Monday, June 11, 2012

Analyzing Another Chamblee Argument Against Tiger

On Friday, after the 2nd round of the Memorial, The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee remarked that a problem he saw with Tiger Woods’ game is that he didn’t give the ball a free rip on par-5’s anymore and that didn’t allow him to go after par-5’s in 2 shots.

This has been one of the criticisms of the ever ongoing criticism of Tiger’s game as of late, a lack of aggressiveness off the tee. However, as I’ve shown in previous posts using ShotLink data, his frequency of keeping his driver in the bag has NOT been abnormal by Tour standards. In fact, I think it more or less looks less aggressive because:

1. Tiger typically plays more difficult course setups
2. The TV almost always shows every Tiger tee shot and not the tee shots of everybody else.
3. He’s still generating 121 mph of clubhead speed

While I’ve disagreed with Chamblee on many things in the past, I do like that he tries to investigate the ShotLink data when analyzing tournaments and players. He has made some faulty conclusions like saying that shots from 50-125 yards are the ‘money zone’, which is very inaccurate depiction of the Tour. I think Chamblee made the common mistake that people not involved with statistics make, small sample size and never bothering to see the statistical correlation between that area and Adjusted Scoring Average.

However, Chamblee does notice something very important here. There’s a strong correlation between Par-5 scoring average and the percentage of ‘Go For Its’ a player has on par-5’s. The Tour labels a par-5 ‘Go For It’ as anytime the 2nd shot is within 30 yards of the edge of the green. As I mentioned in 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis, this is one of the reasons why I feel power has its advantages along with why I feel the 3-wood is the most underrated club in the bag. If I can get within that 30 yards from the edge of the green on a consistent basis, over time my par-5 scoring average will likely go down.

Many golfers, even Tour pros, don’t quite understand this. But, if you have 300 yards to the pin, but 280 yards to the edge of the green, if you can hit your 3-wood 250 yards…even if you’re not truly ‘going for it’, that’s often the better play for the golfer if they want to lower their expected score. Often times, golfers think they would be better off having 100 yards and a full swing into a pin than say 50 yards. That’s actually very false. If you want to lay-up on a par-5, it should really be done to avoid trouble like deep rough, a tough bunker shot, water, O.B., trees.

I didn’t watch the entire 2nd round of Tiger, but he did lay up on the back nine on one par-5. The wind was blowing heavily in his face. He had 261 yards to the pin. They didn’t give the yardage to the creek that ran across the fairway up by the green, but I’m assuming it was probably 220 yards to carry. Perhaps Tiger was a bit too conservative on this shot, but I think if he misses the green badly, but clears the creek, he could be left with a very difficult shot because the rough was very thick at Muirfield Village. In the world of Tiger, everything gets criticized.

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Anyway, here’s a look at Tiger’s par-5 Go For It percentage and his rank in that category over the years:

2012: 69.1% (11th)
2009: 71.6% (2nd)
2007: 68.2% (2nd)
2006: 69.1% (3rd)
2005: 72.7% (1st)
2004: 64.9% (13th)

Two things stand out here. One is that Tiger’s percentage of ‘Go For Its’ is pretty much at his career average. However, his ranking is pretty low compared to previous years (outside of 2004).

We can’t just leave it at ‘Brandel is wrong’ because the ranking is of some importance.

Unfortunately, there is no data that I can use to figure out the percentage of Go For Its on each Tour course. This would be nice because we could make some sort of year-end Go For It percentage projection for Tiger. Perhaps he would typically be at 75%+ at this time of the year. Thus, his 69.1% may project to something lower like 62% by the end of the year as the courses may get longer and be more difficult to ‘go for.’

We can’t answer that, but I would like to take a look at his Driving Distance, fairway % and distance to edge of fairway ranks over the years, combined with his Go For It percentage ranks.


Year……Drive Distance…...Fwy %.......Dist. 2 Edge of Fwy…Go For %

2012……30th………………24th………….54th……….............11th
2009……21st……………….83rd…………134th………………2nd
2007……12th………………152nd ………..N/A……………….2nd
2006……6th………………..139th ………...N/A………………..3rd
2005……2nd………………..191st ………...N/A………………..1st
2004……9th………………..182nd ………..N/A……………….13th

Can we decipher anything from these rankings?

Obviously, Tiger does not hit it quite as long as he used to. We also don’t have Distance to Edge of Fairway data prior to 2008. However, Tiger’s fairway % has gone wayyyy up. And I think it’s safe to assume that his Distance to the Edge of the Fairway (extremely important for effective driving) has improved greatly this year as well. There’s a very strong correlation between fairway % and Distance to the Edge of the fairway, so if Tiger was finishing no better than 139th in fairway percentage from 2004 to 2007, you can bet that his Distance to the Edge of the Fairway rankings were lousy as well.

Now, let’s look at the rankings on approach shots from the fairway, on 225-250 yard and 250-275 yard approach shots.


Year……………225-250…………..250-275

2012…………….70th………………..7th
2009…………….54th………………..29th
2007…………….10th………………...2nd
2006……………..1st ………………..22nd
2005…………….32nd………………..7th
2004…………….54th…………………8th
2003…………….3rd………………….24th
2002…………….90th………………..143rd

The 225-250 yard range is a good range to Go For a par-5 in two shots. For Tiger, this will likely be anything from a 3-wood to a 4 or 5-iron. I would say that typically he would probably hit his 2-iron (or 5-wood) thru 4-iron here. He’s currently ranked 70th, which is still above average. It’s also the worst he’s ranked since 2002.

From 250-275, we are now talking about the 3-wood range. He’s been spectacular there outside of 2002, his last year working with Butch. That was also the same year than his highest ranking from 225-250 yards occurred. This may be one of the big reasons why Tiger decided to leave Butch as his long game was not where he wanted it to be.

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FINAL SYNOPSIS

If we were to use the American court system of ‘being innocent until proven guilty’ and Chamblee was the District Attorney, I don’t see him having much evidence to stand on. He would probably have to wait on the case before going to trial and see if he could get some better evidence. He does have the lower ranking in driving distance and Go For It percentage in his corner. But, the actual metrics point to a different story.

My feeling is that at the very worst, Tiger is ever so slightly less aggressive on par-5’s than he once was. However, my metrics show that he’s coming up a more effective way of driving the ball to lower his score. A little less power versus the rest of the Tour, but much more accuracy and precision, which has plagued him in the past.

I think what has happened is that the Tour have taken in more reckless bombers over time. Let’s look at the guys that currently have a higher percentage of Go For Its than Tiger:

1. Bubba Watson (80.6%)
2. Kyle Stanley (76.9%)
3. Rory McIlroy (76.8%)
4. Robert Garrigus (76.4%)
5. Lee Westwood (75.0%)
6. Keegan Bradley (74.3%)
7. Martin Laird (72.2%)
8. Henrik Stenson (71.1%)
9. Gary Woodland (70.6%)
10. Peter Hanson (69.4%)

All of these players are very long off the tee. And almost all of them are likely to see their par-5 ‘Go For It’ percentage go down a bit. Usually the leader is about 71-74%. While Bubba’s 80.6% is outrageous, he’s taken a lot of time off after winning the Masters and should regress a bit.

Also, Tiger currently ranks 8th in par-5 scoring average.

I think what has happened is that the Tour simply does not grow much rough on par-5’s anymore. Either they stopped growing rough on par-5’s or the bombers started to take advantage of it. The 2 tournaments Tiger has won this year, Bay Hill and the Memorial, both featured probably the longest rough on Tour so far this season. That’s why the bombers who eat up par-5’s didn’t contend last week, they couldn’t deal with the rough. And perhaps that is what the Tour can do to give the shorter hitters a chance.

I think what all of this may mean is that Tiger’s chances at Augusta may be worse. No rough on the course, so bombers can just out-bomb him. But, he may have increased his chances at winning at the US Open and the PGA Championship. I think that may actually hurt his major victory odds in the end since the Masters is a limited invitational. So if you can be invited to that, your odds of winning increase automatically over the most democratic tournament in the world, the US Open.

The game has changed for Tiger, the fans and the media just need to accept that.





3JACK

1 comment:

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