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The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Ardbegget

    Oct 17, 2019 at 8:12 am

    My game has improved greatly since I made GIR a main focus. It forced me to learn more about course management. After that it was avoiding 3-putts.

  2. Michael

    Oct 16, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Am with Bond here. Stats for various handicaps would be nice. You must have them ? I’m struggling to stay below 10. With 32% greens hit and 21% scrambling. Not sure on putting from less than 10 feet. I guess I’m screwed – right ?

  3. justin case

    Oct 16, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    LOL. nice article Sir.
    your math and charting is at a +6 hdcp range.
    your math termnology/verbiage is at full-on hack 30+

    You meant the 3 numbers needed to AVERAGE 70.

  4. DB

    Oct 16, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    The charts were really great. Thanks.

    I would like to see even more charts comparing pros to amateurs in various stats – putting, scrambling, GIR, etc. That would be helpful for amateurs to examine where they are way behind.

  5. Bond

    Oct 16, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    As a 6 handicap, should “par” for me is 10 greens in regulation, 50% up and down, 50% makes 4-10 feet, and 2 errors a round?

  6. Mark

    Oct 16, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    You mean they need to average to 70%, not add up to 70%.

  7. Mr. Mathman

    Oct 16, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I think you mean the average of the three statics need to be 70%

  8. Thunder Bear

    Oct 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

    This article was terrific. Finally real insight into what matters.

  9. Richard Cooney

    Oct 16, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Brilliant analysis

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Holiday Gift Guide

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Pat and Larry discuss their holiday wish lists talk about the Peloton commercial controversy, discuss how Larry is awful at gambling and do a deep dive into the Presidents Cup as only they can!

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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Opinion & Analysis

Leaving golf comics for a higher purpose: Rick Newell, LITT and M.U.S.T.

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Rick Newell drew the best golf comic strip ever. No debate. No competition. The four main characters of Life In The Trap, and the troubles they faced (in both golf and life) mimicked our lives in an eerily-accurate fashion. And then, the strip came to an end. Newell and his wife, living in Seattle, were drawn to a higher purpose. The mentoring of urban youth and teens was too large a challenge to ignore. Think about that for a moment: take on not one child, but hundreds, with one goal—to contribute to society. We caught up with Rick this fall, and he was generous with his time. Total transparency: I made my donation last week. Click the logo before, while, or after, reading the interview, and help MUST make hope a reality.

Ron Montesano: How did LITT start?

Rick Newell: My uncle Jerry, who is a great golfer, gave me the idea way back in college (I turn 50 next year). I thought it was a pretty good idea since the niche would be big enough and there would be a lot of material to go with. Plus it would give me an excuse to play. I took a year off in between my junior and senior years of college and traveled through New Zealand and Australia for nine months. I took my sketchbook with me and worked on the characters as I traveled. When I got back I continued to slowly work on the comic strip and started to see if anyone would publish it. A black and white version of Life in the Trap was picked up by a paper in Florida for a time but it did not last and I stopped making the comic strip.

RM: How big did LITT grow?

RN: In 2002 I had a pretty bad personal meltdown. It was the perfect storm in many ways and things got pretty bad. I even started thinking about taking my own life. As I put my life back together I resolved to do the things that make me feel alive and make me feel awake and to not really care what anyone else thought. Life in the Trap was one of the things that had made me feel alive so I resurrected it. Once I added color and put it on the computer, it took off. I made the website (http://lifeinthetrap.com/) which provided an easy way for editors to preview the comic and it was also an easy way for them to receive the most recent comics for the month.

After the website was up, I started to email editors of magazines, websites and newsletters to see if they would be interested in publishing Life in the Trap. The response was good right away and the circulation rapidly grew. At its peak, Life in the Trap was read by over 1 million people in different golf publications around the world.

RM: Who inspired which characters?

RN: Life in the Trap has four main characters: Duff, Clay, Putts and Rosie. They are all combinations of people I know. Duff is named after my dad but his golf game is more like mine. My dad’s nickname was ‘Duff’ when he was young so the relation to a golf ‘duffer’ was obvious.

Clay is named after the man I was named for. My dad played college basketball with an African American guy named Clayborn Richard Jones. My parents named me Richard and I gave one of my characters the name Clay because of him. The inequities African Americans face have been on my heart since I was young because of whom I was named for. Duff is black in the comic because of Clayborn. Clayborn died of asthma before I was born so I never got to meet him but I have always been proud to bear his name.

My mom’s middle name is Rose, which she hates by the way, so Rosie is named after her. Not named after her because she hates the name but because I thought Rosie sounds like a good character and because I love my mom. I knew one of the characters had to be married because of all of the funny material that would be generated between spouses due to the game of golf.

Putts rounds out the crew. One of the characters had to be pretty bad at golf because so many people would be able to relate to him and and one character had to have a short fuse so I put those into one character. The love/hate relationship with golf defines Putts.

RM: What is your relationship and affinity for golf?

RN: My dad taught me golf so I have him to thank for all of the pain and suffering over the years. Just kidding… sort of. Our local course in Seattle was Jackson Park Golf Course. They have an executive course that we would play together and then we eventually graduated to the main course. I was not the easiest kid to raise, especially through my teens and early 20s, but I have very fond memories of playing golf with my dad on that course. I have never been a great golfer but it has always been a regular part of my life thanks to him.

RM: How can golf serve to make the world a better place?

RN: I read recently that if your household income is $50K or above you are in the top 1% of people on the planet. It might not seem like it to some, but we are a very wealthy nation. The average golfer’s household income is over $100K and there are about 24 million golfers in the U.S. That is a lot of wealth. In my opinion, with all of that wealth should come some responsibility. If every golfer in the U.S. picked a cause they cared about and devoted some time, resources and money to it then golfers could literally reshape the nation. There are so many amazing causes out there. Golfers should pick a cause that lights their fire and get behind it.

RM: What are you doing now?

RN: My background is in technology. I worked at big computer companies like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Cingular. After my meltdown in 2002, I decided that I did not want to be in the IT industry anymore. It certainly did not make me feel alive or awake. Instead I took a job at an inner-city Boys and Girls Club here in Seattle. I worked there for seven years and it changed my life. My dad was a successful doctor so I grew up not needing anything. Working at the Boys and Girls Club showed me first hand what some families have to overcome to just survive, much less succeed.

During my time at the club I came to believe that the most urgent need in the urban core is positive male role models. I felt that if you could provide that it would help the most number of people. There are many complicated reasons for male absence from the family, so if you can help fill that gap moms would get support and kids have opportunities to flourish. The economy would also benefit. So we started a mentoring program called MUST (Mentoring Urban Students and Teens). MUST finds African American guys who are in college and pays them well to mentor African American guys who are genuinely in danger of dropping out of high school. It is a four-year mentoring program. The big idea is that the younger guys watch the older for four years and begin to think, ‘He comes from the same place I do. If he can do it… so can I!” We are now in our eighth year and it is working better than we thought. Youth that we know would have dropped out of high school are attempting college. It is amazing to watch their courage and determination.

The average high school dropout costs the nation $600,000 or more. Great prevention programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters are less expensive but focus on younger kids. Rehabilitation programs like juvenile detention centers are very expensive and do not have a great track record of successful rehabilitation. MUST is a premium intervention program that exists between prevention and rehabilitation. We find kids who are the most vulnerable before they hit high school and give them a lot of support. One of our mottos is that we will support you all the way through high school…no matter what!

RM: How can we help?

RN: Donations are always great but one of our three core values in fundraising is joy. MUST wants the people that partner with us to take joy in helping us out because we are doing good work. There is more than enough money in the world to solve most of its problems. Literally. If you do not find joy in giving to us then there are so many other great organizations out there doing incredible work. Find the organizations that are solving the problems that pull on your heart and get behind them.

The best way to help us is to get on our newsletter list and start to get to know us. We put a lot of effort into our newsletters so current donors and supporters know what their efforts are supporting and see the difference they are helping. Come check us out and see if it would bring you joy to help us out.

The MUST mentoring model is more effective than we thought it would be. Because of its effectiveness we are now researching to see if the model would work in other communities that have high dropout rates. We are currently asking the Latinx community if they think our model might work for their youth. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are also vulnerable youth groups here in Seattle. MUSTs goal is to one day have the MUST mentoring model in every major city in the U.S.

RM: Why did you stop creating LITT?

RN: I stopped because it did not make me feel alive anymore. I was working at the Boys and Girls Club and working other jobs to make ends meet and I just did not have time for it anymore. More than a million people were reading it but because I was giving it away for free, I did not make any money off it. Once it started to be a grind just to produce it, I stopped doing it. It is a great body of work that I am very proud of. I wanted to stop before the work I was proudly producing became compromised.

RM: What would it take to bring LITT back?

RN: We are considering bringing it back. Life is full so we will need to make sure. My wife and I have four sons and MUST obviously takes up a lot of time. We would want Life in the Trap to add to our family and MUST and not take away from it. Our oldest son fell in love with golf last year. He has been basketball, basketball, basketball up until high school and he was pretty good too. However, he joined the high school golf team his freshman year and now he loves it. Obsessed with it really. It might make sense to resurrect Life in the Trap.  MUST is a great cause and if we could get the same numbers of readers looking at Life in the Trap a percentage of them might want to follow MUST and help out. Who knows. Stay tuned to GolfWRX to find out!

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The 19th Hole Episode 103: The one with Scott McCarron

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2019 Schwab Cup winner Scott McCarron talks with host Michael Williams about beating Bernhard Langer and Father Time in his stellar 2019 season (hint: CBD played a role). Also features Part Two of the 19th Hole Holiday Gift guide.

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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