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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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For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.

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Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.

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