The Memorial Tournament is traditionally one of the hardest tests on the PGA Tour calendar, and with high winds and firm greens at this year’s edition, it once again lived up to its reputation.
How did Matt Kuchar go about winning the Memorial for his second win on Tour this year, and which statistic of Tiger Woods’ has been a concern all year, which showed up at Muirfield Village in a big way? All that and more in this week’s By the Numbers.
- 12: The number of oysters that I consumed in various different forms in New Orleans this weekend — oh, whoops, this post is supposed to be about golf numbers? Onwards then.
- As is so often the case in winning the Memorial, Kuchar did several things well. While he did not always hit the fairway off of the tee, ranking T37 in driving accuracy, he led the field in greens in regulation. This gave Kuchar an easier path to posting a good score, as most pros three-putt very rarely. Basically, he gave himself fewer opportunities to make a bad score than any other player in the field.
- Another area in which Kuchar excelled was putting. For the week, Kuchar was second in strokes gained putting. He gave himself the most opportunities in the field for birdies (led in greens in regulation), and he had a hot putter, which allowed him to take advantage of those chances.
- A hot putter also helps your scrambling stats, as you are able to bury those par putts. On the rare occasions that Kuchar missed a green, he was generally able to do a good job getting up-and-down, ranking T18 for the week in scrambling.
- Conversely, Tiger had a terrible scrambling week, and relatedly, putting (among other issues he ran into). For the week, he finished 68th in scrambling and 71st in putting (73 players made the cut). Prior to this week, Tiger had been one of the better scramblers on Tour, ranking 17th. However, he also led the Tour in strokes gained putting, meaning he was making a lot of par putts. His strong putting hid the fact that he was only 84th in proximity to the hole around the greens (defined as within 30 yards of the hole). This week, with his putting seriously off, he was unable to hide his inability to get the ball really close to the hole (think more tap-in, less five-footers) from around the greens.
- One “stat” that you are unlikely to see very often in By the Numbers is total putts — and this week provided an excellent example for the reason. At the Memorial, Tiger only had one more putt than Kuchar, and yet Kuchar had an excellent week on the greens, while Tiger had a terrible one. The difference is in distance of putts. Because Kuchar hit more greens than everyone else, his first putt was generally after he hit an approach with an iron. On average, Kuchar hit his irons to 32 feet, a distance from which a two-putt is an expected result. Meanwhile, Tiger was T45th in greens hit in regulation for the week, meaning many of his first putts came after short shots from around the green. Even as poor as Tiger has been with those types of shots this year, he still hits it to seven feet (These guys are good!). From that distance you would expect the putt to be holed around 50% of the time. Hence the reason why total putts is generally useless as an indication of putting proficiency.
There you have it, the good and the ugly numbers from this past week’s Memorial Tournament.
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