PGA Tour adds new Putting Stat

This week the PGA Tour adds a new stat Strokes Gained - Putting. The number-crunchers at the Tour say the reason is simple -- Strokes Gained-Putting takes out the bias of the old stats. The new statistic isn't impacted by what you did to get to the green; it only reflects what you did (against what your opponents did) once you got there. I love the idea. Similar to the ideas used in Michael Lewis' Moneyball (about baseball statistics) what truly goes into each statistics is being brought into question and as a result, being understood that much better.

Initially developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School and further analyzed in collaboration with a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Professor Stephen Graves, Strokes Gained-Putting measures a player's putting performance relative to his fellow competitors in a tournament and will offer a more accurate portrayal of his overall putting performance.

Strokes Gained-Putting takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player's performance on every green -- the number of strokes needed to hole out -- against the performance of the other players for each round. This ultimately shows how many strokes are gained or lost due to putting for a particular round, for a tournament and over the course of a year.

Steve Evans from the PGA Tour called the new stat an "evolution in the way we understand the game." Brad Faxon, long known as one of the Tour's best putters, said the statistic "moves us well beyond where we have been in the past in our ability to measure, teach and explain putting performance."

Here's how the new statistic is computed:

For example, the average number of putts used to hole out from 7 feet, 10 inches is 1.5. If a player one-putts from this distance, he gains 0.5 strokes (1.5 - 1). If he two-putts, he loses 0.5 strokes (1.5 - 2). If he three-putts, he loses 1.5 strokes (1.5 - 3).

For the final statistic, a player's strokes gained or lost putting is compared to the field. For example, if a player gained a total of three strokes over the course of a round and the field gained an average of one stroke, the player's "Strokes Gained Against the Field" would be two.

Here are a few interesting points:

  • The top 5 putters for 2011 using the new stat are Merrick, Chalmers, Snedeker, Stricker and Glover. If all the players in the field hit the ball the same this group would finish a combined 19.44 strokes ahead of average.
  • The bottom 5 putters for 2011 are Cejka, Trahan, Slocum, Weekley and Els. They would finish 21.608 strokes behind average and lose to the lead group by more than a whopping 41 strokes! That requires a tremendous amount of great ball striking in order to compete.
  • The Tour's most average putter is Harrison Frazar.
  • The best handful of putters over the last few years (2004-present) on the PGA Tour have been: Tiger Woods; Brad Faxon; Luke Donald; Aaron Baddeley; Greg Chalmers; Steve Stricker; Brandt Snedeker; Ben Crane and Brian Gay. So these are the guys to imitate....
  • Less than 6 percent of putts are made from more than 25 feet.

See the complete list of players from 2011


Here are a few "baseline" points against which the golfers will be measured:

  • A player's chance of one-putting drops 20 percent when moving from 3 feet back to 5 feet.
  • Just under 8 feet: At the 7-foot, 10-inch mark, it's 50/50 whether players will one or two putt.
  • Players have a 1 in 3 chance of one-putting from 11 feet (34 percent).
  • Players have a 3 in 4 chance of two-putt or better from 14 feet (75 percent).
  • Players have a 1 in 10 chance of one-putting from 25 feet (10 percent).
  • 33 feet is the point at which a player is expected to two-putt. This is interesting because while there is an 88 percent chance of a two-putt from this distance, it is the point at which a player is equally likely to one-putt or three-putt (6 percent each way).
  • Players have a 1 in 10 chance of three-putting from 40 feet (10 percent).
  • Players have a 1 in 3 chance of three-putting from 73 feet (33 percent).
  • It is estimated that a players chances of a three-putt are not 50/50 until 120 feet. In general, greens on the PGA Tour are not large enough to provide a player with a 50/50 chance of three-putting.

Thanks to some very smart people and the PGA Tour, we now have a statistic that truly does measure putting prowess. Let the games begin.....

Release the Putter

Tiger Woods A pendulum swings around a fixed point and in order to release the face of the putter correctly, so should your putting stroke.

Jim Hardy, the noted 'One-Plane' teacher, has gone on record as stating that the majority of great putters are invariably 'hookers' of the golf ball in their full swing.  They all release the putter face the same way they release their club face - aggresively! And when looking at a sampling of the greatest of all time; Faxon, Crenshaw, Locke (as in Bobby!), George Archer and Ballesteros;  I certainly can concur with his reasoning.  Of course Jack and Tiger aren't too bad but let's just stick with the formula for now!

In order for the face to release the stroke needs to work like a pendulum.  Notice in the pictures of Tiger Woods above how the butt end of the putter in each frame points at the same spot on his torso.  So often I see golfers, in an attempt to not use their wrists, push the hands through the stroke, thus discouraging the wrists, hands and face to release freely.  This leads not only to poor direction and ball striking, but most importantly decreased distance control.

An excellent little teaching aid to overcome this common flaw is the Perfect PendulumThis device attaches to your own putter and telescopes up into your belly. (Unless your belly happens to telescope into it!)  Once it's anchored make a few strokes to get a sense of the putter head swinging beyond the hands into the follow through.  It ensures a correct release.

I love simple teaching aids that convey the correct feel while using your own club and this one takes care of everything for you!

Here are a few keys to remember:

  • Assume your normal address position and note where the butt end of the putter points.
  • As you stroke try to sense the butt end pointing at the same spot on your upper body.  This should be maintainted from address to the back of the stroke and on into the follow through.
  • Feel the putter head SWING to either side of your center.
  • A light, soft grip will aid in the putter face releasing freely.
  • Roll a few putts with your dominant hand only to feel the correct rhythm of the stroke.

For better distance and direction (is there anything else?) with your putting try these ideas.  They will help!

Things to Ponder:

  • John Daly's career can be marked by either upward or downward trends.  Over the past few years the lows are lower and the highs are not quite where they once were.  He is clearly on an upward trend at the moment, I just hope he has the sense to survive the next low.
  • I have had a few responses to my All-time Heart List.  After reconsideration, I must add Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods to the list.  Tom Watson is waiting in the wings.
  • Why do Davis Love and Ben Crane have to qualify for the British Open?  They are both in the top 60 players in the world and are both having relatively good seasons.
  • It's about time Vijay Singh has showed up again on a leaderboard!  Where has he been?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to make abusive comments about the author.