Here’s a look at Hiroshi Iwata’s round of 63 (-9) today at Whistling Straits.
First, the basic metrics:
I think the untrained eye, people will say that he shot such a great score because of his putting and short game. While that played a big part of it, it wasn’t like his ballstriking was poor or even below average or even average. It was quite good. For instance, the field average for fairways hit is at 59% and Iwata hit 79% of his fairways. I don’t know what the field average is for the driving distance on all drives, but it appears that Iwata was not laying up too often and has ample distance. So far we have seen that Whistling Straits is a driving and Red Zone (175-225 yards) course. By Iwata being able to drive the ball so well, he has been able to gain a significant advantage over the field.
I like to look at how many birdie opportunities the player has inside 20-feet in a round. The more a player accumulates those birdie opportunities the better they tend to play. And the really low rounds tend to have a lot more of those types of birdie opportunities. Iwata has 10 birdie opportunities from inside 21 feet.
So, you may be thinking ‘he didn’t strike the ball that well, but when he found the GIR, he made it count.’
Iwata had good birdie opportunities (less than 21 feet) on #4, #6 and #13 where he missed the green
It appears that #4 and #6 he was putting from the fringed where he made the putt on #4 and missed by 1-inch on #6. It appears that the birdie shot on #13 was a chip in which he made that one as well. But, again…it was only a 6 yard chip.
The 5 other missed GIR were on the following holes:
He missed the fairway off the tee on the par-5 5th hole and didn’t hit a good 2nd or 3rd shot. He was left with 107 yards from the fairway on his fourth shot and hit it to 13’2” and made the putt. From 107 yards from the fairway, the Tour average is roughly 19-feet to the hole. So, he hit that shot about 30% closer to the cup than the average Tour player.
On the par-4 8th hole Iwata has a 207 yard approach shot (Red Zone) and misses pretty badly and leaves himself with a 20-yard bunker shot. Typically, Tour players should try and avoid bunker shots for 30+ yards like the plague because they do not hit them well. So much so that I would get a bit anxious if a Tour player even had a 20-yard bunker shot. Instead, Iwata jars the shot and makes birdie.
Iwata then misses a fairway on #9 and has 173 yards into the hole (nearly a Red Zone shot). Putting your tee shot in the rough in the Red Zone or near the Red Zone is usually costly and Iwata dumps one into the bunker. This time he has 21 yards to the hole. He hits it to 9’4” which is still quite good considering the Tour average is roughly 13 feet from that distance (roughly 28% better than the Tour average). He misses the putt though and makes bogey.
He then misses the GIR on #10 despite hitting an excellent drive in the fairway with only 66 yards to go. Still, he ends up on the fringe and likely putted from there. So, it was not technically a GIR, but it was more or less playing like a GIR.
Iwata then misses the 18th GIR quite badly. Although it’s understandable as he had 252 yards into the green. Here he hits a fantastic pitch shot over the bunker from 31 yards to 3’5” and makes the putt.
Here is his putting make % for the day:
Did Iwata putt well?
But, he was not completely unconscious and his longest putt made all day was from less than 21 feet. He also missed 2 putts inside 9-feet.
Let’s not forget that he reached 3 of the 4 par-5’s in two shots:
He played the par-5’s at -3 under par by making an eagle on #11 and a birdie on #16. Often times people discount the power that hitting a par-5 in two has as it almost counts like hitting an extra GIR since you’re putting for eagle and greatly increasing your chances of coming away with a birdie.
So in essence, Iwata more or less hit 12/18 GIR with 3 par-5’s hit in two shots which is almost akin to effectively hitting 15/18 GIR.
Surely, he putted well, but his short game around the green was outrageously great. The problem is that he will be hard pressed to convert those scrambling opportunities if he has those big misses, again. In the end, Iwata proved that you must strike the ball well in order to ‘go low’ and using GIR as a measuring stick for ballstriking is not looking at the entire picture.