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Is Jon Rahm statistically better than Jordan Spieth was in 2015?

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I personally feel that pro golf is coming close to reaching a new golden age. While I could appreciate the brilliance of Tiger and Phil Mickelson, the lack of sustained competition from other top players at that time always felt hollow to me. These days we have numerous world class players with incredible golf games who are vying for the No. 1 ranking in golf such as Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama.

The only potential negative issue is that some players may get overrated and overhyped despite not actually deserving it. One could make a case for the 22-year-old Jon Rahm as the young player that is overhyped because he has yet to win a major. However, I think a look at his metrics show that he’s on a path to being worthy of being mentioned among the names I listed above.

Rahm is currently ranked 25th in the world and is only 22 years old. I wanted to compare his metrics thus far versus the metrics of Jordan Spieth’s 2015 season when Spieth turned 23 years old, won more than $12 million and also claimed a Green Jacket and a U.S. Open victory.

RahmVSpieth-2015-metrics

I adjusted the metrics above to more accurately represent both player’s skill. For example, if two players each hit 60 percent of their fairways for the year that may appear that they are equals in terms of tee shot accuracy. However, if Player A played courses where the field average hit fairway percentage was 50 percent and Player B played courses where the average was 70 percent; Player A was actually far more accurate than Player B off the tee.

Therefore, Rahm is driving the ball more effectively than Spieth was in 2015, but the margin is narrow. Rahm hits the ball much farther due to generating superior ball speed and having more of an upward attack angle with his driver. They are roughly the same in terms of accuracy and precision as well as their percentages of laying-up off the tee.

RahmVSpieth-2015-zones

Spieth was clearly better from the Green Zone (75-125 yards) than Rahm is now. However, having examined Green Zone performance from a mathematical standpoint we see that Green Zone doesn’t mean very much in terms of success on Tour. As we see with Rahm, who is one of the worst on Tour from the Green Zone, he’s had a very successful season thus far.

Rahm has the advantage in the Yellow Zone, but Spieth was certainly not poor from the Yellow Zone. And from the most important zone (Red Zone), they are virtually equals in terms of performance.

Overall, I would give the slight nod to Spieth in 2015 over Rahm this season for approach shots. Just like I gave Rahm the slight nod to Rahm over Spieth in Driving.

RahmVSpieth-2015-driving

Spieth was clearly superior in his Short Game compared to Rahm this season. However, Rahm is still a very good Short Game performer. In fact, he was a superior bunker player, but Spieth’s ability from the greenside rough was phenomenal and made him one of the very best Short Game performers in 2015.

RahmVSpieth-2015-Short-game

Spieth in 2015 was clearly the better putter overall. Where Spieth separates himself from Rahm (and the rest of the planet) is his ability to make putts from 15-25 feet. In the end, Rahm is still a pretty good putter of the ball.

This doesn’t mean that I think Rahm will have a season like Spieth’s 2015 season. The bigger difference between the two is that Spieth was into his third season as a professional in 2015 while Rahm is still a rookie. And in the end if a golfer “just falls short” of Spieth’s performance in 2015, they are still going to have an incredible season.

What the metrics do indicate is that Rahm is set to have an incredible season and given his lack of experience, I would expect him to start contending for the No. 1 player in the world very soon.

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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

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Urlcut.Ru

    Apr 13, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Well I really liked reading it. This article offered by you is very effective for correct planning.

  2. Dave R

    Mar 11, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Dumb post ……. NO

  3. Get More Information

    Mar 11, 2017 at 1:21 pm

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  4. Joe Boo

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Irons aren’t even close. Short game’s not even close. Putting’s not even close. Only thing Rahm has over Spieth is driving. Not sure why this comparison is even being considered. Spieth is head and shoulders over Rahm statistically.

  5. xjohnx

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

    This is some Brandell Chamblee stuff right here. Statistics in golf do nothing but back up great performances. They’ll never predict anything.

  6. Mr. Blue

    Mar 10, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I hate it when statistics are compared like this, useless in my opinion. Who cares if he is better on paper, winning matters. Tim Tebow had almost the worst statistics in the last season he played, guess what, he stilled made the play-offs. “Better” QB’s on paper did not make it. Every tournament/round is different. Paper only looks at percentages, not results, not how and what you had to do to get there. Now I do think we need statistics, but not to compare who is better on paper when it does not really matter.

    • Steve

      Mar 12, 2017 at 1:59 am

      Seriously? They went to the playoffs despite having Tebow at QB, not because of it. Absolutely ridiculous.

  7. The Infidel

    Mar 10, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Rich, great article, loved the analysis.

    What’s the sample size like for each period under comparison, roughly the same year on year?

    • Richie Hunt

      Mar 10, 2017 at 9:40 am

      No, it’s Spieth’s entire season versus Rahm’s season thus far. Obviously, not an exact comparison, but Rahm has played in enough tournaments, especially against top competition, to understand what he’s doing so well and how impressive his season is thus far.

  8. Jack

    Mar 9, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Rahm only turned pro in June 2016. So you are comparing half a rookie season to a 3rd year pro golf star. What you are really saying is that Rahm is way better than Spieths rookie season too then. So absolutely he is not overhyped.

    • Richie Hunt

      Mar 10, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Yes, Jack. I also mentioned that in the article…Spieth had more experience than Rahm. There has been a lot of talk on social media of Rahm being overhyped, but when you look at his victories and his metrics, it’s not smoke-and-mirrors and he’s just really good. I expect him to get into the discussion of #1 player in the world in the next 2 years.

      • Jack

        Mar 13, 2017 at 12:35 am

        I think we agree that he is going to be a great player. I just think it does him a disservice to compare his rookie half season to Jordan’s best ever (over his short excellent career so far). I mean, even Jordan’s current season doesn’t compare (at least results wise). It’s just a little like a backhanded complement like yeah he’s worse than Jordan’s best year ever up to this point, but he will still be a great player. Ultimately, time will tell, and he is older than Jordan was as a rookie, so that’s a clear advantage, but Jordan has also one of the best young careers of any of the new young “golden age” crop.

        Dustin Johnson is now a wise old man at 32 and number 1 OWGR lol. I think as players get more athletic, the golfer prime is getting closer to other athletic sports. Early 30’s is the peak of talent and mental game. Guys like Jordan Spieth are the exception of course, winning majors etc at a really young age. Mcilroy did the same but hasn’t been able to recapture that magic. It’s amazing how good these guys are and how tough the competition is. I just don’t think it’s possible to have that Jack/Tiger domination again due to the level of competition.

  9. chinchbugs

    Mar 9, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    it’s 2017…

  10. chip

    Mar 9, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    seeing all of those stats actually make me think that Rahm isnt as good as I thought he was….But depsite whatever those stats mean, hes a player and will be contending a lot on Tour.

    • Richie Hunt

      Mar 9, 2017 at 3:43 pm

      I’m not quite sure how good you thought he was. First, each of the rankings are based out of 209 players. So, when you rank 13th from the Yellow Zone and 10th from the Red Zone, you’re in the upper-90th percentile in both stats individually and from 125-225 yards in total, he’s in the upper-95th percentile. He’s in the upper-98th percentile in driving and has a quality short game around the green and with the putter. Very few players ever come close to Rahm’s current performance metrics. And he’s only a rookie.

      • chip

        Mar 10, 2017 at 9:42 am

        Youre right. I guess I was focusing on the wrongs stats. Thanks for pointing that out. So he IS as good as I thought he was!

  11. Shannon

    Mar 9, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    Spieth actually turned 22 in 2015, not 23. He is 23 now.

    • antonio

      Mar 11, 2017 at 5:05 am

      He is 22. He will turn 23 on November 10th.

  12. mitch

    Mar 9, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    they don’t hand out trophies and checks for paper wins!

  13. Silky Johnson

    Mar 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    So the game is played on paper now? Good grief.

    • Richie Hunt

      Mar 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      Not sure where that was said, hinted or implied.

      Performance metrics as a whole correlate to scoring average. Scoring Averages correlate to win. In Rahm’s short time as a rookie, he’s played phenomenal. His performance metrics show that it isn’t a fluke and that they are not too far off from Spieth’s spectacular 2015 season.

      Nobody ever said the game was played on paper. But, if you want to examine the depths of a golfer’s game and see the similarities to other players who had terrific seasons…it may be appealing to some.

    • chip

      Mar 10, 2017 at 9:43 am

      The game is not played on paper, but it is played on the course, and how they score is converted to paper. Do you think scorecards are bs too?

  14. Chris B

    Mar 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

    It’s a bit unfair to compare JR to JS at the moment, Speith had been on tour for 2 full years at that point. Having said that, JR is clearly more powerful but you can’t deny Speiths all round game is crazy good despite never being mentioned as a good ball striker. I think from memory he was 2nd I all round rankings in 2015 behind Mcilroy, can’t be bad.

  15. baba black sheep

    Mar 9, 2017 at 10:48 am

    No.

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Podcasts

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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