I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist.
The prime time guys (30-39 years) were led this week by 35-year old Kevin Streelman who racked up a solo second.
The old guys (40 and over) were led by 43-year old John Senden who was racked up T18.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Kevin Streelman: I learned that, as I suspected in my preview column, that he loves the weekend on TPC courses. He shot 64-64 to come from off the pace to win at TPC River Highlands in June and almost had an encore this week. He fired 63 yesterday to get into the mix and 65 on Sunday to make Martin sweat bullets. He blazed home in 31 thanks to some great ball-striking on top of his scorching hot weekend putter. He was T1 in GIR, eighth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, sixth in SGP and second in strokes gained: total. His 24 birdies were T2. He’s now played five events here and has zero rounds over par and only two rounds in the 70s but this was his first top 10. He’s an easy circle here for next season plus any other TPC course where he is teeing it up.
Russell Knox: After opening 38 on Sunday, it looked like the young Scot would fold and fade into the desert like a mirage. He showed his guts by coming home in 32 and two-putting the final hole to make him over $170,000 by finishing third alone. Knox is known for his ball-striking but this week his putter cooperated as well as he finished third in strokes gained: total. This was his first top 10 since T9 at Harbour Town last year. Weird that both him and Martin hit the top 10 here and at Harbour Town this year. Knox loves Vegas but this is third year in a row he hasn’t broken 70 on Sunday. #nextstep
Webb Simpson: He was 20-under in 2010. He was 24-under in winning here last year. He was 15-under this year. Do the math. He should have been in your lineup this week regardless of his Ryder Cupness. I know he’ll be in your lineup here next year! His opening round 69 is his worst round here in three tournaments. #HorseforCourse
Brooks Koepka: He birdied three of the last four to move into a T4 with Simpson but it was a Sunday of “what if”. He was my Group 2 choice in the Golf Channel game so it pained me to watch the play-by-play as the usually excellent putter missed chances from nine, 10, seven, FOUR and 10 feet for birdie. I get nobody makes them all but there were some shots left out there. He wraps up his two week stint with T8 at Frys and T4 this week as he heads back to Europe with a pocket full of cash and some serious confidence as he plays in the Race to Dubai. Koepka has given gamers like me, who lined him up both weeks in the Golf Channel game, nothing to complain about. So much for too much travel and playing a ton of events. He’s a stud.
Jimmy Walker: Dynomite adds T4 to last year’s T12 and T10 the year before that so he’s a fan of TPC Summerlin. His 62 on Saturday looked like last season’s Jimmy Walker and that’s a great sign moving forward. Walker was one of the elite players in this field and fulfilled his promise with a top five. I love when a plan comes together.
Tony Finau: He led the field in driving distance and hit the top 20 for the fifth consecutive outing. He backed up last week’s T12 at Frys.com with T7 this week so he’s off to a great start. He was third in strokes gained: tee-to-green and T3 in GIR so he had plenty of birdie looks and made 22 of them. He birdied five of his last nine to claim his first top 10 on TOUR.
David Hearn: The first of two Canadians in the top 10 this week, Hearn finished T7 for his second top 10 (T5 in 2011) in four tries. He only made three bogeys on the week and that’s hardly surprising because he was T7 in GIR. Hearn is an excellent putter so when he hits that many greens, he’ll contend. After his T68 last week and no top 25s since Colonial, I’ll qualify this as a surprise.
Scott Piercy: After the rust was knocked off last week in a MC at Frys.com, the Las Vegas resident opened with a trio of 67s before 69 on Sunday saw him share seventh. This was his third top 10 in the last four years so he gave the course horse gamers exactly what they expected. Remember, the only reason he MC last year was because he was dealing with, at the time, an unknown arm injury. He’s back and is a steal in season-long games. Do invest.
Adam Hadwin: Canadian No. 2 in the top 10, Hadwin posted the round of the day with 63 to jump 43 spots into the top 10. Not bad for his first event here! He finished the Web.com playoffs strongly and gamers should take notice that form is continuing here. This was only his 13th career event but it is his fourth top 10. That’s worth noting as he will just turn 27 next month.
Scott Brown: If he’s going to make noise, it’s going to be at events where low scores have to be posted. He backed up his T12 last week with T10 this week. His last top 10 was T5 at the John Deere Classic but he as well was top 10 (T5) at Harbour Town last season. That’s three of the top 10 this week SO FAR that have top 10’ed at Harbour Town as well. #trendnotatrend? Last year he was T4 at McGladrey so no doubt he’ll be in the Chalk next week. Last year at this event he fired 65-77. That’s a perfect explanation to describe his game. He can get low or he can disappear.
Hideki Matsuyama: At one point, the groups that went out and posted early at 13-under were T2 but faded to T10. I ‘m happy that my Group 1 choice shot 66 and moved into the top 10 as he backed up his T3 from last week. He’s in “that group” of guys who, if in the field, have to be automatically on your list (minus majors). No surprise this.
Robert Streb: His best finish on TOUR was T2 (-17) at TPC Louisiana at the Zurich Classic so it’s not a surprise he went low again this week. He was T31 last week and was T9 at TPC Boston in his final event of last season. He’s a big hitter who’s a very solid player as he checked in at No. 49 in the all-around last season. That’s his third top 10 in his last 17 events. Pay attention.
Spencer Levin: His top 10 leaves him just 12 FedExCup points from achieving his Major Medical Exemption for this season. He played his last TOUR event last year at Greenbrier and then didn’t play again until the end of August with the Web.com Playoffs. He bagged a T12 at the Chiquita Classic before stumbling to T50 and MC in the final two events. The Sacramento native played well last week in Wine Country with T21 and that primed him for a big week this week on a course he loves. His T10 is his third top 10 in his last four tries (T5, 2011; T4, 2010) so, if healthy, needs to be in the lineup next year.
Brandt Snedeker: A week with Butch Harmon looking on seemed to be exactly what Snedeker needed as he made only eight bogeys and nothing worse. He finished the week T10 in strokes gained: total and was in the top third in the putting stats. He also made three eagles. Weird. That’s his second top 10 in his last five starts it’s just the other three starts were MC, MC and T57 so it’s been “all-or-nothing”. I like the fact he played better on a course where he’s only played once. That tells me the tune-up was quite useful. He’s free money in salary cap games for this season and an early top 10 will do his confidence some good.
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column
Hideki Matsuyama: T10, see above.
Brooks Koepka: T4, see above.
Martin Laird: T18 as he opened with 64 but, for the second week in a row, closed with a disappointing Sunday (71 again). Gamers should be encouraged that he’s knocking.
Jimmy Walker: T7, see above.
Ryan Moore: An ice-cold putter led to eight bogeys and a MC. The 2012 champ, UNLV grad and Vegas resident who also had two other top 10s in the last four tries crushed every kind of fantasy game this week. Sigh.
Webb Simpson: T4, see above.
Kevin Na: He WD with illness on Thursday and the former champion added his name to the list of disappointment with gamers this week who trusted former champions and Las Vegas residents.
Charley Hoffman: The last six winners at TPC Summerlin have ranked higher in driving accuracy than driving distance. Hoffman hit 21.43% of fairways and MC. Another UNLV grad bites the dust. So much for home-course advantage.
Billy Horschel: The new dad probably has plenty on his mind and his ball-striker this week reflected that, especially off the tee. He lost three strokes to the field tee-to-green on Friday which saw him MC.
Morgan Hoffmann: He made nine birdies and an eagle but also threw in a triple, double and five bogeys to MC. As we’ve learned, doubles and triples are even worse on a track like this where 20-something is usually the winning score.
Charles Howell III: T18 on the back of 67-67 on the weekend. That’s his second T18 in his last four but couldn’t catch last year’s T5. The American ATM is starting to heat up!
Ryo Ishikawa: His opening round 72 saw his 68-67-67 only reach T28. More proof that scores in the 70s just can’t be had on this track if looking to cash big bucks.
Derek Fathauer: Well, that was a nice streak of five T16s or better. Strange to see it end on a course like this. It will interesting to see where he goes from here but he’ll go without me.
David Lingmerth: Another recently hot player from the Web.com circuit making his return to the TOUR, went ice cold in all phases this week. He only made five birdies in 36 holes. Barf.
Brandt Snedeker: T10, see above.
Signs of Life or Death
These guys didn’t crack the top 10 but caught my attention for one reason or another this week.
Jarrod Lyle: Another top 35 finish for the two-time cancer battler. Wow again.
Retief Goosen: His streak of 15 made cuts is toast after his best finish the 2011 St. Jude.
Harris English: T16 but remember, this is one of the easier courses on TOUR. The good news is that he found some birdies that just might get that fire started again. This was his best finish since T7 at TPC River Highlands in June…
Nick Watney: Fools gold (T16) on a track where he always plays well or a corner being turned? I’m going to need to see it on a track where he isn’t horse-for-course before I start loading up on him.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover, and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at The McGladrey Classic plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.