Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tigers and Pumas

Everyone was excited to see what would happen at the Memorial this weekend. Maybe it would tell us just how much of Tiger's struggles on the course were caused by his neck... and how much was just confusion about which end of the golf club was which.

Of course, we needn't have worried -- we've seen Tiger here before, and he never stays there long, regardless of the cause -- but some people panic. Personally, if I'd been through the humiliation Tiger must have suffered, I don't know that I could even show my face in public, let alone successfully hit a golf ball in public. But this is Tiger Woods, after all. He told us that he's not working with a new teacher (despite pictures of Scott Foley looking at his swing earlier in the week); rather, he's making use of video. I believe I heard him say he had gone "a fraction of a degree" more upright, although he seems to be staying with the laid-off club position that the TV guys have enjoyed criticizing. Everybody worries more about Tiger's swing than Tiger, don't they?

Well, as I said, we needn't have worried. After a nice showing at the skins game Wednesday, Tiger posted 72-69 for the first two rounds. While it won't set the golf world on fire, it certainly indicates that the last two poor tournaments were indeed caused by that "inflamed facet joint" and not some horrible mental breakdown.

In fact, Friday's round included 6 birdies, and 3 of them on par-5s, so I'm inclined to believe Tiger is just suffering from a bad case of inconsistency. I didn't get to see any of Tiger's swings from Friday's round, but it seems that he's getting some control of the misses -- while he complains they're going both ways, he seems to be missing right much more than left. He'll figure it out.

And then there's the Puma guy, Rickie Fowler. He shot 65-66, tying some ancient record for low 36-hole scoring. So much for the importance of familiarity at Muirfield Village! As I'm writing this, he leads his closest pursuer by 3 strokes and, barring some miraculous play, I expect he'll have that lead starting the 3rd round.

What fascinates me -- and what I wanted you all to think about -- is the comparison of their stats for this week as posted on PGATour.com. Ironically, their driving distances are nearly identical (Fowler @ 279.5 yards, Woods @ 280 yards), as is their putting (both are averaging 27 putts per round), making this a truly revealing comparison.
  • Rickie Fowler: Driving Accuracy 89.3%, GIR 80.6%
  • Tiger Woods: Driving Accuracy 53.6%, GIR 63.9%
Can it be any more obvious how important these two stats are? Tiger has 8 birdies and 5 bogeys, against Rickie's 10 birdies, 1 bogey, and 2 eagles. You hit more fairways, and you get fewer fliers; fewer fliers makes it easier to hit more greens in regulation; and more GIR equal lower scores, despite identical putting. In this case, it translates to 10 full strokes!

Like I said, it's rare that we get such a clearcut comparison. I know we keep hearing how important your short game is to cutting strokes from your game, but that assumes you aren't throwing them away somewhere else. Tiger and Rickie are both good short game players, but their short games aren't the source of this huge discrepancy. Here's a thought for you: 27 putts is 9 less than par (which allows for 36 putts). If you hit every green in regulation and took 27 putts (remember, these two guys are identical in distance this week), you would shoot a 9-under 63.

Compare Tiger and Rickie's scores to this yardstick, and then look at your own game. I bet you'll find that you should work more on your Driving Accuracy and GIR. If you aren't hitting at least 2/3 of your fairways and greens, worry less about your short game and more about your long game.

2 comments:

  1. I'm working hard to improve my GIR percentage. I have to rely on my short game way too much during a round because I miss too many greens. I could definitely use more opportunities for birdie with my putter rather than with my wedge. Great post.

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  2. At least you're getting close enough to chip for birdie, Dex. I suspect a lot of players are in the same boat I used to be in -- great from 100 yards in, but unable to get to that 100 yard mark often enough to do any good! ;-)

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