As loyal readers know — hi, mom! — By the Numbers is generally a look back on the previous week’s tournament, but with all due respect to Harris English, who I hear is a great guy, it’s U.S. OPEN WEEK! With that in mind, this week’s column is going to look at some of the regular stats and some different ones that will come in play at Merion Golf Club.
Hopefully, this will help with your office pools and Fantasy Golf – or just make you sound really smart when you’re hanging out on your couch alone or with your friends, family and/or significant others. (Note: The following is not a comprehensive list of stats that will be important — others, such as driving accuracy and putting, will also play a factor.)
Greens in Regulation (GIR): I cannot emphasize this one enough. In the last 11 years the winner has been inside the top 15 in GIR nine times. But it’s not just US Opens where GIR is important, it’s everywhere. In 21 tournaments with ShotLink data this year, the winner has finished inside the top ten in GIR 17 times. Here are the top-10 players leading GIR on Tour this year (bolded are in the field): Graham DeLaet, Peter Tomasulo, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, D.J. Trahan, Justin Rose, Boo Weekley, Ross Fisher, John Rollins.
In keeping with the GIR theme, hitting greens from the rough. As skinny as these fairways are at Merion, you aren’t going to hit every fairway. Webb Simpson hit less than 60% on this way to winning at Olympic Club last year, and if you hit 60% at a U.S. Open, you’re having a good week. That means you are going to be hitting approach shots from the rough a relatively high percentage of the time. Look for players who are good at hitting greens when they miss fairways. Top 10 on Tour this year: Peter Tomasulo, DJ Trahan, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Graham DeLaet, Dustin Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts, Vijay Singh, Charles Howell III.
[Ed. note: Players are emphasizing importance of fairways more this year because of the severity of the rough and it’s not graduated. My picks off top of my head: Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Boo Weekley, Matteo Manassero, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Chappell --SW]
Approaches from 225-250 yards. Three of the four par-3s are long, and so are several of the par-4s. You will see guys hitting more shots from 225-plus yards than normal. Players that recover best on those shots, not necessarily giving themselves birdie looks, but avoiding big numbers on those holes will go a long way towards determining the winner. Top 10 on Tour: Daniel Summerhays, Nicolas Colsaerts, Brandt Jobe, Retief Goosen, Justin Rose, Jason Day, David Lingmerth, Charley Hoffman, Dustin Johnson, Kevin Streelman.
Proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards. The converse to the fact that there will be lots of long iron shots is that there will also be lots of wedge shots. With a number of short par-4s, the thick rough will likely require punch outs, and one of the par-5s probably not being reachable, guys are going to have a lot of wedge shots into greens. Whomever wins will probably have played very well from this range. Top 10 on Tour: Kevin Chappell, Justin Rose, John Mallinger, Robert Garrigus, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker, Stewart Cink, Paul Haley II, Jeff Maggert, Michael Bradley.
Par-4 scoring. Like greens in regulation, this one is obvious — with only two par-5s and three of the par-3s being extremely long, the par-4s will be crucial. If you are going to leave with the US Open trophy on Sunday night, you better play the par-4s well. Top 10 on Tour: Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, David Hearn, Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, Fredrik Jacobson, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar (six guys are tied for seventh).
That concludes this pre-tournament U.S. Open edition of Numbers, and yes, Justin Rose is on my Fantasy team.
–Shoshana Agus-Kleinman (@Shosheak)