Congratulations to Billy Horschel on his maiden victory on the PGA Tour, which many thought was a long time coming. In some ways this win was predictable, as Horschel had been knocking on the door for a while (three straight top 10s), although that didn’t stop me from accidentally leaving him on the bench for Fantasy Golf (not that I’m bitter or anything). But how did Horschel get to the winner’s circle? And how good has Horschel’s start been this year?
Without further ado, the Zurich Classic, By the Numbers (and we’re not talking about how many fried oysters were consumed).
- Billy Horschel won in New Orleans because he played really well — cliche, I know, but true. He was tied for second in greens in regulation, fourth in approach shot proximity to the hole and third in strokes gained putting. That is a pretty lethal combination. If you hit a lot of greens, hit it closer to the pin than nearly anyone else — you get a bunch of birdie opportunities. And on top of that, you make a lot of putts, you are generally going to be hard to beat.
- Despite how well well Horschel played DA Points nearly forced a playoff with a birdie on the 18th hole (if it hadn’t been for Horschel rolling in the 26 footer moments earlier). While DA was not as accurate hitting into the greens as Billy (ranking 38th in GIR, despite being number one in fairways hit), he was second in strokes gained putting, third in total feet of putts made, and second in scrambling, allowing him to not be hurt by his mistakes and to convert on his birdie opportunities.
- As I said in the opening, you could see this win coming as Billy had been playing well all year. In fact, he has earned the fifth most OWGR points this year, behind only Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, and Matt Kuchar, not to mention Justin Rose is sixth — not exactly bad company.
- Even going back to last year, Horschel was a good ballstriker, finishing 11th on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation in the 2012 season. So far in 2013, he is 23rd. Where Horschel has really improved this year, though, is on the greens. Last year he was ranked 109th on Tour, this year he is 12th. As a result he has gone from 117th on Tour in birdie or better conversion (the number of times a player makes a birdie or better after hitting a green in regulation) to 4th.
- By the Numbers also wants to take a quick moment to recognize the fabulous year Inbee Park is having on the LPGA (diatribe: I’d love to do more LPGA stuff, but their available statistics stink). Similar to Tiger, she has played her way to the world number one ranking, with three victories already this season. Long known as one of the best putters on the LPGA, she has gone from 33rd on tour in greens in regulation in 2012, to 10th so far in 2013. Which is the same formula that another excellent putter, Brandt Snedeker, has used for 2013 success.
There you have it, this week’s By the Numbers. See you next week!