All I want for Christmas? Just two more putts.
Delusional amateurs think PGA Tour superstars constantly sink putts from downtown. Fact is, the best players in the world don't make many putts of considerable length.
According to numbers cruncher Mark Broadie, the masters of the Bermuda universe sink 1.4 putts of 21 feet or more during a 72-hole tournament. The winner averages just over two of these long putts per event. The Force must not be with them, at least on the putting green.
Shocked? I owned the same misconception, thinking over the course of 72 holes that PGA Tour players, the best putters in the world, were slam-dunking bombs faster than Stephen Curry sinks 3-pointers. What is interesting, however, is that they make 50 percent of 8-footers on the fastest greens in the world. They average 1.5 putts from 8 feet. Remarkable.
Also, they don't 3-putt as often as rank amateurs. Remember this year's US Open? Dustin Johnson 3-putted his way to a runner-up finish on the 72nd hole. DJ's instructor Butch Harmon met with him the day after and asked him about that last putt.
"Bro, I had a 12-footer to win the US Open. I'm sending it down there, bro," Harmon quoted Johnson at a recent convention.
Tour pros averaged 1.98 putts from 30 feet while a 90-shooter averaged 2.16 putts. Hacks 3-putted 18 percent of the time while Tour pros just 5 percent.
Why? Tour pros are better at the short putts. They might be better at distance control, but I contend that they made more of the "meat on the bone" they left themselves. They made 50 percent of 8-footers, 66 percent of 6-footers and 88 percent of 4-footers. A Scratch golfer made 41 percent, 55 percent and 80 percent respectively while a 90-shooter made 27 percent, 39 percent and 65 percent.
Broadie's findings by using Shotlink data from 2004 to 2012 also suggest that "getting the putt to the hole" will make golfers better putters. That news was not as surprising, but what was astonishing was finding out that practicing 4 to 6-foot putts can definitely drop a handicap.
These are the most important putts according to the Columbia professor who has developed the "Strokes Gained" approach to scoring. Makes sense. Two-footers are not as important because golfers make most of them. According to Broadie, Tour pros averaged 1.01 putts from 2 feet, Scratch golfers 1.01 and 90-shooters 1.06.
So you want to make a few more putts this Christmas? You can wait on the Force, or you can do as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi would do if they played golf in the galaxy, stroke 100 of those pesky 4 to 6-footers every day.
Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.