The Champion Course at PGA National is notorious for its three-hole stretch from holes 15 to 17 known as “The Bear Trap.” It is typically the player who plays these holes the best who’s able to hoist the trophy at the end of the week. Matt Jones was able to do just that in blustery tough conditions, shooting two-under on the Bear Trap for the week. Sticking to a low, flighted ball flight, Jones separated himself from the field and was able to breathe a little easier late on a Sunday.
So, how did the journeyman find his way to his second PGA Tour victory? Ball striking.
It all starts with avoiding mistakes. In V1 Game, mistakes are defined as three putts, penalties, recovery shots and two chips (taking more than one shot to get on the green from inside 75 yards). These four items are scorecard wreckers for any handicap level and must be avoided to play your best. Jones did a fantastic job of doing just that by avoiding penalties entirely for the week. With water at every corner and blustery winds, he was one of the few that came out dry. However, he did have three 3-putts for the week and Strokes Gained Putting is the only category of the four (Driving, Approach, Short, Putting) in which he did not finish the week in the top 10. Using V1 Game to dive into his putting performance, we see that all of those three putts came from >51ft. Jones demonstrated something telling: PGA Tour pros also struggle from long distance. To his credit, he was still able to gain strokes putting over the week, finishing in the top 25 in Strokes Gained Putting.
Jones put together a solid week in all statistical categories, but the common theme among most PGA Tour winners is ball striking. Matt Jones finished first in Tee2Green, 10th in Driving, seventh in Approach, second in Short Game, and 25th in Putting. Add that combination together and Jones finished in first in Strokes Gained Total and won this week’s event the old-fashioned way.
In Ways to Win, we have now tracked tournament winners for over 20 golf tournaments on the PGA Tour. We can take a look at this data to see commonalities amongst these winners to see which areas are the most important to winning at the highest level. For starters, PGA Tour winners tend to gain the most strokes in approach and putting. That is not entirely surprising as the winner tends to be the player that putted best out of the best ball strikers.
We can take an even deeper look using “Scoring Impact” from V1 Game to see how correlated each area of the game is to PGA Tour winners scores. Scoring impact measures the correlation of a specific statistic (ex. Fairways) to scoring. The higher the ‘impact’ number, the more correlated that statistic is to the player’s score. A perfect correlation would be a value of 1 (or -1) representing that an improvement in that category would directly impact scoring. A value closer to 0 indicates a lesser relationship and that that particular factor does not have as big of an impact on the final score. The below scoring impact graphs show the impact of Strokes Gained factors and more traditional stats such as Fairways and Greens.
In terms of impact on score, the statistics shown are ranked as follows:
- Tee2Green (0.55): Tee2Green is all golf shots not hit from the putting surface or Driving+Approach+Short Game.
- Approach (0.44): All golf shots outside of 75 yards and tee shots on Par 4s/5s.
- Greens in Regulation (0.37): Number of greens hit in Par minus 2 strokes.
- Putting (0.35): All shots from the green
- Fairways (0.24): Number of Fairways hit from the tee box on the first shot.
- Driving (0.11): Strokes gained for tee shots on par 4s and par 5s
- Short Game (0.01): Strokes gained performance on shots <75 yards.
The two biggest takeaways from that list are:
- Tee2Green performance dominates scoring potential. More specifically, Approach performance.
- Traditional stats are not enough to guide improvements for a golfer.
Now this data is for PGA Tour players. The statistics will vary by individual. For example, if you tend to make many penalties off of the tee box, then likely driving will have a higher impact on overall score. Similarly, if you tend to three putt, then putting will likely increase in importance. It is important to know what areas of your game to work on.
One datapoint that may be surprising from the PGA Tour winners is just how low short game correlation is to overall scoring. How can short game be so insignificant?
In order for short game to have a large impact on scoring, the player needs to have a significant amount of short game shots. The reality is that PGA Tour pros (especially those that win) do not often miss greens, averaging somewhere between 13-15 greens per round. Also, PGA Tour pros tend to play very long courses, where it is difficult to drive to within 75 yards of the green. Using the Shot Histogram from V1 Game, we can see just how often these 20 PGA Tour winners have specific types of shots and from this we can see that short game is the least populated bucket with the least amount of opportunities to gain or lose strokes.
This distribution of shots will be different for an amateur golfer and would likely have many more short game opportunities. Knowing what to practice and being able to measure progress is the first step to finding your inner Matt Jones. The next step is finding the nerve to patiently play to your strengths when faced with the type of adversity that the Bear Trap can bring. If you want to play like the pros or just break 90 for the first time, advanced analysis from V1 Game can get you there. As the last few weeks on the PGA Tour have shown there is more than one way to get the job done, but it all starts with ball striking.
GolfWRX Radio: Masters preview with Ryan Barath and Brian Knudson
The Masters tournament is a special time every year and this April is no different. Barath and Knudson talk about their picks for players who could win as well as some players who they think aren’t ready to win. The discussion also includes some personal experiences with the Masters both at home and at the tournament.
Club Junkie: Wedge Wednesday! New Edel SMS and Cobra Snakebite
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Ways to Win: Up and down – The Spieth rollercoaster notches a rare short game win
Jordan Spieth is back! After a long hiatus from the winner’s circle, Spieth was able to break through at the Oaks Course at TPC of San Antonio to capture his 12th career PGA TOUR victory at the Valero Texas Open. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is with Spieth. The Golden Child always seems to find a way to add dramatics whether its shots from the driving range to steal the British Open from Matt Kuchar or holing a bunker shot to force (John Deere) or win (Travelers) a playoff. That sense of drama and fun that has surrounded the always-vocal Spieth has been missing in recent years as his weekend struggles had him plummeting down the World Rankings.
Earlier this year, he started showing signs of life with a handful of 54 hole leads, only to be undone with mediocre Sunday performances. Through eight holes on Saturday, sitting at +1 for the day, it looked like this would also be just another missed opportunity. But then Spieth did what Spieth does. He made birdies in bunches and showed off that terrific short game.
Spieth has never been traditional in the way he wins. Though he is probably best known for his putting stroke, in his best years, he was also quite dominant with his irons. This week was no exception. We can use V1 Game’s Strokes Gained Stacked view to see how Spieth performed in Driving, Approach, Short Game, and Putting over the four rounds.
The first thing that jumps out, looking at Spieth’s performance, is his short game. Speith gained well over 4 strokes over the average PGA Tour player for the week. This is not common for PGA TOUR winners. The main reason is that gaining strokes in the Short Game requires opportunities from inside 75 yards. In order to have opportunities, that typically means that you have to miss greens. Most PGA TOUR winners do not many miss greens on their way to a trophy, however Jordan Spieth missed many at the Valero Texas Open. In fact, he finished the week tied for 66th in greens in regulation (GIR) hitting only 58 percent. This is certainly more of an outlier in terms of GIR for tour winners, but when you have a short game as good as Spieth’s, you can get away with it.
The second observation is that Spieth was almost perfectly average with Driving. He came out positive in strokes gained for the week, but finished 38th in the field for Strokes Gained Driving. Strokes Gained Driving accounts for both distance and accuracy and while Jordan is certainly not one of the longest hitters on tour, lately his struggle has been with accuracy. He is hitting around 50 percent of his fairways and while the rough was not overly penal this week, several times Spieth was putting himself into recovery or difficult situations.
Known for his putting, Spieth demonstrated exactly why this weekend. For starters, he had no three putts. While a lot of the field struggled to get the ball in the hole, Jordan minimized mistakes. In fact, Jordan gained strokes on the field putting from every distance bucket <25 ft. He gained almost more than one stroke per round on the field from four -15 ft each day. Those strokes add up at the end of the week and Spieth’s putter certainly gives him an advantage.
Spieth is peaking just in time for The Masters at a golf course where he has traditionally played very well. But what should he be working on heading to Augusta? We can use V1 Game’s Virtual Coach to breakdown his game and give us some insights on how he should be practicing this week.
V1 Game’s Virtual Coach tells Jordan that first he should work on Driving as it is currently the weakest part of his game (relative to other Tour professionals). The quick insight shows that he is missing to the right more than 30 percent of the time and is losing, on average, around a third of a stroke per round from putting his tee shots into recovery situations.
Next, V1 Game’s Virtual Coach highlights Approach as his next-biggest area of focus. With the Virtual Coach, we can go as deep as we want to go to get specific targets for practice. Clicking on “WORK ON NEXT” takes us to the Approach Histogram which shows us that Jordan is gaining strokes for most yardage buckets, but struggling from 151-175 yards. This is where he should spend some time practicing, but we can go even deeper than that. Clicking on the insight takes us to a breakdown of his performance from that distance, shows that he only hit the green 25 percent of the time and tended to miss long. These key insights could help Spieth fine-tune a problem area heading into one of the most important weeks of the year.
As a Spieth fan, I was delighted to see him breakthrough and win again on the PGA TOUR. Golf is better when Jordan Spieth is adding his theatrics to the mix. His combination of approach and putting mixed with unbelievable short game is a thrill to watch. It is rare to see a PGA TOUR winner do so much damage with the short game. This proves there is more than one way to win on tour and more than one way to get it done on the golf course.
If you want to play like Jordan Spieth and start practicing the areas that will impact your game the most, V1 Game can help simplify the results of your performance and get you focusing on the right areas to improve the fastest. Download the app for free and get started on your path to better golf.
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