Last season’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award winner, Xander Schauffele, is the defending champion at this week’s Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. But if you think it was smooth sailing for the 24-year-old last year, you would be wrong.
While Schauffele went on to win his second PGA Tour event at last season’s Tour Championship, his first full season on Tour was marked by inconsistency. Before winning at the Greenbrier, Schauffele went through a period in which he missed six cuts in eight events. Between his wins, he failed to earn a top-10 finish.
Schauffele again is showing inconsistency this season. He tied for second at the Players Championship in May, then missed two cuts before tying for sixth at the U.S. Open. The following week he missed the cut at the Travelers Championship.
The numbers show Schauffele’s ups and downs are not uncommon, and statistically he is following his Rookie of the Year season like many recent winners.
Through the Travelers Championship, Schauffele’s strokes gained total average has dropped to 0.618 (ranked 59th on Tour) from 0.685 last season (43rd). He has improved his play from the fairway but is not driving the ball as well as he did last season, and his strokes gained putting also has gone down.
As the chart below reveals, every player who has won the Rookie of the Year award since 2010 has seen a decrease in performance in at least two strokes gained categories.
As the chart reveals, only one Rookie of the Year winner since 2010, Chesson Hadley, improved his strokes gained off the tee average the year after winning the award. However, Hadley went from an average of -0.319 (158th) to -0.08 (122nd), so while he did improve he was still driving ineffectively.
The biggest jump in a category after a Rookie of the Year season during that period was made when Keegan Bradley, who improved his strokes gained approach-the-green average from -0.33 in 2011 to 0.283 in 2012, an increase of 0.568 shots per 18 holes.
The most significant drop was made by Jordan Spieth, who went down from a strokes gained off-the-tee average of 0.611 (seventh) in 2013 to 0.034 (96th) in 2014.
When it comes to world ranking, since 2010 most Rookie of the Year award winners have seen their position fall the following season. As a group, winners of the Rookie of the Year award from 2010 to 2017 ended the season with an average of 46.7 in the Official World Golf Ranking. The following year their average was 70.1, an increase of 50.1 percent.
As the table above shows, Spieth went from No. 22 on the Official World Golf Ranking to No. 9, and Daniel Berger went from 53rd after his rookie year to 34th.
What we can take away from these numbers? Don’t assume that Rookie of the Year award winners are going to tear it up in their second season on the PGA Tour. In fact, we should not be surprised if their games fall off in some areas and they struggle with consistency. Gwk