Stats propaganda from the Masters

Tommy Snell
Tommy Snell

Strokes Gained buzzes its way around clubhouses and fairways all year long, offering propaganda that maybe the proverbial drive-for-show-putt-for-dough has gone the way of the Balata ball.

After two rounds at the windy Augusta National Golf Club, certain statistics might tell untruths about the leaderboard, yet some offer insight into scoring.

One stat that doesn’t lie is score. The lowest score is either in a playoff or wins outright. But how are statistics tied to those red and black numbers?

Going into Saturday’s round, William McGirt led the tournament with 51 putts over 36 holes, or 1.42 per hole. No three-putts. Rickie Fowler was second with 52, and Thomas Pieters was tied for fourth with 55 putts. One would surmise that fewer putts lands a good leaderboard position. Not so fast. Jimmie Walker was third with 54 putts, but he was tied for 19th. Louis Oosthuizen was tied for fourth in putts with Pieters, yet he was tied for 32nd at 4-over par.

After the 36-hole cut, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Soren Kjeldsen, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas led in Greens in Regulation, averaging 13 putting surfaces a round. Rose led the group at 1-under par while Thomas was T-35 at 5-over par. The other three were sixth, 13th, and 16th respectively.

Adam Scott unleashed his Big Dog and averaged 288.9 yards over the first two rounds while hitting only 18 of 28 fairways. Contrast that with Sergio Garcia’s 285.6-yard average while hitting 24 of 28 fairways. One could conclude distance is important, but accuracy has some influence on scoring.

Four were tied for the lead going into moving day. Sergio Garcia was fifth in Driving Distance, second in Driving Accuracy sixth in Greens in Regulation and 21st in Putts. Hoffman was 15th, 72nd, 12th and ninth in the same categories, while Pieters was 13th, 53rd, 15th and fourth. Fowler’s stats told the most truth as his 12th, 41st, 46th and second statistical standings might dictate that if golfers miss fairways and greens, they’d better putt really well.

The guesswork continues, but Garcia’s place on the leaderboard might disprove Bobby Locke’s phrase, “You drive for show but putt for dough” more than any other golfer who has a chance to slip into a Green Jacket this year. Mark Broadie, who developed the Strokes Gained approach to golf statistics, lists the old adage as a myth. Sean Foley has gone on record as saying distance is more important than accuracy.

After looking at the 36-hole figures, one deduction can be made: Leading the Driving Accuracy category does not guarantee a place on the leaderboard. Steve Stricker was 32nd in scoring at plus-4 after hitting 25 of 28 fairways. He averaged 262.5 yards, which turned into 19 of 36 GIR or 60th in that category. Zach Johnson was fourth in Driving Accuracy, but he missed the cut. Foley may have something.