As the golf season truly kicks off this week with The Masters, our first major of the year has plenty of story lines. Can Phil claim his 4th Green jacket? Will Dustin Johnson continue his fine play and capture the title? Is Jordan Sieith going to make a 6 on Sunday afternoon on 12 and eliminate himself from contention? Can the rookie Jon Rahm, at just the age of 22, win at Augusta which favor long hitters?
The article below by Todd Schneider breaks down a few stats that may make Rahm one of the favorites for you to pick in your office pool this weekend.
Image courtesy of: ted henderer | photography
How to gain (and lose) strokes
Before we can isolate the quality of a player’s long game, we need a framework for evaluating every single shot he takes. That’s where “strokes gained” comes in: Developed by Mark Broadie, a business professor at Columbia University,1 the statistic uses data from ShotLink — a laser-tracking system that records the location of the ball on every shot — to estimate how many strokes a typical player would need to get the ball into the hole from any given spot on the course. In turn, those numbers can be used to evaluate every player on the PGA Tour, by comparing his performance on each incremental shot in a round to the average.
Here’s an example: Let’s say a player tees off on a hole where the average is 4.2 strokes to hole out. He hits a great drive down the middle, his ball coming to rest in a spot on the fairway from which the average player would take an additional 2.8 strokes to hole out. In other words, that one shot essentially did the work of 1.4 shots by an average player — his drive “gained” him 0.4 strokes on the field.2 Add up these marginal gains and losses, and you get a sense of not only who the best players are, but also why they’re so great — where on the course they gain their edge over the field.
The PGA Tour breaks “strokes gained” down into four categories: off the tee, approaching the green, around the green and putting. There are also two aggregate categories: total strokes gained, which is the sum of all categories, and strokes gained: tee-to-green, which is the sum of the non-putting categories. Each stroke a player gains is important, but the driving and approach categories — the ones Rahm excels in — are where great players separate themselves the most from their peers.
“Drive for show, putt for dough” is a myth