Golf Stats: The Numbers That Matter

January, 11, 2009

Golf Stats: The Numbers That Matter

Every golfer and golf fan knows the sport is a game of numbers. One of the most distinct characteristics of golf is that any player's efforts are summarized by an absolute and final statistic: the score. However, as any visitor to the 19th hole knows, the story of the game cannot be told in full by the tally at the end of the round.

"Golf Stats: The Numbers That Matter" is your weekly source of insight into the numbers that make a difference in golf, focusing on the PGA Tour. Whether you're looking to wow your buddies in your Saturday foursome or get a little extra help for your fantasy team or are just a stats junkie, this blog is for you.

Every week, this sliver of the Internet will be your one-stop shop for the unique and significant golf stats that best tell the stories beyond the scores.

With a 6-shot win at the Mercedes-Benz Championship this weekend, Geoff Ogilvy collected his fifth PGA Tour victory. He shot a 67-68-65-68 for a 24-under-par total and became the fifth player to record all four rounds in the 60s since the tournament moved to Kapalua's Plantation Course in 1999.

The others include David Duval (1999), Jim Furyk (2001), Ernie Els (2003) and Tiger Woods (2005). Ogilvy's victory came just over a month after he won the Australian PGA Championship in his native country.

• Ogilvy never broke 70 in his two previous tournaments at Kapalua. Now he is the first wire-to-wire winner at the Mercedes since the 1999 move.

Ogilvy at a Glance

Here's how Ogilvy fared this weekend in some of the major statistical categories:

Category Rank Stat Tour Leader Tour Avg.
Driving Distance (in yards) 21 275.9 J.B. Holmes (297.4) 278.6
Driving Accuracy % T-8 75% 2 tied -- 85% 72.37 %
GIR % T-8 86.11 % Leonard (90.28%) 81.10 %
Putting Average 1 1.645 -- 1.772
Eagles (holes per) T-6 72 Love III (24) 103.3
Birdie Average 1 6.75 -- 4.64
Scoring Average 1 67 -- 70.52
Sand Save % T-17 33.33% 3 tied -- 100% 39.51%
Total Driving 14 29 Weekley (16) 33
Ball Striking 10 22 Weekley (3) 33
All-Around Ranking 2 63 Kim (56) 124
Fed Ex Cup Points 1 500 -- 85.15
Money Leaders 1 $1,120,000 -- $168,091
• More PGA Tour statistics

• What was the common theme in victory for 2008 champ Daniel Chopra and 2009 winner Ogilivy? They each led the field in putting average. This might seem pretty logical, but in 2008, only about 15 percent of tournament champions also bested the field in putting average.

Putting average has proved to be especially important at Kapalua. When considering putting average, putts per round and putting from more than 25 feet, the Plantation Course has been by far one of the most difficult putting courses on the PGA Tour.

• What does last-place finisher Marc Turnesa have on Tiger Woods? Turnesa earned $54,000 from the Mercedes-Benz Championship, while Woods will cash a check for $53,000 for his week's "work." According to PGA Tour regulations, any player who qualifies for an official money event without a cut or an alternate list but is unable to play because of injury will receive last-place, unofficial money.

The tournament sponsors granted Tiger earnings equal to the last-place finisher. To put this into perspective, consider the purse at this week's Sony Open: Last year a player would have needed to finish tied for 20th to earn $59,572.

• The other big news to come out of Kapalua is that Vijay Singh will undergo knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The preliminary reports are that he will miss 4-5 weeks. The soon-to-be 46-year-old Fijian has been called the Cal Ripken of golf for his grueling practice sessions and high frequency of events played. This forced absence might continue Singh's trend of playing less, though. Singh competed in 30 events in 2005, entered 27 events in both 2006 and 2007, and had just 23 tournament starts in 2008. So what will 2009 bring with news of the injury?

• Dustin Johnson recorded a 430-yard drive on Kapalua's No. 17, a 508-yard par-4. Despite the fairway landing area of more than 70 yards, Kapalua's 17th hole was the fourth-most difficult hole of the tournament, with the field scoring an average of 4.076. Johnson's bomb was only nine yards shy of the longest drive on the PGA Tour in 2008. Tim Petrovic recorded a 439-yard blast last March at the PODS Championship.

• Bombs away: Kapalua boasts the widest fairways most of these players will see all year. However, historically the field's driving distances have been shortest of all at Kapalua.

While the average driving distance last week (278.8 yards) was more than 20 yards longer this year than 2006 (255.4), 2007 (255.2) and 2008 (255.8), the three years before 2009 saw the shortest average driving distance for the entire year on the PGA Tour at the season-opening event.

Players were able to open it up in 2009, with the island breeze playing a huge factor in the driving-distance disparity (and round-to-round scoring differences). Round 3 of the Mercedes on Saturday had by far the best scoring conditions, and the field took full advantage on moving day.

Daily Progression

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
Scoring Average 72.36 70.79 69.15 69.76

• The 520-yard, par-4 1st hole played the most difficult last week, with a 4.25 (+.250) scoring average. The 532-yard, par-5 5th hole played the easiest, with an average of 4.379 (-0.621).

• Other than putting average, the statistical categories mostly tightly correlated with low scores at Kapalua were greens in regulation percentage and scrambling. Driving distance and driving accuracy were the least significant of the major statistical categories in predicting success at the 2009 Mercedes. The lack of significance in driving is due to the fact that the majority of touring pros can easily hit these fairways, which are nearly twice as wide as those they normally play. Even the guys near the bottom of the driving-accuracy statistic hit 2 out of 3 fairways.

• World rankings: Ogilvy climbed from 11th to 6th in the Official World Golf Rankings with his season-opening victory. Also breaking into the top 10 was Anthony Kim, who moved from 12th to 9th. Though both players were idle, Padraig Harrington edged out Phil Mickelson for the third spot in the world. Harrington's lead is a minuscule .001 in average points.

World Rankings

Name This Week Last Week Average Points
Tiger Woods 1 1 11.361
Sergio Garcia 2 2 7.881
Padraig Harrington 3 4 6.714
Phil Mickelson 4 3 6.713
Vijay Singh 5 5 6.543
Geoff Ogilvy 6 11 5.307
Robert Karlsson 7 6 4.947
Camilo Villegas 8 7 4.749
Anthony Kim 9 12 4.735
Ernie Els 10 9 4.613
• Complete world rankings

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