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Troy Merritt shows what it means to “go low”

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Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions I had when I started to research the statistical part of golf was how players “go low.” This also shaped how I erroneously viewed the game. Years of competitive golf made me believe that in order to “go low” you had to putt really well. It meant that you had to make a lot of long putts. Therefore, I started to overvalue putting — long putts in particular, which I considered to be putts outside 25 feet. I started to focus my practice a lot on putting, especially the long ones.

After some research, it became clear as day that the low rounds on the PGA Tour did not consist of players making a lot of putts. Instead, it consisted of players frequently getting their birdie putts close to the hole, because that is where they have a reasonable chance of making the putt. For Tour players, once the putt is 26-feet long, their make percentage drops to roughly 9 percent. And for golfers that are playing average golf courses where the greens are not as smooth, that make percentage may dip to below 5 percent, even for the better putters in the world.

Troy Merritt’s fantastic score of 28 on the back nine at Harbour Town last Friday was a terrific example of how Tour players go low.

Hole 10

Merritt started this right away on the par-4 10th hole, as he hit his 173-yard approach shot to 5 feet, 2 inches. The Tour average is from that distance is roughly 75 percent and he went on to make the putt.

Hole 11

However, Merritt was not completely unconscious with his putter. He missed this 18-foot, 5-inch birdie putt on the 11th hole. In fact, that was his longest birdie putt attempt in those entire nine holes. While he made a lot of putts, he kept them within close distance to give himself a reasonable chance of making them.

Hole 15

In fact, his longest putt made in the entire nine holes came on the par-5 15th, where he made a 17-foot, 10-inch putt for birdie. He then finished off the nine-hole stretch by hitting his approach shots to 4 feet, 11 inches on No. 16; 7 feet, 3 inches on No. 17; and 4 feet, 11 inches on No. 18.

Hole 16

Hole 17

Hole 18

Here’s a look at how Merritt played each of those approach shots versus the Tour average:

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.26.13 PM

Merritt was able to hit those last three approach shots to an average of 5.7 feet, which gave him an average expected make percentage of 67.3 percent. Meanwhile, the Tour average from those distances is 25.3 feet with an average expected make percentage of 10.3 percent.

Here are Merritt’s final numbers for that back nine holes on Friday:

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.19.18 PM

Putting is certainly important, as Merritt made seven out of his eight birdie putt attempts. If he only made 46.3 percent of those putts he would roughly have made four birdies. It still would have resulted in a fantastic score of 31, but it is far from the score of 28. So, let’s not undervalue the importance of putting.

Merritt’s round shows us that putting from inside 15 feet is far more critical, because there is a more reasonable odds of making those putts. From there, it comes down to our ability to get our approach shots inside 15 feet so we can put ourselves in the best position to shoot the lowest score possible — instead of hoping we make long putts.

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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. MarkNado

    Apr 21, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Proximity to the hole is the most overlooked stat in golf
    Driving distance and strokes gained putting get all the attention but look at Duval’s 59
    Probably the best proximity to the hole round ever and one of the lowest scores

  2. Pingback: El número de putts no explica nada - Golf76.com

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Opinion & Analysis

“There is no magic bullet in club fitting” – On Spec podcast

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On this week’s episode of the “On Spec” podcast on the GolfWRX radio network, the discussion was focused on all things club fitting and what it can and can’t do to help golfers.

One of the most important take-aways was about some of the misconceptions around how much a club fitting can help improve the results of a less than ideal swing.

“There is no magic bullet when it comes to fitting… It’s not to stop you from doing anything (in your golf swing) … But by going through a proper fitting, and process you can help reduce a miss (improving consitency)” 

You can listen to the full show below, the above quote starts at 41:38 

You can check out other episodes of On Spec, as well as the entire collection of shows on the GolfWRX Radio Network here: GolfWRX Radio on SoundCloud

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TG2: Testing a RAW golf ball and some different holiday gift ideas

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Wilson Golf has a new raw golf ball that has no paint on it. The raw golf ball gives a more precise dimple depth and offers better dispersion and consistency. The ball has a firmer feel than the first Staff Model but really good performance off the tee and with the wedges. Also, a few ideas for some different holiday gifts.

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Opinion & Analysis

Wedge Guy: Why do we REALLY play golf?

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One of the fascinating things about the 40-year golf industry career I have been blessed with is how much I have learned about golfers…just by asking. Over these four decades, I have repeatedly conducted surveys of golfers from multiple communities to help me better understand just what it is you all want from me as a club designer and blog writer.

I’ve surveyed buyers of the products I’ve designed and marketed over the years…and from golfers who engaged with those companies but did not “pull the trigger”. I’ve worked with the best market research companies in the industry to both study their own research as well as to conduct custom proprietary surveys to dive deeper into what golfers are really thinking and feeling about this game we all love.

You might remember that we even conducted a survey of you readers of “The Wedge Guy” column some time back, which also proved enlightening for me. Thanks to all of you who participated.

I would like to invite you all to participate in another survey, but this one is not as much about “how” you play the game, but rather “why”. What are the forces that keep you coming back time and again to put yourself up against the challenges this crazy game throws at you?

Is the experience more important than the numerical outcome? Or the number counts more than how it got there?

I’m going to ask you all to dive into this survey and share your thoughts and feelings. And just to make your time worthwhile, I’m going to give a new custom-built Edison Forged wedge away to one of you just to say thanks.

Please click on this link – SURVEY – and spend a few minutes sharing your thoughts and approach to the game. I will collect your responses for a week or two, then report back to you all what you shared, so that all of us can understand each other just a bit better, OK?

Thank you for your time and participation, and for reading this column each week. I totally enjoy sharing with you and plan to continue for as long as GolfWRX will have me.

Take the survey here. 

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