2006 Versus 2005 in Numbers

The numbers in 2006 show a slowdown in distance and more accuracy from players. These trends are small in effect compared to the drop in tournaments played by golf’s top players… which could mean a strange situation for the FedEx Cup.

The Numbers GameI know there is still one tournament left. Sure the numbers may change a little bit, but that won’t stop me from comparing 2006 to last year.

Is Driving Distance up? What about accuracy? Are the top performers in these stats making more or less money? These are just a few things I’ll be answering this week in The Numbers Game.

Driving Distance
I did a piece earlier in the year about how distance was down. Some people thought it might be because of weather. Others thought it was because some of the higher altitude tournaments had yet to be played. All I can do is tell you what the numbers say. I’ll leave the rest to the meteorologists and conspiracy theorists.

Last year there were 26 players averaging over 300 yards per drive. This year there were only 20. It was a bit top heavy this year with Bubba and J.B.

As for money, the top 20 long drivers this year have averaged nearly $200,000 less in earnings than last year ($1.933 million in 2005 versus $1.741 this year). Again, the year isn’t over, but there are only three guys in the top 20 that will be playing this week, so unless they finish 1-2-3, I don’t think the top drivers will catch last year’s group.

Driving Accuracy
So the guys on tour were a bit shorter this year. You would expect (and hope) that they might be more accurate. Well, you would be right.

Just look at a few of the most accurate players from last year. You’d expect that there would be nowhere to go but down. Not the case though.

Player    2005    2006
Durant    70.9    78.5
Funk      75.9    78.0
Verplank  71.5    75.2
Mize      74.3    70.2
Browne    73.5    73.6

Even Tiger got in the action. He improved his accuracy from 54.6% to 60.7%. Other longer players followed suit. Davis Love III bumped up from 57.9% to 60.64%. He lost a few yards in distance, but I think he’ll take it along with his victory in Greensboro this year.

Putting Average
This is one stat that didn’t have much of a change year over year. The leader last year was Arjun Atwal at 1.71 putts per GIR. This year Daniel Chopra led the tour with an average of 1.712 putts per GIR.

It’s not only the top putter that’s similar, but the rest as well. Looking at the top 20 in both years, the PA only rose .0055. With that rise in PA, the top 20 made less money this year than last… over $200,000 less.

The surprising thing in PA was the absence of Woods. Most consider his putting to be one of his strong suits. In a year that he dominated I expected him to be at or near the top like he was last year. I guess hitting nearly 75% of the greens doesn’t help your putting average though.

Davis Love III found his way into the top 10 with a strong finish to the year. Statistically, it was one of his best years, finishing near the top in numerous categories. After a 95th in PA last year, it was a welcome sight to have Love back among the leaders.

Seven out of the top 20 players in GIR this year made it into the Tour Championship. Last year there were nine. No wonder this stat makes up the largest portion of the 40-30-20-10 rule.

Tiger topped the list at 74.15%. This was an improvment of over 4% from last year. Could it be due to his increased accuracy off the tee (in lieu of 10 yards less in distance)? Possibly.

Joe Durant, the leader in accuracy off the tee this year, was also high in GIR this year in 6th place. In a year where players were more accurate off the tee I thought it would be interesting to see if GIR went up as well…and it did.

I did a weighted average GIR for the entire tour in 2005 and 2006. By weighted average I mean that I multiplied a player’s rounds by their GIR to get a weighted value. I then summed those up and divided it by the total rounds played on tour this year. In 2005, the average GIR was 65.10%. In 2006 it was 65.25%.

Not a huge jump… but there was a drop in distance, increase in accuracy off the tee and increase in GIR. I’ve looked into the correlation of GIR to distance and accuracy off the tee and if one means more than the other. Statistically it is insignificant…but the trend is interesting after all the talk of flogging and technology ruining the game.

Technology Isn’t Ruining the Game
The lack of appearances by big names is. I know these guys have rough schedules, but it isn’t just Tiger any more. Take a look at the Top 30 this year and the number of tournaments they played compared to last year.

Player                    2006    2005    Diff
------                    ----    ----    ----
Tiger Woods                15      21      -6
Jim Furyk                  23      26      -3
Vijay Singh                26      30      -4
Phil Mickelson             19      21      -2
Geoff Ogilvy               19      26      -7
Adam Scott                 18      19      -1
Trevor Immelman            23      14      +9
Stuart Appleby             22      25      -3
Luke Donald                17      18      -1
Brett Wetterich            24      28      -4
David Toms                 21      25      -4
Rory Sabbatini             23      26      -3
Chad Campbell              24      27      -3
Stewart Cink               25      26      -1
Davis Love III             22      24      -2
Carl Pettersson            27      34      -7
Rod Pampling               23      26      -3
Brett Quigley              32      31      +1
Stephen Ames               21      24      -3
Dean Wilson                33      27      +6
Lucas Glover               30      28      +2
Arron Oberholser           22      21      +1
Joe Durant                 27      25      +2
Zach Johnson               26      30      -4
Retief Goosen              17      18      -1
K.J. Choi                  25      24      +1
Ernie Els                  17      11      +6
J.J. Henry                 27      32      -5
Ben Curtis                 25      24      +1
Tom Pernice, Jr.           32      32       0

It’s a bit discouraging when most of the big names are dropping in tournaments played. Immelman ws the only one near the top that added tournaments… and that was only because it was his first full time schedule in America. So that +9 doesn’t really count.

Tiger wasn’t even eligible for the Vardon Trophy (low scoring average) this year because he doesn’t have enough rounds played. It’s just sad. Probably Tiger’s greatest challenge will be winning the FedEx Cup next year in a 15 tournament schedule. Given that, the guy to watch is Vijay. If I’m a betting man, I’m laying a 50 on him for the FedEx Cup next year. Vijay plays a full schedule and I think he’ll clean up in some of the smaller tournaments down the stretch.

It is conceivable that arguably the greatest player ever may never win the tour’s greatest prize… because he was too tired and rich to care. Given his net worth (think 9 figures), I might not blame him.

1 thought on “2006 Versus 2005 in Numbers”

  1. I agree about the lack of player enthusiasm for the game.

    But what about some of the European players? Don’t Luke Donald and some of the others play in Euro Tourneys? Or are those counted? I know they tend to hop bakc and forth depending on tourney prestige or whatever.

    Is that factored in?

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