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Opinion & Analysis

The Encouraging Statistics from Jamie Sadlowski’s PGA Tour Debut



This past week former long-drive champion, Jamie Sadlowski, took to the PGA Tour by playing the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial Country Club. I was very interested in how he would perform, as we have not seen many long-drive champions actually compete on the PGA Tour level. Sadlowski is not only extremely long (his club speeds in long-drive competitions are upward of 148 mph), but he’s remarkably accurate for a long driver. As a witness to his performance in clinics, he usually hits a tiny draw with a miss that’s a small flare to the right.

Previous long drive champions that have tried to compete in “normal” events generally tend to not only lack the complete game to make the cut, but are too wild off the tee to be taken seriously. But by the same token, we are seeing more top-tier PGA Tour players swinging at higher speeds. The very top of the PGA Tour in club speed also tends to be rising each year. For example, PGA Tour rookie Ryan Brehm has reached speeds of 131 mph in competition this season and routinely gets out-driven by fellow PGA Tour player, Brandon Hagy. It’s clear that there is a trend toward more club speed on the PGA Tour, and I believe that sometime in the future we will see a legitimately competitive Tour player that averages 135+ mph club speed.

Why Speed Matters

This has been often debated, but my statistical research on the subject shows that distance is the great equalizer. A few years ago, AimPoint Founder Mark Sweeney did a study showing the average length of a player’s birdie putt on Tour and found a strong, indirect mathematical correlation between driving distance and the length of the average birdie putt. Simply put, golfers who hit the ball farther are more likely to have a shorter birdie putt on average when they hit the green in regulation. This allows less skilled putters that hit it long to compete on the PGA Tour.

While golfers who hit it farther may have lesser skill with the flatstick, they are more likely to leave themselves birdie putts that have better make percentages. That is, in part, how bombers that have struggled with their putting over the years like Bubba Watson, Robert Garrigus and Rory McIlroy have been able to compete and win on Tour. They are simply giving themselves more makable birdie putts when they hit the green in regulation.

The rub is that while longer hitters are more likely to have shorter birdie putts when they hit the green in regulation, there is also a direct correlation between driving distance and the length of the average shot when they miss the green in regulation. Longer hitters are more likely to wind up in danger off the tee, and that may result in less than ideal approach shots that miss the green by a larger margin.

Here’s one of the questions I frequently get asked as a PGA Tour Statistician. Would you rather be:

  1. Super-long, inaccurate and a weak putter?
  2. Short, very accurate and a pretty good putter?

If I were a Tour player, I would take the former. If a super-long hitter can happen to get four days of accuracy off the tee and four days of good putting (+0.5 strokes gained per round or better), he has a good chance of winning. A classic example of that is John Daly in 1991, where the soft conditions at Crooked Stick helped him find fairways. He also putted insanely well. It became arguably the most unexpected victory in the history of golf.


I used Driving Effectiveness in order to determine a player’s skill off the tee. Driving Effectiveness is an algorithm that utilizes: distance, hit fairways, average distance from the edge of the fairway, hit fairway bunkers and missed fairway – other percentages and then simulates the data, and not just on the course that was played. I had Sadlowski second in the field in Driving Effectiveness. Granted, he only played two rounds, but the data greatly respected his performance off the tee.

Sadlowski averaged 299.9 yards off the tee on every drive he hit. Jon Rahm was first in driving distance on all drives at 308.1 yards. Sadlowski also hit 50 percent of his fairways compared to the field average of 54 percent. The reason for Sadlowski’s shorter-than-expected distance off the tee is that Colonial is a very tight, dog-leggy type of course that requires a frequent amount of lay-up shots off the tee. In fact, I think this was the biggest factor working against Sadlowski; Colonial is one of the worst golf courses on Tour for his game. It places more of a premium on accuracy off the tee and difficult approach shots to smaller greens.

A bomber like Sadlowski needs a course that will allow him to hit a lot of drivers. From my experience working with numerous Tour players and players that get that special invite, a course with bigger and flatter greens helps as well. Courses like Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational), The Golf Club of Houston (Shell Houston Open) and Las Colinas (Byron Nelson) would be better suited for Sadlowski.

Iron Play


Rankings based on 118 players.

Sadlowski performed poorly with his irons at Colonial. The typical skepticism with somebody that hits it as long as Sadlowski does is that he would have trouble with his wedges (since he hits them so far), but Green Zone shots (75-125 yards) was where he actually performed best. His Yellow Zone shots (125-175 yards) really hamstrung him, and because of his length off the tee he was getting more Yellow Zone shots instead of shots from the Red Zone like the rest of the field. The problem was that he could not take advantage of them, which is one of the reasons he finished 10-over par and missed the cut.

Short Game

Sadlowski also finished second-to-last in shots from less than 30 yards. For long hitters (who tend to hit some shots offline and miss some greens by a larger margin), his inability to perform well from around the green presents problems for him in the future. Sadlowski was only able to hit 18 out of 36 greens in regulation, and he needed his short game to make up for his mistakes.


Sadlowski finished gaining +0.817 strokes per round with his putter. Here is a breakdown of his make percentages by putt distance.


Most of Sadlowski’s strokes gained on the greens came from his putting from 3-10 feet. He had 14 opportunities from 5-10 feet and only four chances from 10-15 feet. This discrepancy is indicative of a player who missed a lot of greens and had to make a lot of par saves from 5-10 feet.

Overview and Outlook

The great news is that Sadlowski was fantastic off the tee and very good with the putter. This was particularly impressive since Colonial does not fit Sadlowski very well off the tee, and he still had a great performance driving the ball.

He struggled to play what I call “complementary golf.” He couldn’t take advantage of his long driving and putting because his iron play was abysmal and his short game around the green was even worse. He was gaining on the field from his tee shots, but after he hit his approach shot he was behind the field. Then he fell further behind the field with his short-game shots, and he needed to putt out of his mind just to score close to the field average and make the cut — which of course he didn’t.

Going forward, I would not be surprised if Sadlowski could sustain this type of effectiveness off the tee, as he showed that hitting layups off the tee are fairly easy for him (as I mentioned earlier, bombers on Tour can put together four days of decent accuracy off the tee with good putting and can instantly contend in an event). Sadlowski showed some potential of being able to drive the ball very long and well and combine that with quality putting, but until he improves his iron play and short game, he will be hamstrung by those glaring inefficiencies.

To succeed on the PGA Tour, Sadlowski would need to get on a course that allows him to hit driver more often so he can gain an even greater advantage off the tee in order to counter his weaknesses with the irons and short game.

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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 or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10



  1. Mordaunt

    Jun 2, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    We must remember Jamie is a very “new” pro. He already excels at the most demanding parts of the game, and the short game is an area where huge improvements can be made with sheer repetition to groove feel, reading conditions, effects of spin, contours, green type, etc.

    If Jamie were an established pro, or coming off a long competitive amateur career, then he’d have to play around a weak short game, since he probably would already have maximized his abilities in that area. As it is, I’m much more hopeful of him making large strides in the short game and reaching a level where he can make it on tour.

  2. Jasian Day

    Jun 2, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Have should go to the European Tour….
    We all know why

  3. Wha

    Jun 2, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Are those Iron Play stats from the fairway only?

  4. Jack Nash

    Jun 2, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Costas is working with Jamie so that’s a good start. Talking about his iron play Costas stated his arms and body need to sync better because he’s so fast. Once he dials that in the rest will come quickly, because unlike most long drivers, Jamie’s swing looks like a natural golf swing, not over exerted.

    • Wha

      Jun 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      It’s because Jamie is only 5’11” and 165 pounds

      • cgasucks

        Jun 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm

        Yep. Jamie is tall, but lanky. Just like Tiger in his first few years on tour and he was frickin’ long. I hope he doesn’t bulk up like him.

        • CrashTestDummy

          Jun 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

          Agreed. Bulking up causes a lot of problems in the golf swing. Limits range of motion, makes the swing less fluid and more twitchy. Strength is important, but only to a point where you still can remain very loose and flexible.

        • Chris

          Jun 2, 2017 at 2:44 pm

          I wouldn’t call 5’11 tall. That’s about average height for men

          • cgasucks

            Jun 3, 2017 at 9:47 am

            I guess you don’t live in Asia…

          • Jack

            Jun 5, 2017 at 11:47 am

            It’s 5’9 in the US. He’s not super tall but a little taller than average.

    • Nigel

      Jun 2, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Bob Costas teaches golf? Peter Kostis might be a better choice.

      • CrashTestDummy

        Jun 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

        Haha. I know who wants a news commentator teaching you golf. Peter Kostis is a pro.

  5. Tiemco

    Jun 2, 2017 at 7:55 am

    He should play the Travelers in Hartford. It’s a wide open course with a traditionally weak field.

    • Dr Troy

      Jun 2, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Im sure he would/will if he’s lucky enough to get a sponsor’s invite. He can only accept so many of those also, because he has no status on Tour.

      I thought he did well in his debut. Hell, look at the small group of guys he beat and these are PGA Tour vets:
      Jason Bohn
      Davis Love
      Johnny Vegas
      James Hahn
      Mac Hughes
      Jason Kokrak

      Not bad Sads, not bad!

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Opinion & Analysis

How valuable is hitting the fairway, really?



Hitting more than 50 percent of fairways has long been considered a good goal for amateur golfers. The winners on the PGA Tour tend to hit 70 percent. I have long maintained, however, that it is not the number of fairways HIT that matters. Instead, it is the relative severity of fairways MISSED.

Think about it. By the one-dimensional Fairways Hit stat, every miss is the same. A perfect lie in the first cut is exactly the same as a drive in a hazard… or even OB. There is nothing in the 650+ PGA Tour stats about this. In all, there are 60 stats in seven categories that relate to driving performance, but none about penalties! Like PGA Tour players don’t make any?

Let’s see exactly how important the old tried-and-true Driving Accuracy (Percentage of Fairways Hit) really is. To test it, I used two data clusters: the 2017 PGA Tour season (14,845 ShotLink rounds) and my database for the average male golfer (15 to 19 handicappers – 4,027 rounds).

For the graph below, I started with the No. 1-ranked player in the Driving Accuracy category: Ryan Armour. He certainly was accurate by this measure, but why did he only rank 100th in 2017 Strokes Gained Off the Tee with a barely positive 0.020?

Next I looked at the actual top-5 PGA Tour money winners (J. Thomas, J Spieth, D. Johnson, H. Matsuyama and J. Rohm), the 2017 PGA Tour average, and all PGA Tour players that missed the cut in 2017. We all know the significant scoring differences between these three categories of players, but it’s difficult to see a meaningful difference in the fairways hit. They’re not even separated by half a fairway. How important could this stat be?

For those that have not tried, our analysis includes Strokes Gained and Relative Handicap comparisons. That enables users to easily differentiate between FIVE MISS categories below based upon severity. The final three categories are what we consider to be Driving Errors:

  1. Good lie/Opportunity: One can easily accomplish their next goal of a GIR or advancement on a par-5.
  2. Poor Lie/Opportunity: One could accomplish the next goal, but it will require a very good shot.
  3. No Shot: Requires an advancement to return to normal play.
  4. Penalty-1: Penalty with a drop.
  5. OB/Lost: Stroke and distance penalty, or shot replayed with a stroke penalty.

As we are fortunate enough to work with several PGA Tour players at Shot by Shot, we have access to ShotLink data and can provide those clients with the same valuable insight.

Let’s see how the frequency and severity of driving errors relates to the above groups of players (removing Mr. Armour, as he simply helped us prove the irrelevance of Driving Accuracy). The graphs below display the number of Driving Errors per round and the Average Cost Per Error. Note the strong and consistent correlation between the number and the cost of errors at each of the four levels of performance.

Finally, the average cost of the errors is heavily driven by the three degrees of severity outlined above (No Shot, Penalty, OB/Lost). The graph below compares the relative number and cost of the three types of errors for the average golfer and PGA Tour players. The major difference is that PGA Tour players do not seem to have a proper share of OB/Lost penalties. I found only TWO in the 14,000+ ShotLink rounds. While I accept that the most severe faux pas are significantly less frequent on the PGA Tour, I also believe there must have been more than two.

Why so few? First and foremost, PGA Tour players REALLY ARE good. Next, the galleries stop a lot of the wayward shots. And finally, I believe that many of the ShotLink volunteer data collectors may not actually know or care about the difference between a Penalty and OB/Lost.

Author’s Note: If you want to know your Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Driving) and exactly how important your fairways and the misses are, log onto for a 1-Round FREE Trial.

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Opinion & Analysis

Yo GolfWRX: “Are you betting on Tiger Woods to win the Masters?” (Bonus: A March Madness-inspired shot attempt)



Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss a variety of topics including Tiger Woods being the favorite at The Masters. Also, a Fujikura Pro 2.0 shaft unboxing, Knudson paints the new TG2 studio, and Tursky tries to go viral during March Madness season.

Enjoy the video below!

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger shoots opening-round 68 at Bay Hill, is now the Masters betting favorite



It’s happening. Tiger Woods is playing good golf, and the Masters hype train is full-steam ahead. After opening at 100-1 odds to win the Masters, Tiger is now the favorite to win at Augusta in 2018, according to Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker for (according to his Twitter bio).

After 9 holes (he started on the back nine) at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill — where Tiger has won eight times — he was sitting at 3-under par. What also happened at that time was Sherman updated Tiger as the favorite to win the Masters. Clearly, bettors and Tiger fans had seen all they needed to see in order to put their money down on him winning another Green Jacket in 2018.

Related: See the clubs in Tiger’s bag

On the course’s third hole, however, with water looming left, Tiger hit a foul ball with a 3-wood off the tee and later realized the shot had gone out-of-bounds. Tiger was hot under the collar after hearing the news, and he threw his 3-wood headcover backwards in disgust as he started walking back to the tee to reload. He salvaged double-bogey, and he then made three more birdies coming home to complete his 4-under par round of 68; one of the birdies was a 71-footer after which all Tiger could do was smile.

Woods currently sits in a tie for fifth place, just two shots behind the leader Henrik Stenson.

Can Tiger win at Bay Hill for the ninth time? Will you bet on Tiger as the favorite to win at the Masters? Will Tiger win the Masters?

The questions above would have seemed ridiculous to ask just a month ago, but they’re now legitimate. Welcome back to the spotlight, Tiger.

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19th Hole