Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tommy Two Gloves, a Statistical Analysis

One of the players fighting for his Tour card as we head down the stretch in Tommy ‘Two Gloves’ Gainey. He is currently ranked 104th on the Money List and even more disconcerting, 170th in Adjusted Scoring Average. Last year he finished 35th on the Money List and 88th in Adjusted Scoring Average.

In fact, here’s what I wrote about Gainey in the 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis:

There are some similarities between Gainey and (Rickie) Fowler and as I stated before, I find them to be two of the best players without a PGA Tour victory.

So, what’s going on with ‘Two Gloves?’ First, let’s take a look at his rankings:


Advanced Total Driving…….111…………………..77

Putts Gained.……………….110…………………..78

Short Game Play……………162………………….159

Birdie Zone…………………77………………….151

Safe Zone…………………146………………….71

Danger Zone………………78…………………...64

There are some metrics that stand out, but I should go over them before we delve further.

I’m sure some will see the dip in Putts Gained, but Putts Gained is by far and away the most ‘volatile’ metric I use. Meaning, it can change dramatically from one week to the next. Last week Gainey was ranked 99th and now he’s 110th. If he has a pretty good tourney with the flatstick, he can easily be at the ranking he was last season. I would be more concerned if the difference in ranking was 50 points or more at this time of the year. But since it’s still pretty close, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

While I’m a big believer in the Danger Zone play for Tour players, the difference between 78th and 64th would only equate to a minute difference in Adjusted Scoring Average and money earned. So I wouldn’t read too much into that at the moment.

What’s interesting though are his rankings in Advanced Total Driving, Birdie Zone and Safe Zone play.

He’s greatly improved in Birdie Zone play (shots from 75-125 yards). Last year it was a weak spot for him and I believe during the offseason he worked on shots from this distance. It’s a real common theme from the Tour players, caddies and coaches I’ve worked with, each of them talk about wanting to be an elite wedge player. But as Gainey shows, it’s often a very overrated part of the game, something I pointed out in 2011 Pro Golf Synopsis.

There are 2 big reasons for Birdie Zone shots being overrated.

1. The penalty for a ‘bad’ shot by a Tour player is rather small and the best Birdie Zone players only average hitting the shot to about 16 feet, where the make percentage is still fairly low. In other words, put the best vs. the worst Birdie Zone players together and the difference in their final scores will be smaller than Safe Zone and Danger Zone shots.

2. It’s the least frequently hit Zone shot per round on Tour.

The Safe Zone (shots from 125-175 yards) is the most frequently hit zone on Tour. However, it falls behind the Danger Zone in terms of importance because the Danger Zone is the zone that is the 2nd most frequently visited by Tour players and the penalty is much more severe.

So in terms of shot attempts per round, it goes in order of:

1. Safe Zone
2. Danger Zone
3. Birdie Zone

And there’s a sizeable drop-off in frequency between Danger Zone and Birdie Zone.

In terms of differences in Expected Score values from best to worst, it goes:

1. Danger Zone
2. Safe Zone
3. Birdie Zone

And of course, as far as the correlation to Adjusted Scoring average, it also goes:

1. Danger Zone
2. Safe Zone
3. Birdie Zone



There is a correlation between a player’s percentage of shots in the Safe Zone that come from the fairway or tee box and their Safe Zone proficiency. With ‘bomb and gouging’ being all of the rage, the Tour still shows that to a degree, hitting fairways is important. Particularly when it comes to how well you will play from the Safe Zone.

With that, golfers who are struggling from the Safe Zone tend to run into 1 or 2 areas:

1. Hitting too high of a percentage of their shots in the Safe Zone from the rough (instead of fairway or tee box).

2. Just a lack of skill of hitting those shots regardless if they are from the fairway/tee box or the rough.


In Gainey’s case, he’s gone from a player who was more or less ‘above average’ off the tee in 2011 and is now ‘below average’ off the tee this season. My Advanced Total Driving metric is a proprietary formula that factors in:

1. Driving Distance
2. Fairway Percentage
3. Average Distance from Edge of Fairway on tee shots that wind up in the rough.

Driving Distance – Gainey went from 46th in driving distance last year (296.7 yards) to 25th in driving distance this year (298.6 yards). When looking at driving distance, it’s better to look at the *ranking* than the yardage to get a more accurate idea of the player’s driving distance. I like to think of this along the same lines as Putts Gained, while an improvement of 21 spots on the ranking is better than no improvement, I would have to see an improvement of 50+ spots to really see a difference.

Fairway Percentage – Here’s where we start seeing a difference as Gainey went from hitting 58.97% (130th) in 2011 to 53.47% (160th) in 2012. Last year he hit 822 fairways (out of 1,394 attempts). This year he would be on pace to hit 745 fairways. In a world where the difference in 100 ranking spots in Scoring Average can be less than 1 stroke, the drop in fairways hit is hurting Gainey’s game.

Distance To Edge of Fairway – Here’s where we see an even bigger discrepancy as Gainey has gone from 92nd in this metric to 150th.

And having looked at his radar metrics (club speed, ball speed, smash factor, launch angle, spin, etc), they are virtually identical. In essence, he’s just more wild with the driver this year.

So that explains the dip in his Advanced Total Driving metric, but does it explain his Safe Zone woes?

Not exactly.

He’s certainly hitting a lower percentage of his Safe Zone shots from the fairway or tee box. In 2011, 73.5% of his Safe Zone shots came from the fairway or tee box. That was 151st highest percentage on Tour. But this year he is hitting 69.0% of his Safe Zone shots from the fairway or tee box, 171st on Tour.

And here’s a look at his rankings from the Safe Zone distances out of the rough and the fairway/tee box:


125-150 (rgh)………35……………91

125-150 (fwy)………33…………..112

150-175 (rgh)………115………….150

150-175 (fwy)………63…………….83

So part of Gainey’s Safe Zone issues are also flat out worse execution from the Safe Zone. He’s seen a massive drop-off in his fairway shots from 125-150 yards and a drop-off in his shots from the fairway at 150-175 yards.

Still, his rough play is even more worrisome and he’s had even bigger declines from that area. I think that what is happening is he’s hitting more shots off the grid and further away from the fairway and he’s having more difficulty from the rough and hitting more shots from the rough, which is not a good combination.

IMO, the way to secure his Tour card for this season is to focus on the driving accuracy and consistency. That will prevent those big number scores that can make him miss cuts, not make any money and put him behind the 8-ball. It will also help with his proficiency from the Safe Zone and continue to help him from the Danger Zone, which he’s shown to be fairly well skilled at. But it does go to show you how you misleading the idea of improving wedge play can be to a player’s game.


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