Welcome to not your Father’s U.S. Open. With no rough, no one is quite sure how Pinehurst No. 2 will play. But fear not, Wei Under Par will boldly attempt to help you make last minute fantasy line-up decisions by offering a statistical analysis of the players in the field. Despite wall-to-wall Golf Channel coverage, I have a statistic in here that you have not heard talked about yet. If not, I promise you 100% of your money back. Without further ado, to the Stats!
Par-4 scoring – Playing as a very long par 70, Pinehurst has twelve par-4s, as opposed to the ten par-4s you see at a par 72. This means the player who wins at Pinehurst must perform well on the par-4s. The top-10 players in par-4 scoring are:* Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Kevin Na, Ryan Palmer, Robert Streb, Jimmy Walker, Gary Woodland, Harris English, Charles Howell III, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson.
Approach play from 200-225 yards (fairway) –Three out of the four par-3s this week stretch over 200 yards, and the fourth is just a shade under. In addition, there are several par-4s over 500 yards. The mid-iron game will be tested significantly more at Pinehurst than at an average week on Tour. Why from the fairway? Well a) that is how the PGA Tour keeps the statistic and b) since everyone hits from the tee box on a par three that means a perfect lie. And if a player misses the fairway on those long par fours, drawing a lie from which they can get it to the green will be a crapshoot. The top-12 players in approach play from 200-225 yards are: Edward Loar, Sergio Garcia, Chad Campbell, Graham DeLaet, Stewart Cink, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer,Angel Cabrera, Hideki Matsuyama, Jamie Donaldson, Russell Knox, Charl Schwartzel.
GIR from fairway bunkers – One of the skills the U.S. Open normally tests is a player’s ability to hit iron shots from the rough, but not this year. Natural areas have replaced the thick rough at Pinehurst. The natural areas are a mix of native type plants and sand. If a player is in a bush they are probably not reaching the green, but from the sand they should have a shot. So who on tour is the best at hitting iron shots out of sand? For that we turn to greens in regulation from fairway bunkers. Here are the top-10 players in GIR from fairway bunkers: Harris English, Charley Hoffman, KJ Choi, John Rollins, Stuart Appleby, Padraig Harrington, Ryan Palmer, Freddie Jacobson, Ryo Ishikawa, Rory Sabbatini.
Proximity to the hole, around the green (ARG) – In the past 15 years, the field has not averaged at least 50% GIR at the U.S. Open only three times. Two of those times were the last two U.S. Opens played at Pinehurst. Undoubtedly, the course will play different this year, but the turtleback greens have not changed. They are difficult to keep the ball on, and because the grass is shaved surrounding the greens, there will be a greater emphasis on scrambling than at a traditional “thick rough” U.S. Open. Proximity to the hole (ARG) tells us which players hit the ball closest to the pin when their ball is within thirty yards of the green surface. Here are the top-12 players in ARG: Jim Furyk, Bud Cauley, Justin Leonard, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, John Mallinger, Kevin Na, Tim Clark, Charley Hoffman, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose.
Putting from 4 – 8 feet. – Putting varies more from round to round and week to week than any other statistic on tour, therefore predicting who will have a good putting week and who will not is impossible. However, the winner of the U.S. Open will putt well. From 3 feet, even the worst player on Tour makes over 95% and from two feet and in Tour players almost never miss. On the other hand outside of eight feet even tour players make less than 50%. With scrambling at a premium, making the in between putts (4-8 feet) is even more important. Here are the top-10 players in putting from 4-8 feet: Luke Donald, Freddie Jacobson, Graeme McDowell, Peter Malnati, Greg Chalmers, Brendon Todd, Shawn Stefani, Scott Gardiner, Ian Poulter, Lee Williams.
And there you have it, five statistical categories that this year’s U.S. Open champion will have to do well in order to conquer Pinehurst No. 2, and drink a celebratory beverage from the U.S. Open trophy. So who will it be? Come on folks, this is golf. Michael Campbell won the last time the U.S. Open was played at Pinehurst. However, the stats suggest Sergio Garcia would be a good pick (Hey, this formula worked last year, which means it *definitely* won’t this time! Or maybe it will, in that case, I’m *clearly* a genius). As for a dark horse, Ryan Palmer looks like a good play.
–Shosh Agus-Kleinman (@shosheak)
*Players in bold are in the U.S. Open field.