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The numbers behind going for it or laying up: No. 10 Riviera

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This past weekend, we saw No. 10 at Riviera Country Club provide PGA Tour players with a dilemma as to whether to go for it on the 315-yard par-4. In my last column, I discussed the numbers on Tour behind going for par-5’s in two shots and that in general, golfers are better off going for par-5’s in two shots rather than laying up to a specific yardage. However, much of the decision revolves around whether or not the golfer can get the ball inside 40 yards of the hole. If not, he would be better off laying up to a specific yardage.

With No. 10 at Riviera, it’s a different situation given that it is a par-4 rather than a par-5. Initially, my thoughts were that Tour golfers would be better off going for No. 10 off the tee because there was no out-of-bounds or water in play. Here is what the final numbers through all four rounds looked like:

No. 10 Riviera Stats

Most golfers at the Northern Trust Open went for the green off the tee and in the end, the scoring average slightly favored those who went for the green. However, that does not tell the entire story.

No. 10 Northern Trust Stats

What is noticeable here is that laying up worked in rounds 2 and 4. Those rounds also had a higher percentage of lay-up shots off the tee. However, golfers who went for it in rounds 1 and 3 were the only rounds where the average score was below par.

So, what happened?

The pin location changed.

In rounds 2 and 4, the pin was in the back location of the green. In round 1 the pin was in the middle and in round 3 the pin was up front.

No. 10 Riviera Round Breakdown

Perhaps this table will paint a clearer picture:

Go For It on No. 10 Riviera

With the percentage of pars made being fairly similar, where we can start to see the bigger difference is in the percentage of birdies and bogeys made. And it easily favors laying up when the pin location is in the back and going for it when it’s not in the back.

So, what happens?

In the first round, the pin location was in the middle. The issue the players that laid up were having was that they would often miss the green on the approach shot or hit the approach shot well past the pin and be left with a very difficult 30-plus foot putt. If instead they went for the green, they were more likely to get the approach shot closer to the hole, even if they missed well left or found the right greenside bunker. Thus, when the pin was in the middle, the player who laid up would have to hit a quality tee shot to find the fairway and then another quality approach shot just to come away with par. If they went for the green, the degree of difficulty was lower on both the tee shot and second shot. It may not be pretty hitting out that right greenside bunker or out of the longer grass, but in the end it was more effective way to playing the hole.

When the pin location was in the back of the green, the golfers who went for the green could not miss left because it was guarded by a bunker. And if they missed in the right greenside bunker, they could not get up and down. In fact, not only player who hit the right greenside bunker on Sunday was able to get up and down for birdie.

And when the pin location was up front, the hole was easy regardless if the golfer laid up or went for it. But by going for it on the front pin location the golfer gave themselves a chance to make eagle. No. 10 on Saturday netted three eagles, all from players who went for it on the drive.

Finally, laying-up off the tee on the Sunday pin location was the difference in John Merrick winning the Northern Trust Open. Merrick laid up during regulation and in the playoff and was -1 under par for the day. Charlie Beljan went for the green both times and played the hole +2 over par, losing in the playoff.

Discuss this topic in the GolfWRX forum here.

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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

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Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour

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Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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Ping Engineer Paul Wood explains how the G400 Max driver is so forgiving

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Paul Wood, VP of Engineering at Ping, joins our 19th Hole to discuss the new G400 Max driver, which the company calls the “straightest driver ever.” Also, listen for a special discount code on a new laser rangefinder.

Listen to this episode on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes.

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