Hi, my name is Shoshana. You may know me on Twitter as @Shosheak or from the comments section. I’m a stats geek and researcher. In the spirit of the new season I’m (hopefully) debuting a series that will look back at the previous week’s tournament from a numbers perspective. I’d like to make this a weekly column (if all goes well and Stephanie gives the thumbs-up), so please share any comments, questions, and bitter invectives (well, maybe not so much the last!).
Dustin Johnson has a new nickname: The 54-hole Specialist. With his victory on Tuesday at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he’s now won the last three times a Tour event has been shortened to three rounds due to weather (the 2010 Barclays and the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am).
He’s also the under-30 master, with seven career PGA Tour victories compared to six for Rory McIlroy, of course, Dustin (28-years-old) also has a few years on Rory (24).
As you probably know by now, DJ also became the first player since Tiger to win six consecutive years straight out of college. That also means that DJ has won a PGA Tour event in each of the last six seasons, the second longest active streak on Tour behind only Phil Mickelson, who has notched victories in the past nine years. The all-time record is held by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who each won a PGA Tour event in 17 consecutive years.
How did DJ get to the winner’s circle? Well, his ballstriking was the primary reason for his three-shot advantage after 36 holes. Through the first two rounds he was ranked 22nd in the 30-player field in strokes gained putting (a low ranking in SGP is generally an anomaly on a PGA Tour leaderboard), but he was first in approach shot proximity to the hole.
As for accuracy off the tee? Overrated–or at least hitting the fairway wasn’t the most important thing to score well at The Plantation Course. For the tournament, DJ was second in the field in driving distance, last in fairways hit, but second in greens in regulation.
On Tuesday Dustin’s ballstriking let him down a little bit — he had two wildly errant tee balls. However, his putting, which was his weakness on Monday, saved him. Over the final 18 holes he gained 2.4 strokes on the field, good for second-best of the day.
One of the key moments in the tournament was DJ’s chip-in for eagle on no. 14 in the final round. As Brandel Chamblee noted, DJ made a massive improvement in his scrambling from 2011 to 2012. In fact, in between the prior seasons, he improved his scrambling by ten percentage points, which boosted his rank from 181st on Tour to 31st.
Meanwhile, Steve Stricker suffered a drop-off in his putting last year, but one area where he was still among the best on Tour was his 3-putt avoidance (18th). Tuesday’s round was not a good one from a 3-putt avoidance perspective, he lost by three shots, but he had two three-putts in the final round.
Johnny Miller made a comment on the first hole, saying something like, “Stricker rarely misses that sort of putt.” It was a 6.5 feet. On average, Stricker misses 30-40% from that distance. Given how grainy the greens are at The Plantation Course–not to mention the wind as a factor–it probably shouldn’t have been surprising when any player missed a five- to-ten-footer.
A continuing concern for Stricker is his putting overall has continued to let him down–he finished the week 20th in strokes gained, but it was only the first event of the season.
His ballstriking, though, gave him a shot to win, finishing the week tied for third in greens in regulation. While he missed a lot of putts, he ended up ranked sixth in total distance of putts made, holing several longer putts. As we saw on the par-3s in the front nine on Tuesday, Stricker rolled in a couple of putts over 20 feet.
The statistical anomaly of the week is brought to you by Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey. He was ranked first in the field in greens in regulation (yes, seriously), and third in strokes gained putting.
So how on earth did he only finish tied sixth?
He wasn’t knocking the ball close enough to the hole, ranking 25th in approach-shot proximity. Basically, while on the surface it might have appeared his ballstriking was strong, he didn’t put himself in position to make birdies (The greens at the Plantation Course are large and tricky. It’s a “second-shot” track).
And there you have it!–Hyundai ToC by the numbers. Look for more to come in the following weeks. (and where there are some more numbers available). Once again, comments, questions and suggestions are welcome!
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)