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The numbers behind Jim Furyk’s 58

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On Sunday of the Travelers Championship, Jim Furyk set a PGA Tour record with a score of 58 at TPC River Highlands. Furyk’s 58 will overshadow his 59 in the 2nd round of the BMW Championship in 2013, however, I could argue that it shouldn’t when you look at the average score for the field in the 2nd round of the BMW Championship.

Furyk_58_scoring_average

Most people will only remember the 58, though, since it is the Tour’s new official record. It was also done in the final round, which is even more remarkable as the overwhelming majority of low scores in PGA Tour events occur in the first and second rounds.

The usual thinking about a player “going low” is that they do it through incredible putting. On Tour, however, go-low rounds feature incredible ball striking. There is some debate for amateurs, as the average amateur that has his or her career low round is more likely to putt substantially better. For example, a 10-handicap who shoots an even-par 72 may putt substantially better than normal compared to how well he or she strikes the ball. But when you’re talking about the PGA Tour, particularly with a player shooting 58, a player’s ball striking has to be off the charts in order to accomplish the feat.

Going a step further, good ball striking is far more than hitting greens in regulation and Furyk’s round illustrates that point. While Furyk did hit all 18 greens, it was how close he hit those approach shots that gave him the opportunity to shoot 58.

It all started with Furyk’s performance off the tee, as he missed only one fairway (the par-4, 7th hole). One reader noted that out of all of the players who shot 59 on Tour (Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby and Furyk), only Duval would be considered to be long off the tee. This is an interesting point, but I believe the reason is that in order to reach the level of shooting 59 on Tour, a golfer has to be hitting great approach shots from the fairway. And not to take anything away from Duval’s round, but that was at a low-scoring course where the rough has traditionally been almost non-existent. The ability to get the spin needed from the fairway appears to be paramount to shooting a ridiculous score like a 59.

Here’s a look at Furyk’s approach shot data per hole. 

Furyk_58_proximity_to_hole

One common myth in golf is the Green Zone (75-125 yards) is vital to great golf. In this round, however, Furyk only had two shots from the Green Zone and he hit them to an average of 24.2 feet. The Tour average proximity to the cup from 75-100 yards from the fairway this year is 17.6 feet, so he was actually below average from that range.

Here’s how Furyk performed from certain distance ranges versus the Tour average. 

Furyk_58_scoring_zones

Obviously, Furyk did most of his damage from 125-150 yards. Not only did he hit those shots incredibly close to the hole (and knocked one in for eagle from 135 yards on the 3rd hole), but the highest frequency of shots came from the 125-150 yard range. With that being said, if Furyk does not hit those three shots from 200-225 yards as close as he did, he does not shoot 58.

Did Furyk putt well? Sure, he gained +3.313 strokes on the putting green, but it was not like he was making “bombs” out there.

furyk_58_putting

The longest putt Furyk made was from 23.7 feet. He did make four putts from 14.1 to 16.8 feet, but also missed a 10.3-foot putt on No. 14 and a 7.6 foot putt on No. 15. However, a little luck is involved, as three of those four putts from 14.1 to 16.8 feet were uphill and the other putt was straight and downhill. His misses on Nos. 14 and 15 came from the 10 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on the fall line, bigger-breaking putts that are more difficult to make.

As the Tour slogan says, “These Guys Are Good,” and Furyk’s performance in every facet of the game was downright exception on Sunday… but it was his phenomenal ball striking allowed him to set a Tour scoring record.

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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, 2018 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

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Anderson Knight

    Aug 27, 2016 at 12:04 am

    It appears your browser may be outdated. For the best website experience, we recommend updating your browser. learn more

  2. Wang

    Aug 8, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    What – that round looked a lot like your mom??

  3. Curt

    Aug 8, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Should be an asterisk for any low rounds shot on a par 70 course. Much easier than on a normal par 72 layout, of course!

    • COGolfer

      Aug 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Lift clean and place is definitely easier than a par 72. Lets wipe those guys off the record books as well.

      http://golf.about.com/od/progolftours/qt/lowest18score.htm

    • Ryan

      Aug 9, 2016 at 7:08 am

      I’m getting really sick of hearing this. Par is an arbitrary number. What’s the difference between a par-4 averaging 4.5 strokes, and a par-5 averaging 4.5 strokes? Par is completely irrelevant, in my opinion. What if 2 of those long par 4’s are 5’s for the members? Then how do you feel about the score? Field average score is par for the day, and I believe his round at Conway Farms is the lowest one of the sub-60’s, and it was on a par-71. On a side note, I wonder what his differential would be in the GHIN system.

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The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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An open letter to golf

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Dear golf,

I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.

It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.

On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.

This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.

As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.

I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.

When you are able to return in full, I will be here.

Sincerely,

Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)

 

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The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact

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One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.

As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.

I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.

So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.

So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.

I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.

I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.

If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.

[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]

It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.

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