Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looking at Par-3 Strategy

This past week, the PGA Tour did not keep ShotLink data because the Mayakoba is in Mexico and the Accenture was a match play event.

Anyway, here are my picks for the Honda:

Kyle Stanley: 30/1
Justin Rose: 35/1
YE Yang: 40/1
John Rollins: 66/1
Spencer Levin: 66/1

Value Pick: Alex Cejka 200/1

Yesterday, I was playing MetroWest Golf Club. I started the round -2 thru the first 7 holes. I then get up to #8 with the pin in back. The distance to the pin was about 182 yards. The distance to the middle of the green was about 170 yards. I chose to hit a 6-iron, which I usually hit about 180-185 yards. I flushed the 6-iron and wound up in the back bunker with a very short sided bunker shot. I then hit a bunker blast to 15 feet, missed the 15 footer and made bogey.

The reality was that the bogey stemmed from poor course management. Obviously, I hit too much club because looking back the odds of me getting the ball pin-high and finding the green are slim. And the area off the green that was a makeable up-and-in is very small.

One of the things I discussed in the 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis is that when Tour players ‘go low’, they usually do it more with great ballstriking than great putting. They’ll hit more shots closer which will increase their odds of making the birdie putt.

This means that pro golfers HAVE to fire at the flags on approach shots. The trick is figuring out which flags to fire at and which ones not to fire at. And that was sorta the crux of the situation on #8 at MetroWest, wanting to fire at the flag to get the ball close to the pin, but risking a very difficult up-and-in if I missed.

Later on in the round, I was in the rough on #13 and the pin was tucked back right behind a bunker. I fired at the flagstick again. This time I did so knowing that if I missed, the up-and-in was much more makeable. The bunker wasn’t really a difficult bunker shot. And if I missed a little right I had room to get up-and-in comfortably. If I missed left, I was on the green. I wound up finding the bunker and just as I thought, the shot wasn’t that difficult and I made par.

In next year’s Pro Golf Synopsis, I will show a simple scoring system I created to help people better gauge their decision making of going for the flag or shooting for the middle of the green. In the meantime, after the round I started to question how aggressive should golfers be on par-3’s.

I decided to look at the metrics on Tour. The first question I asked ‘what are the birdie or better % on Tour from par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s?’

Here they are:

Par-5’s: 42%
Par-4’s: 16%
Par-3’s: 13%

I’ve discussed how players are typically better off being aggressive on par-5’s. What I have noticed in my own game is the key is to be aggressive on the 2nd shot more than the drive. But, if you are good at hitting that driver 20-30 yards longer when you need it, then by all means let the shaft out on the driver. I just have a difficult time hitting it consistently when I try to add yardage.

But, the par-3 and par-4 birdie (or better) percentage is not that different. Still, with this data I believe that in general golfers should be much more conservative on par-3’s than on par-4’s.

The difference lies in the amount of par-3’s and par-4’s we play in a round of golf. Typically in a golfer course we will play only 4 par-3’s while playing 10 par-4’s. Thus, the Tour averages approximately 1.6 birdies a round on par-4’s while average 0.5 birdies a round on par-3’s.

My conclusion is that in general, par-3’s are just more difficult for Tour golfers on average. While par-4’s are more likely to have more easy holes and it’s just that the difficult par-4’s offset the percentage of birdies one can make.

Thus, I think golfers in general are better off seeking the middle of the green on par-3’s, both directionally and yardage wise, in order to lower their scores over time.


1 comment:

Mei said...

Did you watch the Mayakoba Golf Classic this past weekend? Rookie John Huh wins it on the 8th hole of the playoff! Check out this highlights video: