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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Stat of the Game: Updated

(After two months of straight instructional material, I'm ready for a little break, aren't you? So I thought I'd take the rest of the week "off," as it were, and look at some of the other news around the golf world.)

Back at the end of 2009, I did a post where I said the following:
Here’s what the average Tour player is doing, according to Tour stats:
  • Regardless of length, hitting 67% of fairways or less (mostly less);
  • Hitting less than 67% of greens in regulation;
  • Getting it up-and-down less than 67% of the time when they miss (way less);
  • Taking 29 putts per round.
Anybody can learn to putt, and the rest isn’t really that impressive, is it? Only 49 players hit more than 67% of their fairways. This isn’t a game of perfection, people—it’s a game of two-thirds! Get to that point and you're better than the average tour player.
Has that changed in the last two months? Granted, that post was based on a full year of stats, but I thought it might be fun to see how the average guy on Tour has been doing so far in 2010.

Here's what says about our stats so far:
  • Driving accuracy: 62.32%
  • GIR: 68.03%
  • Scrambling: 60.83%
That's the average Tour pro. GIR is better this year, but they're still struggling otherwise. How do these stats translate to the money list? I checked that list against the Top 20 in each category, plus the Top 20 in putts per round (PPR):
  1. Steve Stricker ---3rd in Scrambling, 75.44%
    ------------------------T18 in GIR, 73.61%
    ------------------------T11 in PPR, 28.00
  2. Dustin Johnson ----------15 in GIR, 74.07%
  3. Ian Poulter -------T8 in Scrambling, 71.43%
    -------------------------4th in PPR, 27.50
  4. Geoff Ogilvy ------------3rd in GIR, 77.08%
  5. Hunter Mahan
  6. Ben Crane --------15 in Scrambling, 70.15%
  7. Ryan Palmer
  8. Robert Allenby ----------16 in GIR, 73.96%
  9. Paul Casey --------------1st in GIR, 79.17%
  10. Matt Kuchar ------14 in Scrambling, 70.37%
Poulter's figures may be a bit misleading, as he only has 4 rounds in the stats. (Apparently the Match Play isn't included. Understandable, since very few rounds get completed.) Still, this is very telling.

It appears that GIR is the most important stat so far this year (5 guys excel in it) and Scrambling is second (4 guys). Palmer and Mahan are the exceptions, but both have wins. A glaring note is that NONE of the top players are in the Top 20 in Driving Accuracy. Wasn't the groove change supposed to force them to be more accurate??? I've heard that the West Coast events never have much rough, but I think we'll need to watch this stat.

And in case you're wondering, only Dustin Johnson is in the Top 20 for Driving Distance, at #3. That puts him in the Top 20 in two stats, which helps explain why he's rated so high.

Poulter is also Top 20 in 2 stats and Stricker is Top 20 in 3, which helps explain their positions at 4 and 1, respectively. And in the World Golf Rankings, Stricker is 2, Poulter is 5, and Casey is 6. Again, GIR appears to be the most important this year, as Casey makes #6 largely because he's the best at hitting greens.

One stat that's relatively meaningless for most players, Putts per GIR, is very relevant for Casey because he hits so many greens; he's T21 in this category. The same is true of Ogilvy; he's 3rd in GIR, and T9 in this category.

Now obviously these guys are doing other things well to make it this high. My point is that the top players excel in at least one of these areas. And I do mean excel; these guys are at least 5 percentage points (and in most cases, 10) above average. Palmer is T25 in Driving Distance, but he's falling down the money list so that probably won't be enough to keep him there. (He was T16 in GIR last week, down to 43 this week. He needs to get that back up if he plans to stay in the Top 10, as Putts per GIR has been his best category.) Hunter's just plain streaky, so we'll have to see if he can hang with the Top 10 money machines.

I'll be interested to see if things change during the Florida Swing... and especially if Driving Accuracy becomes more important. We could see the money list get shaken up a bit starting at the Honda this week. But in any case, it looks like the problems of the average Tour player haven't changed much over the last two months... he still needs to reach that magic 67% in the three main categories if he hopes to move up the money list.

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