Monday, 11 April 2016

Masters 2016 shows golf isn't ALL about putting

Digesting Danny Willett's famous win last night, I'm reflecting on my posts about Jordan Spieth's and Dustin Johnson's putting and looking at their stats for the tournament.

They "putt for dough'" and it wouldn't surprise me if the winner was often the best putter over the four rounds, at least in the leading 10% of the field. But Jordan Spieth, in looking certain to win when playing so comparatively poorly (it's all relative!), was the exception to this rule, as his putting was pretty amazing all week and it was his long game that cost him the defence of his title.  Instead of learning how Spieth would fare if he just putted well, we re-learned that, if you can't hit the ball into the distance on approximately the line you are aiming, you'll have problems. I should know, as that's normal for me. In comparison, Willett was a worthy winner, looking composed and solid across all areas of his game.

In fairness Spieth, Willett and Johnson all putted well, tied 2nd, 4th and 9th in average putts per green for the tournament. And there wasn't much in it between Spieth and Willett (1.56 to 1.58). Of course, average putts per green is a blunt measure - old stager Larry Mize had the same average as Spieth, but, finishing 52nd, a lot of his extra shots could have been chips that got him close.

But yet again it was Dustin's stats that caught my eye. As per his overall PGA tour figures year to date, his average putts per green deteriorated through each round from 1 to 4. This was the case for only 3 of the other 56 players who made the cut.

I don't know if it's just putting or whether the average length of his putts goes up because of other things. His greens in regulation stat was almost in the opposite pattern. His driving distance (ranked first) was best in rounds 2 and 3. His driving accuracy (mid table) was best in rounds 2 and 4. So it certainly looks like it's the most mental (both meanings) part of the game that will make it hard for him to win a major.

Stats from
Post script:  I hadn't realised that calling putting woes, like those of poor Ernie Els the other day, the "yips" dates back nearly 90 years. Tommy Armour was reigning US Open champion when, in a tournament in 1927, he took 23 putts to complete the hole. " I just had a severe case of the yips or something", he said. I doubt that's much consolation to Ernie. But it might make me feel better as I suffer my usual couple of three putts a round!

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