Friday, October 2, 2015

Odds and Ends with Initial PGA Tour Analysis

The 2015 Pro Golf Synopsis e-book is scheduled to come out in December.  With the Tour's 2014-2015 season ending, I've compiled the data and done some initial analysis on Tour.  Here's some things I found.

- Will Wilcox had the easiest schedule on Tour when it came to driving the ball and the hardest schedule on Tour when it came to the Short Game.  Furthermore, nobody in the top-125 on the Money List played in smaller purse size events than Wilcox.  Interesting season for sure.

- Highest smash factor this year?  Ryan Palmer.

- Most aggressive driver of the ball (lays up the least often to their comparable distance off the tee)?  Matt Every.  Least aggressive?  Henrik Stenson (obviously).  2nd least aggressive?  Graham DeLaet.

- Most aggressive par-5 player (going for par-5's in two shots instead of laying up comparable to distance off the tee, hit fairway % and performance from 225-275 yards)?  Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. 

- Least aggressive on the par-5's? Stewart Cink.

- Not one player made a higher percentage of birdie putts from 5-15 feet compared to par putts from 5-15 feet.  Two players came close...Charlie Beljan (0.81% difference) and Andrew Svoboda (0.88% difference).

- The player whose approach shot performance regressed the least when hitting shots from the rough vs. the fairway was Martin Flores.  The player with the greatest regression on shots from the rough versus fairway was Chris Kirk.

- Dustin Johnson had the least amount of Red Zone (175-225 yards) shot attempts per round (4.222).

- Rookie Patrick Rodgers lead the Tour in hang time with the driver at 7.2000 seconds. 

- The play on Tour seemed noticeably better overall this year.  More players bunched up at the top.  Congratulations Jason Day!  You won 5 events this year including a major...but you STILL do not win the Player of the Year award and rightfully so.  That's how good the play was out there. 

My thinking?

I think that the driving as a whole has improved tremendously.  I think driving on Tour went on a downward spiral from around 2004 to 2012 and is now starting to become relevant again.  One can still win an event by hitting it all over the place if they are long enough (i.e.. Rickie Fowler at TPC Boston this year), but the new wave of players hit the ball long and accurately. 

While I have had my criticisms of Trackman/FlightScope, I think it has been beneficial in Tour driving.  Obviously, I can't see the Attack Angles on the Tour's Web site, but I do see other important radar metrics that give a good indication of what is going on out there.  I think we are seeing less players really crashing down on the driver.  We still have our Rickie Barnes' and Trevor Immelman's that appear to hit well down on the driver in competition, but it seems to be far less prevalent than it was 5 years ago. 

And the players are starting to manage their spin rates much better.  When the launch monitors came out and were saying that EVERYBODY should hit up on the driver, it was producing a lot of very low spin rate drivers of the ball.  This season there were more players getting that spin rate in a manageable range of 2,400 to 2,800 rpm's. 

The top 8 players on the Money List had 7 of those players finish in the top-17 in Driving Effectiveness.  You can win these days and drive it poorly, but it's entirely harder to do than it was just a few years ago.

- Who said club speed doesn't matter?

The average club speed at East Lake was 116.1 mph.  For the year, the Tour average is 113.5 mph.  Not just a coincidence that the top-30 on Tour also hit the ball quite far.

-  Over the years, I have discussed the '4 Cornerstones of the Game' which are the following:

Driving Effectiveness
Red Zone Play (175-225 yards)
Short Game shots from 10-20 yards
Putting from 3-15 feet

All a player has to do is finish at the average or better and they are very likely to have a tremendous season.

The players that accomplished that were:

Justin Rose
Jim Furyk
Jordan Spieth
Henrik Stenson
Hideki Matsuyama
Jason Day
Justin Thomas
Bubba Watson
Rickie Fowler
Keegan Bradley
David Lingmerth
John Senden
Jerry Kelly
Ryan Palmer
Kevin Kisner
J.B. Holmes
Kevin Chappell

That's a median earnings of $3,732,664!

However, I decided to see if I could tweak it further and came up with a '5th Cornerstone' to Tour success and changed one of the cornerstones:

Driving Effectiveness
Red Zone Play (175-225 yards)
Short Game Shots from 10-20 yards
Putting from 5-15 feet (was 3-15 feet)
Ball Speed

Here are the players that accomplished that feat:

Henrik Stenson
Ryan Palmer
Bubba Watson
Keegan Bradley
Jordan Spieth
Kevin Chappell
Justin Rose
Jason Day
Justin Thomas
J.B. Holmes
Hideki Matsuyama
Rickie Fowler

Their median earnings for the season was $4,396,250.

Not too shabby.

More to come...



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