Monday, December 8, 2014

Creating a Gain Bias to Make More Birdie Putts

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Rich Hunt’s 2014 Pro Golf Synopsis, which can be purchased here for $10.

This past season, PGA Tour players made an average of 39.8 percent of their birdie putts from 5-to-15 feet while making 52.6 percent of their par-or-worse putts from the same distance. That means that Tour players make a higher percentage of par-or-worse putts than they make birdie putts from the same distance.

Why? To explain, I’ll start with the numbers.

Here’s a list of the 10 Tour players who saw the largest drop-off in their birdie make percentage from their par or worse make percentage:

Only two players on the PGA Tour — Luke Donald and Kevin Streelman — made a higher percentage of their birdie putts than par-or-worse putts from 5-to-15 feet in the 2013-2014 season.

At first, I thought Tour players made more par-or-worse putts than birdie putts because they were more likely to have birdie putts that were downhill. Studies done by golf researchers show that in general players make a higher percentage of uphill putts from the same distance than downhill putts.

The other premonition I had was that on par-or-worse putts Tour players were more likely to have gotten a feel for that particular green. More often than not, Tour players are trying to make a birdie with either a putt on the green or a chip from just off the green. They get a better feel for the green on the putt or chip and then have a better understanding of how to make the next putt.
In February 2011, in the American Economic Review authors Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer examined this in the article titled Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience, Competition, and High Stakes.



birdiemachine said...

Couldn't this information be skewed a bit with the wide range of putting distance 5'-15'.

Each player should have an average of all distances in this range for par+ and birdie.

I would bet the average birdie putt was longer than the average Par+ putt...thus the main reason for a lower conversion of birdies.

Still good, truthful information. Really curious to know what Streelman and Donald average lengths were in that range for birdies and Par+.


Rich H. said...

I broke it down into 5-10 and 10-15 foot putts as well and came up with the same thing...a higher percentage of par+ putts made than birdie putts. Mark Broadie broke it down to 6-footers and par+ putts were made 4% more of the time than birdie putts.

birdiemachine said...

I like the 6ft example the best...better compares apples to apples. Good info!