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The Best Putters on the PGA Tour

By: | Thu 22 Aug 2019

There have been several notable methods deployed in golf to determine the quality of your touch on the greens. Putts-per-round has been a long-standing statistic, the simplest, merely counting the number of putts you recorded during a round, logic dictating that the less you take, the better you are. That can be true, but it doesn't account for the quality of ball striking, your consistency to hit greens in regulation, which can lead to a false impression of your ability with the putter in hand. 

Introduced as a response to that, putts-per-green-in-regulation can be a judge of how well you hole those crucial birdie putts, but again doesn't provide an overall picture. Counting the number of three-putts can be a useful way to track improvement, although the root of that could be approach play. Perhaps combining all of these stats is a route to making an assessment. But maybe there is a better answer.

The PGA Tour has and continues to use these statistics, but in more recent years, Strokes Gained is commonly cited.

Devised by Professor Mark Broadie at Columbia University, this intriguing stat measures the number of strokes a player gains or loses on the rest of the field with each aspect of their game, using a formula comprising of probabilities and baselines to accurately compare a golfer with other competitors.

Strokes Gained: Putting data exists on the PGA Tour going back to 2004, so we have looked at each season and identified the most consistently high performers to see which players on the game's most lucrative circuit are the best on the greens.

Tiger Woods led the ranking in that first year, gaining an average of .853 strokes a round. Veterans Loren Roberts and Brad Faxon also featured inside the top ten, while many would be surprised to spot Adam Scott in second place, the Australian's future putting woes yet to take hold. His compatriot Aaron Baddeley was also among the elite, something that would become a factor throughout the next decade and beyond.

Ben Crane had a couple of spectacular years, leading in both 2005 and 2006, while the likes of experienced Swede Jesper Parnevik impressed, heading the ranking in 2007 ahead of Woods. Older heads Corey Pavin and Bob Tway defied their years in 2008, while 2009 saw the emergence of Luke Donald as a putting maestro. The Englishman led Strokes Gained: Putting that season, in 2010, and in 2011, the year he became world number one. He was second in 2012 but fell out the top ten in 2013.

The likes of Brandt Snedeker, Greg Chalmers, Brian Gay, Bryce Molder, Freddie Jacobson, and Graeme McDowell have consistently ranked among the best, although's Baddeley's record of being inside the top ten on ten occasions between 2004 and 2019 is hard to beat. 

In terms of surprises, many would be shocked to discover that the often maligned putting of Lee Westwood ranked better than Jordan Spieth during the young American's staggering, career-making 2015 campaign. Bet you don't believe that one.

In terms of the best statistical year of putting, Jason Day's 2016 was far and away the finest exhibition, gaining a whopping 1.130 strokes on the field. The Australian won three times on the PGA Tour that year, including The Players Championship.

Players to Finish Multiple Seasons in the Top 10 of Strokes Gained Putting Since 2004

Aaron Baddeley (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019)

Brandt Snedeker (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019)

Greg Chalmers (2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018)

Luke Donald (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2017)

Zach Johnson (2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012)

Jason Day (2011, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Daniel Summerhays (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Steve Stricker (2005, 2011, 2013, 2016)

Freddie Jacobson (2004, 2007, 2011, 2014)

Bryce Molder (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Tiger Woods (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009)

Brad Faxon (2004, 2005, 2006, 2009)

Graeme McDowell (2014, 2017, 2019)

Brian Gay (2005, 2009, 2010, 2012)

Dean Wilson (2006, 2007, 2010)  

Ben Crane (2005, 2006, 2008)

Jordan Spieth (2015, 2019)

Jonas Blixt (2012, 2017)

Jimmy Walker (2015, 2016)

Harris English (2015, 2016)   

Phil Mickelson (2013, 2016)

Brendon Todd (2014, 2015)  

Russell Henley (2013, 2015)

Matt Kuchar (2009, 2010) 

Chad Collins (2008, 2010)

Jim Furyk (2006, 2009)

Bob Tway (2005, 2008)

Jesper Parnevik (2006, 2007)   

Stewart Cink (2004, 2006)

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