Stat Sheet: How Much Does A Hole-In-One Improve Your Odds Of Winning A Tournament?

Stat Sheet: How Much Does A Hole-In-One Improve Your Odds Of Winning A Tournament?

The list of achievers looks like a who’s who of professional golf: Tom Watson, Billy Casper, Cary Middlecoff, Byron Nelson, Tom Morris, Jr. and Hale Irwin, to name a few. Legends such as Johnny Miller and Gene Littler pulled off the feat twice, and they’re also on the list.

But so, too, did Brent Geiberger and Richard S. Johnson, not exactly familiar PGA TOUR names.

So, what is the one thing all these players—29 to be exact—have in common?

They have all made holes-in-one in tournaments they went on to win. The last time someone pulled this off was in 2019 when a pair of players, J.B. Holmes at the Genesis Open and Francesco Molinari at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, turned the trick.

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Holes-in-one on the surface may be considered rare, but they’re really not that unusual. There were 38 during the 2018-19 Tour season, just six off the single-season record of 44 in 1994. At the 2009 RBC Canadian Open, eight players made aces during the four rounds, and Robert Allenby and Hal Sutton hold the current PGA Tour record with 10 aces each.

But an ace and a victory in the same week? OK, that’s doesn’t happen every week and is something to brag about, something neither Allenby or Sutton can claim; Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, neither.

Holmes can, though.

In the opening round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, it was a cold, damp morning when Holmes stepped to the sixth tee, his 15th hole of the day. From 146 yards (133 meters), he watched as his tee shot landed behind the tee and backed up directly into the hole. Three days later, he was hoisting the trophy, his 14-under winning score aided by the two strokes he picked up with his third PGA Tour ace.

“It was awesome to see that. I wanted to get it past the hole because I knew how much they were coming back,” he said of shots landing near that pin placement that day. “I hit it exactly how I wanted it, and it went in.”

Steve Stricker used his second-round ace at the 2011 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio, to help him to the 10th of his 12 career PGA Tour titles.

“You look back at all these things that happened throughout the week, the hole-in-one and obviously the eagles and a couple up-and-downs at (Nos. 12 and 16), and you really believe that it was your week to win when all those things happen like that,” Stricker said of his ace, and two additional eagles in the third round, one a hole-out from the fairway on the par-4 second.

If there is one player who knows about this kind of thing, it’s Miller, the World Golf Hall of Fame member and former network television broadcaster. At the height of his career, Miller made holes-in-one during wins nine months apart, in 1974—at the Sea Pines Heritage in South Carolina, a tournament now known as the RBC Heritage, and then at the Kaiser International Open at Silverado Resort in Napa, California, a course Miller bought a few years later.

At Hilton Head Island’s Harbour Town Golf Links in March, Miller made his ace in the third round on the seventh hole. That shot expanded his lead to 10 strokes. However, he seemingly fell apart after that, playing the final 11 holes in 5-over. The next day, he shot a 1-under 70 and still won by a comfortable three strokes.

Six months later, Miller again made a third-round ace that propelled him to his eighth win of the season. A resident of Napa, with a home on the course, Miller made a birdie to start his round then aced the second hole when his 3-iron tee shot from 193 yards (176 meters) flew directly in the hole. He followed that with another birdie, for a 4-under start to his day.

“It was my best shot of the tournament,” Miller said of his ace. “I felt [the ball] was going to go too far. I hit it so good.” There was still disappointment despite the hole-out, though, when Miller learned the tournament offered a new Ford sedan for an ace on that hole, but only if it came in the final round.

“Well, tough luck,” he said about the car, knowing his eight-stroke win and $30,000 payday was salve for any hurt he felt about missing a chance to drive the vehicle home that night.

Littler, like Miller a Californian and a fellow World Golf Hall of Fame member, made his two aces during his victories five years apart—the first at the 1969 Greater Greensboro Open (now the Wyndham Championship) and again at the 1975 Westchester Classic.

Of the 29 players with this feat on their resumes, only Jonathan Byrd won a tournament with an ace as his final shot, ending the sudden-death playoff at the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas with the second of his five career PGA Tour holes-in-one. Byrd is also the last player in this particular group to make an ace during the final round.

The upcoming Memorial Tournament will bear watching. The tournament held at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village Golf Club has three times seen its winner make an ace and also win. No other tournament has had it happen more than once. Stricker’s Memorial ace is the most recent, along with Kenny Perry (1991) and Jim Furyk (2004).

List of Players with Holes-In-Ones During Wins

 

Tom Morris, Jr.            1868 Open Championship

Horton Smith              1928 Oklahoma City Open

Byron Nelson              1942 Tam O’Shanter Open

Cary Middlecoff         1952 Kansas City Open

Billy Casper                1969 Bob Hope Desert Classic

Gene Littler                 1969 Greater Greensboro Open

Doug Sanders             1970 Bahamas Islands Open

Johnny Miller              1974 Sea Pines Heritage

Johnny Miller              1974 Kaiser International Open

Gene Littler                 1975 Westchester Classic

Butch Baird                1976 San Antonio Texas Open

Tom Watson                1977 Andy Williams-San Diego Open

Bruce Lietzke              1980 Colonial National Invitation

Gary Koch                  1983 Doral Eastern Open

Joey Sindelar               1985 B.C. Open

Hale Irwin                   1990 Buick Classic

Kenny Perry                1991 Memorial Tournament

Mark Calcavecchia      1996 Phoenix Open

Justin Leonard            1999 Buick Open

Brent Geiberger          2001 Canon Greater Hartford Open

David Toms                2001 PGA Championship

Jim Furyk                    2004 Memorial Tournament

Mark Hensby              2007 John Deere Classic

Jim Furyk                    2007 Canadian Open

Richard S. Johnson     2008 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee

Rocco Mediate            2010 Frys.com Open

Jonathan Byrd             2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Steve Stricker              2011 Memorial Tournament

Dustin Johnson           2015 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship

J.B. Holmes                 2019 Genesis Open

Francesco Molinari      2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard

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