The Story So Far: Inside The Stats
In his latest article Golf Journalist, Nick Bonfield digs deep into some of the stats from the PGA and European Tour....
We're almost three months into the 2014 golfing year, and it's less than a month until Augusta's pristine fairways, blooming azaleas and mesmerisingly beautiful holes appear on our television screens. But what have we learnt so far, and what can we expect going forward? Below, I take a look inside the stats on the PGA and European Tours, pick out some key figures and analyse their significance for the coming months...
The stat: Harris English has recorded the most top 10s on the PGA Tour this season, with six from 11 starts.
The significance: The young American is turning into an extremely consistent performer and someone who - like a number of players in his age bracket - simply isn't overawed by the big occasion. There doesn't seem to be any flaw in his game and he's becoming more and more confident and self-asssured as each week passes. It'd be hugely surprised if he didn't make Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team, and I can see him contending for a major this season.
The stat: Dustin Johnson currently ranks first in stroke average, second in driving distance and third in greens in regulation.
The significance: Given the strenght and depth of the PGA Tour ranking so high in so many key categories is a tremendous effort, and indicative of a player who is well and truly on top of his game. It's only going to be a matter of time before Johnson wins a major, and his attributes look perfectly suited to Augusta. With his length, he'll be coming into all the greens with short irons, setting up more birdie chances than the rest of the field as a consequence.
The stat: Lee Westwood ranks 126th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: putting and 172nd in scrambling.
The significance: The prognosis is rather simple for Lee Westwood: if he doesn't make a dramatic improvement on and around the greens, he'll battle Colin Montgomerie for the 'best player to never have won a major' accolade. The rest of his stats this season aren't impressive, but I'd attribute that to a transitional period caused by a change of coach. Sadly, his lacklustre putting and chipping can't be put down to the same reason. The most concerning facet is his short putting - a perennial issue throughout his career - which seems to deteriorate when he's under pressure. He's currently 173rd on tour from inside five feet.
The Stat: During his career, Arnold Palmer made $1,861,857.
The significance: Last year, the winner of the PGA Tour money list, Tiger Woods, won $8,553,439. Palmer's career earnings are equivalent to what Charles Howell III made last season. Incredibly, he was 38th in the FedEx Cup standings. It's a fascinating statistic and one that serves to demonstrate just how much money the top professionals play for nowadays. Getting to that level is the hard part, though.
The stat: Rickie Fowler is second on the PGA Tour in approaches from 125-150 yards.
The significance: With most of the world's best golfers able to comfortably drive the ball 300 yards, Augusta National will present a number of approaches from this range. Rickie Fowler has been in good form this season, so perhaps, given his strenght in this area, it's time for him to mount his first real Major challenge at the Masters?
The stat: Tim Clark is thee shortest hitter on the PGA Tour, averaging 270 yards off the tee.
The sigificance: Driving distance is increasingly professed as integral to success on tour, given the length of courses utilised in this day and age. Interestingly, the bottom 10 in this ranking have notched just two top 10s between them during the 2013/14 PGA Tour season. The top 10? Two victories and too many top 10s to count. Lack of distance certainly doesn't preclude you from competing, but it's a big advantage in the modern game.
The stat: Tiger Woods isn't in the top five in any major category.
The significance: I can't remember the last time I visited the stats section of the PGA Tour website and didn't see Tiger Woods' name on the home screen. He's clearly out of sorts and his body is showing the strain you might expect when you consider how hard he hits the ball, and how hard he pushes himself. The bookmakers will no doubt install Woods as the favourite for the Masters, but I just can't see him emerging victorious. Still, the American has defied convention all through his career, and that should provide all the motivation he needs.
The stat: Driving accuracy and greens in regulation precentage statistics are incredible high.
The significance: Brazilian Adlison Da Silva hits at amazing 83.9% of fairways, one of four players above the 80% mark. By comparison, the highest percentage on the PGA Tour is 75.8%. More impressive is the fact that Alex Cejka hits 88.9% of greens in regulation, which I find astonishing. Again, four players hit more than 80% of greens, and again, no one on the PGA Tour is in the 80s. What does this suggest? That courses on the European Tour are easier, perhaps. Still, to be successful on the European circuit, putting is by far and away the most important attribute. It might surprise you to learn that nine of the combined top 10 in the two categories I've mentioned are fighting to keep their cards.
The stat: Top two in putting both winners this season
The significance: With high greens in regulation and fairways hit percentages on the European Tour, putting becomes increasingly important in order to differenciate yourself. Below Brendon de Jonge (who we can remove as he's only played one tournament) are Pablo Larrazabal and George Coetzee, who both won on the European Tour this season. Putting is always the most important part of the game, but the stats would suggest it's more significant in Europe.
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