As individual sports go, golf is just about the best. You against the earth, the elements, conforming to the expansiveness of trees, the bend of the water, the power of the wind and the sun (or absence of it). I follow the sport on mainly a statistical basis and do watch the majors. My favorite are the UK courses, because of the reliability in its unreliability, all the surprise pot bunkers, secret contours, the mysterious lay of the green, and the unpredictableness of wind conditions.
I really like how one player, ever so gently, attempts to conquer a course and ‘own’ a title, defeating his or her competitors and the elements at large. The greater the opposing force, the greater the victory.
Getting mundane with stats, I picked out the ones I value more than the others. They contribute in their own way to a golfer’s ability to compete, if not win as much as the consistent major winners.
Here are the particular stats I’m interested in, using the PGA definitions:
Scrambling: The very art of getting out of trouble and scoring. Obviously hard to do on par 3s, and there are certainly ample opportunities on par 5s. Overcoming the difficulty of the course is the name of the game.
Ball Striking: The combo of Total Driving (Driving Distance & Driving Accuracy) & Greens in Regulation). Measured as skill off the tee and scoring around par per hole.
I like combining these pair of stats to determine the true competitiveness of the common golfer. In doing so we have divisive emphasis on the tee/setup shots, a little on putting accuracy, and the most emphasis on GIR success.
Entering this week’s men’s tournament (Honda Classic), here are the 4 golfers with the highest combined rank in both stats:
Brandt Snedeker (24th in ball striking, 2nd scrambling)..Ranks in the top 10 in these categories: Driving Accuracy %, GIR %, Birdie Avg, Scoring Avg, All-Around, $ Leaders, Par Breakers, Par 3 & 4 birdie or better leaders, birdie or better conversion %, scoring average before cut, round 3 scoring average, 3rd in total birdies, consecutive cuts, scrambling, bounce back. Also: putting from 20 to 25 feet,scrambling from rough, GIR % above 100 yards. He qualified for The Masters by being one of last year’s British Open’s top 4.
Summary: best scrambler on tour ,great scoring, 4 of 5 rounds in the top 10, 1 win (AT&T Pebble Beach). After 5 tournaments is the current FedEx Cup Points leader. 1 win, 4 top 10s.
Brian Stuard (37th, 3rd): 30th on the FedEx list, 2 top 10s. 5th in this year’s Sony Open in Hawaii. Top 10 in these categories: Strokes gained in putting, scoring average, all-around, total eagles, top 10s, scrambling, total putting. Also: Approaches from over 200 yards, GIR % 125-150, approaches 250-275, putting from 10 to 1 feet, along with 5-15. Further: avg distance after going for it, lowest round.
Summary: Dangerous on par 5s, big eagle threat, deadly putter within 15 feet.
Brian Gay (32nd, 11th) 5th in FedEx points. Top 10s in: Birdie average, scoring avg, $ leaders, par breakers, par 4 birdie or better leaders, scoring avg before cut, final rd scoring average, par 4 performance, total putting. Approaches from 150 to 175 yards, putting 5-15 ft. 3-putt avoidance, front 9 scoring avg.
Summary: solid putter, lethal on par 4rs.
Qualified for The Masters by winning a PGA tournament since the previous Masters. Also missed cut at the Northern Trust Open.
William McGirt (43rd, 8th) 80th in FedEx points, 1 top 25 appearance, 1 cut missed. 1 career 2nd place. Top 10s: Approaches 175-200, putting 5-10 and over 25′, proximity to hole. He missed the cut in last year’s PGA Championship, his first major appearance. Missed cut in his last tourney, the Northern Trust Open.
Brian Stuard and Brian Gay are both entered in the next scheduled event, the Honda Classic, held at the PGA National Resort & Spa, on the Champion Course, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Per Golfstats.com, Gay has played this tournament 12 times, made the cut 9 times, averaged a 49th place check, 2 top 10 finishes. Brian Stuard was cut in his lone appearance.
I’ll update my top 4 golfers to watch each week based on these 2 sets of numbers.