Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Putting, putts, putted, putt

This is sort of a companion piece to my posting about greens-in-regulation (about half down the posting) because how many putts you make is related to how many greens you hit. On the awesome website Puttingzone, Geoff Mangum has a primer on how to understand putting stats. Below are the nuts-and-bolts of his analysis (which cites 2000-PGA season stats):

What the Number Means. The lowest number in this set of years is Brad Faxon's 1.704 (2000). That year he took 1897 putts on 1113 greens he had reached in regulation (1897/1113=1.704). The easiest way to think about these numbers when comparing two players is to assume each player hit an even 1000 greens. That way, Brad Faxon's 1.704 (rank=1) compares to Kelly Gibson's 1.841 (rank=195) as 1704 putts versus 1841 putts. In other words, over the course of the whole season Faxon's putting is worth 137 fewer strokes than the worst putter in that year's stats. This is the range for that year. Faxon played 96 rounds that season, while Gibson played only 82, so the numbers do not tell us Faxon had 137 fewer putts that year than Gibson -- only that if Player A and Player B both played the same number of rounds and each hit the same number of greens in regulation, Player A with 1.704 putting would have 137 fewer strokes than Player B with 1.841 putting.

In addition, assuming no 3-putt+ greens, if a player 2-putted every green he reached in regulation, his stat would be 2.000. If he 1-putted every green he reached in regulation, his stat would be 1.000. If he 1-putted HALF (50%) of the greens he hit in regulation, his stat would be 1.500. If he 1-putted a QUARTER of the greens he reached in regulation, his stat would be 1.750. THIS TELLS YOU THE PERCENT OF GIRs THE PLAYER ONE-PUTTS! The simple formula is 2 minus the stat. For Kelly Gibson's 1.841 stat, the number tells us he 1-putted 2 - 1.841 = .159, or 15.9% of his greens. In contrast, Brad Faxon's 1.704 tells us he 1-putted 2 - 1.704 = .296, or 29.6% of his greens.

In 2006, the PGA's best putter was Daniel Chopra, with a whopping 1.712, meaning he one-putted 28.8% of greens. No wonder he's a pro! Of course, this isn't the whole picture of his game, because putting stats don't take into account missed greens, but still, when Chopra does hit a GIR, he's got a 1-in-3 chance to make his first putt. From an amateur's standpoint, that would make the game a whole lot funner.

Puttingzone has tons of info from Geoff's research and teaching techniques, and he even delves into psychology, which is one part of the game that the venerable Dave Pelz, short-game genius that he is, steers well clear of. Pelz did publish a book on putting, but regardless of whether you use him or Mangum, better putting can make you a markedly better player.

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