Friday, August 04, 2006

"Driving the green" among best predictors of PGA success

Golf Digest reports some real statistical research from the PGA itself:

"… five [variables] have clearly emerged as leading indicators and predictors of success: "birdie average," "par breakers," "par-5 scoring average," "par-5 birdie percentage" and "going for the green" (the percentage of times a player tries to drive a par 4 or hit a par 5 in two.) In these stats in 2004, the worst ranking recorded by any of the top five players in the world--Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson--was eighth (Goosen in par breakers and Lefty in par-5 birdie percentage)."

Four of their top five categories relate to scoring, which tells us nothing. The finding that golfers who score low are more successful is not a useful piece of knowledge – it’s a tautology.

The useful and surprising information is the fifth category, “going for the green.” This isn’t the number of times the golfer is successful, but simply the number of times he tries. This suggests that driving the green is a good strategy.

It further implies that long drives are very important, and that “drive for show, putt for dough” might not be as accurate as we thought.

Of course, it could be that golfers who try to drive the green win not because it’s a good strategy for everyone, but that they’re simply good at it. But still, it's something to think about for other players.

Thanks to John Matthew IV for the pointer.


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