Predicting golf is a fool’s game, and yet, we can’t help ourselves because it’s a cruel addiction. That said, for those of you who are mulling over your Fantasy Golf line-ups and betting slips, or simply wanting to sound smart around your golf buddies, here are some statistics that the winner of the PGA Championship will probably excel in on their way to hoisting the Wanamaker trophy on Sunday.
Word of caution, though, you are equally as likely to look dumb and lose money – after all, this column is free. (And no, I did not include putting, because, of course you have to putt well and you can’t predict who will get hot with the flatstick on any given week.)
- Driving Accuracy – This is a stat I normally stay away from because a good tee shot is generally a combination of accuracy and length, and because: A) everyone is going to miss fairways because they’re narrow (like at the U.S. Open), or B) being in the rough doesn’t matter that much because you can advance the ball onto the green. However, the rough in Rochester is gnarly and thick and the fairways look generous enough that the accurate hitters (and most the guys won’t be hitting a lot of drivers) should be able to keep it in the short grass a reasonable number of times. One other thing, looking back at the leader board from the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, it was dominated by straight and short hitters, a la Tim Clark. Top 10 leaders on the PGA Tour: Russell Knox, Tim Clark, Ken Duke, Jerry Kelly, Mark Wilson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Hicks, Jim Furyk, Chez Reavie, Jeff Maggert
- Greens in Regulation – This is a stat that I love. If you are going to win, particularly a major, you have to give yourself a good number of looks at birdie, not to mention easy pars. Again, going back to the 2003 PGA Championship, nearly everyone at the top of the leader board ranked high in greens in regulation. This is probably the most telling stat. Top 10 on Tour: Graham DeLaet, Henrik Stenson, Ricky Barnes, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley, Ross Fisher, Vijay Singh, Kevin Stadler, Justin Hicks, Nick Watney
- Par-4 Scoring – Oak Hill is a par-70 track, which means two extra par 4s and two less par-5s, and one of the par-5s is not reachable in two. In addition, the par 3s are long and tough. That means scoring on the par 4s is premium. Top 10 on Tour: Chris Kirk, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner, Charles Howell III, David Hearn, Morgan Hoffmann, Matt Jones, Chez Reavie, Chris Stroud, Tiger Woods
- Approaches From Greater Than 200 Yards – With several long (and uphill) par 4s, there will be a number of long approach shots into the greens. Additionally, two of the four par-3s are 200-plus yards. Top 10 on Tour: Jeff Maggert, Nicolas Colsaerts, Russell Knox, Gary Woodland, Brian Stuard, Tiger Woods, Kyle Stanley, Daniel Summerhays, Brandt Jobe, Charl Schwartzel
- Approach Shots from 50-125 yards – At some point, players are bound to miss a fairway that forces them to wedge out from the rough, which, then, leads to another wedge shot into the green. One of the par-5s is almost certainly a three-shot hole for the majority of the field. Capitalizing on scoring opportunities is a must, and having a wedge into the green is a scoring opportunity for any Tour player. Top 10 on Tour: Kevin Chappell, John Mallinger, Chris Kirk, Jimmy Walker, Paul Haley II, Charl Schwartzel, Robert Garrigus, Stewart Cink, Justin Rose
[Ed. Note: My picks other than Tiger include Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Harris English, Jordan Spieth, Jamie Donaldson, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Ryan Moore. -- Steph]
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? Like most everyone else in the world, I will have Henrik Stenson in my fantasy line-up. He’s on a roll with those runner-up finishes (making him the frontrunner for bridesmaid of the year) and his ballstriking has clearly been excellent. Sooner or later, he’ll likely breakthrough and win in 2013. As for dark horses, Chris Kirk isn’t a bad pick. Oh, and Oak Hill might not set up to badly for a certain world no. 1 (coughTigercough). Good night and good luck!
–Shoshana Agus Kleinman