19/10/2018

Golf by the numbers: Greatest gains on PGA Tour

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Golf by the numbers: Greatest gains on PGA Tour

Golf by the numbers: Greatest gains on PGA Tour

Golf by the numbers: Greatest gains on PGA Tour

It finally feels like spring in many parts of the country, and three major championships still await the best golfers in the world. But believe it or not, the 2017-18 PGA Tour season already is more than half completed.

Early in the season, when players have competed in few events and sample sizes are small, statistics are not especially useful. Now we are starting to get a clearer picture of who is improving and who is slumping compared to last season. The following data includes all tournaments this season except the Masters and other events that don’t incorporate ShotLink.

Strokes gained: off-the-tee

Player 2017 SG:
off-the-tee
2018 SG: off-the-tee Change
1.    Si Woo Kim -0.257 0.59 0.847
2.    Patton Kizzire -0.744 -0.007 0.737
3.    Brendan Steele 0.392 0.916 0.524
4.    Nick Watney -0.063 0.454 0.517
5.    Aaron Baddeley -0.782 -0.27 0.512

Last season’s Players Championship winner, Si Woo Kim, battled wrist injuries throughout his 2016-17 campaign and either missed the cut or had to withdraw from six events after his triumph at TPC Sawgrass. Now he appears to be on the mend. It’s common for golfers who chose to play with injuries see their performances decline, then bounce back after they become healthy.

Patton Kizzire was the definition of Tour average heading into last week, but that’s a massive improvement over last season when he ranked 182nd in strokes gained: off-the-tee (-0.744). Combined with improved putting this season, it’s not surprising the 6-foot, 5-inch Auburn alum has won twice this season.

It’s also worth noting that Brendan Steele, who was a reliable driver last season, has become an elite player this year off the tee, and he successfully defended his title at the Safeway Open.

Other notable players:

Player 2017 SG:
off-the-tee
2018 SG:
off-the-tee
Change
Jordan Spieth 0.276 0.579 0.303
Bubba Watson 0.634 0.906 0.272
Justin Thomas 0.398 0.652 0.254
Rory McIlroy 0.878 0.583 – 0.295
Hideki Matsuyama 0.455 0.036 -0.419

 Strokes gained: approach-the-green

Player 2017 SG:
approach
2018 SG:
approach
Change
Rafa Cabrera Bello -0.218 0.901 1.119
Scott Piercy 0.264 1.139 0.875
J.J. Spaun -0.122 0.749 0.871
Sergio Garcia 0.285 1.12 0.835
Keegan Bradley 0.159 0.934 0.775

Last year at this time, Rafa Cabrera Bello was ranked No. 35 on the Official World Golf Ranking and had won $487,825. After improving his approach game more than any other player on the PGA Tour, his ranking is up to No. 25 and his Tour earnings heading into last week were $1,429,947, thanks to a tie for third at the WGC-Mexico Championship at a tie for fifth at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Scott Piercy, who has made the second-largest improvement, was half of the winning team at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Other notable players:

Player 2017 SG:
approach
2018 SG: approach Change
Patrick Reed -0.042 0.474 0.516
Bubba Watson -0.196 0.303 0.499
Phil Mickelson 0.533 0.922 0.369
Jason Day 0.081 -0.349 – 0.430
Jon Rahm 0.455 -0.161 -0.696

Strokes gained: around-the-green

Player 2017 SG: around 2018 SG: around Change
Johnson Wagner -0.287 0.279 0.566
Adam Hadwin -0.04 0.523 0.563
Jim Furyk -0.045 0.481 0.526
Richy Werenski -0.303 0.205 0.508
Hideki Matsuyama 0.269 0.741 0.472

PGA Tour veteran Johnson Wagner has never finished a season with a strokes gained: around-the-green average that was positive, and he is more than a half-shot better this season than he was last year.

Hideki Matsuyama, typically known for being one of the best driver and iron players on Tour, has noticeably sharpened his short game this season, as well.

Other notable players:

Player 2017 SG:
around
2018 SG:
around
Change
Patrick Reed 0.175 0.603 0.428
Jason Day 0.324 0.603 0.279
Tony Finau 0.065 0.309 0.244
Bubba Watson -0.162 -0.511 – 0.349
Pat Perez 0.45 -0.02 -0.43

Strokes gained: putting

Player 2017 SG:
putting
2018 SG:
putting
Change
Jason Day 0.332 1.594 1.262
Branden Grace -0.192 0.876 1.068
Brett Stegmaier -0.514 0.327 0.841
Phil Mickelson 0.337 1.177 0.84
Bud Cauley -0.268 0.505 0.773

 Jason Day became the only Tour player to complete a season with a strokes gained: putting average over 1 when he finished the 2015-16 season at 1.13. Last season saw a notable regression and the Australian experimented with different putters. But after putting his old putter back in the bag this season he has won twice and is again putting lights out. He’s made the most significant improvement over last season, and his 1.594 average also leads the Tour.

Phil Mickelson, 47, was solid on the greens last season but also has improved significantly. Mickelson won his first event since the 2013 British Open at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Other notable players:

Player 2017 SG:
putting
2018 SG:
putting
Change
Justin Rose -0.06 0.698 0.758
Patrick Rogers -0.066 0.6 0.666
Rory McIlroy -0.143 0.464 0.607
Jordan Spieth 0.32 -0.42 – 0.74
Rickie Fowler 0.761 -0.032 -0.793

Gwk

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