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Hunt: Advanced break down of Tiger’s stats under Harmon, Haney and Foley

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Last week Tiger Woods announced that he was parting ways with instructor Sean Foley. I wanted to examine Tiger’s game over the course of his professional career to get a better understanding of what was going on and what may have caused him to change swing coaches over the years.

Please bear with me as many of the key metrics listed below were not available during these years. Nonetheless, we can still get a pretty good idea of Tiger’s game during the Butch Harmon years.

Butch Harmon years

For starters, he was one of the longest golfers on Tour. This was despite using a steel-shafted driver when most of the Tour had switched to drivers with lighter graphite shafts. The pinnacle of Woods’ success was in 2000; he won nine times including the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship. He ranked second in Driving Distance that season and 54th in Driving Accuracy, which is flat-out incredible.

We also see with his driving that his misses were fairly even. As I researched in a previous column I wrote (http://www.golfwrx.com/115076/the-myth-behind-the-one-way-miss/), there is a large myth about a one-way miss being preferable. Instead, the best drivers on Tour typically do not miss their tee shots in one direction. And the golfers on Tour who do miss heavily to one side are usually struggling with a problem shot they have yet to resolve. For Tiger, there is no imbalance of his missed tee shots.

For the years we have the data, Tiger was a very good iron player. The “Zone play” data is only on shots from the fairway because that is where we had the most complete information for Tiger over the years. This is fine because from a statistical standpoint, shots from the fairway give us the best indicator of a golfer’s iron play. But, we do see that hitting shots from the rough was a large issue for Tiger as he ranked near the bottom on Tour.

The putting data is scarce during this timeframe, but he appeared to putt fairly well in 2003. While ballstriking has a larger influence to success on Tour than putting, every piece of data I’ve researched about the game points to Tiger putting extremely well in 2000.

Hank Haney years

The Haney years are best depicted as a large regression in Tiger’s driving mixed with a tremendous progression with his iron play. There also seemed to be an improvement with his putting.

Tiger was still fairly long off the tee and was generating as much as 124.6 mph of club head speed. While we do not have any hard data on his club head speed under Butch Harmon, it was reported to be around 125 mph during that timeframe. In the Haney years, however, we start to see major issues with Tiger’s accuracy off the tee.

In 2000, Tiger was 54th in fairway percentage and in 2004 he fell to 177th and then 193rd in 2005. He also started to develop a very pronounced right miss bias, which at its worst was at 24 percent of misses to the right rough versus 10 percent to the left rough in 2008.

Furthermore, we start to see not only a dip in Tiger’s club head speed in 2009 and 2010, but we start to see Tiger become more conservative off the tee. The biggest indication is the difference in Tiger’s Driving Distance (measured drives) ranking versus his Driving Distance in all drives measured by a laser. When the “all drives” ranking is noticeably lower than the “measured drives” ranking, it is an indication that the golfer is laying up off the tee more often.

I don’t think any of this is revelatory, as those who watched Tiger during the Haney years saw the issues he had with hitting blocked shots off the tee. And then he played very conservatively off the tee by hitting a lot of 3 woods and 2 irons in order to keep the ball in play. Remember the 2009 PGA Championship, where Tiger lost to Y.E. Yang? Tiger almost never hit driver off the tee in the final round.

Y.E. Yang

Tiger’s iron play during the Haney era is a different story. We can see by his rankings how incredible Tiger was, however, that doesn’t quite give the entire picture. The key area for iron play on Tour are shots from the “Red Zone,” which is 175-to-225 away from the hole. Not only did Tiger rank 1st in 5 out of his 7 years in the Red Zone under Haney, but he often ranked well ahead of the 2nd ranked player.

In 2006, the 2nd-ranked player from the Red Zone was Kenny Perry. Tiger was hitting it 9 percent closer to the hole from the Red Zone than Kenny Perry did that season. In 2007, Ernie Els was the 2nd-ranked player from the Red Zone. Tiger was hitting it 5 percent closer to the cup on average than Els from the Red Zone.

And not only was Tiger becoming an incredible iron player from the fairway, but his play from the rough greatly improved. The numbers and the victories dictate that had to happen because he was finding the rough much more often. Therefore, he had to improve his shots from the rough in order keep winning.

Lastly, we see a very telling and interesting trait of Tiger’s game in his putting metrics. He was generally a good to spectacular putter from 3-to-5 feet, however, he was incredible at making putts from 15-to-25 feet. Typically, Tour players do not rank high or low with any consistency on putts more than 15 feet long. A Tour player who putts poorly from longer than 15 feet one season is likely to progress towards the mean the next season. Conversely, a Tour player who putts well from longer than 15 feet one season is more likely to regress towards the mean the next season.

Tiger, on the other hand, putted fantastic from 15-to-25 feet five seasons in a row: from 2004 to 2008. He slipped in 2009, but countered that by putting superbly on putts longer than 25 feet. This shows that Tiger is at the top of his game when he is making putts from 3-to-5 feet and from 15-to-25 feet. He was very wild off the tee and then became conservative off the tee in the Haney era. So, that will mean more birdie putts from 15-to-25 feet and more par saves from 3-to-5 feet. So when Tiger had his putter working from those distances, he was very difficult to beat.

Sean Foley years

In the Foley years, we see that Tiger’s club head speed decreased, however, we also saw that decrease in club head speed in the 2009 and 2010 seasons when Tiger was still working with Haney. I think it is safe to say that the knee injury certainly took a toll on his club head speed. After the 2011 season, we see that Tiger started to not miss the right all of the time. And his fairway percentage improved nicely to 66th in 2012.

What I find interesting is that Tiger had a very nice season driving the ball in 2012. He was not laying up much off the tee, as his Driving Distance rank on measured drives versus all drives was virtually the same. But, after that successful 2012 season, Tiger started to become incredibly conservative off the tee and was laying up off the tee quite often. His iron play regressed, but it essentially became more human from the incredible iron play during the Haney years. His troubles from the rough also started to come back.

Lastly, Tiger’s putting was good but not elite like it was in many of the seasons under Haney. He still made a lot of 15-to-25 foot putts. In fact, after he won his 4th event of 2013 (The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass), he was ranked No. 1 on putts from 15-to-25 feet, well ahead everybody else. He needed to putt that well from 15-to-25 feet, however, because he was becoming so conservative off the tee that he would leave himself with longer birdie putts than Tour players who were hitting driver off the tee and thus and hitting their approach shots closer to the hole. And since his play from the rough regressed, that required him to make more putts from 3-to-5 feet to save par and he simply could not get that done under Foley.

In summation, Tiger had some incredible parts to his game under Harmon and Haney. His driving under Harmon was at times incredible. His iron play and putting from 15-to-25 feet under Haney was off the charts. The injuries have taken their toll and it has greatly hurt his club head speed. He has further exasperated the matter by becoming extremely conservative off the tee, even when his accuracy greatly improved under Foley.

At this point, Tiger will either need to find a way to rejuvenate himself and regain his club head speed or he will have to change the way he plays the game at 115-to-116 mph club head speed. The numbers already show the effect that his injuries have had on his game. So, any further injuries will just amplify the issues.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Pingback: Interesting article « Thomas Petersson

  2. Kisha

    Sep 9, 2014 at 9:58 am

    PF

  3. marionmg

    Sep 7, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Strokes gained….strokes gained…..strokes gained….

  4. sebastien

    Sep 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

    So… All of them got ‘fired’ following a bad season…
    I could care less who he picks, just hope he gets to enjoy the game again cause all I’ve seen lately is a miserable Tiger

  5. Christosterone

    Sep 5, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Tiger has won 79 PGA tournaments(106 total)and 14 majors.
    For the record, in 2013 tigers stats:
    5 WINS…thats 5 in one year including the players
    PGA Player of the Year
    PGA Tour Player of the Year
    Vardon Trophy
    Money List Winner
    ………..
    I would say that is pretty impressive and bodes well for his future…
    He is currently recovering a major back surgery so it is expected that he will not be up to form for a minimum of 6 months from his surgery…probably more like a year

  6. Jerome M

    Sep 5, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Lovely article Rich. And yes, there are people who care (unlike the comment made by ‘Booger’).

    In my view, Tiger has lost his ‘energy power’ as a result of the reduction in his range of motion due to his heavy dependency on weight training. This loss of energy has reduced his club head speed. And to make up for the loss of his club head speed and hence distance, he lifts heavy weights. More scar tissue is formed and the cycle continues.

    His accuracy, or lack thereof, off the Tee and with his Irons under Sean is a direct consequence of his improper ‘firing’ sequence and his his improper spine alignment at impact (both down-the-line and frontal).

    The issues above are easy to resolve at any age. He just needs to stop heavy weight training and to remove all scar tissue by visiting a professional who specializes in microfiber reduction. He can do it! He is Tiger Woods.

  7. Booger

    Sep 5, 2014 at 6:29 am

    In the middle of the playoffs and the Ryder cup coming up, your writing about this guy. Nobody cares.

    • DavidOber

      Sep 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      I care about Tifwe. Just like I still care about Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Watson and all the other living greats. Nice article, sir. Thank you.

      • DavidOber

        Sep 7, 2014 at 10:05 pm

        “Tifwe” was supposed to read, “Tiger.”

  8. Raurie

    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Really great read. I know we don’t have all the metrics from the Harmon era but it interesting to see that Tiger was not necessarily the complete package that we all seem to think he was during that time (myself included). I would love to be able to see his stats for the red, yellow and green zones during the Harmon era.

  9. Jeff

    Sep 4, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    This is probably going to strike some as an inappropriate comment, but there’s a real basis for my hypothesis. I think Tiger’s club head speed and accuracy both fell of when he lost the ability to perform the favored “core strengthening regimen” of athletes and men since the beginning of time. The scandal of ’10 cost him in many ways, the least reported of which is he couldn’t possibly have had the same Wilt-Chamberlain like prolific pace with the ladies. It may make some blush, but there’s not much better for core strength, and core strength is great for golf.

  10. James

    Sep 4, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for that, Rich. In Haney’s book he said that Woods had trouble adapting to the new less spinny balls when they came out and shots which previously had drawn back to the middle of the fairway with his driver stopped doing it with new balls. He had to exaggerate the path/face relationship to get it to come back and became less accurate.

  11. JBH

    Sep 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    One particular thing I’ve noticed since Tiger started with Foley is that he doesn’t seem to have the artistry/arsenal of shots he used to have. I realize a new swing will take time to develop these shots but I remember when Tiger would spray the ball all over the park off the tee and then hit some ridiculous recovery shot that made your jaw hit the ground. He seems to be very limited with his options now and unless he’s in the short grass he’s having to lay up and scramble for par.

  12. TheFightingEdFioris

    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I learned a little… But I certainly reaffirmed that Tiger Woods with an iron in his hand is the greatest of all time. He’s got Hogan’s low ones, he’s got Nicklaus’s high ones, and everything in between. Loved watching him hit all nine shots under Haney, what a joy. Hope he goes back to being an artist, like that.

  13. West

    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Is it also possible that athletes generally taper-off over the years too???

    • TheFightingEdFioris

      Sep 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Most of the other great players of Tiger’s generation have played their best golf at this age.. Ernie was great in 2010 and won the Open in ’12. Furyk continues to be on the leaderboard every week. Vijay was unreal at 40. Phil won an Open and contended in countless other majors.
      But I will admit… this horse (or cat, if you will) has a ton of miles on it.

      • Jake

        Sep 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

        Driving/Iron play declines quickly for guys from the late 30s, especially into the 40s. Check the 3rd/5th graphs here (http://golfanalytics.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/aging-curves-for-scrambling-and-driving-distance/).

        And I strongly disagree that most of his contemporaries have had their best years in their 40s. Phil isn’t the overall player he was in the mid 2000s (when he was ~35). He’s won a major after 40, but his overall game has declined from top five to more like top 20. Same with Ernie. He was top five in the world in his 30s; he’s declined to a shell of that guy since. Lee Westwood’s not anything like the guy he was in his late 30s. Retief Goosen was great in his late 30s, now he’s anonymous. Padraig Harrington hasn’t been the same since he turned 40. Robert Allenby, a hugely underrated ball-striker, has been awful since turning 40. Greg Norman was completely cooked by age 42-43. etc, etc, etc.

        The list of contemporaries who genuinely have played their best golf after 40 is Stricker and Vijay. Furyk has managed to stay about the same.

  14. Chris

    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I love these statistical looks at things. Keep up the stellar work!

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Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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