With elite fields, World Golf Championship events are hard to win from off the pace

Can we expect the winner of the 2021 WGC-Workday Championship to come from outside the top six after 54 holes? History says not.

Winning from off the pace happens less often in golf tournaments than we like to imagine.

If the romance of the sport insists that players can mount outrageous final round charges, reality paints a different picture.

In the 21st century winners came from inside the top ten with 18 holes to play no less than 97% of the time.

It's a number that is repeated on all the circuits - the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour.

It's a stat that is duplicated year on year.

It's a solid trend, in other words.

But get this: in the World Golf Championship strokeplay events the importance of being in-contention with 18 holes to play is even more of an imperative.

With only 18 holes to play in the first WGC event of 2021, the Workday Championship at The Concession, Collin Morikawa leads by two from Billy Horschel and Brooks Koepka.

Do that trio hold an advantage heading into Sunday?

History doesn't just say yes, it shouts it.

The numbers

Since it was created in 1999, the WGC has hosted 57 strokeplay championships.

Of them, all the winners were tied seventh or better with 18 holes to play.

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But, in fact, only two (Hunter Mahan, 2010 Bridgestone Invitational, tied seventh) and (Martin Kaymer, 2011 HSBC Champions, tied sixth) was not tied fifth or better.

That's 96.5% of the winners who were tied fifth or better.

More startling yet is that 53-of-57 (93%) were tied fourth or better and 50-of-57 were tied third or better (87.7%).

Tied second or better? 45-of-57 (78.9%).

30-of-57 (52.6%) had the lead, of which five shared it and 25 were in sole possession.

Why is it like this?

The obvious answer is that the fields are elite.

It's well-known that they WGC spreads the net a little, sending invites to all the world tours so there are a few unexpected names down the bottom ranks, but the top 50 entries in these events are always high-quality.

The same could be said of the Majors.

Morikawa is chasing a first WGC title.
Morikawa is chasing a first WGC title.

The WGC is not, however, the same as the Majors: victory in them matters, it is proof that a golfer can take on the best in the world and beat them, but history does not cast a long shadow over the proceedings as in a Major.

Win a WGC and it looks superb on the CV; win a Major and your legacy is sealed.

It's a minor release of pressure that allows more of the players contending to play their finest golf, which in turn makes it tougher to pass them.

This notion is persuasive, it's also conjecture.

The stats, however, are not.

It is difficult, very difficult, to win from off the pace in the WGC.

It's therefore great news for Workday Championship leader Morikawa and second placed Horschel and Koepka, moderately good news for Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed who make up the top six.

But bad news for the rest of the field.

Paddy Power's prices for the top six are: Collin Morikawa 13/8, Brooks Koepka 3/1, Billy Horschel 15/2, Webb Simpson 9/1, Rory McIlroy 10/1, Patrick Reed 14/1