Last week I talked about what the winners had in their bag. This week in The Numbers Game I look at the winners again, but not at what driver or putter they used. This time I wanted to see what they excelled at in winning the tournaments they did.
Was it putting? Greens in regulation? Or was it one of the driving stats that they led on their way to victory? Read on to find out.
I was able to pull the data for all the tournaments this year except for the majors. The PGA Tour’s website did not have statistical info for any of these. I still had data for the 35 other tournaments and the numbers are interesting.
This chart show the placement of winning players in four categories: driving accuracy (DA), driving distance (DD), putting average (PA), and greens in regulation (GIR).
Category Top 3 Average DA 4 27.5 DD 3 27.9 PPR 12 13.8 PA 12 11.4 GIR 10 15.1
Driving Their Way to Victory?
Driving accuracy (DA) has always been the least significant stat when it comes to success on tour. Sure, guys like Fred Funk have won their share of tournaments, but it is because they do a lot of things well… not just because they can hit fairways.
For the winners in 2006, DA (again) was insignificant when compared to most other stats. Only four players finished in the DA top three the week they won. That’s just over 11 percent.
Driving Distance (DD) didn’t fare any better. Only three players finished in the top three and the average finish position in DD was the worst of the five stats at 27.91. Only DA was close at 27.51. The other stats were averaging nearly half of the driving numbers.
In the 40-30-20-10 rule, driving accounts for the lesser percentages and this type of research only confirms the assumption of its (lesser) impact when related to putting and greens.
Speaking of Greens
Unless someone enjoys getting up and down from thick rough and bunkers, every player’s goal on each tee is to hit the green. This ability to hit as many greens as possible has proven to be vital to a player’s success.
Five times this year a player has won the tournament while hitting more greens than anyone else. Five other times the winning player was second in GIR. That’s 10 out of 35, or almost 30% of the time winners were in the top two of GIR.
I enjoy beating a dead horse, so I’ll tell you again that GIR means quite a bit to winning on tour. When players can’t hit greens, you can bet that they want the last part of their game to be on…
If you can roll in 10, 20, heck, 40 footers it doesn’t matter how many greens you hit. Even though putting makes up only 30% of my rule, it can turn a bad ball striking day into a great round. Putting can equalize quicker than any other skill on the course.
As you can see above, players nearly averaged in the top 10 every week in putting when they won. There were nine first place finishes in Putts Per Round (PPR) and five in Putting Average (PA). Only eight times did a player finish outside of the top 30 in either of the putting stats. 44 times they finished in the top 10… that’s almost a 63 percent rate (44 out of 70).
Looking at the winners, the chances are that if you didn’t have a hot week with the flat stick, you were not going to do well. There were only eight times a player wasn’t in the top 10 in one of the putting categories and won.
Across the Numbers
After a while, it gets a bit boring to look at each statistical category by itself. If you look across the columns some other interesting tidbits pop up. Such as:
- Not one winner finished outside the top 10 in all three of the most important categories: GIR, PA, or PPR.
- Twelve times a winner finished outside the top 10 in both driving stats (34.3% of the time).
- If a winner’s putting stats or GIR dipped near 50th, the opposite stat was always in the top three. For example, Aaron Baddely was 51st in GIR at the Heritage but was first in both putting stats. Conversley, Woods was 56th in PPR at Doral and Immelman was 54th at the Western but both were first in GIR. Winners always balanced these two stats.
- Phil Mickelson was the only player to finish in the top 10 in all five stats with his victory at the BellSouth Classic. Appleby did as well at the Mercedes, but that was a much smaller field.
- David Toms was the only player to finish in the top three in GIR, PA, and PPR. This is especially significant when you look at PPR and GIR because the more greens you hit the more likely you are to have more putts.
- Tiger was in the top 10 in both DD and GIR in every win this year. That doesn’t include the British Open, but you can probably guess that by looking at his stats he would have kept the trend in GIR hitting 80.6%, but not in DD because of all the 3- and 5-woods he hit from tees. He was 3.5 yards back of the field average in distance (294.32 vs 290.88). The Open would also have (most likely) given him his only top 10 in DA as well, as he hit 85.7% of his fairways.
In other words, consider the dead horse further beaten: hitting greens and making putts is how you win on the PGA Tour. How you get there – a wedge from the rough or an 8-iron (or a 4-iron at a British Open) from the fairway is inconsequential.