Friday, February 20, 2015

The Numbers Behind Going For It and Laying Up on #10 at Riviera

This time of year is when perhaps the most controversial hole on Tour is played, the 10th hole at Riviera. (click any of the pictures to enlarge)

It is recorded at 315 yards, but that is rather generous as you're playing from an elevated tee and usually some thinner air. Essentially, every single player in the field will have the distance to drive this hole.

And many end up hitting it well past the hole. The PGA Tour even tweeted the following:

• Since 2003, players attempting to drive the green were a combined 467 under par. Players who layed up were a combined 21 under par

• Since 2012, 933 players have hit their approach shot from inside 75 yards. Only 59.8% have found the green.

• Approach shots from the left fairway have a 70% chance of hitting the green. Approach shots from the right fairway have a 53% chance of hitting the green.

• From 2003-2014, Aaron Baddeley has the best scoring average at #10, in 44 rounds he is 10 under par

• Since 1983, Fred Couples has made the most birdies at #10 (34)

• Since 2003, only one player has hit their tee shot inside 6 feet of the hole. In 2013, Greg Owen hit it to 11 inches.

Yesterday, I recorded the shots and the scores on #10 and here is what I got:

Going For It = 4.130 scoring average

Laying Up = 4.222 scoring average

So, given that since 2003, players going for the green played it at a combined 467 under par versus the lay-up players being at 21 under par AS WELL AS the going for it scoring average being lower on Thursday than the laying up scoring average....they should go for this green, right?

Furthermore, 67.5% of the players LAYED-UP yesterday versus 32.5% went for the green.

So, the players must be ignorant for not understanding they should go for the green, right?

Well, not exactly.


The first thing the Tour ignores is that the hole design has changed a little since 2011. So, it's not quite fair to throw out the numbers of going for the green versus laying up since 2003. It is probably best to look at these numbers in 2012 since they made alterations to the hole during this time.

But the far larger issue is the pin location.

Yesterday's pin location was all the way in back. And I would expect it to be in a similar location on Sunday.

But what those statistics do not tell you is how close these players were hitting it to the hole:

Laying Up = Average 2nd Shot of 23.8 feet to the hole

Going For It = Average 2nd shot of 29.6 feet to the hole

That means that players laying up were hitting their approach shots 20% closer to the hole than if they went for the green.

Furthermore, look at the birdie rates:

Laying Up = 20%

Going For It = 18.5%

So, why did the 'Go For It' group of players have a lower scoring average if their approaches were further from the hole?

The main reason is that the Go For It players just happened to putt and hit their bunker shots well on #10 yesterday.

The other reason is that there were some odd players that just fell apart like Justin Leonard who was in excellent position with 79 yards in the left fairway...and came away with a 7. And Leonard has been one of the best on Tour from 75-125 yards (Green Zone) over the years.


The main issue with laying up yesterday is that there was a tailwind and that helped firm up the greens and also reduced the spin on the approach shot.

Many golfers did what Will Zalatoris did. They hit their tee shot in good position by laying up left. They then hit an approach that was going at the flag, but traveled too far and deposited into the rear bunker.

Still, the numbers indicate that laying up when the pin is located in the back is the BETTER play. The reason why the players that went for the green could not get their approach shots closer on average is because the bunkers left of the green block the shot and if you miss in the right bunker, it's a very unfavorable position as well.

Here's how Angel Cabrera played it which was the main theme as to why the Go For It players were able to have a lower scoring average than the lay up players:

Cabrera actually hit a pretty decent drive, but it went a little too far and was blocked off by the bunkers and had no choice but to chip one to the middle of the green, leaving himself with a slick 30-foot downhill birdie putt. He just happened to make the putt.

Anybody that has read Pro Golf Synopsis or has talked to me knows that I don't favor laying up. But when the pin is in the back pin location the better play is to lay-up off the tee. Keep it left of the right edge of the left fairway bunker, leave yourself about 75-100 yards in the fairway and allow the ball to spin and hold the green. While the scoring average happened to be lower for those going for the green on Thursday, in the end when the sample size gets larger, it should bear out that the scoring average will favor the lay-up strategy.

With that being said, the pin location is in the middle of the green today and should be a front pin location on Saturday and that is when players should go for the green and that is why the players that have gone for the green overall have scored far better on #10 over the years.


No comments: